Rendering of North Beach Town Center
Rendering of North Beach Town Center
Dover, Kohl and Partners

North Beach Town Center to Include Hundreds of Apartments the Size of Two Canadian Jail Cells

North Beach could become home to up to hundreds if "micro-units" — apartments as small as 375 square feet, or a little bigger than two parking spaces — as part of city commissioners' latest plan to revitalize the sleepy area.

During yesterday's Land Use and Development meeting, committee members approved doubling the number of such units allowed in plans for the North Beach Town Center to 624. The units are just over twice the size of Canada's smallest legal jail cells.

The number of such tiny apartments had previously been capped at 312 due to concerns over increased traffic, but City Manager Jimmy Morales told committee members most micro-units will probably have only one resident, so won't cause serious crowding. 

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Tiny living is an integral part of the commission's long-awaited North Beach redevelopment plan, which allows units between 375 and 550 square feet in a ten-block area along 71st Street. City commissioners believe the smaller units could help draw new residents.

"Because of the expensive cost of real estate and rents, and rising building costs, it's becoming more and more expensive to live in Miami Beach," Commissioner John Aleman tells New Times. "Microliving and co-living allow us to create housing stock for young people and for seniors, which are two categories of people that often are living alone."

The area where the town center is set to be developed currently contains retail plazas, vacant lots, and an apartment building. It's been slated for redevelopment for at least three decades.

Under the current plan, the North Beach Town Center would become a "live-work-play" hub — a catch phrase for mixed-use developments with housing, offices, and business space. Commissioners say the smaller apartments should be more affordable than the luxury properties that now make up most Beach housing.

Microliving options have sprung up in other notoriously expensive cities like Seattle and New York City. Seattle has units as small as 130 square feet — roughly the size of a parking space. One listed for $750 per month in 2016 was made up of just one jail-style room, with no separation for the toilet or shower.

In North Beach, the smallest micro-unit would be nearly three times that size. Aleman says that with nearby attractions including the O Cinema Miami Beach, the North Beach Bandshell, and the beach, plus the new town center, living small should be an attractive option. "People don't mind living in a smaller unit if, when they go outside, there are all kinds of wonderful things to do," she says.

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