Neighbors Dub Brazilian Billionaire Condo Proposal ‘Godzilla’

Brazilian Billionaire Jose Isaac Peres’ plan to build a Miami Beach condo tower is meeting resistance from neighbors, according to Miami New Times.

City staff say the the proposal will worsen the condo canyon effect. Instead of the slim Marlborough House currently on the site (proposed to be demolished), a much wider building will be oriented north-south along Collins Avenue, blocking view corridors.

City staff are also demanding a public beach access path be built from Collins Avenue as part of the project. The nearest public access point is four blocks away, and a new one would benefit residents of 715 nearby apartments, they say.

In a statement, project attorney Michael Larkin disputes staff analysis and claims that the new proposal maximizes view corridors for area residents. Larkin also says that traffic will be reduced with 89 units in the new building compared to 107 in the old building. A new beach access point isn’t needed, Larkin also wrote.

Arquitectonica is the project architect.


the full city staff analysis:


On June 06, 2017 the applicant requested to be continued to the July 07, 2017 DRB meeting; the Board instead continued the item to the September 05, 2017 in order for the applicant to have adequate time to meet with concerned neighbors. The applicant is proposing to construct a new seventeen-story, eighty-nine unit residential building over two levels of semi-subterranean parking on an a 63,638 SF oceanfront site. The site is nearly square in shape and is located four blocks north of the Morris Lapidus / Mid 20″‘ Century Local Historic District.

The portion of Collins Avenue north of the Morris Lapidus l Mid 20″‘ Century Local Historic District, inclusive of the subject site, from the 5300 block through to the 6300 block, was originally reviewed for consideration and inclusion within the district. However, it was subsequently not included in the historic district due to the dramatic shift of the neighborhood’s defining “urban character”. At this point along Collins Avenue, the development tracks flank both sides of the roadway and large scale buildings extend linearly from north to south, creating a “Condo Canyon” effect. This area was consequently excluded from the designation process, and according to the report due to “developments tracts to each side of Collins Avenue [that] become narrow and elongated, and the resulting large scale architecture was stretch out linearly from south to north, creating an almost continuous “canyon” wall effect on both sides”. The visual relationship between buildings, street and water (Indian Creek Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean) is lost along this section of Collins Avenue.

The existing Marlborough House falls within this northern portion of Collins Avenue. Built in 1962, the multi-family tower was designed by Giller, Payne & Waxman Architects in a simplistic Miami Modern style. Unlike many of the buildings that negatively impact the urban fabric of this neighborhood, the existing 107-unit twelve-story rectangular building is oriented east to west. The 75’x140’ footprint is sited with generous side setbacks of nearly 79’-0” to the south and 73’-0” to the north, the front and rear setbacks are also well above the current minimum requirement. In each side yard two levels of parking, one of which is subterranean, flank the Marlborough house. The existing landscaping conditions are minimal.

Unlike the existing Marlborough House, which is oriented perpendicular to Collins Avenue, the proposal herein is oriented parallel to the street and broadsides the beach. The proposed tower rises uniformly with white stucco-tipped slabs that project beyond the glazed skin of the units. The renderings indicate that the underside of the balcony slabs are finished with a warm brown wood, with planks oriented in a east west direction. The balcony edges are defined by fritted glass rails providing some movement along the otherwise static facades. From a street perspective, the expansive balconies are the defining feature of the building and intentionally dominate the architecture.

While the proposed building is sited with greater than minimum front and rear yard setbacks, the configuration relies on minimum side yard setbacks. Combined with the proposed orientation, staff has serious concerns with the overall design direction and massing of the subject proposal on the oceanfront site and the loss of the established northern and southern view corridors created by the generous setbacks of the existing building that has stood for nearly 55 years. Although the proposal is very similar in proportions, the proposed plan is set parallel to the beach, effectively cutting off Collins Avenue and blocking vistas to and breezes from the Atlantic Ocean. The proposed new structure, which is greater in height than the existing Marlborough House, will effectively broadside the Ocean, reinforcing the “Condo Canyon” effect notably seen along portions of Collins Avenue by building the tower from side setback line to side setback line. The minimum side setback is 33’-0” while the applicant is providing 38’-2” and 38’-5” respectively. For perspective, the proposal will diminish both side yards that serve as important view corridors by over half.

