By Mary Hladky
Facing sharp criticism from downtown residents and hearing a softer critique from a city board, the developer of the proposed Mizner 200 luxury condominium will make additional design changes in an effort to win city approval to begin construction.
The Mizner 200 project began the approval process on Nov. 1 in a hearing before the city’s Community Appearance Board. A second review by the Planning and Zoning Board was originally planned for Nov. 3, but has since been delayed. City Council members, sitting as members of the Community Redevelopment Agency, will make the final decision on whether Mizner 200 can be built. That meeting had not been scheduled as of Nov. 1.
Downtown residents, most of whom live in the Townsend Place condos immediately south of the Mizner 200 property, blasted it for being too massive and not in keeping with the city’s Addison Mizner architectural style.
“Townsend Place is unequivocally opposed to the current project,” said condo board member Norman Waxman. “The project is inconsistent with the aesthetics and architecture of the Mizner style.”
The project, he said, “will block the residents’ view, sunlight and breeze.”
Townsend Place resident Barbara Stone, speaking on behalf of the BocaBeautiful group that wants downtown to maintain its charm, said Mizner 200 is “designed for the sole purpose of maximizing profits of the developer.”
CAB board members were less severe, but said the project’s design needs some tweaking.
They want to see more breaks in the façade, more shade trees along the pedestrian walkway, the addition of small “pocket” parks and less ornamentation.
Board members and the builder, Elad, agreed to a 30-day delay before the CAB votes. The developer and architects will return in two weeks to see if changes are in line with what the board wants.
After the meeting, the Mizner 200 team expressed confidence they can win over the CAB and downtown residents.
“These are minor adjustments to the design,” said architect Peter Stromberg, of Garcia Stromberg/GS4Studios. The board’s comments “are intelligent thoughts that will make the design more cohesive.”
“Everyone said they thought [the project] was doable,” said Mizner 200 attorney Bonnie Miskel.
First proposed more than two years ago by Elad, Mizner 200 has been redesigned four times as the developer attempted to assuage complaints.
The project is a rallying point for residents who fear downtown overdevelopment and loss of the city’s Mizner style.
A downtown development boom has increased their anxiety. Downtown activists have decried new projects, including the Mark at CityScape on Palmetto Park Road and the Via Mizner at Federal Highway and Camino Real, as both too big and visually unappealing.
City planning staff recommended approval of the 384-unit Mizner 200 last month, saying that the most recent iteration of the project complies with city rules.
The project, which would replace Mizner on the Green’s 246 rental units on nearly 9 acres along Southeast Mizner Boulevard, would be nine stories tall and more than 800 feet long.
In a “project narrative” submitted to the city in September, Miskel touted the project’s strengths and disputed residents’ complaints.
“Mizner 200 is an interpretation of the concepts found in the architecture of Addison Mizner,” she wrote.
Since Mizner 200 complies with the city’s development guidelines, it “has the right to exist as designed,” she said.
Mizner 200, she said, owns the property and therefore the views from it.
“These views are the rights of the property owner, not the adjacent structures,” Miskel said. “Yes, good design takes into account its surroundings and respects them, however, this does not require the project to diminish its own value to allow for adjacent properties to benefit from their own assumed rights.”
Miskel also noted that Elad listened to residents and neighbors, and changed the project’s design substantially. The building has been divided into three sections so it appears less massive. The south end of the project was redesigned and “does not obliterate ocean views and sunlight,” she wrote.
City planning staff found Mizner 200 does not exceed the 120-foot height limit for that part of downtown, provides sufficient open space, meets city requirements for parking spaces and will only slightly increase the amount of traffic in the area, Senior Planner Susan Lesser wrote in an evaluation.
“There are no issues with regard to the residential use proposed for the project, and as the building design incorporates creative interpretations of the Mizner tradition, staff believes that the project complies with an architectural design that is consistent with Ordinance 4035,” she wrote.
Mizner 200 also passed muster with the city’s urban design consultant, Calvin, Giordano & Associates. The consultant’s “final memorandum” on Mizner 200 said it complies with the city ordinance across the board.
Elad stunned downtown residents in September, 2014 when it unveiled plans for 500 luxury condos. The project’s four towers rising 30 stories well exceeded height limits and drew impassioned objections from downtown activists.
When that proposal proved to be a non-starter, Elad returned to the city with a new condo project called Sol-A-Mar, designed by the West Palm Beach architectural firm Garcia Stromberg/GS4Studios. But four of the seven buildings had 13 stories, again more than allowed.
In January, Elad submitted plans for Mizner 200 — this time in line with what the city allows. But in response to downtown activists’ complaints, those plans were revised last spring to make the project look less massive, reduce the square footage by about 10 percent, decrease the size of the units to an average of 2,000 square feet, increase setbacks and add more green space.