A $150 million development promises to bring two high-rise towers built on an entire block in North Beach, following a wave of new projects in a once often-ignored neighborhood of Miami Beach.
Twin 19-story residential towers would replace surface parking lots and boutique apartment rental buildings on the 1.57-acre corner of 72nd St. and Dickens Ave., according to developer Russell Galbut.
Galbut, Matis Cohen and development firm Lefferts — headed by Mendy Chudaitov — submitted plans to the city of Miami Beach’s land use board, which reviews development plans in October. Lefferts owns the entire block, except for an apartment rental building that would remain on site.
Designed by Arquitectonica, the development would deliver a total of 125 residences, ranging from one-bedroom to three-bedroom apartments. Galbut said it’s still to be decided whether the project would be rentals or condos, but if the former then they would be rented at market-rate or if condos then they would likely start at around $800,000. Situated steps from the Miami Beach Tennis Center and North Shore Park & Youth Center, the buildings would have retail and restaurant spaces on the ground floor and several amenities such as rooftop decks, pools and pickleball courts.
The project remains in the early phase, but construction was expected to begin in late 2024, if the partners gain the necessary approvals in the coming months. Galbut said it would take about another two years to complete.
Galbut, a longtime developer and founder of the Crescent Heights firm, said North Beach is ripe for expansion. He is also working on the 22-story condominium 72nd and Park near his new project site. “It is a wonderful grouping of people and it’s right beside Surfside and Mid-Beach. There is an area for expansion. When a community doesn’t expand, it dies.”
Developers have been flooding into North Beach in recent years, after a city-approved plan in 2018 creating a “town center” paving the way for taller buildings and allowing for high-rises with micro-units, or apartments smaller than studios. Hundreds of apartment rentals and condominiums are now underway, including by longtime Miami Beach investors and builders like Galbut and Cohen, and more recent newcomers such as Eduardo Otaola.
While developers want to play a role in shaping the future of North Beach, many residents of the area and from across the county and preservationists emphasize the importance of keeping and revitalizing longtime community structures such as the old Byron Carlyle Theater and small businesses like Cafe Prima Pasta.
Large projects like this do little for the neighborhood, said Rick Kendle, a 64-year-old attorney and real estate agent who has lived in Miami Beach for four decades. Early talks about a “town center” years ago focused on 8-story residences, not buildings twice the size or bigger, he said. Large developments do little to contribute to North Beach since they often remain empty, and short-term rentals might be a good solution to draw more people year-round, Kendle said.
“Just putting a new building doesn’t change anything. You have vacant storefronts at the bottom of their buildings. They’re empty buildings,” Kendle said, adding that condo owners in the area fail to contribute to the local economy since they’re absent for a large part of the year.
City officials disagree with those raising concerns. Commissioner Ricky Arriola said projects like the twin residential towers bring much needed housing to the city.
“Change is very difficult for most people to accept. I have seen it in every neighborhood in Miami Beach,” Arriola said, adding he sees an opportunity in bringing development to a largely vacant property.
“It’s not like we’re losing something in this community and they’re being replaced with towers. We’re talking about vacant lots, lots that have been cleared or small buildings that have been underutilized. It’s creating housing, which we need,” he said.
If the project gains approval in October, the next steps consist of finalizing the design by February and construction plans by May.