Developers and city advisers took a major step to speed up the gentrification of a Miami neighborhood, moving for high-density residential mid-rises where none currently exists in the heart of Wynwood.

Against the advice of city staff, Miami’s Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board recommended a change in the city zoning ordinances that would allow the densest—and possibly tallest— mixed-use building in the area.

By a 7-1 vote, the advisory board backed upzoning a half-acre lot on Northwest 24th Street. The location is two buildings west of neighborhood landmark Panther Coffee on NW Second Avenue, one of the most heavily trafficked sections of the neighborhood.

The change would allow one or more eight-story buildings on the site and up to 80 apartment units, a city planner said.

“What’s happening in Wynwood right now is exciting, but it’s been limited to adaptive re-use so far,” said Steve Wernick, an attorney for developer Wynwood 250 LLC, arguing new construction projects like the one his client was proposing were needed to meet the demand for housing in the area.

The developer, a partnership between David Polinsky and Bradley Carlson, has already said it will build an 11-unit, six-floor luxury condominium building on about half of the upzoned area.

According to plans submitted to the city, it will now potentially squeeze 31 to 40 apartments on the remaining lot, which is just shy of 10,000 square feet. The resulting apartments would be tiny by Wynwood standards—most of the residential housing stock there is either single-family homes or cavernous industrial spaces converted into live-work lofts. New York architect Laith Sayigh’s studio, working with Miami architect Carl Levin, will design the project.

“The market in Wynwood wants a smaller-sized apartment,” David Polinsky, the project’s developer, told the Daily Business Review in reference to that second phase of his project. “We’re sort of the guinea pigs to figure it all out.”

Among other things Polinsky said his development will also be figuring out: how to meet the city’s requirement for parking on such a small lot and how to integrate the “arts component” that makes the neighborhood interesting in the first place into a product not destined for a luxury-focused tenant.

“We’ll spend no less focus on making it an interesting building architecturally,” Polinsky said.

The project will also be testing the waters on renter’s willingness to pay higher per-square-foot rents than are the norm for the area.

Getting Taller

The building itself would be unlike any other in the neighborhood. The tallest building in the area, Wynwood Lofts at 250 NW 23rd St., is four stories tall and contains 36 loft-style apartments.

A future nearby project that developers cited during the meeting as evidence the neighborhood was moving toward denser residential arrangements, Wynwood Central, has been announced as potentially bringing 69 units to a site also on Northwest 24th Street west of Northwest Second Avenue. However, that project will consist of large live-work apartments, according to a spokesperson for the developer, and will not be so densely constructed as to require a zoning variance.

Another future project planned for the northwest corner of Northwest Second Avenue and 27 Street would match Wynwood 250′s plan in terms of height and is dense enough to receive a zoning variance last year. Still, that project being developed by real estate investor Goldman Properties has been presented with 55 residences on a footprint more than three times as large as the one available to Wynwood 250.

Wynwood 250′s concentration of residents concerned city planner Harold Ruck, who opposed the change, saying, “The use, as far as density is concerned, doesn’t fit the rest of the neighborhood.”

His objection, however, was rebuffed by a parade of praise for the project from other developers, property managers and at least one neighborhood business owner.

Joseph Furst, managing director of Goldman Properties and chairman of the neighborhood’s newly formed Business Improvement District, spoke in favor of the Wynwood 250. He noted it would “create a more affordable product for the true customer of Wynwood and cater to the people that make this neighborhood what it is.”

More Pressure

It’s likely the recommendation made last week will translate into further pressure to increase density throughout Wynwood.

Luciana Gonzalez, assistant director of the city’s Planning and Zoning Department, said at the public meeting her department is beginning conversations with the Wynwood BID to discuss comprehensive zoning changes in the neighborhood.

A plan presented by the city last year to upzone a sliver of Wynwood around Northwest Second Avenue and 28th Street, which would have allowed some buildings to rise as high as 10 stories, was withdrawn in November.

The zoning board has yet to discuss a proposed project on the southeastern edge of Wynwood, where Miami Beach real estate investor Ira Lang is suggesting an envelope-pushing 12-story, 214-unit mixed-use building at the intersection of North Miami Avenue and 21st Street.