115 SE 1 St. Miami
115 SE 1 St. Miami (J. Albert Diaz)

Downtown Miami’s latest plans for a new residential condo tower are looking to push the envelope in more ways than one.

The developer of a 13-story building proposed on a slim lot at 115 NE First St. is counting on the willingness of city officials to aggressively deviate from Miami’s form-based zoning code while testing the market for lower-priced, parking-free apartments in the urban core.

Related story:
Watch dbrTV: 1925 building to become Langford Hotel

One 15, a 145-foot high building, is planned for a 55-foot-wide lot between two historically significant buildings constructed in the 1920s. Because of the narrow width of the lot, a previously unknown developer who acquired the property in June 2012 is asking for a significant departure from the Miami 21 zoning code.

Manfred Ecker, who lists himself as 100 percent owner of the property, is requesting a variance that would allow him to build a tower less than 4 feet from its neighbor to the east, the historic Miami National Bank building, which is being converted into The Langford boutique hotel.

The zoning code requires a setback of 30 feet above the eighth story. The One 15 request to do away with nearly 90 percent of the requirement would be the most significant setback variance considered for a large multifamily project since the code was approved in 2009. The developer is also requesting variances that would exempt the development from off-street parking and loading-zone rules.

“We’re trying to develop the lot to the highest and best use,” said Adan Fons, the architect who designed the tower. Fons explained the lot limitations mean the project needs substantial zoning concessions to move forward.

He said that although the plan to build close to the 13-story former bank building would block its views to the west, the idea was to create a building that worked well in the area.

“The zoning code is really more of a broad-stroke approach since it covers a bigger area,” Fons said. “We look at this project, and we feel it’s in context with the area in its scale. I think we’re trying to follow the intent of the code by creating something that works contextually.”

Fons said he met with city historic preservation officials, but he had not approached the Langford owners to get their input. A request for comment directed to Daniel Pena-Giraldi, whose Stambul USA owns the protected building, was not returned by deadline. Stambul is gutting the 1925 building and turning it into a 132-room hotel.

It’s not just the flexibility of the zoning statute that the One 15 project will test.

Fons said the building will attempt to stand out from other luxury towers sprouting across the region by providing only minimal amenities. While the ground floor will have room for a cafe, include a landscaped strip and incorporate the pedestrian arcade architecture on Southeast First Street, the building will include no parking facilities, gym or pool.

Fons said the building would be mostly composed of “small apartments for people with a singles lifestyle” in the 500-600 square foot range.

“We’re actually looking to do something quality, but obviously they’ll be smaller so that we’re able to offer it at a good entry price. We’re looking to the rest of the city to offer the amenities,” he said. “Miami’s kind of changing now, and when we look at this we are looking at the pedestrian-friendly approach.”

Centro, a 37-story loft-style condo under construction on the same block at 151 SE First St., is the only other building in Miami in the current development cycle to go up without any parking. A garage-free building can significantly decrease construction and maintenance costs.

“We’re looking to create a place where people can live and afford to live,” Fons said. “This area is ready for this.”