CFE Architects, PA. website's MAX Miami page showing collection of renderings
CFE Architects, PA. website’s MAX Miami page showing collection of renderings ()

A proposed Miami mixed-use tower sidelined by the Great Recession is back on the drawing boards, this time re-imagined as a residential project and supported by a $7 million government subsidy.

Max Miami, a 31-story tower on 1.07 acres proposed for the northwest corner of Northeast 16th Street and First Avenue was first floated in 2006 and received a major special-use permit in 2007 that allowed 26 residences, a hotel, at least two restaurants, 10 floors of office space and ground-level retail.

The project was put on hold in late 2007 after the credit crunch stalled much of South Florida’s commercial development and sent developer Prema LLC into bankruptcy.

After a seven-year hiatus, a rebooted version of the tower was unveiled last week by a new developer that bought the land in 2013. In city filings and a presentation to the planning board, Miami Gardens-based NR Investments Inc. said it was going ahead with plans for a tower of undisclosed height. Discarding the hotel and office space, the developer plans 513 housing units and 10,000 square feet of commercial space, government filings show.

Also new to the plan is a subsidy potentially worth up to $7 million from the Omni Midtown Community Redevelopment Agency. As part of a deal set for review Wednesday, the quasi-governmental body would steer half of the increased property tax collections assessed on the project’s parcels back to the developer. The reimbursements are structured as annual payments over a 15-year period, which are not to exceed $750,000 per year or $9 million in total.

CRA executive director Pieter Bockweg told the Daily Business Review that an “absolute best-case scenario” for the project would see the developer pocket $9 million while spending $2 million on community improvements.

To trigger payments from the CRA, NR Investments would need to spend at least $2 million before 2017 remilling and repaving portions of 17th Street behind the proposed Max Miami site and improve the sidewalks, landscaping and street lighting along the streets from North Miami Avenue to Northeast Second Avenue. The deal also includes a commitment by NR to locally hire at least 30 percent of its construction workforce for a tower whose build-out is expected to cost over $100 million.

“This is an attempt to incentivize the developers,” Bockweg told DBR, “It allows us to put community improvement and job creation requirements on the developer. It also allows us to put a timeframe and make sure construction happens as soon as possible.”

‘Community Benefits’

He noted providing subsidies to developers is one of the tools available to his organization in promoting its mission to fight urban blight. He explained the CRA worked out previous deals with other developments—the announced Mikado hotel project on Northeast 17th Terrace and the Bayview Market project north of Max Miami—but neither of those projects had been executed.

Asked if the potential subsidy didn’t just amount to a transfer of wealth from taxpayers to a developer that probably would have gone ahead with or without government help, Bockweg defended the deal.

“Saying that they’re going to build it regardless, I do not know that for a fact,” he said. “What I do know is that now we’ll get community benefits as well as the hiring benefits.”

NR Investments declined to comment for this article.

It’s unclear what legislative and zoning steps the company needs to go through to see its new vision for the project through. At a meeting of the city’s planning board last week that recommended an alley closure essential to development, an attorney for Max Miami emphasized that action was taken in 2006 but nullified after plans for the original tower went up in smoke.

Miami attorney Ben Fernandez of Bercow Radell & Fernandez didn’t mention the drastic project overhaul. In fact, one of the renderings presented to the city’s Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board was of the 2006 plan, not the current one.

A rendering on the website of Miami-based CFE Architects shows a different architectural mockup of a project identified as MAX Miami at 36 stories with 536 residential units

Fernandez did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.