Planning & zoning panel to hear requests for use of Herald lots
By Deserae del Campo
A special planning and zoning meeting is being held today (9/7) at Miami City Hall for city commissioners to decide whether to grant development permits and rezonings for 10 acres of Miami Herald parking lots.
Commissioners are mulling seven agenda items. Two are building permit requests for the City Square retail and residential projects, and a total of four rezoning changes are sought on a couple of Herald parcels where developers want to construct a 64-story condominium building at the west end of the Venetian Causeway.
In March 2005, Knight-Ridder — former owner of the Miami Herald — agreed to sell the 10 acres to Miami developer Terra Group for $190 million. Terra Group and some partners created the limited partnership Citisquare Group LLC, the company requesting the zoning changes. Terra Group plans to build three residential towers on the parcels and brought in Maefield Development, an Indiana-based company, to take over the big-box retail project.
Mark Siffin, principal of Maefield, did not respond to requests for an interview.
Renderings of the big-box center show a 90-foot-tall multi-colored electronic billboard in front of the mall directly behind the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts. Developers have compared the retail center to New York City's Times Square with its illuminating lights.
Chairperson of the city's Planning Board Arva Moore Parks has said the billboard "won't look right" behind the arts center and voted against the project during a July 5 board meeting. The planning board approved the project 7-1.
This is round two for developers seeking the zoning change. During a planning and zoning meeting held June 22, Miami Commissioner Linda Haskins asked to defer the request so she could study it. She was unavailable to discuss today's meeting. The towers would be in downtown Miami, a part of her district.
The zoning requested by Citisquare returned to city hall in July, but Miami commissioners voted 4-0 to postpone the meeting until today.
Controversy over the projects is fueled by residents opposing the zoning change.
According to city planning records, more than 300 petitions from residents in disagreement of the projects were submitted.
Venetia resident Hal Spaet said he does not oppose the City Square projects in the neighborhood but does not support the zoning change on the Herald parcels because the surrounding area will not support the infrastructure.
"I personally oppose the condos on the Knight Ridder property," Mr. Spaet said. "This is the wrong place for these projects.
"Off the main street the only access to the property is on two-lane roads," he said. "This is going to cause gridlock."
Mr. Spaet said the developers are trying "to build too much in too small an area."
Citisquare Group is requesting a zoning change for two parcels at One Herald Plaza from General Commercial to Restricted Commercial and from C-2 Liberal Commercial to SD-6 Central Commercial-Residential.
The items are being read as first reading, which means the commission would need to vote again before a zoning change were enacted.
The big-box City Square retail center is planned for 1431-1451 N. Bayshore Drive and 425 NE 13th St. behind the east hall of the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts. The 130-foot-tall project is to include 641,104 square feet of retail space and 4,052 parking spaces.
The City Square residential project is planned for 1401 Biscayne Blvd., 360 NE 14th Terrace and 1410-1420 N. Bayshore Drive. The development is to stand 60 stories with 942 residential units, 13,566 square feet of retail and 1,684 parking spaces. According to city documents the retail center would cost $334 million to build.
The meeting at Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Drive, is scheduled for 2 p.m.