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Miami's Development Spillover Leads Residents of a Tiny Nearby Town to Rail Against Getting a Free Municipal Center

Surfside Mayor Says Project Will Require More 'Community Conversations'
September 28, 2018
A developer wants to build Class A offices and retail as part of a new governmental
complex in the town of Surfside, Florida.   Credit: Pointe Development Company.

In a one-square-mile seaside town bordering Miami Beach that's attracted celebrities and notables from Frank Sinatra to Winston Churchill, residents these days are angry over a problem that less wealthy communities might like to have: A developer wants to build them a free municipal complex with top-flight offices and retail stores.

Residents of Surfside, Florida, jammed the town commission chambers and an overflow room to hear Pointe Development Co.’s plan for 61,000 square feet of Class A offices and 11,000 square feet of retail in a project that also would bring a new town hall, civic center and police station to the town.

The development at 9293 Harding Ave. and 269 93rd St. also would include a fitness center, flex space and a 431-stall garage designed to relieve the parking problem plaguing a town spread along a beach that lures more people from outside the municipality than those who live within its borders.

Surfside's struggle reflects the way communities surrounding Miami are trying to cope with the spillover of demand from the densely built city. Metropolitan Miami is uniquely boxed in geographically, with the ocean to the east and the Everglades to the west.

More than two dozen residents addressed the commission on Wednesday, with many saying the project is too big and would increase costs for the town to staff and maintain the buildings.

Some doubted the developer’s argument that there is strong demand for office space in Surfside and questioned whether the retail will offer anything new.

“We already have enough vacant and boring businesses up the street,” resident Robin Hopkins told commissioners.

Surfside Mayor Daniel Dietch, who repeatedly scolded residents for clapping and displays of emotion during the meeting, said the project is in a preliminary stage and would require more “community conversations” in the weeks ahead.

Ultimately, the Surfside Town Commission will decide whether to enter formal negotiations with Pointe, reject the proposal outright or pursue some sort of modified development, Dietch said.

Even if the town moves forward, the Surfside town charter requires that voters have the final say, the mayor added.

Dietch said he’s not an advocate for the development, but he insisted it’s important to find a solution to alleviate a severe space crunch at town hall.

“Before we kill it, let’s give it a chance,” he said at the meeting.

Surfside has about 6,000 residents. The town's beginnings date to 1935, when 35 members of the Surf Club signed incorporation papers, according to the town’s website. Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Dean Martin and Churchill were among the celebrities who gathered there, the town said.

Alexander Tachmes, the developer’s attorney, told the commission that Pointe’s project would be developed as part of a public-private partnership at no cost to Surfside.

The town would receive rent revenue as part of a 99-year ground lease with the developer, as well as additional rental income based on a percentage of gross revenue from the parking garage.

Residents and some commissioners questioned the need for a public-private partnership, which would require the town to forfeit its development rights.

Tachmes said his client deserves the right to answer questions from the public, adding that the developer didn’t expect to negotiate a deal in one meeting.

“This is a complicated, $35 million, multi-phase project, and it will require input and discussion,” he said. “We understand that. We invite that.”

Paul Owers, South Florida Market Reporter  CoStar Group   
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