MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - At the entrance to South Beach and nestled between luxury condominiums is what most residents regard as an eyesore: a plot of undeveloped land with an empty, hurricane-battered hospital next door.
"It's been sitting there as an eyesore. I know some people call it bombed-out Beirut," said Christine Florez with the West Avenue Corridor Neighborhood Association.
The land is located between Alton Road and West Avenue, adjacent to the Northbound MacArthur Causeway exit ramp.
After some complex big-budget plans that were unveiled in May, a new design by developer Crescent Heights was presented to residents at a meeting Tuesday night.
"In my five years on the planning board, it is by far the largest project that we have ever seen," said Miami Beach Planning Board member Henry Stolar.
The new designs, however, are more scaled back than the original project.
South Shore hospital, which was damaged by Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and never repaired, won't be knocked down; it will be remodeled.
Along with a lower development, the buildings will house 440 apartments for rent. Underneath the apartments would be retail space for shops and small restaurants. Parking would be underground to accommodate 1,073 cars.
Chaim Elkoby, director of special projects for Crescent Heights, said the location will be an alternative to Lincoln Road, but not a competitor.
"This is more of a hang out spot. We like to look at it as an amenity area where people come and enjoy the space and there are smaller restaurants. Smaller juice bars," Elkoby said.
People who live near the future project and along West Avenue expressed concerns about parking and traffic.
"With traffic coming down Alton Road and them changing Alton Road, and now changing West Avenue, how are we going to get home?" said resident Bobby Duke.
Beach resident Alejandro Arce said he was tired of the meetings and was ready for the dilapidated area to change for good.
"Of course I want to see it done. It is something that is needed. It is a beautiful thing. Why they oppose something that's so beautiful?" said Arce.
"The seven of us on the planning board have the obligation to look at it independently and make sure everything is done right," said Stolar.
Elkoby said he would arrange a future meeting with a traffic engineer so residents could learn about plans to accommodate more traffic.
Crescent Heights will make its presentation before the Miami Beach Planning Board on February 26th.
Elkoby said he is hopeful, after a final review and approval process from the city, construction can begin in November. The development is expected to take 24 months to finish.
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