Controversial 18-Story Tower Project in Miami Beach Sparks Debate Over City’s Iconic Skyline

Published Date: October 26, 2023

In a groundbreaking move facilitated by Florida’s Live Local Act of 2023, developers are planning a transformative mixed-use project in Miami Beach that would see the iconic Clevelander and Essex House hotels become part of an 18-story tower. While aiming to address the affordable housing crisis in South Florida, this ambitious project has ignited a fierce debate among city officials and residents.

The Jesta Group, based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, envisions a development that preserves the Art Deco façade of the historic Clevelander and Essex House, a commitment welcomed by many. However, the proposal to construct an 18-story tower has drawn passionate opposition from Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber and Commissioner Alex Fernandez.

Mayor Gelber described the project as a “horrible, horrific, terrible, tragic idea” and expressed concerns about the potential transformation of Ocean Drive’s skyline into a corridor of high-rises. Commissioner Fernandez echoed these sentiments, believing that an 18-story building would be “a slap in the face to our city” and could open the door for further high-rise development.

The developers argue that the project will revitalize the neighborhood by replacing hotel and nightlife businesses with residential units and community-based retail, thereby creating a more balanced community. They also stress that over 40% of the 137 planned units will be offered at affordable housing levels, addressing a pressing need in South Florida.

Despite the opposition from elected officials, the decision largely lies with the developers, as state law has allowed them to bypass public hearings. However, they must secure clearance from the city planning department.

As the debate rages on, the fate of this iconic Miami Beach location remains uncertain. The discussion reflects the ongoing tension between development and preservation in a city known for its vibrant and distinctive character.

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Original Article By Larry Seward- CBS

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