West End Of Lincoln Road Closing To Accommodate New Plaza
Written by Charlotte Libov on December 14, 2006
By Charlotte Libov
The west end of Lincoln Road is to be closed to traffic, extending the pedestrian mall to make way for a plaza that proponents contend will enhance what has become one of the nation’s best-known shopping avenues. The Miami Beach City Commission made its decision last week over objections of some property owners who protested that they weren’t given adequate time to air concerns.
The issue involved the stretch of Lincoln Road between Alton Road and Lenox Avenue, adjacent to the Regal Cinema megaplex movie theater. Originally closed in 1960 to create the pedestrian mall, it was reopened to vehicular traffic in the early 1990s as part of the city’s more recent renovation project.
Proponents say they want the closure in order to create a plaza with a lush tropical garden that will be more in keeping with famed MiMo architect Morris Lapidus’ design.
At the hearing, Robert Wennett, who is redeveloping the SunTrust building at 1111 Lincoln Road, brought a letter of support from the owners of the movie theater, who he said favor the plan.
Several Lincoln Road merchants spoke in favor, including Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books at 933 Lincoln Road. "It’s been about 20 years since I addressed the commission on the same subject," Mr. Kaplan said. "Back then, the topic was getting more business, but now we don’t have to worry about it. Lincoln Road is now one of the great streets anywhere, and this design will only add to that."
Commissioner Matti Bower said she was concerned that closing off the traffic would result in congestion. However, Mr. Wennett said the plans call for creating two drop-off points, one each on Alton Road and Lenox Avenue.
Because of a scheduling error, the public hearing was divided into a morning and a later afternoon session and the vote was taken at 5 p.m., when it had been advertised. But a few minutes after the vote, a group of opponents led by Sherna Brody, who, with her husband, owns two buildings in the 1000 block of Lincoln Road, arrived and learned that the vote had been taken. But after conferring with Mrs. Brody, Mayor David Dermer agreed to let her testify and outline an alternative plan that would still allow a restricted amount of traffic. The commission, however, declined to reopen the issue.
Mrs. Brody told the board, "Thousands of people have used that entrance. You had a chance to make a compromise plan, but this was rushed through." She left a drawing of the alternative plan she presented, telling the panel, "You never know, you may have to redo it."