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Front Page » Real Estate » Miami River Commission asks city to sink development plan

Miami River Commission asks city to sink development plan

Written by on July 2, 2019
Miami River Commission asks city to sink development plan

The Miami River Commission voted unanimously Monday to recommend that the City of Miami not approve 555 River, a proposed 12-story hotel and office complex at 517-663 NW South River Drive.

Board members listened as a parade of residents from the historic Spring Garden neighborhood complained that the project is out of scale for the area, is not in keeping with the area’s marine character, and would create too much noise and traffic. Many residents said zoning in the area is haphazard and that they were never notified when zoning was changed prior to developers moving in.

A development team that includes Avra Jain and others proposes to build the mixed-use project, which would comprise 120,000 square feet of offices, a 175-room hotel (and 39 suites that would be run by the hotel), a rooftop bar and restaurants on a site that for many years has been a commercial shipping terminal. The river commission’s vote doesn’t stop the project, which the developers can still pursue through city channels.

The owner-developers are seeking a 30% reduction in required parking, but say they are working with neighbors to accommodate their concerns. They have scrapped plans for a rooftop grill and will preserve at least a 25-foot setback along the water’s edge, though some balconies several floors up do encroach, said Iris Escarra, their attorney.

Elsewhere, the design conforms to all zoning requirements, she said. All restaurants will be inside the buildings and the developer is working with an acoustic engineer to contain noise.

“We’re in negotiations with the Spring Garden Civic Association but have not had a meeting of the minds,” she said. The complex’s design incorporates elements from the surrounding area, including greenery. “It’s an airy design that leaves some open spaces and preserves the through-view. People can still enjoy the river.”

Maggie Fernandez, representing County Commissioner Eileen Higgins, asked whether the project includes affordable housing. It doesn’t, but “I do a lot of affordable housing,” Ms. Jain said.

“We trust you to protect our neighborhood,” Carlos Salas, president of the civic association, told the river commission. “This is a monstrosity.”

The area fronting the river from the Fifth Street bridge to Northwest 27th Avenue should remain a mix of residential homes and marine businesses, he said. “Dealing with the developers has been frustrating.”

Amanda Hand, Spring Garden resident and attorney, disagreed that the project can get a parking waiver, and insisted The Riverwalk will be harmed. “We’re asking the Miami River Commission to maintain the river.”

“Spring Garden doesn’t want anything built there?” asked Horacio Stuart Aguirre, river committee chair.

“We realize that the property will be developed, but here we’re looking at a project that has nine waivers,” Ms. Hand replied.

“Have the boatyards had a chance to give their opinion, and have we done a traffic study?” Ms. Fernandez asked. She also asked whether Little Havana residents had been given a chance to weigh in.

“This is a very long process,” Ms. Escarra replied. “You’re the beginning.”

“The City of Miami should have looked at this whole area,” said commission member Sandy O’Neil, “but that’s not in our marching orders here. Whatever the city commission approves is what’s going to go there. I support moving forward” with all conditions to which the developer has already agreed and some recommendations by commission members. That motion failed.

“Here’s what will happen,” Mr. Aguirre said. The city commission would be notified that commission had heard the matter had reached no opinion, he said.

But commission member Manny Prieguez moved to deny project approval outright, which passed unanimously. The city commission will be notified of that decision.

12 Responses to Miami River Commission asks city to sink development plan

  1. Michael

    July 3, 2019 at 12:11 am

    Ridiculous! They complain about noise? Have they heard those tugboats early in the morning. I certainly did when I lived on the river. Traffic? Scale? It’s a CITY, not a suburb.

    Besides that, marine-oriented businesses need office space and they could market that way.

    I hope that the Commission approves the project.

    • Anneliese

      July 4, 2019 at 6:23 am

      Hell NO!
      With much respect, you are clueless to Miami History as a Port City and the Miami River as a Port it self, OF GLOBAL IMPACT.

      Let’s not forget the industry prior to the 80s and what was happening 3,000 years ago!

      • Michael

        July 4, 2019 at 6:54 pm

        That shows no respect. However, you fail to explain how the development detracts from the use of the Miami River as a port.

        3,000 years ago doesn’t matter. The post shows much to learn about how cities work.

        • Anneliese

          July 12, 2019 at 2:30 pm

          Your comment is entertaining. I have only been working with our City Government, builders and developers for decades.
          Good luck.

          • Michael

            July 12, 2019 at 3:08 pm

            By the way, I’ve had a career working in government. And you still don’t explain how this development detracts from using the river as a port.

            Entertaining indeed.

        • Anneliese

          July 12, 2019 at 2:38 pm

          Michael, these developments detract from commercial use as more people occupy the space with recreational toys as well. More boats naturally will come with more residents, and we will essentially have a greater traffic jam than we already do. For more details, I recommend you learn more from the Miami River Marine Group.

          Incidentally, what happened here 3,000 years ago is VERY RELEVANT! If you have any doubts, you may ask developers at Related for the Icon Brickell project how the Miami Circle impacted this project.

  2. EJS

    July 4, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    Ditto to what Michael says. C’mon, it meets zoning — build it. It is across river from historic district and won’t impact the district negatively. It will only serve to increase the district’s property values. But, maybe a compromise can be reached — the development now going up on the same side of the river in the 700s with 300+ apts is 8-stories high. Maybe the neighborhood would be more amenable to that. Too bad they hold sway on a part of what is East Little Havana and not in the historic district.

  3. Lou Foto

    July 5, 2019 at 8:24 am

    Let the riverfront be developed in a compatible manner; it is not a museum. But not with special favors with lots of waivers. Especially important are scale, and the setback to the river. These boards need to independently do their jobs and not rely on the city commission, which has consistently sided with developers over the neighbors.

    • Michael

      July 6, 2019 at 10:09 pm

      There is a very common misconception that the shorter a building is, the better for the surrounding environment. That notion is absolutely false. Height is needed to create a sense of place in an area. Ideally, it should be 1:1 (height to distance between buildings). Buildings that are two low are just as bad as buildings that are too high.

  4. Rick

    July 10, 2019 at 12:53 am

    Michael, ridiculous. I don’t hear the tugboats in the morning, but I do hear the loud and obnoxious music from the boats on the river and the restaurants and venues from farther away than this will be. I live quite close to the river. This would be right across the river.

  5. Michael

    July 11, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    Ridiculous is certainly an appropriate word Rick. Even the apartment manager warned me about the tugboats before I moved in.

  6. Shawn Beightol

    August 8, 2019 at 10:23 am

    I support the Miami River Commission’s position. This building is not in keeping with the Miami River Port history and designation. Miami relies too heavily on construction and tourism for a large part of its revenue. It needs to invest in diversifying its revenue stream by attracting to the river more marine and fishing industries to which it has committed itself on paper (and legislatively via the creation of the Miami River Commission).

    To the other residents of the river, I encourage you to post pictures and videos of illegal river activity on your facebook page with the hash tag #miamiriverspeeders (that’s hashtagMiamiRiverSpeeders if the symbol doesn’t show up).

    Furthermore, if you wish to be added to an email distribution list between residents, businesses and bureaucrats that I send out occasionally, send me an email to