Miami's Next Cool Neighborhood?

October 21, 2015 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
October 21, 2015 - Sandor Scher knows something about spectacular historic renovations. Over the last decade, the Miami company he founded, Claro Development, has rejuvenated many of Miami Beach's icons: the Raleigh, Standard, Thompson, Shelbourne, Essex, and SoHo Beach House, with the Greystone, Peter Miller, and a Lincoln Road development underway. All winning the firm great acclaim.

Now he's got his sights set on Ocean Terrace, a two-block-long oasis along the beach off Collins between 73rd and 75th.

In today's condition, it might charitably be described as rundown. With severe height and FAR restrictions, no developer has wanted to touch it, and so it's sat half abandoned. But in December, Sandor (with his venture Ocean Terrace Holdings) bought the 93-key Days Inn for $29M and in March a combined three smaller adjacent 1940's era hotels for about the same.

Sandor's vision is for a dramatic transformation of the stretch into high-quality retail, hotel and residential. He believes it will bring with it the emerging neighborhood energy of a Sunset Harbor or Surfside and trigger a much broader revitalization around it.

After 10 months of planning and zoning hearings, Ocean Terrace Holdings agreed to a comprehensive restrictive covenant that would limit residential to no more than 70 residential units and 220 hotel rooms, though Sandor expects to build 10% to 20% fewer. It also agreed to how late an hour they can feature outdoor entertainment, and to using FAR for only residential or hotel purposes, i.e., not less popular uses like big-box retail. The cornerstone of the zoning change is a decrease in density from 100 units per acre to 50 units per acre, protections that Collins Avenue will always be retail, an independently verified decrease in traffic and other neighborhood and resident-friendly protections. Sandor says at least some basic scale is required for financial viability, and he feels it's now been trimmed to the bone.

Only one hurdle remains. Although the Commission and the Planning Board have been very supportive and voted in favor of the changes, the city charter requires that any increase in FAR (in this case from 2.0 to 3.0) shall be approved by the public. In an historic vote, the Commission agreed to place the increase on the ballot for approval. Sandor tells us that community support has been "overwhelming and inspirational." He adds: "So many of the important longtime community leaders in North Beach are behind this plan, in full support. They are the best spokespeople for the change because they are the ones who have waited so long for positive change on this scale in North Beach."

So Sandor is asking everyone to vote Yes on #54. (We're not sure how it got that high number: There is only one other measure on the Nov. 3 Miami Beach ballot besides the election of three commissioners and the mayor.) Approval requires more than 50% of votes cast. Sandor says the vote is only about the FAR, not about height, setbacks or historic preservation, and argues that none of the current historic preservation protections that currently exist for any of the buildings are weakened. So he's out spreading the word and has set up a website. Based on his long experience reviving other areas of Miami Beach, he believes a favorable vote could make Ocean Terrace and all of the Collins area in the 70s one of the most exciting destinations in the region.

Mark Bisnow,

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