Downtown One Miami neighbors block project design OKBy Paola Iuspa
Construction of a condominium in downtown Miami the first one in 18 years and an accompanying office tower may face delays if neighboring property owners continue to oppose the project's design.
The towers due to rise at 205 Biscayne Blvd. on one of the few downtown waterfront sites available for development met a wall of resistance during a Miami City Commission meeting.
Miami One Centre, headed by Ned Seigel and Morris Stoltz, owns the land. The Related Group of Florida, headed by Jorge Perez, plans to develop the project. The Related Group also has a contract to buy the complex.
Though both last week received a waiver to a waterfront charter provision needed to move ahead with the project, commissioners ruled they still must work out a solution to objections to the design from future neighbors. All involved were told to report back to the commission Jan. 11 to get a final approval for a building permit.
Representatives for the neighboring Hotel Inter-Continental Miami, 100 Chopin Plaza; Miami Center, 201 Biscayne Blvd., and First Union Tower came together to persuade the developer to change the design.
As planned, the One Miami project is a 34-story office tower facing downtown and a 49-story, 425-unit residential building with a view of the Miami River and Biscayne Bay.
At the forefront of objections from neighboring property owners is a 12-story garage that would be adjacent to the Inter-Continental Hotel. The lot is now empty, allowing hotel guests a view of the river and bay.
Attorneys for the Inter-Continental and First Union said the project's current design would shade surrounding properties from 9 a.m. to sundown and affect the landscape. Jeffrey S. Bass said its walls would block views from rooms.
"It would have a very negative impact on these properties," Mr. Bass said, after having a planner show an alternative design.
Mr. Bass, who said he represented more than a half-billion dollars in investments, said the presentation was intended to make a point.
"The purpose of it was not only to show there are other alternatives, but to ask" the commissioners "to do what their own city ordinances require," Mr. Bass said. "They have to look at a project, identify any adverse impact and mitigate. How can you mitigate when you are not able to identify what is wrong?"
A study conducted by Mr. Bass's team said the design would bring down the property value of buildings near One Miami and reduce hotel rates from $5 to $10 a room and result in a loss in bookings.
Lucia Dougherty, representing the Miami One Centre and The Related Group, said she didn't understand why the neighbors had not complained earlier.
"We started going before city boards and committees in May and holding public hearings," she said. "And in all this time no one said a word about redesigning."
She said the owner and developer had come up originally with a different design that called for sharing the hotel's parking garage but it was never accepted.
"We offered to connect our parking garage to theirs," Ms. Dougherty said. "That would have minimized the size of our parking garage. But they said 'no'."
Representatives for Inter-Continental at the meeting denied having received any proposal.
Ms. Dougherty and her team went to the meeting hoping the commission would waive a waterfront charter provision that calls for a specific distance between the water and a property line based on a building's depth.
Adrienne Friesner Pardo, an attorney with Greenberg Traurig, also working for One Miami, said the waterfront charter requires a building to be set back 50 feet from the water if the building's depth is more than 200 feet.
One Miami's curved shape proposes some parts to be deeper than 200 feet.
"Close to Biscayne Boulevard it would reach 175 feet," Ms. Dougherty said. "Then it will go down to 123 feet, then 100 and then it gets back to 150 and 122 closer to the water.
As a result, Ms. Dougherty said, the developer needed to waive only 3.2% of the building's surface because the rest was consistent with the waterfront charter code and would get the setback typical of a building with a depth of less than 200 feet.
Commissioner Teele moved to approve the waiver but with the condition both parties meet again and come to an agreement by early January.
"If they are willing to open their garage," Ms. Dougherty said, "we are more than willing" to come up with a redesign.
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