In an interesting move, very unusual for Miami Beach, the residents of Sunset Islands 3 and 4 and the biggest opposition to the Palau development have given their approval to the project.
In a stunning turn of events the developers of Palau, determined to get their projects built, succumbed to pressure from the Residents Group headed by homeowner association president Terry Bienstock and made significant changes to the plans.
The development of the Palau at Sunset Harbour has been fraught with controversy since it’s inception. Developed by SMG Management and backed by the Roy Disney family, the development has been opposed by residents of the surrounding neighborhoods.
What the actual fight was about is one of the four bridges that connect Sunset Islands to main Miami Beach. Three of the four bridges have received historic designation from the City of Miami Beach. Those three bridges were built in the 1920′s and are described as “a discrete image of wealth … and the extravagance of the ‘Roaring Twenties,’?” in the beech historic designation report. The fourth bridge was built to replace a failing one, in 1994. It is this bridge that is causing all the controversy. It has not been designated historically and Sunset Harbour residents are pushing to have it designated.
What concerned Sunset Island residents is the sheer mass and height of Palau. The building has been designed around 50 residential units, with ground-level retail shops, a canal-front promenade and a courtyard. Bienstock, was outraged that the city was even open to approving this development and calls Palau out of scale with the surrounding community.
“Developers got approval to build right up to the property line along Sunset Drive. In deference to the bridge, developers agreed to take out a notch of the building closest to the bridge, creating a small green space to separate the two structures.” he said.
What followed was residents packing commission meetings, large scale debates, anger, appeals, hearings and ultimately frustration on both sides. Everything came to a halt when the Miami Beach commission moved to rescind approval of the Palau in March.
All of this has led to the developers sitting down with Bienstock to fix the situation. And fix it they did, with the developer making concessions which included agreeing to set the shops back more than 10 feet from the property line and building the development away from the still undesignated Sunset Drive bridge. The most important concession was agreeing to create a public plaza next to the bridge.
In exchange for these concessions, the residents of Sunset have withdrawn their objections and have agreed to back Palau. They filed an official agreement with the city on May 13.
“At the end of the day, they realized that the changes we pushed for made for a better project for them,” said Bienstock.