Residential buildings near shopping center greeted coolly
A sweeping plan to build a series of apartment buildings and town homes in the shadow of a large existing shopping center received a chilly reception from a City of Miami review board.
The Urban Development Review Board spent considerable time examining the major proposal that impacts a 38-acre parcel at the busy intersection of Northwest 37th Avenue and Seventh Street.
The site is the longtime home of Central Shopping Plaza, a nearly 400,000-square-foot strip mall.
The owner is identified as Hayday Inc. The applicant is CSP Mixed Use Communities LLC. It is planning a series of eight-story residential buildings adjacent to the L-shaped layout of the shopping center.
Board members were critical of the height and massing of the proposed residential buildings.
The owner-developer’s team, along with attorney Iris Escarra, requested a deferral to allow time for the designers and architects to change the proposal to address the many issues the review board brought up.
The board is advisory to the city’s planning director. It cannot vote to defer a project or application. Instead, the developer can voluntarily agree to come back at a future date.
“This is a big project and we really want to get it right,” Ms. Escarra told the board. “We really appreciate your input … we appreciate your comments and we’ll be back.”
The property is bounded by Northwest Seventh Street on the south, 37th Avenue on the east, 11th Street on the north and 39th Avenue on the west.
While the area is home to many restaurants and retail stores, the area west and north of the shopping center is a long-established residential neighborhood of single-family homes.
Several board members voicing concern about the proposal noted the existence of the single-family homes, directly across the street from where the developer plans eight-story residential buildings.
On the south side of the property and Northwest Seventh Street is the Magic City Casino and its large parking lot.
Ms. Escarra and the developer’s team presented the detailed proposal, including site plans and renderings prepared by Miami-based architectural firm Arquitectonica.
The property now has a two-story retail structure and various out parcel developments. The existing structure was originally developed in 1959 and has had additions throughout the last 61 years.
The existing floor space in the plaza is 396,393 square feet. The remainder of the property is a surface parking lot with sparse landscaping.
“Our retailers that are there are to remain,” said Ms. Escarra.
The application said the proposed development includes a residential component organized in a series of courtyard buildings reconnecting the site to its surrounding neighborhood and creating a buffer to the existing retail back-of-house; the rear of the stores and loading areas.
The plan includes parking lot improvements and a new retail building of about 1,559 square feet along Northwest 37th Avenue.
The project would maintain mature trees on the site, and would rearrange the parking area resulting in 60 added spaces and landscaping.
The current proposal would include about 1,384 residences in seven buildings constructed in phases. The residential buildings would be served by interspersed new parking garages.
Board members were especially critical of the massing of the proposed residential buildings, saying the proposed eight stories is too much height so close to single-family homes and criticizing the length of the proposed buildings.
Chairman Willy Bermello and others said the developer is planning to build an eight-story “wall” directly across from the single-family houses.
Some of the new buildings would be 340 feet long.
A couple of board members suggested building the new residential structures in the southeast portion of the property and away from the single-family homes. They even suggested 12- or 20-story buildings there.
Ms. Escarra and the architect explained they are bound by many long-term leases with tenants of the shopping center, and each lease assigned a certain number of parking spaces to each store. This limits what the owner can do on the land that is currently a giant parking lot.
In addition, they have a restriction from the Federal Aviation Administration to build no higher than 100 feet. Miami International Airport is nearby.
Board members also complained they weren’t presented with a true and complete master plan for the entire property.
Mr. Bermello said, “If I’m approving this and there’s a big master plan, I want to see what the big master plan is … So, what is the end game here? We’re being asked to make decisions, and I get a sense that we don’t know the whole picture…”
Ms. Escarra concluded saying: “Mr. Chairman, we’ve heard you loud and clear and we’d like to request a deferral of the item to allow us to come back and rework and address some of your comments.
“We can look about breaking up the residential, and we can look at the frontage on out parcels to see what we could do there,” she said.