Redesign for Brickell on River kills hotel in favor of rentals
By Paola Iuspa
The redesigning of a proposed residential building on the Miami River could add hundreds of waterfront rental units but omit the hotel rooms originally planned for the project.
City of Miami Commissioners OK'd alterations last week to Brickell on the River which will lead to the development of 712 residential units and 872 parking spaces. The project planned, for 27 SE Fifth St., was approved in 1995 for 508 rental units and 325 hotel rooms.
Lucia Dougherty with the Miami law office of Greenberg Traurig, who is representing the developer, said construction could begin early next year and would take about 18 months.
The two-tower complex on a 179,860 square-foot lot is between South Miami and Brickell avenues. It will have 4,000 square feet for retail and 1,200 for a restaurant, according to a city document.
The 42-story towers would be connected through a 10-level parking garage on which a swimming pool and tennis court are planned. Units would rent for $120 to $150 a square foot, Ms. Dougherty said.
The 1995 design called for towers 60 stories high and was, as of last week, still being touted as what would be "the tallest residential structure in Florida," according to the developer's Web site.
"They changed the design because it was a little too big," Ms. Dougherty said, referring to Brickell on the River Inc., the developer and a branch of Pacific International Equities Inc. of Aventura.
Other local developments by the same firm are Sunset Harbour, a residential community in Miami Beach, and The Courts of South Beach, a Mediterranean-style residential complex on three blocks in South Beach, Ms. Dougherty said.
She said the developer decided to discard the hotel component of the project after a market feasibility study showed there was a much higher demand for rentals.
Many hotels have been built close to the Brickell on the River site within the past two years, including the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Miami on Brickell Key and the JW Marriott, 1111 Brickell Ave. The Four Seasons Tower, also on Brickell, is scheduled to open in December 2002.
On the other hand, a study commissioned by the Downtown Development Authority early this year said the Miami River waterfront market had room for one more hotel.
The two-tower complex, designed by Cohen Freedman Encinosa & Associates Architects, is estimated to cost $87 million. It would generate $4.9 million in property taxes, with a portion going to Miami, according to city documents.
Brett Bibeau, assistant managing director of the Miami River Commission, said group members supported the project. The developer needed to go before the state-created commission, which acts as a watchdog, to prove the design would not have a negative impact on the river.
Mr. Bibeau said the committee was pleased to see the design had left free the 50-foot setback the city code requires. The Miami River Greenway, a walkway to be built along the sides of the 5.5-mile-long river, is planned to use a portion of the setback, he said.
Tory Jacobs, president of the Brickell Homeowners Association, said although many association members would like to see more condominiums go up in the area, they welcomed Brickell on the River.
"We are very much aware West Brickell needs to have more rental properties," he said. "Not everybody can afford to buy waterfront condominiums."
Mr. Jacobs said about 4,000 rental units were in the process of being built in the Brickell area. Although that is, he said, a "real escalation of growth" in rentals, it also means more retail and restaurants, benefiting the entire community.
Mr. Jacobs said a goal of the association is to get the city spend money on upgrading Brickell infrastructure.
"Developers pay impact fees," he said. "Part of it goes to the city. We want the city to spend more money improving infrastructure on Brickell because here is where those buildings are being built."
City officials are starting to react to the association's request, Mr. Jacobs said. Officials recently agreed to allocate $50,000 to hire HOK Architects to come up with streetscape standards for developers planning or building residential properties in the area.
"We want," Mr. Jacobs said, "developers to create a relationship among their designs so the street furniture, sidewalks, paving, street lighting and overheads have the some coordination."