By AARON LEIBOWITZ, Miami Herald
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The future of the Deauville Beach Resort site in Miami Beach sits in limbo after voters shot down a ballot question Tuesday, rejecting a vision from Miami Dolphins owner and billionaire developer Stephen Ross to build a luxury hotel and condo tower taller than what current regulations allow.
The historic hotel is still set to be imploded Sunday morning, Miami Beach spokesperson Melissa Berthier said.
But representatives for Ross were mum Wednesday about whether he might still buy the property, which is owned by the Meruelo family that has sparred with the city over millions of dollars in code violations. The hotel fell into disrepair and has been shuttered since an electrical fire in 2017.
“While we are disappointed with the outcome, we know North Beach deserves an economic engine, not an eyesore,” a spokesperson for the ballot measure campaign said in a statement. “We appreciate the tremendous support we received from thousands who backed a real vision for a better North Beach and still believe there’s a brighter future ahead.”
The spokesperson did not respond to a follow-up question about whether Ross still intends to buy the property and possibly build there. His plan for the site included two towers designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry.
“They’d have to figure out, given the price, to what extent it makes sense to build,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, who supported the ballot question. “I don’t think we’ll get a Gehry building there.”
Gelber pitched the proposal to residents as a simple choice between an empty lot and a world-class development that would bring revenue to the North Beach neighborhood.
“It shouldn’t have been a contest, frankly, because it’s a choice between a potential empty area or a Frank Gehry building,” he said. “I don’t think we could have given voters a better possibility than that.”
But opponents of the measure — which would have increased the site’s allowable floor-area ratio to make way for a 375-foot condo tower in an area with a current 200-foot height limit — said any developer of the site should work within existing zoning. regulations.
Historic preservation advocates also said Ross’ project would not have paid proper homage to the design and history of the Deauville, which was built in 1957 and famously hosted a Beatles performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964. The city’s historic preservation board will have a chance to weigh in on, and potentially reject, any future development at the site.
The ballot question’s failure, with 53% of voters opposed, was striking given the imbalance in funding between the campaigns for and against it.
Ross, the chairman and majority owner of real estate firm Related, poured almost $1.9 million into a PAC that was supporting the ballot measure, records show.
A political committee opposing the measure, Save Miami Beach, raised less than $30,000, mostly from local historic preservation groups.
Miami Beach voters also handed developers a defeat at the polls Tuesday on two proposed 99-year leases of city-owned parking lots near Lincoln Road, rejecting plans for high-end office space that proponents said would help diversify the city’s tourist-heavy economy.
Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, a city commissioner who spearheaded a campaign against the Lincoln Road items and also opposed the Deauville measure, celebrated the outcome in an email to residents Wednesday.
“Miami Beachers love their sunny beach, and they also loved the Deauville,” she wrote. “When you don’t follow our laws and our rules, and you try to buy your way around them, the people will stop you.”
Rosen Gonzalez added that she and others will now “demand that portions of the Deauville are replicated,” and that “whatever the owners wish to build is in scale with the rest of the neighborhood.”
The Deauville’s 17-story hotel tower is set to be demolished shortly after 8 am Sunday.
Demolition crews began tearing down the lower portion of the building last month. Officials first completed asbestos removal from the shuttered hotel, which allowed demolition of the building’s pool, pool deck, ballrooms and lobby to begin.
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