Prominent developer wants Miami Beach transit station at base of residential tower

Crescent Heights wants Miami Beach to place the hub of the city’s proposed light rail or street car transit system in the base of the developer’s residential tower.

The proposal would also make the Miami Beach-based developer’s planned tower at 500 Alton Road taller and potentially more appealing as living space.

Led by Russell Galbut and Marisa Galbut, Crescent Heights is currently building 323 apartments, 63,000 square feet of commercial space, and a clinic for Baptist Health South Florida at 600 and 700 Alton Road. The site at 500 Alton Road — just over the MacArthur Causeway — is entitled for seven stories and 163 units.

The developer has a pending comprehensive plan amendment to allow a transit hub at 500 Alton Road. Russell Galbut said its hearing at the city’s Sept. 27 Planning Board meeting will be deferred, but he hopes the city considers it at a later time. He envisions a transit line coming over the MacArthur causeway and stopping at the transit hub, which would be part of a transit system circulating through Miami Beach.

City leaders hope the light rail or street car transit system would alleviate the persistent traffic and parking problems in the tourist hotbed.

“The only landing site for rapid transit to Miami Beach is 500 Alton Road,” Galbut said. “Anything east of Alton would require closing Alton Road during construction.”

Galbut said Crescent Heights would give 20,000 square feet for the transit hub property to the city in exchange for “height relief.” He wants to build 25 stories of residential atop the five-story transit hub, instead of the seven stories the site is entitled for. Galbut said he’d reduce the unit count from 163 to 100 and keep the total square footage the same. Instead of building smaller apartments, Crescent Heights would construct larger condos.

“My problem is I am building an apartment building next to the busiest intersection in Miami Beach, full of carbon monoxide, so I want to lift those apartments and balconies off the roadway,” Galbut said the current seven-story zoning.

Miami Beach is in discussions with a team to form a public-private partnership to build a transit system with a target to reach an agreement by June 2017, said Winsome A. Bowen, the city’s deputy director of transportation. French rail company Alstom Transportation is the lead member of that team. Bowen said the contractor would made the final decision on the stops, but preliminary locations are posted on the city’s website.

The most recent city map shows the transit system heading down 5th Street, up Washington Avenue, across 17th Street (just north of Lincoln Road), and then down Alton Road. A station is shown east of Alton Road, not at 500 Alton.

Miami Beach would prefer a “one seat ride” with another transit line crossing the MacArthur Causeway to Miami. That depends on whether the city of Miami and…

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