An architecturally distinctive project that would redevelop the old Miami Produce Center in Allapattah could become the city’s latest big development.
Robert Wennett wants to redevelop the three warehouses at the Miami Produce Center, once a bustling location for the wholesale produce trade, and build eight buildings.
Much like Wennett’s marquee project, the 1111 Lincoln garage in Miami Beach, this one also would be architecturally unique. The Miami Produce Center will have residences, offices, a hotel, retail and educational space — with the buildings standing on stilts reaching heights up to 19 stories.
Danish architect Bjarke Ingels of the Bjarke Ingels Group, who is known for nontraditional takes, designed the Miami Produce Center.
The 8.25-acre site is bounded by Northwest 22nd and 21st streets and 13th and 12th avenues.
The City Commission on Thursday is set to vote on the Miami Produce Center. If approved, the developer would work afterward with city administrators to hammer out development details.
The commission is considering a development agreement and two ordinances that would loosen industrial regulations for the site.
Wennett’s Miami Beach-based UIA Management LLC is asking the city to change the future land use to general commercial and the zoning to an urban core open transect zone.
The general land use designation would allow for high-density residential development, commercial uses and industrial uses such as light manufacturing, wholesale and distribution activities, according to city records.
The Miami Produce Center would be more than 1.35 million square feet with 1,200 residences, 227 hotel rooms, 230,886 square feet of offices, 96,976 square feet of commercial space, 54,171 square feet for an educational use and 1,078 parking spots, according to city records.
Renderings and plans submitted to the city show the three warehouses bustling with business and the eight new buildings above them.
Four residential towers would have seven floors above 12 empty levels and be supported by stilts or columns. The other buildings would have floors starting at the fourth level.
Two warehouses with a combined 74,800 square feet would house restaurants and the third at 54,171 square feet would have the school.
The Miami Produce Center developer is proposing 600 co-living residential units, or up to four rooms sharing a bathroom and a kitchen.
Wennett has applied for a special area plan, which is allowed under the Miami 21 zoning code. Developers must contribute a public benefit such as infrastructure and in return can deviate from zoning limits on height and density. The city also gets more input on special area plan projects. They normally cover more than 9 acres, and an exception would cover the smaller acreage for the Miami Produce Center.
Wennett, through his Miami Produce Center LLC, bought the site for $16 million in 2016.
The city planning staff and the Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board have approved the land-use change and recommended approving the zoning change with conditions.
Jobs, Jobs, Gentrification
The project is projected to create more than 5,500 construction jobs generating more than $3 million in income, according to an economic analysis submitted by the developer. Once finished, Miami Produce Center would create the equivalent of 1,482 full-time jobs but most of them are to be part-time jobs.
City staff said it has “considerable concerns” about nearby residents being displaced through gentrification.
“For residents who do not own their homes, the threat of dislocation seems more ominous,” deputy planning director Jeremy Calleros Gauger wrote in an analysis on the requested land use change.
Most nearby residents are low- to moderate-income renters. Even though the Miami Produce Center promises to offer some workforce housing for renters making 140% of the area median income, there’s no guarantee the project will accommodate residents below that mark, according to Gauger’s analysis.
“With the local community living well below this standard, this standard assumes that residents will be moving in from other communities to occupy these units because the local community lives at far below the” area median income, he wrote.