The City of Miami’s plan to finance their portion of the global agreement hit a roadblock last week when the County Commission deferred the approval of a findings of necessity study which declares Watson Island and Bicentennial park to be “irreversible slum and blight”. It is rumored that the Commission did not have enough votes to pass the controversial and potentially, illegal plan.
The plan, approved by the Miami City Commission, constitutes three steps:
- A Findings of Necessity study declaring Bicentennial Park and Watson Island to be slum and blight. The report, completed in May 2009 by Guillermo Olmedillo, concluded that “the existing conditions of slum and blight, if left unattended, will continue to flourish within the Study Area and beyond into the existing Omni Redevelopment Area and adjacent neighborhoods. These serious and growing conditions of slum and blight constitute an economic and social liability to the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County, and will impose onerous burdens including increased consumption of the municipal and County revenues for public services, such as to public safety, transportation, and infrastructure within the Study Area”
- Modify the ONMI Redevelopment plan to expand the boundaries of the Community Redevelopment Area to include Watson Island and Bicentennial Park (CRA monies cannot be legally spent outside the CRA boundaries), specifically mention the Port Tunnel, Streetcar, and Museum Park as desirable projects for “redevelopment”
- Issue $100-150 million in bonds against future Tax increment revenues and use the funds to finance the City of Miami’s obligation to contribute $50 million to the Port Tunnel, $20 million for the Miami Streetcar and up to $75 million to the Museum Park project.
The item is scheduled on the County Commission agenda for November 17 as a public hearing. Hopefully they will take their responsibility to regulate the Redevelopment Agencies seriously. This would involve ensuring that the proper procedures and citizen participation occurs this time around as well as investigating the legal and moral issues surrounding the issues of redirecting money from the poor to fund mega projects for the rich.
Kudos to Zyscovich and team for producing a forward thinking document in the Omni Redevelopment Plan. Commissioners will vote today in the CRA meeting to send the document to City Commission for approval. The Plan has many good elements, some of which are under discussion by Commissioner Sarnoff for removal (such as the reduced parking requirement and the streetcar). Commissioner, these are important parts of supporting a vibrant and pedestrian friendly downtown. If the streetcar is not being funded, it is up to you to find a way to make it happen - not defeat it by taking it out. In addition, raising parking requirements is a bad idea in our most dense and transit served areas. You said at the Miami 21 meetings that you don’t believe that reducing parking is a good tactic without adequate transit, but this area is served by transit, and would be even better served with the streetcar. As future head of the DDA, and the representative of the most urban part of our tri-county region, I urge you to reconsider your position on these items. You have to plan for the city you want, not settle for the city you have.
From the report:
As part of this redevelopment plan, the following transportation improvements are being proposed:
1) Miami Streetcar (Project 19)
2) 17th Street / FEC Crossing (Project 20)
3) 2nd Avenue Reconstruction (Project 21)
4) 2-way Conversion of One-way Streets (Project 22)
In addition to these improvements and consistent with the approved Miami Downtown Transportation Master Plan the following improvements should also be considered:
1) Free-fare Transit Zone – the zero out-of-pocket cost is certainly an incentive for users to ride transit.
There are also intangible benefits such as user’s convenience and elimination of delays by not having fare box.
2) Improve Transit Amenities – amenities for transit users are a key element of an effective transit system. Elements contributing to a high quality environment include; comfortable shelters, protection from the elements, adequate lighting, as well as clean and safe vehicles.
3) Develop Pedestrian Corridors - a systematic effort should be arranged to not only “accommodate” but actively enhance pedestrian safety and promote a pleasant walking environment. [awesome]
4) Develop a Baywalk – Margaret Pace Park presents an opportunity to create a baywalk that connects
the park with Bicentennial Park to the south. The baywalk will provide recreational opportunities,
increase connectivity between other areas of Downtown and provide an alternative for walking trips.
5) Reconstruct NE 2nd Avenue, NE/NW 14th Street, NE 17th Street and NE 17th Terrace.
My biggest criticism of the report is its relative lack of bike infrastructure. While it was made before the City’s Bicycle Master Plan effort, it should included as an addendum that takes into account the recommendations of the Bike Master Plan, and the currently funded bike improvements to NE 2nd Avenue and elsewhere in the CRA. These need to be reflected in the future plans of the CRA and will help create a truly multi-modal downtown.
For several years now, the FDOT has been proposing changes to I-395, ranging from an elevated super highway to burying the highway underground, in an effort to add highway capacity, while not exacerbating the blight of the surrounding neighborhoods. According to the project director for the FDOT, the maximum clearance under the new “light and airy” proposal is only 33 feet, hardly enough to chase the darkness that it will cast upon the neighborhood. Unfortunately, their preliminary ‘studies’ showed that the elevated super-highway was their preferred alternative, playing down the benefits of demolishing the highway, as many US cities have done over the past two decades. Demolishing the highway, and burying it underground will pay off much more than the super elevated version, both in reconnecting the city and in promoting economic development. Check out this great 2007 analysis from Boom or Bust examining all the alternatives.
The blight that surrounds I-395 (and countless other interstates across the country) is well know to have been the result of “progressive” urban renewal in the 1960’s that cut through vibrant communities of color, such as Overtown, and doomed them to decades of disinvestment. Now, under the guise of a second round of urban renewal, FDOT is pushing hard for the construction of the super highway that they argue would reconnect downtown, while still allowing for the free flow of cars from the beach to the City. Bull. This is simply another fake urban renewal program that will not help neighboring communities, and will only add to the blight that surrounds the highway. FDOT maintains that the area under the highway would become a green belt, with parks and active recreational uses. More bullshit. Have they looked under I-95 lately? Directly adjacent to the City of Miami offices on the river, I-95 towers hundreds of feet in the air, with nothing but parking and abandoned lots underneath. Why haven’t they used this area for park space yet? Or take the M-Path, our only answer to a greenbelt under urban infrastructure. Ask our friends at the Green Mobility Network how hard they fight to preserve and improve this important greenway.
Our best bet is to depress the highway and replace it with a true boulevard/greenway that would allow for local circulation above ground, and the highway underneath. Check out the image above of what this greenway could look like. This option has been consistently downplayed by the DOT as too expensive, yet they fail to take into account the developable land that will be free once the highway is removed. True economic redevlopment for the Omni/Park West/Overtown communities.
To make things even more sleazy, there are reports that the FDOT has been trying to convince Overtown that the elevated option will somehow solve problems of blight and isolation in the marooned sections of the community, playing on decades of fear of disenfranchisment and racial politics. If they actually cared, they would be pushing for the boulevard as that will actually revitalize the area.
The FDOT is planning a public meeting August 25 from 5 -7 pm at the Lyric Theatre in Overtown to discuss the proposed superhighway. Please come out and give your opinion. More on this to come…
- Happy Valentines Day, Now go ride Tri-Rail for free (Sun-Sentinel)
- Former Omni Mall stepping up security to boost public safety at the new mixed-use complex (Miami Today)
- MDT is planning on buying 136 new rail cars for metrorail rather than refurbishing the existing ones. The anticipated cost is $200 million more than refurbishment. (Miami Today FYI)
- Community Councils sticking around- for now (Miami Herald)
- You can learn to drive, part 5 (Bicycles) (Critical Miami)
- Miami’s own mini-ciclovia. These events need more publicity. (Miami-Forum)
- MDT is shopping for more Bike Racks for Metrorail. Why it took 2 years is beyond me. (Spokes ‘n’ Folks)
- What happens when Emerge Miami’s Critical Mass and Politicians collide? Commissioner’s Sanchez’s commitment to join the next ride. (Riptide 2.0)
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