Written by Catherine Lackner on March 12, 2019
A wave of redevelopment spurred by zoning changes enacted by the City of North Miami Beach has ushered in new market-rate housing, expanded commercial development, and even the prospect of a Brightline station.
“It’s our time,” said Mayor Anthony F. DeFillipo. “We’re extremely excited and expect phenomenal things to take place in the next three to five years.”
Founded as Fulford-by-the-Sea in 1926, North Miami Beach is sandwiched between North Miami, Miami Gardens, and Sunny Isles Beach. Aventura and Golden Beach are to the northeast.
“In 2015, city leaders took a fresh approach and identified seven key areas to rezone for development,” said a recent release by the city. “The impact was immediate and developers flocked to North Miami Beach. Lazul, a 350-unit apartment building, and The Harbour, a 425-unit condominium, opened last year. The Highlands, a 60-unit condominium, is nearing completion.
“More projects are in the pipeline, including a recently approved master site plan containing 1,600 apartments, a school, retail and office space at the intersection of West Dixie Highway and Northeast 159th Street; and the approved 1 million-square-foot mixed-use Uptown Biscayne project with 160,000 square feet of retail, 40,000 of office space, and 249 apartments at the site of Dean’s Gold strip club,” at 2355 NE 163rd St.
The initiative is so successful, the release said, that its North Miami Beach’s Planning Department is exploring the prospect of making zoning changes to the rest of the city.
“One thing that motivated us was the boom we saw going on in neighboring cities like Aventura, Sunny Isles Beach and North Miami,” Mr. DeFillipo said. “We took advantage of that wave by rezoning in a way that encourages new development, and the rebuilding of older structures.” In some sections of the city, buildings were 92 years old, he noted.
Most of the new developments cluster in the eastern part of the city, near the Biscayne Boulevard corridor and the Intracoastal Waterway, but some renovations are happening in parts of the city that are further west, he said.
“We have well-planned developments in the inner city, where it really counts,” Mr. DeFillipo said. “We’re also working on quality-of-life issues, fixing the sidewalks, things like that, to tie it all together.”
One of the areas to be improved is along the western side. “We’re working diligently with our Asian population to create and support a Chinatown district,” he said. In 2016, the city council approved plans for a dedicated zone comprising 16 blocks of commercially zoned land along Northeast 167th Street between the Golden Glades interchange and Northeast Sixth Avenue. The master plan was approved in late 2017.
The area is to be complete with parks, green space, bike lanes and rooftop gardens, along with pagodas, canals and an entrance inspired by the Ming Dynasty.
“We’re working with the county on having a Brightline station” should the high-speed trail roll out commuter service,” Mr. DeFillipo said. “We’re one of several cities that want a station, and we’re looking at two possible locations. We don’t know the details yet, but we believe there will be one here.”
The Brightline station would connect with the city’s system of three free trolleys, created about 2½ years ago. It’s among the most successful in Miami-Dade County, ridership having grown from 80,000 to 183,000 per year. There’s also a system of bike trails and bike racks.
“North Miami Beach is really taking an interest in traffic congestion, which exists on every roadway in Miami,” the mayor said.
The new buildings have brought in millennials and others who haven’t historically been part of the population base. The mayor said he expects the number of residents, which stands at 47,500 now, to be significantly higher when the 2020 census is counted.
“We are on the map,” Mr. DeFillipo said. “People are taking an interest in North Miami Beach, and it’s an exciting thing.”