Local developer Russell Galbut withdrew plans to hold today’s public meeting in the City Commission chambers, choosing instead to relocate it to the Shelbourne Hotel due to the “amount of people that have confirmed attendance.”
The meeting, which would have shattered precedent by becoming the first ever by a private entity to be held inside Commission chambers, sparked controversy from among civic activists ever since the Miami Beach City Commission approved Galbut’s request on April 11 for use of the chambers.
The purpose of Galbut’s meeting: to exhibit charrettes pertaining to his proposed Crescent Heights development for 5th, 6th, and 7th Streets at Alton Road.
“It’s a project that has a great deal to do with our community, it deals with the very entryway to our city,” Galbut told an audience at the Miami Beach Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club this week.
The change of venue was first announced minutes earlier by Galbut associate Gabrielle Redfern who said that due to “overwhelming response” from people interested in attending the meeting and because they could not provide food to attendees in commission chambers, the forum would be moving to the Shelbourne.
In what was interpreted as a subtle peace gesture to those expected to gather today outside City Hall only an hour preceding the Galbut meeting – to protest, among other recent controversies, city leaders’ approval of the leasing of commission chambers – Redfern added that transportation to the Shelbourne event would be provided “to folks protesting at noon.”
In a strange twist, Galbut credited activist Frank Del Vecchio – the protest rally’s organizer – with approaching him with the suggestion of relocating the meeting to the Shelbourne.
“It was very, very kind of him,” remarked Galbut.
“We will have three of the world’s most outstanding architectural firms do presentations that will show what we could have at the southern entrance to our city, which is the main entrance,” Galbut elaborated. “Everybody’s invited.”
The reason he had wanted to hold the meeting at City Hall was “to ensure that all of the planners and zoning and everybody who works at City Hall would have the opportunity to come and see it because it involves some major issues for the community.” Among the issues Galbut mentioned are the completion of Baywalk and a proposed pedestrian bridge at the 5th St./MacArthur Causeway city entrance.