Miami approves new redevelopment plan for Omni area
By Deserae del Campo
Miami's Omni area, which has ping-ponged through decades of rise and fall, is targeted to become a cultural and entertainment hub and mixed-income neighborhood in a plan city commissioners approved during a community redevelopment board meeting last week.
In coming months, a string of government agencies will get their shot at the plan to revitalize the neighborhood that was named for a once-highflying mall that no longer is functioning.
The plan would replace a two-decade-old effort at redevelopment by the Omni Community Redevelopment Agency.
"Miami commissioners committed to the plan update because previous 1986 plans were largely ineffective in facilitating redevelopment and solving issues of slum and blight within the Omni area," states the final draft of the plan report.
In January 2003, commissioners hired downtown architect Zyscovich Inc. to create a redevelopment plan for the 270-acre Omni district, bounded by Interstate 395 to the south, Northeast 20th Street to the north, Biscayne Bay to the west and the FEC railway tracks to the east.
Planning took a year-and-a-half.
"We had meetings with stakeholders in the Omni area," said Bernard Zyscovich, firm CEO. "We met with businesses on Northeast 14th Street along with smaller property owners in the neighborhood to find out what was going on the area."
Keystones of the report include establishing the area as a cultural and entertainment hub centered on the new Miami Performing Arts Center, providing development for sustainable mixed-income neighborhoods and adding green space and streetscaping.
The plan cites the importance of rezoning area neighborhoods to allow for redevelopment of housing and retail as part of Miami 21 - the city's blueprint for rezoning.
"In the project there is an expansion for social services to build affordable housing," Mr. Zyscovich said. "Someone in the community redevelopment agency will have to decide what the priorities are and see what can be done to accomplish them."
Pockets of vacant land west of Northeast Second Avenue, said Mr. Zyscovich, can be used to build workforce or affordable housing.
A streetscape improvement plan would open access west into the Overtown Community Redevelopment Agency from 17th Street across the FEC railway tracks.
"This is a very good plan," said Commissioner Johnny Winton at the city board meeting. "It is very creative. I'm in support of the breakdown of barriers because it will create a great community by linking the redevelopment districts."
Key district players include the city, the Miami-Dade County School Board, the Miami Herald, the Miami Performing Arts Center and the Omni Mall.
The private properties in the area can be used for major public and private-sector projects, said Frank Rollason, executive director of the Overtown/Parkwest and Omni Community Redevelopment agencies.
One example is in the plan is creating a baywalk behind the Miami Herald to allow pedestrian access to Biscayne Bay.
"We tried to create a plan so that we can do just about anything," Mr. Rollason said. "It encompasses everything that we can do, even if we don't get the chance to do them."
Now that the commission, acting as a board, took the first step by approving the plan, Mr. Rollason said, it goes to the city's Planning Advisory Board, which is to review the plan, making sure it doesn't conflict with the city's overall plan, and vote whether to approve it.
If approved, it would return to Community Redevelopment Agency before going back to the city commission for planning and zoning approval and then to the county commission for final approval and implementation.
"If we get this done by the end of year, with the plan going to the city and the county, I will be thrilled," Mr. Rollason said. He said he expects the plan to return to the city commission in September.