Public gets first glimpse at Virginia Key master plan
By Risa Polansky
After more than a year of research, the consultant charged with designing a new face for Virginia Key revealed the beginnings of his master plan at a public meeting last week.
The City of Miami commissioned architectural firm ESDA Inc. for $775,000 in November 2005 to craft an overhaul of the 82-acre barrier island between Key Biscayne and Miami.
"We're really at the early stages of the planning process," said ESDA principal Paul Kissinger. "There's nothing set in stone at this point."
He is to present a preliminary plan for the area at a public meeting May 16 and a final plan to the Miami and Miami-Dade County commissions July 26, he said.
The firm has come up with ideas on how to best utilize the space, currently home to the Miami Seaquarium; the Maritime and Science Technology Academy, a public magnet school; the University of Miami's School of Marine Science; the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory; a sewage-treatment plant; a former city landfill; restaurants; and public beaches.
"We certainly have some constraints and I would say opportunities," Mr. Kissinger said.
Existing facilities such as the Seaquarium, schools and sewer plant are to remain.
Some additions, he said, could include a marina; an elevated Rickenbacker Causeway with parking spaces below it; a 500-student public high school; public recreation space such as a golf course or campground; an aquatic center and rowing club; a waterfront promenade; public beaches; and green space and preserves.
A plan to restore the historic Virginia Key Beach will be incorporated into the master plan, Mr. Kissinger said. As it comes together, Mr. Kissinger said, the plan will be "really about open space, public recreation and experiencing the water."
Public meeting attendees said it should focus on green space and environmental preservation.
But expanding the marina could generate revenue for the city, Mr. Kissinger said, and facilities such as the Seaquarium lack parking.
Many were concerned about the proposal to turn the former landfill into a recreational field, but "active reuse of the landfill is viable. It's something we can capture," Mr. Kissinger said.
The meeting's purpose was to "share all of the analysis and inventory work that had been completed to date to generate comments," said Enrique Nunez, the city's chief of urban design. Further formation of the plan will be "a very open process."
The next step, he said, will be to review the design firm's findings with city and county administration and officials, who will "give guidance as to how to proceed from this point on."
The design firm will collect public comment and suggestions at its Web site, www.edsaplan.com/virginia'key.