MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - The iconic Clevelander Hotel and Bar in Miami Beach is set to undergo a significant redevelopment aimed at addressing the city’s affordable housing shortage, but the big change is not without detractors, including preservationists and some city officials.

If developers get their way, the famous party destination on Ocean Drive — with its pool, bar and classic Art Deco sign and structure — is going to look a lot different.

According to a press release sent to 7News on Thursday, a prominent architect has been brought in to spearhead what was described as “a transformational redevelopment,” which promises to be one of the most substantial affordable housing initiatives on private land within Miami Beach.

The groundbreaking residential project, said to be “the first of its kind in Miami Beach developed under Florida’s newly enacted Live Local Act,” aims to help combat the lack of affordable housing options in the area.

But although the project is said to also preserve and maintain the Art Deco facades of the historic buildings, the idea isn’t sitting well with everyone.

“We’re very concerned about the potential that this could really destroy this community that we’ve all fought so hard to support,” said Daniel Ciraldo, executive director of the Miami Beach Preservation League.

“We’re going to do everything we can to stop them,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber.

The Live Local Act centers around incentivizing new construction through tax breaks for affordable housing. In theory, it allows developers to get around height and density restrictions like those in historic areas, such as Miami Beach’s entertainment district.

The Live Local Act allows for a maximum height that can be as tall as the highest building within one mile of the site. In the Clevelander’s case, the maximum height allowed would be approximately 30 stories, according to the press release.

Ciraldo said this poses a threat to the cultural and architectural identity of Ocean Drive.

“Now Tallahassee is saying it’s going to be high-rise city. It’s a very scary time for our city,” he said.

The new development would transform the Clevelander from its current role as a hotel and bar with late-night entertainment into a residential complex, complete with hotel services and a high-end restaurant on the ground floor.

Existing Clevelander staff will be given priority in filling positions within the new project.

Forty percent of the units will be designated as affordable housing rentals, according to the release. The redevelopment will include both the current Clevelander and the adjacent Essex House hotel properties, both of which are owned by the Canadian Jesta Group.

The lack of affordable housing in Miami Beach has led to a persistent labor shortage in the local hospitality industry. Many workers, particularly those in hospitality, struggle to live near their workplaces due to housing costs, resulting in lengthy daily commutes.

That problem was made worse by the COVID-19 lockdowns, causing a significant drop in hospitality workers from the industry.

“We are now facing a severe labor crisis in Miami Beach’s hospitality industry,” said Clevelander spokesperson and Shutts & Bowen attorney Alexander Tachmes in the release. “It is extremely difficult to attract and retain talent in an industry with a dwindling labor pool and nowhere for existing employees to live.”

But detractors of the development do not believe building affordable housing is the project’s top priority, arguing it’s a money grab

“The idea that these folks are claiming that it’s for some altruistic purpose of affordable housing is also ridiculous,” said Gelber.

In the next few days, officials with the Clevelander will present architectural plans to the city in line with Florida’s new Live Local Act, effective since July 1, 2023.

The statewide workforce housing program aims to increase affordable housing availability, allowing Florida’s workforce to live in the communities where they work.

Thursday night, a representative from the Jesta Group said the development would be a mix of old and new, adding that the Clevelander’s iconic façade and signage are expected to stay in place and that they look forward to working with the city on this project.

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