One pact on plan to narrow Biscayne Boulevard, but studies still due
Written by John Charles Robbins on June 19, 2018
The city’s Off-Street Parking Board has approved a new more detailed agreement between the Miami Parking Authority and the Downtown Development Authority for the Biscayne Green Project.
But the plan to transform Biscayne Boulevard into something other than a busy downtown street hugging vast surface parking lots may still be a couple of studies down the road.
At the direction of authority CEO Art Noriega, the parking board on June 13 unanimously approved a new memorandum of understanding with the DDA.
“We talked to the DDA about our role,” said Mr. Noriega. “This anticipates a very good working relationship with the DDA.”
He said both parties see opportunities ahead.
“The future of Biscayne Boulevard will be radically different … this is a really unique opportunity for us, and the DDA as our principal partner,” Mr. Noriega said.
In a background memo on the new agreement, Mr. Noriega said the 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 introduction to the latest agreement notes that since the creation of the 2025 Downtown Miami Master Plan in 2009, the DDA has worked with multiple stakeholders to identify strategies to transform Biscayne Boulevard into a beautiful corridor that offers a grand promenade, connects people to Bayfront Park, creates more green space, and creates a visitor-friendly experience.
It also states that after studying multiple options, the DDA board selected the version that repurposes Biscayne Boulevard for people by reducing the number of through lanes and transforming the median parking into green space, now known as “Biscayne Green.”
In 2017, the City of Miami and the DDA 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 was to pass through the federal funds, and a local agency participation agreement will be required to access the funds.
A background memo on the grant said the Biscayne Green Lane Elimination Analysis Project would 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 proposed vision of Biscayne Green calls for the redesign of the boulevard into Miami’s grand pedestrian promenade, and aims to calm downtown traffic and provide more and safer pedestrian and bike access.
The parking authority has parking lots along Biscayne Boulevard that generate about $3 million a year. A projection showed the Biscayne Green project might result in a 50% reduction of parking and ultimately reduce annual revenue to about $1.5 million.
Mr. Noriega told the parking board that Article III of the new agreement is pretty clear on the MPA’s responsibilities.
“MPA will be responsible for the bidding, award, and management of the design and economic development expert scoping of the project,” it reads.
Before proceeding on these major decision points, it said, both parties shall agree:
■With regard to the medians: Percentage of open space; percentage of monetized space; percentage of flexible space; design/aesthetic criteria for any buildings in the median (percentage glass, height, frontage, etc.); programming of land and buildings; and the interface between the median and street.
■With regard to the lane elimination, the DDA will work directly with the Florida Department of Transportation on the decisions below and from these determinations will coordinate with the MPA: The final reduction of lanes; the width of the sidewalks; the width of bike lane; and the landscaping.
A focus will remain on income stream, Mr. Noriega told the parking board.
“Whatever we lose from the median, we make up a little elsewhere,” he said of a redesigned boulevard. “Our goal is to minimize revenue impact.”
Whatever happens there will be expensive, he said. “It is a major lift.”
Mr. Noriega told the board the next step is hiring a consultant, which was a perfect transition to the next agenda item, the hiring of Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc.
The parking board unanimously approved an agreement with Kimley-Horn to provide planning and consulting services for the Biscayne Green Project for $104,800, which includes $5,300 for reimbursable expenses.
Kimley-Horn is to work collaboratively with MPA’s staff to gather information, build consensus, and ultimately develop a program plan to meet operational and financial goals. Given all the variables involved in a project of this magnitude, staff feels that all would be best served if these services were being rendered by a professional firm, a background memo states.
The DDA is currently working on the start of a lane reduction study, as part of the overall Biscayne Green proposal.