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4/18/02: Miami News Today

Renovated Main Street, charrette to guide North Miami Beach plans
By Jaime Levy

With a newly reconstructed piece of the city's main street and the results of a charrette in place, City of North Miami Beach officials and property owners can envision a revitalized city center surrounding the Mall at 163rd Street.

The revamping of Northeast 164th Street between 18th and 19th avenues - officially opened April 10 ÿ was the first step in a process that many say could transform the area.

The city council will try to mandate the use of urban design ideas and principles set forth in a 1999 charrette when the area is rezoned. Assistant City Manager Keven Klopp said a May 15 workshop will allow property- and business-owners to have input on proposed changes. The council would likely vote on any adjustments at their first June meeting, he said.

"The essence is to change the philosophy of zoning regulations for the future - from a suburban development to an urban-type development," Mr. Klopp said. "We want buildings right up on the sidewalk. The second thing would be mixed use - we want it all. And we want it in the same building."

Joseph Marmor, owner of Le Chocolatier, 1840 NE 164 St., said he is pleased with the road improvements in front of his shop and looks forward to continued public and private urban-improvement projects.

"The idea of a revitalized downtown is a trend right now. Suburbs are finished - you have to come back to the cities," said Mr. Marmor, who owns another building on the stretch of 164th Street. "Our block was first, and it's so beautiful. It gave us a great feeling of what could be."

In fact, Mr. Klopp said, other city business owners are pleased with the way the first block looks.

"There are many interests vying for who's going to be the next block," he said.

The combination of city investments and the plans to bring a Wal-Mart onto nearby mall property is driving New Urban Works Development to try to locate parcels on which they can build, said company President Eugene Spano.

"Our level of interest is that we see the North Miami Beach market as an up-and-coming market," he said. "We know what's happening on the beach side, but development opportunities are now starting with the city investing in the infrastructure. With that type of investment, it encourages developers to at least look in the area."

Terry Cuson, president of the North Dade Regional Chamber of Commerce, said road improvements are always a good start to brightening a neighborhood.

"There is a relationship between areas with good-looking and well-maintained medians, sidewalks and landscapes, and the success of the businesses," he said. "It makes you want to come to an area that looks appealing."

Mr. Marmor said he could attest to that. Since the section of Northeast 164th Street and the sidewalks in front of his store were made over, he said, many more passersby have stopped in for a chocolate treat.

"Traffic slows down and people discover me. I've been here for years, yet people in the area are just seeing us," said Mr. Marmor, who is now considering adding a cafe to his shop. "With the wide sidewalks, people are actually walking in."