Vast expansion for Miami Jewish Health Systems
Written by John Charles Robbins on February 28, 2017
Miami Jewish Health Systems, a medical campus that has grown and evolved since the 1940s, is working on a master plan for the next 30 years and beyond.
The City of Miami’s Urban Development Review Board this week recommended approval of a sweeping master plan for the health service, along with Phase I, which will include construction of a cutting-edge memory care facility.
It will be called Empathicare Village and include a new 142,708-square-foot, three-story facility and a 135,576-square-foot, three-story parking garage accented by murals from local artists.
The review board’s unanimous recommendation for approval included two conditions: that the developer considers adding liner uses to the garage to help activate Northeast 53rd Street, and a final landscape plan must be brought back to the board for review.
Board member Fidel Perez pushed for the liner units on the north side of the planned garage in Phase I. The artwork is a nice touch, he said, but there’s no movement of people. He suggested leasing out some of the space “to create movement.”
Mr. Perez added, “Anything you do at that corner is an improvement.”
The nonprofit senior health care provider has hired c.c. hodgson architectural group to design the ambitious new master plan for its property in Little Haiti, border by Northeast 53rd Street, Northeast Second Avenue, Northeast 50th Terrace, Northeast Miami Place, Northeast 52nd Street and North Miami Avenue.
The architectural firm has offices in Fort Lauderdale, Cleveland and Washington and specializes in wellness-based design services.
The overall master plan shows the construction of 11 new buildings and facilities, improvements to more than a half dozen existing structures, and demolition of five buildings and one pavilion.
A significant aspect of the master plan for the health campus at 5200 NE Second Ave. is consolidating parking into new multi-level garages, freeing up old surface parking lots for new buildings and expanded open space, said senior design architect Jim Ballenger.
The complete build-out of the master plan would include a hotel and conference center.
Joseph Eisenberg, a planner with the city, told the board that staff has worked with the developer’s team for nearly a year. The original Special Area Plan had the 10-story hotel in the southeast corner of the property, and the developer agreed to shift the hotel to a centralized location, he said. The developer also agreed to move one of the loading bays to another location on staff’s recommendation, said Mr. Eisenberg.
“We are happy with the progress made,” he said.
Mr. Eisenberg said the health campus property is zoned Civic Institution and the company’s expansion plans are included in a Special Area Plan or SAP.
The city’s zoning code, Miami 21, says the purpose of a Special Area Plan is to allow parcels of 9 abutting acres or more to be master planned to allow greater integration of public improvements and infrastructure, and “greater flexibility so as to result in higher or specialized quality building and Streetscape design.”
Special Area Plans also require review and action by the city’s Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board and the city commission.
Attorney Iris Escarra, representing the health systems, said they were excited to present the very first all-medical Special Area Plan in the city. She said the non-profit offers a wide range of health care services, from independent living to hospice.
The site of about 20 acres serves as the Miami Jewish Health Systems’ hospital campus, providing 24-hour-a-day services for its patients, with services including on-site hospital and ambulatory health clinic, to specialized centers for biofeedback, mental health, rehabilitation, and memory centers, and assisted living facilities.
Miami Jewish Health Systems currently provides 104 assisted living facilities with the proposed addition of 99 additional beds, for a total of 203 assisted living facility beds.
“This truly is unique,” Mr. Ballenger told the board as images of the master plan were shown. “For many people, this is also their home,” he said of the medical campus.
Mr. Ballenger said the health system developed haphazardly over the decades, and much of the property was eventually devoted to surface parking lots. Even with the added pavement, Jewish Health Systems has been able to protect and preserve a generous tree canopy and lush landscaped areas, he said.
The master plans will add even more civic space, gardens, park areas and greenery, he said.
“It is an oasis, a real gem of lush gardens,” he said. “The goal is to extend the canopy throughout the site.”
The initial goals of the Special Area Plan, said Mr. Ballenger, are to establish a memory care facility, build a gerontological research facility or institute – for the study of aging – and advance more outreach programs.
Phase I is beginning in 2018 and includes the Empathicare Facility and garage, in the northwest corner of the campus. Phase II is targeted for 2021 and is to include the research institute and five-story garage with a green roof.
Phase III will provide lodging uses and Phase IV will include a conference center.
Currently the campus is surrounded by a tall wall and fence. The master plan shows getting rid of the wall and fence for most of the site and using buildings as the perimeter, said Mr. Ballenger.
In the Special Area Plan it reads, “The maximum height of the perimeter fence/wall will be 8 [feet]. The new site plan utilizes the buildings as the perimeter and calls for the demolition of a significant portion of the existing fence. In the few areas where we are building a new fence, we are connecting to the existing fence and aim to continue the existing aesthetic. By maintaining the existing aesthetic it allows for a secure perimeter that allows for visual permeability and landscaping on both sides.”
Board member Gerald C. Marston said while he understands the need for security he commended and applauded the elimination of much of the fence and instead using the buildings. He also applauded the move to get away from large surface parking lots.
The layout of new buildings and facilities is designed to “create a very cutting edge environment … it’s like a little village unto itself,” said Mr. Ballenger.
And getting away from the haphazard look of the campus, “we will have more cohesive architecture as we move forward,” he said.
Ms. Escarra told the board the artwork on the garage will be from local artists.
Board member Neil Hall said the proposed artwork is “a strong element,” and he’d like to see it used on the North Miami Avenue side as well.
Mr. Hall said his wife had the pleasure of working on the health systems site. “It’s a very important campus that has morphed into this homey space that is very nice,” he said.
“All we do is [design] senior living. We are designing people’s homes,” Mr. Ballenger said.
Board Chairman Robert Behar commended Jewish Health Systems for great service to the community.
He said his mother received care there and it was incredible.
“I am happy to see the evolution of the center and I support this,” said Mr. Behar.