‘Gateway’ proposal receives some positive reviews but concerns expressed regarding traffic at public meeting
About 70 Key Biscayne residents gathered Monday to hear details about the proposed “Key Biscayne Gateway” project at the entry point to the village.
The residents in attendance gave the developers an overall positive reception, even an enthusiastic round of applause at the end, but also raised concerns about potential traffic issues.
The meeting at Key Biscayne Beach Club was the first chance residents have had to hear directly from the developers about the planned multi-purpose office and retail building.
Many of their questions, were related to traffic congestion.
“We are working with traffic engineers and the Village to see how to address these (traffic) concerns,” said attorney Mario Garcia-Serra, who advises the investment group Ansasi LLC, which is under contract to purchase the 1.35-acres property.
While praising the overall project’s aesthetics, especially the care to include green spaces into the design, residents said they are wary about a project that would add more traffic to Crandon Boulevard in an area of the island that already has a very busy intersection.
Another traffic concern expressed is that those headed to the site northbound on Crandon Blvd. would have to make a u-turn at the Calusa Park circle, then, return on Crandon southbound to reach the complex’s entrance. This complication -- and more cars in an area already congested daily with long lines of cars -- was a point of concern.
“Key Biscayne is collapsing with cars and this will have a great impact,” said one of the residents in attendance. “Imagine, more than 200 parking spaces will be added with this project.”
The response from the developers? They will continue to work with traffic experts, including those hired by the Village, to address the problem.
Another issue raised was why the project involved more offices than retail space.
According to Garcia-Serra, the total floor area is about 58,800 square feet. Hamed Rodriguez, the project’s architect added that 92% would be able to be rented. While the building is four stories in height, the fourth story is rather small, only about 4,000 square feet of floor area, according to Garcia-Serra.
“We have seen that there is a greater need for offices,” said Alex Lipzer, agent of Key Biscayne Realty Group, which represents the investors. “Most of the office space on the island are currently rented. We believe that many people on the island (would) prefer to have an office here now.”
The project also calls for rooftop restaurant/bar with a vista overlooking the bay toward Miami and other points west, but concern was raised about unwelcome noise
“Everyone remembers when Stefano’s was there,” said an attendee. “The noise level was annoying until very late.”
In response, Garcia-Serra said the restaurant-bar will have limited space, and it is not expected to generate a high level of noise, and that there could be a prohibition on amplified sound if necessary.
“This development aims to integrate as much as possible with the natural environment,” said Alex Lipzer, agent of Key Biscayne Realty Group, which represents the investors. “That’s why we think we can take advantage of the beautiful views from the rooftop to the park and the Bay.”
Francisco Abarzua, a resident who said he was an architect, noted that the building’s design aesthetic is nice, but, in essence, ordinary.
“The style of architecture we are looking for is what best suits the Key Biscayne lifestyle, and in that we are open to debate with local specialists and architects to find the best possible version of the project,” said Garcia-Serra, who also noted that, the project architect, Mr. Hamed Rodriguez is a very well regarded and recognized architect. There were quite a few positive comments as well. Long-time resident Annika Akerlund-Tarajano said she loved the project, saying she would approach the Councilmembers she knew and express her support for the development.
The present owners of the entry block are ES KB LLC, whose Manager, Mr. Carlos Lopez is a Key Biscayne resident, acquired the property in 2015 for $15 million. Asking price for the lot have been as high as $22 million. Ansasi LLC is under contract to acquire the property for an undisclosed amount.
The project team plans to consider resident feedback and make possible adjustments to the plan to proceed with a traffic study in cooperation with the Village. If the project is approved, construction would begin in 2020, with a 2023 completion date.