Residential development will encroach on parks space, specialist warns
By Suzy Valentine
A Miami residential development replacing the home of a secret society may not give occupants sufficient privacy, a parks specialist warns.
The Mahi Shrine, 1480 NW North River Dr., is to make way for Miami Rivertown, a mixed-use three-tower project with 985 residential units.
The society, a branch of Freemasonry, is looking for a site in Doral, recorder Richard Lynn said, and must vacate the site before a November demolition.
Steve Hagen, chairman of the Parks Committee of Miami Neighborhoods United, said he is concerned that there will be inadequate green space after Rivertown is built.
"City of Miami residents enjoy about 150 square feet of park and public space per resident," said Mr. Hagen. "With 1,000 residents being added to the city, there should be 3.1 acres of green space added to the city to maintain what we have, and you're adding 15,000 square feet of space open to the public - that's a shortfall of 2.75 acres."
The attorney for developer Mahi Shrine Holding Corp. said outdoor space incorporated into the development would compensate for lost land. "The residents will have private access to recreation decks, which will have pools and barbecue areas," said Vicky Garcia-Toledo, "and those are private for those residents."
Mr. Hagen said there is no substitute for public space.
"If the Miami City Commission is going to continue to allow the permitting of these buildings," he said, "we're derogating our parks and our open space every time we allow these buildings to go up without adequate green space."
Ms. Garcia-Toledo said the developer is using a fraction of the available land.
"We're building on 9 acres of land, and the footprint of our building is 180,000 square feet," she said. "That gives you an idea of what the openness of this project is."
July 28, the Miami City Commission approved a major use special permit for Miami Rivertown, with 98,129 square feet of office space and 51,045 square feet of retail planned. It is to feature 1,866 parking spaces.
As the commission contemplates accommodating more residents, Mr. Lynn said the Shriners' membership has dwindled.
"This is a larger facility than we need," he said of the 1,500-seat auditorium, built in 1972, "and we rely upon rent. We have 2,000 paying members, of whom 300 are active. In previous years, the active contingent was closer to 1,500."
The Shriners continue to support 22 hospitals in the US and Canada from an annual budget of $622 million.
Mr. Lynn said the group's diminishing roster is "a sign of the times. The American Legion is facing a similar plight. People have computers and other things to do. It's not like the 1950s, when people dedicated themselves to charitable work."
Nevertheless, Mr. Lynn said, he sees the development as progress.
"We plan to move out west, probably Doral, and have several properties under consideration," he said. "But this project is good for river walk."