Underdeck under I-395 underfunded $30 million or more
Negotiating the particulars of the proposed Underdeck – the 33 acres underneath a redesigned I-395 – is proving difficult, with a funding gap of more than $30 million, members of the Downtown Development Authority’s
Urbanism Committee learned last week.
Staff of Miami’s Department of Capital Improvements presented a design concept to the Florida Department of Transportation in September, but that department came back with a 12-page list of detailed requests, said Steve Williamson, city capital improvements director.
More worrisome, the transportation department only set aside $13 million for a project that Mr. Williamson said will cost $45 million to $60 million.
The transportation department is building the space; the city is developing and managing it. The disparity between budgets may be because each agency is tracking the monetary sources and potential spend differently, he said.
He said he’s trying to arrange “a true sit-down at the table of people who want to get this done. [Transportation department regional] Secretary [James] Wolfe is an advocate of this.” The city is due to submit an updated design to the state transportation department March 31.
In September, Mr. Williamson described the Underdeck as a place that “comes back alive again and transforms multiple neighborhoods. We quartered our city in the 1970s,” when the connection of I-95 and I-395 took a slice out of Overtown and the Omni area, he said. “It’s been a blight far too long.”
Plans for the re-built I-395 (the much-anticipated Signature Bridge) call for the existing 800 columns to be reduced to 200, opening up the lot underneath for cafes, event space, performance venues, nature trails and room for people to congregate.
In the city’s plan, the earthen berms, 600-foot wall, and chain-link fence that now dominate the space will be gone, allowing light to flood the area. Mr. Williamson said last week that the city had requested three berms be removed; the state transportation department agreed to take out one.
There are plans to build a gradually sloping walkway over the Florida East Coast Railway tracks along the property’s southern boundary, said Colin Worth, Underdeck project manager for the city, in September. That walkway is designed to tie the Underdeck to the Frost Science Museum and Pérez Art Museum Miami.
The linear connection to the Underdeck from Biscayne Boulevard will have the ability to draw cruise passengers from PortMiami and people from other areas of Miami, he added.
“The city is so divided, economically and racially,” said authority board member Philippe Houdard, founding partner of Pipeline Workspaces and Skybank Financial, in September. “This has an opportunity to serve as a nexus to think about integrating the communities.”
The downtown authority voted last December to commit $50,000 to the Underdeck’s design. The Miami Parking Authority also committed $50,000, Mr. Williamson said after the September meeting. The Omni Community Redevelopment Agency agreed to contribute $150,000 to the design process, and the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency was said to be considering doing the same.