Narrowing of Biscayne Boulevard in parking department hands
Written by John Charles Robbins on December 12, 2017
The city’s Off-Street Parking Board has approved an agreement between the Miami Parking Authority and the Downtown Development Authority to proceed with the Biscayne Green Project – the plan to transform Biscayne Boulevard into something other than a busy downtown street hugging vast surface parking lots.
At the board’s Dec. 6 meeting, authority CEO Art Noriega asked the board to approve the proposed Memorandum of Understanding with the DDA, even after calling it a “benign” document with not a lot of substance.
Mr. Noriega said there will be a “deeper dive” into details later, leading to an agreement on the project among the parking agency, the DDA and the Florida Department of Transportation.
But for now, “this creates a starting point for us,” he said of the memorandum.
It symbolizes for the parking authority how to proceed with the project in the immediate future, “how close we work with them,” he said of the DDA.
“I told you I didn’t want to lose momentum on this. Biscayne Green is a priority for us. The quicker we move, the better,” said Mr. Noriega.
There are a lot of moving parts to the issue, he acknowledged, including a lane closure study from the department of transportation and other factors.
Even though it is superficial, the memorandum is written to “outline our working relationship” with the DDA, he said.
“We’ve done a lot of analysis, internally … we won’t ignore that this is a big financial lift, as to revenue and capital costs,” Mr. Noriega said.
New board member Larry Spring asked: Does this agreement put the parking authority in the driver’s seat?
“Yes. That was always the intent,” Mr. Noriega responded.
This summer, the City of Miami and the Downtown Development Authority were awarded a $421,829 federal grant to speed the Biscayne Green Lane Elimination Analysis Project along Biscayne Boulevard, from Southeast First to Northeast Sixth streets.
The state transportation department will pass through the federal funds, and a local agency participation agreement will be required to access the funds.
A background memo on the grant says the Biscayne Green Lane Elimination Analysis Project will provide essential pedestrian safety and accessibility improvements at seven Metromover stations.
Currently, the Biscayne Green Project is included in the transportation department’s five-year work program, a comprehensive list of major capital projects throughout Florida.
For years the DDA has advocated for Biscayne Green, which aims to reduce driving lanes from eight to four or six from Biscayne Boulevard Way to Northeast Eighth Street and replace them with grass, trees, street furniture and other features to link Biscayne Bay and Bayfront Park to downtown.
The plan aims to calm downtown traffic and provide more and safer pedestrian and bike access.
The proposed vision of Biscayne Green calls for the redesign of the boulevard into Miami’s grand pedestrian promenade.
Although the plan belongs to the DDA, Mr. Noriega said earlier this year he wanted “to take ownership of it.”
In a letter to the parking board about the memorandum, Mr. Noriega wrote: “This document will allow for MPA to take the lead on the Biscayne Green project while partnering with the DDA to develop a plan, identify stakeholder priorities, generate partner buy-in, and develop a shared vision to transform the signature Biscayne Boulevard corridor.”
The intro to the memorandum says, in part:
The parking authority has parking along Biscayne Boulevard that generates about $3 million a year.
The authority and DDA agree that the Biscayne Green project will result in a 50% reduction of parking and will ultimately reduce the anticipated annual revenue to about $1.5 million.
The authority agrees to take the lead on the Biscayne Green project while partnering with the DDA and develop a design that expands upon the vision already created by the DDA to transform the corridor.
From those efforts, the authority intends to create a shared understanding of partner roles and responsibilities that will help in the execution of Biscayne Green;
The authority will select planning and business development consultants from its vendor pool to provide expert opinions on the project.
The authority will obtain funding for the project and will determine, along with its consultants, commercial ventures that will help the authority recoup lost revenue and re-pay debts resulting from the project.
Providing parking and compatible development supports the plan to reactivate Biscayne Boulevard and provides community benefits by serving visitors, merchants, office workers, patrons, residents and the adjacent districts.
The development and operation of commercial uses that complement the Biscayne Green experience will be vital for the long-term success of the project by ensuring economic viability.
The authority says it has expertise, and experience to manage and operate Biscayne Green and its commercial aspects, as it has a track record of developing and managing parking and commercial spaces throughout the city.
The memorandum of understanding will lead to the structure by which the parties may make future agreements to fund, design, bid, construct and operate the project components.