Will Ocean Drive become Ocean Walk?
Ocean Drive between Fifth and 14th streets might soon look very different. The City of Miami Beach is considering changes to favor pedestrians, improve the visibility of art deco architecture and attract both visitors and locals back to the Drive.
The city hopes to upgrade the less than optimal visitor experience on Ocean Drive, where a walk along the west sidewalk currently consists of pushing through menus being hawked for cafes and restaurants.
Miami Beach commissioners last week moved a proposal that could widen the west sidewalk from 14.5 feet to 21.5, limit outdoor café and restaurant space to 10 feet adjacent to buildings, shift the two-way street east and take two feet of Lummus Park to create an east sidewalk seven feet wide. City staff will have to consider funding mechanisms, design criteria and ordinances that would be required to move a plan forward.
Potential changes to Ocean Drive have ranged from a complete closure of the roadway and creating a Lincoln Road-esque promenade, to leaving one lane of traffic, to a slightly narrower two-way street proposal. Each potential plan aims to improve walking along Ocean Drive.
Currently, the 14.5-foot west sidewalk consists of a 5-foot pedestrian walkway through two sides of outdoor café and restaurant tables. The experience of walking through those tables is less than enjoyable, commissioners agreed. Menu hawking, umbrellas and awnings, and tables on both sides detract from the Ocean Drive experience, they say, and ideally the proposal would facilitate an upgrade.
To get the extra space for the west sidewalk, each lane of traffic would be narrowed one foot and the east sidewalk would be pushed two feet into Lummus Park and shrunk to seven feet wide.
“This is going to enable people who want to enjoy and see the art deco buildings, which is what the district was about in the first place,” said Commissioner Joy Malakoff.
For rent of the outdoor space by cafés and restaurants, the city is now getting about $20 a square foot. Interior rents along Ocean Drive range from about $75 to $110 per square foot, said Marlo Courtney, senior managing director of Goldman Properties at the commission meeting. The difference between the two rates is partly due to precedent, and getting more money per square foot to use the exterior space was discussed.
Raising rates for exterior space could result in tenants leaving Ocean Drive, commissioners were told, but it could also help get the street back on track to being a pedestrian-friendly experience.
“What’s our concern about changing the nature of Ocean Drive?” asked Mayor Philip Levine.
Commissioners agreed that stricter regulation of outdoor tables is necessary. Limiting “table creep” could be accomplished by a design element like a paver that delineates where a café could put a table.