North Beach, the South Beach’s quieter cousin, gets a referendum to increase the floor ratio approved
Matis Cohen is just one of many frustrated developers. Cohen has been investing millions of dollars buying low-rise apartments and commercial properties in North Beach since 2010. “To have a blighted area in Miami Beach is unfathomable,” Cohen stated. When asked why he chose to invest in North Beach to begin with, Cohen explained: “It’s a great opportunity for effecting change.” When beginning his investing venture, Cohen assumed change would come quickly, not 18 years later.
Miami Beach voters approved a referendum to increase the floor ratio of a 10-block region in North Beach. The change is in the final stages of approval, as a final vote done by the Miami Beach City Commission needs to take place by May 16th. As of now the FAR hasn’t been approved by the city and is putting a roadblock up on any building plans Cohen may have. Cohen is under the impression that Miami Beach officials are “dragging their feet” and despite the 58.6 percent passing vote, he is worried the city will not follow through with the referendum. “It’s very easy to stop something in Miami Beach,” he said.
North Beach is a steal when it comes to retail rates. The average rate per square foot is between $20 and $50 per square foot. This is a huge comparison to a place like South Beach’s Lincoln Road where square foot leases for an average of $300 per square foot or even compared to Biscayne Boulevard where retail rent averages $60 per square foot.
Due to the makeup of North Beach, the area is an eclectic array of neighborhoods- ranging from working-class neighborhoods to condos and single-family homes. Due to this range of people in the area, the prices of condos and single-family homes range from $150,000 to $7.5 million and more.
Sandor Scher is excited to begin building his rather ambitious project within Ocean Terrace. Ocean Terrace is an area in North Beach. It is found near the beach, and it includes closed historic hotels, restaurants, a parking lot, and a 27-story condominium; Scher has been working on this project for four years with Blavatnik to get their plans through the bureaucracy. “The financial markets have to still cooperate,” said Scher, “So, you know, how much room is left on the runway? We don’t know. Interest rates are starting to creep up a little bit. There are things that are creating risk for people who want to develop.”
“Right now, the historic preservation of major areas, 271 buildings, has already gone through,” advised Daniel Ciraldo, who is the executive director of the Miami Design Preservation League. “The Tatum Waterway, which is another 100 buildings, is still in the process… That will happen around May.” After four long months of discussions, Commissioner John Elizabeth Alemán said she convinced her co-workers to move forward with the FAR increase first. Alemán feared that the debate could be misused by upzoning opponents as a means to indefinitely delay any process. “The will of the voters must be implemented right away,” she said.
Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez promised she does not want to interfere with progress. But, Gonzalez believes that Miami Beach residents will change their minds once the first Town Center mixed-use projects are finished.
“I’m not a huge fan of density increases on a barrier island, and the reason why is there are no transit solutions,” Gonzalez said. “New retail and apartments, Gonzalez stressed, bring with them additional traffic. The only reason we have any mobility is that we controlled the density,” she said.