Review boards reject plan for Wynwood’s tallest residential tower

Review boards reject plan for Wynwood’s tallest residential tower

Written by John Charles Robbins on July 9, 2024
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A plan to build the tallest residential tower in the Wynwood arts district has been rejected by two city of Miami review panels.

The site is located at the northwest corner of North Miami Avenue and Northwest 21st Street. Wynwood Interest LLC owns the properties at 2110 N Miami Ave., 2118 N Miami Ave., 2134 N Miami Ave., 2135 NW Miami Court, 2129 NW Miami Court and 2101 NW Miami Court.

Bazbaz Development plans to build a 48-story mixed-use residential tower at the location. The 755,700-square-foot project near the south end of Wynwood would include 544 residential units, 621 parking spaces and about 19,000 square feet of retail.

In June, Wynwood’s design review committee recommended rejecting the project.

Subsequently, the city’s Urban Development Review Committee also recommended rejection of the project to the planning director, asking the development team to study a redesign of the tower to reduce its mass and scale, saying the current design is out of context with surrounding uses.

Comments noted by the design review committee included:

■Insufficient modulation and architectural and/or artistic interest on the facades of the shops and entrance halls on the ground floor.

■Podium, the mass garage should be broken down and additional artistic schemes, concepts, colors, modulation and interest should be considered in the parking plan, consistent with the Wynwood ethos and pedestrian experience.

■Locate the ventilation shutters and organize them in coordination with the art.

■Insufficient modulation and interest on the tower facade.

■The crown must be redesigned in a more inoculating way.

■Insufficient protection of mechanical structures and elevators on the roof.

■Insufficient interest in art and activities along the paseo.

■Backflows, gas and electricity meters and adjacent utilities must be protected.

Carli Koshal, an attorney representing the developer, said the property is 65,842 square feet, or 1.512 acres, and has been in common ownership since 2009.

Ms. Koshal told the city review committee: “We are pleased to be one of the first Live Local Act projects in the Wynwood area.”

The project uses development bonuses outlined in a new state law, the Live Local Act, to incorporate additional height and density beyond what the underlying zoning district allows.

Ms. Koshal wrote: “Under the Live Local Act, an eligible project is one that is located in a mixed-use, commercial or industrial zoning district and commits to restricting a minimum of 40 percent of its units to residents earning up to 120 percent of the area median income (AMI) for a period of 30 years.”

She wrote: “The project brings much-needed residential units to an area well-served by transit and transportation options, with an architectural design consistent with the aesthetic of Wynwood (Neighborhood Revitalization District-1) NRD-1.”

The developer is requesting zoning code exemptions that, if approved, would allow:

■A 30% reduction in parking for residential and commercial uses in a public transport corridor.

■Up to 10% increase in lot coverage.

■Up to 10% increase in floor plate length.

■A commercial loading dock replaced by two residential docks.

■Second floor parking above the first floor along the primary facade (Northwest 21st Street, North Miami Avenue) and secondary facade, with artistic or glass treatment.

In her letter to the city, Ms. Koshal wrote: “The scale and massing of the building will enhance the Wynwood streetscape by bringing the property into compliance with the Wynwood Streetscape Master Plan, and will enhance the character of the neighborhood by bringing vibrancy and destination to Wynwood’s North Miami Avenue corridor.

“All building elevations visible from the public domain include architectural elements and materials that complement the character of the area and create a coherent architectural composition.

“The project will contribute to the revitalization of the southeast entrance to Wynwood,” she wrote.

It was noted that a previous project planned for the property involved a 12-story building.

Raymond Fort, designer at Arquitectonica, explained to the review committee the design aspects of the new tower and podium.

He said the site plan includes a pedestrian walkway along the northern boundary, with a width of 10 to 40 feet.

The project includes six levels of parking and an amenity terrace with a south-facing swimming pool.

The tower will include studios, 1 and 2 bedroom residential units.

The parking levels are designed as a mechanically ventilated solid wall, with artistic elements forming part of the façade.

Review committee members criticised the size and mass of the proposed tower, for the area where new 12-storey buildings are being built.

Board member Gia Zapattini said, “I agree with the Wynwood committee that the tower is not adequately protected, as well as the mechanical elements.”

Ms Zapattini said: “Overall it seems very out of scale to me… this added element to the podium doesn’t really help bring anything to scale.

“Everything is very big, which makes the project even more overwhelming. I don’t know if we have a solution,” she said.

Acting council chairman Dean Lewis noted that the previous proposal called for 12 floors and that 48 was a substantial increase.

Board member Robert Behar said, “I’m not very impressed with this work and I agree with Gia, it’s out of context.”

Mr Behar said that if the tower had been designed with less mass, “it would have been, in my opinion, more in harmony with the environment”.

Mr Behar said: “I have a problem with the tower, its size – it doesn’t need to be that tall.”

Mr. Lewis agreed with Mr. Behar and also suggested natural ventilation and screening for garage levels.

Mr Font replied: “I think it’s a balance because if you make a bigger floor you’ll have more mass on the facades of the building. So our intention was to create a slim profile for the building and have that short side because if we turn it we’re basically going east to west across the length or width of the lot… once you start turning it you get another wing on the building and that would look more massive than doing something slimmer on the site.”

Zapattini concluded: “Personally, I don’t think I can support this idea. To me, it’s totally out of context. If you study it as my colleagues suggest, you could create a beautiful design that doesn’t seem so alien.”

The rejection vote was unanimous.