Brickell landscape and pedestrian project marks DDA's biggest allocation ever
By Risa Polansky
This time last year, the Downtown Development Authority's commitment to Brickell Avenue, a major source of its revenue, came into question.
Next year, Brickell is to get its due.
The authority has earmarked $1 million to execute a long-planned landscaping upgrade and pedestrian enhancement initiative, designed to go hand-in-hand with the Florida Department of Transportation's upcoming street and sidewalk revamp.
"This is the biggest project allocation we've put on any project in the history of the DDA," said Mark Spanioli, senior manager of capital improvement projects and development.
Plans are to be completed late this year, he said, with construction set to begin in 2009.
Last March, Hal Martell, former president of the Brickell Area Association and owner of IT consulting firm Plexus M/2, lamented the stalled project.
"Few people realize that 54% of the DDA's annual operating budget is generated by tax revenue from the Brickell business district," he said. "As a Brickell Avenue business owner and area resident, I've always considered this tax to be an investment for continual enhancement of the Brickell corridor. But this apparently isn't happening."
He called the planned streetscape project a "case in point," adding in a letter to the development authority's then-executive director Dana Nottingham that he observed a "perception within the Brickell business community that it is getting short-changed in the DDA's fulfillment process."
Mr. Martell acknowledged the authority's plans for the avenue but asked: "Where's the beef?"
The authority says it is now ready to deliver.
Mr. Spanioli said last year's "rumblings" are not what kick-started the project — finding sufficient funding did.
"We haven't forgotten about Brickell, we hadn't forgotten about Brickell," he said.
And when $2 million became available in this year's budget for projects — some years, there was less than $1 million, he said — beginning the held-up initiative finally became possible.
The plan is to embellish existing landscaping, adding more trees to fill out the canopy and replacing shabby-looking shrubbery with "more flowering and colorful" plants, Mr. Spanioli said.
For Brickell to compare to other major streets of its caliber nationwide, "it definitely needed some upgrading," he said.
The plan includes also pedestrian enhancements at all main intersections, such as clearly defined crosswalks and colorful pavers.
The improvements are to stretch from the Brickell Bridge to Broadway (Southeast 15th Road).
The Florida Department of Transportation's $10 million Brickell Avenue project, to be rolled out in tandem with the authority's initiative, is to include diamond grinding to smooth the surface of the concrete pavement, repairs to sidewalks, drainage fixes and lighting upgrades.
Alicia Gonzalez, public information officer for the project, said after a hearing late last year that most of the planned components are a result of public recommendations and involvement, along with engineering evaluation of corridor needs.