Brooks + Scarpa reveals a MiMo-inspired affordable senior housing complex in Miami Beach

Nathan Law

Brooks + Scarpa, the Los Angeles-based firm behind local projects including Animo South Los Angeles Charter High and the redevelopment of the Southern California Flower Market, is bringing its trademark design skills to the historic district of Normandy Isles, a residential island on the eastern edge of Miami Beach. The […]

Brooks + Scarpa, the Los Angeles-based firm behind local projects including Animo South Los Angeles Charter High and the redevelopment of the Southern California Flower Market, is bringing its trademark design skills to the historic district of Normandy Isles, a residential island on the eastern edge of Miami Beach. The Heron, named after the graceful wetland bird found across the region, will replace a mid-century, four-unit apartment building with 20 units of affordable housing for seniors with special needs. While the units will be small—between 400 and 440 square feet—there will be several building-wide amenities accessible to all including office space, community room, a rooftop terrace, and landscaped grounds.

With an estimated construction budget of $5 million, bankrolled by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation and Miami-Dade County, the Heron will address the needs of the city’s outsized senior community. “The lack of affordable housing for elderly persons with special needs has been forcing them to seek a home outside our community or become institutionalized,” Michael O’Hara, the director of the Housing Authority of the City of Miami Beach, told the Miami Herald. “This is due in part to the popularity of Miami Beach for U.S. and international residents, and the great demand for high-cost housing and skyrocketing real estate prices. The Heron will offer an opportunity for special needs elderly to afford a stable home environment in a community already familiar to them.” 

aerial view of pink and white building
The Heron defiantly stands out from its neighbors to demonstrate that affordable senior housing does not have to be strictly utilitarian (Brooks + Scarpa)

Though it provides a valuable service to the community, the Heron will bear a far more playful design than what is typically expected of affordable senior housing. Inspired by MiM0 (Miami Modern), a regional style developed in the mid 20th century marked by bright colors and bold geometry, the building’s exposed exterior areas, such as the external staircase and entrance, is a clash of bubblegum pink and palm trees. The building will be wrapped partially in a brise soleil designed in a nod to breeze blocks, the patterned concrete units popularized in midcentury modern design throughout the country, that creates both shade and dappled light throughout the building. 

As a passive design strategy, the building’s volume is broken up by catwalks, terraces, and gardens in which its residents can come together within the wind and shade produced by the brise soleil. “These passive design strategies are accompanied by high-efficient thermally broken glazing, energy star appliances, no VOC and natural materials, a PV solar system and a host of other energy efficient measures,” explained Brooks + Scarpa of the project, which is aiming for a LEED Platinum rating.

The Miami Beach Design Review Board will review the application for the Heron’s most recent design revision later this month. Following approval, construction is expected to begin early 2023 and take 18 months. 

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