Renderings were shown to Belle Isle residents last week during a presentation from the Finvarb Group. The project is set to come under the Planning Board review April 30.
The new hotel has been designed as a 116-room, five-story building set on the tiny lot, north of 17th Street, east of the planned West Avenue Bridge, and south of the Collins Canal, which parallels Dade Boulevard. (see map)
Residents had mixed feelings about the development, peppering Finvarb’s attorney, Michael Larkin with questions on traffic flow, expected deliveries, parking and employee activities.
Some of those questions were answered by traffic planner Richard Garcia who was hired by Finvarb to do an impact study on the area. His study showed that the projected hotel would create less than half the traffic of any other business that could be built on the property, like a pharmacy or a dry cleaner. He also stated that 5-6pm would be the busiest hour for traffic.
Other concerns were answered when the developers revealed that the hotel would include a restaurant, a small conference room and a rooftop pool. Unlike most South Beach hotels, this pool would not have a bar and the hotel guaranteed no rooftop parties.
Scott Diffenderfer the President of the Belle Isle Residents Association and a Miami Beach Realtor, attended the meeting and came away opposed to the hotel.
“I am a real estate agent and very much in favor of responsible development in our city. I especially understand the importance of additional hotel rooms for our tourism-based economy.” He said. “I am opposed to this hotel for several reasons but mainly because allowing development of this scope, on this tiny piece of land, next to two of the worst intersections in our city is irresponsible planning.”
He made several other points including that because the FAR is based on the current land and NOT the reduced footprint that will be left after the West Avenue Bridge is built through the property, the hotel is too big for the space and does not contain proper onsite loading areas for the types of vehicles that will actually be making deliveries. The city is not properly vetting claims of types of delivery vehicles, traffic studies or appropriate use for this tiny piece of land next to two of the worst intersections in the city – 17th/Alton and Dade/Alton.
Diffenderfer felt that the developer was counting on using 3 current metered spaces as a loading zone but in reality he thought that at some point in the very near future the city would need to turn that area into a travel lane. This would inevitably cause delivery trucks to stop in the lane of travel, obstructing traffic. Plus the overwhelming majority of residents would like to see green space there. City staff, the commission and even residents who favor the project continue to say it’s not as bad as a Walgreens, CVS or Burger King Drive-thru, parroting the threats from the developer’s lobbyist.
“We’ll see what happens at the planning committee. If it goes through as proposed, it will another short-sighted accommodation rather than a well thought out urban plan. At this stage, our city should be better than this.” Diffenderfer added.
Belle Isle Residents Association members who attended the meeting have varying opinions and some took to the Belle Isle Blog to post their comments:
“The scruffy vacant lot is an eyesore – the hotel might be a good use of the site.” said Robert Carson.
“After reviewing this project both at city hall meetings and at the Belle Island meeting last week, I find it to be one of the best options compared to what else could have potentially been built on the site. This has the least amount of vehicle impact. As in any project there are always opinions and concerns but I was quite pleased with the outcome. There was confusion about larger trucks making deliveries which was remedied, as the current meter spots in front of the subject lot would be removed and would become a no parking area. This will accommodate the larger trucks and not interfere with the current two lanes heading west. Having even a sliver of green space is better than nothing at all, so I’m sure with all the voices of concern, we will be on the city to make the piece of green space special. Looking forward to seeing the dump disappear and a very cool urban building erected!” stated an online reader Perry
Belle Isle Board member David Leeds posted this: “In my opinion the meeting in the 4th was an exercise in deception and misleading in several regards. Among them are: 1. The continual mention of the “green space or park” to the west of the West Ave bridge. In fact it’s a tiny area which slopes down to the canal and in effect is worthless. The developers finally admitted it would be the city’s responsibility, but they threw it out like it was part of the development. Everybody is in favor of green space, so it sounded good, but not anything to do with the hotel. 2. The developer said would only have 8 employees, then the attorney raised to 12, which still sounds too low for a 116 room hotel, but didn’t count valet parkers. Technically maybe not employees, but they work there, so it sounds deceptive to me. 3. The attorney said deliveries would be made by van to the interior. But, when called on that admitted for example beverage trucks and other large ones would have to park on the north side of 17th St, where there are meters but are always empty. What a joke, check out how often they’re empty. So, these trucks would have to be blocking traffic at the busiest intersection in MB. 4. The developer said rates would start at $175. That’s probably during hurricane season. I bet during the winter season will be twice as high, so not really a reasonable option for visitors to residents of the neighborhood during the most desirable time as was suggested. 5. The traffic engineer was hired by the developer, so of course he came up with favorable info. Even if there are fewer cars parked there, there will surely be plenty of taxis, etc going in and out. Why didn’t they submit this to the city’s Transportation committee? The usual inside game of “schmoozing” insiders as the attorney seems to be very adept at as was shown at the last Commission meeting when the new parking regs were adopted basically for this development only. Plus, the “red herring” scare tactic thrown out of the possibility of a fast food or drug store there. If Burger King didn’t make it in the corner and most of the other possibilities are nearby why would any retailer want to be there with such bad ingress and egress and poor visibility. I would like to point out as a board member of the Belle Isle Residents Association that we are strongly and almost unanimously opposed. Plus, most of the other nearby groups are opposed to this to my knowledge. But we don’t have high priced attorneys playing the inside game to the detriment of the residents. I’ve probably left out some other relevant points, so I would appreciate it if u contact our President Scott Diffenderfer to express our concerns in a better and fuller manner and u blog from our point of view, as info only. In closing want to thank u as always for the service and help ur blog provides to all ur subscribers. Best regards and thanks in advance for ur consideration.