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Miami Beach: The City's Latest Agenda

South Florida Office

We dropped by to see Miami Beach city manager Jimmy Morales, appointed April 2013, and running an administration of 2,000 employees. The Harvard Law grad was himself a Miami-Dade Commissioner two terms and gave us the highlight reel of what's happening:

  • North Beach Redevelopment heating up: A multi-day public "charrette" (we think that's a fancy architectural term for a meeting about solutions) opens tonight from 6 to 9pm at the Senior Center at Collins and 72nd. This area has lagged South Beach and Mid-Beach, and the city is committed to enhancing infrastructure (fountains, parks, tree canopy, even restoring a welcome sign at 87th), services (inspections, police), and just generally showing TLC to improve walkability, safety, shopping and restaurant options, cultural activities, office facilities, parking, and whatever else to put a spring in the step of that part of town.
  • Redo of Convention Center is off and running: A half billion dollar gut-renovation of the 59-year-old facility started right after Art Basel, being done in stages so it can keep operating, to be finished 2018. It'll bring total space to 1.5M SF, including a new 60k SF ballroom and three junior 20k SF rooms, and add all the latest tech. The goal is a facility that can host 20 to 30 major conventions each year, not just consumer shows as now.
  • Convention Center hotel on March ballot: To attract those conventions, a facility typically needs a large on-site hotel. Atlanta-based Portman Holdings has proposed to finance and build a $400M, 800-room hotel. Voters must approve by 60%.
  • Circulator trolley coming to Mid-Beach this summer: One operates now in South Beach (Alton-Lincoln-West 5th circuit), another started in North Beach in October (stops in Allison, Crespi, Normandy, and Stillwater parks, Publix on Collins, etc). The Mid-Beach trolley would connect Collins and Mt. Sinai.
  • Streetcar RFP announced: A "Baylink" light rail connection between Miami and Miami Beach over the MacArthur Causeway has long been debated, but came a step closer in August with an unsolicited proposal by a French company to front $148M for a five-mile Miami Beach streetcar run along Dade Avenue to the Convention Center and Fifth; it would have tracks but no wires. That would not just be helpful current transportation, but tee up Miami Beach to connect a Baylink (if and when that is ever approved). The Jan. 12 RFP requests proposals by May 16.
  • Beachwalk marches on: Construction will commence later this year connecting the beachwalk between 47th and 64th streets. The city is also moving forward with design to replace the existing boardwalk with an on-grade paver pathway, which will be completed in 2018 with construction commencing soon after. Eventually you'll be about to take it all the way from South Pointe to 87th Terrace (where you’ll be handed off to the Surfside corridor).
  • Stormwater repairs continue: The city is spending $400M over five to seven years to install 60 pumping stations, elevate roads, and place new pipes underground. Given that the west side of Miami Beach is the lowest side of the island, first priorities have been Sunset Harbor, Alton West, and North Bay Road. Jimmy is a believer: He can remember growing up near Crespi Blvd in North Beach and says it never flooded—now it does so after each heavy rain or extreme high tide event.

Have you ridden the trolley yet? Just to remind you what it looks like.