Design District 'gateway' wins Miami's approval
By Paola Iuspa
An office-retail complex planned to create a gateway into the Design District has the City of Miami's OK and the developer hopes to start construction in 18 months.
Project partners 39th Street and Half-Circle Property, both headed by developer Craig Robins, want to transform a vacant lot and the site of an unused two-story building across the street into a $70 million commercial project, said Steven Gretenstein, project manager. Both pieces of land are sandwiched between Biscayne Boulevard and Federal Highway.
The planned Tuttle Street project, named for the Julia Tuttle Causeway that ends next to the property, would have 115,000 square feet of design and retail space and about 168,000 square feet for offices, with 664 enclosed parking spaces, said Lourdes Slazyk, assistant director of Miami's planning department.
The development would consist of a 20-story tower and a seven-story building, both with retail on the first two floors. The complex could generate about $1.6 million annually in tax revenues to local governments, according to a city document.
Dacra, Mr. Robins' Miami Beach-based land development company, already has 600,000 square feet of commercial space and 400,000 square feet of land planned for development in the Design District, Mr. Gretenstein said. With its pink and green for-lease signs dotting the blocks, Dacra has about 60,000 square feet of retail and offices vacant, he said.
The firm's restoration of Design District buildings, with sculptures in lobbies and murals on some facades, led to a neighborhood revival in the late '90s. A migration of designer hardware and furniture showrooms and art and antique galleries filled spaces left empty during the 1980s when the area fell into disrepair.
Home to at least two restaurants, Piccadilly Garden and Power Studios, and many shops, the Design District still doesn't attract pedestrian traffic and turns into a ghost town at night.
That could change with more development, city officials said last week, as they approved a major use special permit for the Tuttle Street project.
"When you drive on Biscayne Boulevard you don't see where the Design District is," said Dena Bianchino, assistant city manager. "This project will be the entrance to the district."
The 18-block Design District extends from Northeast 43rd Street on the north to 36th Street on the south, North Miami Avenue to the west and Biscayne Boulevard to the east.
Mr. Gretenstein said the Tuttle project is designed as a bridge between Biscayne Boulevard and the district, providing a "pedestrian crossway" between the two.
The proposal, which did not face any opposition from neighbors at the meeting, was designed by New York architect Walter Chatham with planning guidance from Duany Plater-Zyberk Architects & Planners of Miami.
The Miami urban designer helped the city draft a master plan in the late 1990s for the Design District and for Little Haiti, a low-income community neighboring to the north.