Staff recognizes the applicant’s desire to provide the best water views for the residences; however in re-orienting the building, most, if not all units will still have full views to the Atlantic Ocean and beach. In the current configuration, the western units have views of the 14-story Royal Embassy Condominium. In this regard, the Design Review Criteria addresses the issue of providing view corridors as seen from the street and the Atlantic Ocean as well as continue a street level urban form. It is staff’s recommendation that the architect reorient the building and substantially increase both interior side setbacks to a minimum of 50’-0” on each side in order to create and maintain important view corridor(s), This modification will also help to refine the hard edge condition of the balcony design to soften the massing upon Collins Avenue. A more slender, modest profile for the building as seen from Collins Avenue is strongly recommended to allow for expansive views of the water and the allowance of sunlight and ocean breezes. The greater side setbacks would allow for an expanded light, air, and view corridor through this site in order to enhance the urban built environment and cease a proliferation of existing developments that extend from north to south.

Staff also has concerns with a potential inconsistency with an important policy of the City’s Comprehensive Plan, regarding direct public access to the shoreline. Staff would strongly recommend that the applicant seriously consider incorporating in its development a dedicated pedestrian beach path connecting the sidewalk on the east side of Collins Avenue to the public Beachwalk. Recent developments north of the project site, 5937 Collins Avenue (The Bath Club) and 5875 Collins Avenue (Mei Condominium) have both constructed similar public beach access within their properties, specifically within the required side yards as part of their development projects. Currently, the nearest beach access south of 5775 Collins Avenue is at 53″‘ Street, roughly 2,800 feet away.

If provided, the proposed beach connection would offer a public benefit for the residents of approximately 715 apartment units contained in the five residential buildings on the western side of Collins Avenue within a short 5-minute walk (1320 FT) from the subject site to the 5600 Collins Condominium. That would greatly improve walkability for the neighborhood and reduce unnecessary vehicular beach bound trips and parking congestion by eliminating the necessity to drive to the closest City public parking area of the City, Lot P72 located north of the Imperial House Condominium (5255 Collins Avenue), in order to enjoy public beach access. The next closest parking lot is City Lot P81, located 1 mile to the north at Allison Park.

Further, the City recently unveiled a new guarded lifeguard station at the 5700 block of the beach, directly in front of the subject site (Marlborough House). This new public safety element’s location is of paramount importance, since it is the sole guarded tower that falls within the 6,089 SF non-guarded beach front stretch between 53’” Street and 64*“ Street where the next closest towers are located. The City’s own recommended beach tips for general public safety instruct both tourists and locals to always “Swim near an on-duty lifeguard”. In this regard, the location of the new guarded lifeguard tower without direct pedestrian street access from the sidewalk at Collins Avenue is a need that the applicant should address. As such, staff strongly recommends the incorporation of this public benefit and safety element.

Providing public beach access would also support Policy 1.5 of the ‘RECREATION AND OPEN SPACE ELEMENT’ of the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Staff believes that further refinement of the open space element in both side yards is in order and the incorporation of a pedestrian pathway from Collins Avenue to the Beachwalk would go a long way in addressing this shortcoming. The proposed walkway, if provided, should be located within the south side yard, and meander with landscape features. Overall, the landscape for the development is quite extensive and well-designed, comprised of predominately native species, and should inform the design of the beach walk.

In addition to the design’s impact on the surrounding area, staff also has concerns with the proposed semi-subterranean parking and the City’s endeavor to promote construction standards to combat sea level rise. While there are design benefits to placing parking underground and eliminating a parking pedestal, most notably the elimination of an unsightly parking structure, subterranean parking conflicts with the City’s efforts to mitigate the impact of sea level rise. Additionally, a recently referred code amendment pertaining to sub-grade parking is currently pending before the Planning Board. This ordinance will establish minimum design and construction standards that should be addressed in this application.

Staff has met with the applicant and the design team on numerous occasions, yet no design consensus has been reached on the fundamental issue of building orientation. As such, staff recommends the application be continued to a future date, with specific direction to address the issues and concerns raised herein.

RECOMMENDATION: In view of the foregoing analysis, staff recommends the application be continued to the December 05, 2017 Design Review Board meeting in order to address the concerns noted herein.