Last night about 100 Upper Eastside residents came together to discuss the City of Miami’s proposal to create an Upper Eastside Neighborhood Conservation District (NCD) which would include Morningside, Belle Meade, Shorecrest, Palm Grove, Bayside and the MiMo Historic District. Alex Adams, the Historic Preservation officer for the City, outlined the proposed recommendations.
The standing-room only crowd of residents and business owners were visibly upset by the city’s initiative. They wanted to know why the City was trying to “fast-track “ the NCD and they were suspicious of the City’s motivation to create an NCD.
Although many of the residents and business owners seemed to like some elements of the proposed NCD (i.e. limiting building height and increasing green space in parks) they were not pleased with the fact that the City did not include them in the planning process and questioned the legality of the actual process the City has used to establish the NCD. It became very clear that Upper Eastside residents and business owners care deeply about their neighborhood and want to be included in the process rather than having the City impose a NCD without the community’s input.
At one point a Bayside resident suggested bringing the entire community together for a charrette or workshop. A charrette would give the community an opportunity to plan for the future development of the Upper Eastside neighborhood.
In July of 2011 I sent Commissioner Sarnoff an email suggesting that he support an Upper Eastside Charrette. The below email was sent to him but I never received a response.
Dear Commissioner Sarnoff,
As a resident of Belle Meade I am opposed to the use of $70,000 from the Quality of Life funds to erect a fence surrounding my community. I wholeheartedly believe that the use of these funds is a waste of money that will not make Belle Meade any safer. I think these funds could be used more effectively to address “Quality of Life” issues that affect the ENTIRE Upper East Side community and not just Belle Meade.
I propose that these funds should be used for an Upper East Side charrette. An intensive 7-10 day charrette that brings the community together to address our concerns and collectively plan for the future of the Upper East Side will do more to improve the quality of life for ALL residents then a fence excluding my neighbors from outside my Belle Meade community from entering Belle Meade.
The SINGLE most important thing that we should do as a community is encourage redevelopment in the area with more density. The more density we have, the more active our streets become and thus our community becomes safer. I have spoken to developers and they have informed me that the current 35′ designation along Biscayne Boulevard discourages them from investing and bringing the needed density to this commercial corridor. This is just one of the items that should be discussed during an Upper East Side charrette.
The SECOND most important thing that we could do as a community is design and engineer a streetscape that is business and pedestrian friendly. To achieve this we must:
- Add parallel parking
- Reduce travel lanes to calm traffic and discourage speeding
- Add crosswalks at every intersection
The MiMo BIDhas met with the FDOT on several occasions, and the FDOT has confirmed that the ideas proposed in a recent MiMo Vision Streetscape Plan produced by Chuck Bohl and Jaime Correa from the University of Miami are feasible.
Retailers need accessible parallel parking in order to thrive. Reducing the travel lanes and adding parking will naturally reduce the design speed of Biscayne Boulevard to the 35 mph it should be. As it stands now the current design speed is 45 mph. The MiMo Historic District is a commercial corridor, not a highway. Ten miles-per-hour would make an enormous impact in terms of economic development and pedestrian friendliness.
Many community stakeholders know and believe that in order to reduce crime we need more density and a business and pedestrian friendly streetscape design. Building a porous $70,000 fence will not achieve the desired reduction in crime. With $70,000 ALL the neighborhoods from the Upper East Side could come together in a charrette and work towards a safer and more prosperous community. I believe this is a far better use of the Quality of Life funds that are meant to improve the quality of life for the ENTIRE Upper East Community and not just Belle Meade.
It is also worth noting that an informal vote was taken at this meeting regarding the 35-foot building height restriction and not one person in the audience supported it. Everyone present seemed to favor removing this restriction and allowing developers to build to 5-stories along Biscayne Boulevard.
It is time for the City of Miami to step-up and include the Upper Eastside residents in the planning process.