City approves Gulfstream luxury high-rise

Article originally posted by David Conway in Your Observer

On Friday, the city announced it approved a site plan application for an 18-story luxury condominium at 605 S. Gulfstream Ave., which could allow for construction to begin soon on another bayfront high-rise.

Seaward Development intends to break ground on the building on May 1. The project, called Epoch, will build 23 condominium units on the former site of the Versailles condo, which was demolished last year. Seaward Development is also responsible for the nearby 7 One One Palm condo project.

Michelle Young, Seaward Development’s vice president of operations, said units in the Epoch building are listed from $3.3 million to nearly $9 million for the penthouse. Young said other waterfront residential projects have not slowed interest in the development, noting about 40% of the units have sold.

“You just don’t have that much space on the bayfront that has this kind of view,” Young said.

Ahead of the city’s approval of the proposed development, residents on Palm Avenue had registered complaints about the building’s design. Palm Avenue residents have expressed ongoing concern about the character of development along the street, objecting to regulations that allow for 18-story projects built out to the property line.

On Dec. 18, Palm Avenue resident Barbara Campo sent an email to city officials listing her criticisms of the site plan as proposed. She took issue with the rear facade of the building on Palm Avenue, suggested more efforts should be made to preserve trees and said the project should include guest parking spaces.

“I find the architectural renderings submitted by the developer of Epoch to be not only incompatible with the beautiful visual flow of this street, but, quite frankly, evidence of a complete disregard for this street’s fine character,” Campo wrote.

In arguing against proposed projects, residents such as Campo have attempted to emphasize a provision in the zoning code requiring developments to be compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. City staff members have said they take that standard into consideration when reviewing a proposed site plan.

Young acknowledged Seaward Development heard objections to the proposal, but she said they also received support from other residents. She said the company attempted to respond to resident input as it finalized plans for the building.

“We actually did quite a bit above and beyond what was required,” Young said.

Young said the developer attempted to enhance the façade of the building along Palm Avenue, adding landscaping and removing some design elements on the parking garage neighbors had specifically critiqued. She noted the building only goes up three stories before there is a significant setback to the structure’s main tower, which sits more than 100 feet away from the Palm Avenue property line.

Young said Seaward took pride in the building’s design and expressed optimism the public would come to support the project.

“When someone drives along Mound (Street) or on the bayfront, I think people are going to find this is going to be an incredibly beautiful addition to the neighborhood,” Young said.

Although Seaward plans to break ground on the building next month, there could still be one obstacle to overcome. The public has a 10-day window to file an appeal to an administratively approved site plan, which means a resident could still challenge the city’s decision until April 22.

Bob Hendel is a South Palm Avenue resident and member of the group SHOUT, formed specifically to address concerns about construction on the street. After the city announced the site plan approval Friday, Hendel confirmed residents were discussing their options regarding the project, but he said it was too early to say whether an appeal may be forthcoming.

“It’s preliminary for me to comment,” Hendel said.