Clevelander Hotel Owner Cuts Redevelopment Plan to 18 Stories

Proposal would add 137 residential units under the Live Local Act

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After announcing a controversial proposal to redevelop the Clevelander Hotel in Miami Beach into affordable housing, its owners have scaled down the project’s height nearly in half while keeping its affordable component.

The Jesta Group, which owns both the Clevelander and the adjacent Essex House hotels, filed plans with the city for an 18-story mixed-use project on the Clevelander property at 1020 Ocean Drive, a 40 percent height reduction from the 30 stories it originally proposed last month. 

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The proposed 137-unit building, which includes 55 workforce housing units, would be built on an annex to the Clevelander Hotel, while preserving both historic hotel structures.

It’s possible only because of Florida’s newly enacted Live Local Act, which allows developers to bypass local zoning rules if enough affordable housing is built, and instead use the maximum zoning available within a one-mile radius. 

In fact, the Live Local Act allows even more height on the property, but the Montreal-based Jesta scaled down the development so it “will be compatible” with other buildings in the neighborhood, the company said.

Last month, the company had publicly discussed building 30 stories, which triggered backlash from the local community. While the new proposal is smaller, the 18-story structure will still tower over the neighboring buildings, which mostly consist of the low-rise, Art Deco  buildings that Miami Beach is famous for. The tallest building nearby is the nine-story Old City Hall on Washington Avenue, though plenty of condo towers exist further west, along the bay side of the island.

%name Clevelander Hotel Owner Cuts Redevelopment Plan to 18 Stories
Map of Miami Beach showing building heights. Building in blue are above 200 feet high. Credit: Jesta Group

“The project will deliver exactly what the mayor and City Commission have been trying to do for years, namely, to replace hotel and nightlife businesses with more residential and community-based retail to create a more balanced neighborhood,” Jesta wrote in a prepared statement.

The project could be an early test for the Live Local Act, whose provisions make the zoning change by-right, allowing developers to avoid community input. The legislation is meant to spur affordable housing construction and address the state’s severe housing crunch, but some are critical of its heavy-handed approach that strips local municipalities of their authority. 

Just last week, the City of Doral reached a settlement with Apollo Global Management (APO) over a proposed three-tower development under the Live Local Act. The developer agreed to scale down the development, while the city will lift a moratorium it placed on new construction because of the law. 

“Look, none of us are happy about this,” Doral Mayor Christi Fraga said during a City Council meeting about the agreement. “Unfortunately, Senate Bill 102, the Live Local Act, has been something that has affected our community and has affected communities around the state.”

Chava Gourarie can be reached at cgourarie@commercialobserver.com