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Miami Herald- 6/13/02
Renewal plan for Biscayne - FEC Corridor Outlined and Proposed
By Judy Odierna
Miami commissioners today are expected to approve a sweeping plan for economic redevelopment
of the city's Biscayne Boulevard corridor that calls for mixed-use retail and residential
projects, light rail, road improvements, and housing rehabilitation.
The $372,000 study targets the area known as the Florida East Coast (FEC) rail track
corridor, from Northeast 79th Street south to Northeast 14th Street. It's bordered
on the west by Interstate 95 and the east mostly by Biscayne, although it extends
to the waterfront in the Edgewater and Omni neighborhoods.
The plan was prepared over the last two years by the city and staff from Florida
International University's Metropolitan Center, with input from community leaders
in Wynwood, Buena Vista and Little Haiti.
''To think that a city in this day and age has over 2,000 acres of undeveloped or
underdeveloped land within its corporate limits is staggering,'' said Ned Murray,
associate director of the FIU Metropolitan Center. ``If the plan is implemented
properly, it could turn the whole area into a tax-producing, job-creating and real
The planners identify the 55-acre Buena Vista Yard as the area's biggest economic
opportunity -- land owned by Florida East Coast Railway between North Miami and
Second Avenues at Northeast 29th Street. It's now leased to the Port of Miami-Dade
as a staging facility for truck containers, but the railway is in discussions with
The report's suggestions for the yard include allowing ''big box'' retail, like
a Target or Home Depot store, on the southern end of the site and mixed residential
and retail development on the northern part.
''There's no shortage of major players looking at that site,'' said Commissioner
Johnny Winton, who has championed the project. ``At the end of the day, the market
is going to indicate what goes in there. What cannot happen there is that someone
comes in and puts a big wall up and disconnects it from the surrounding area.''
Other study suggestions include:
Using part of the FEC right-of-way along the railroad tracks to accommodate a dedicated
trolley line connecting downtown with Northeast 79th Stret, or running a trolley
down Northeast Second Avenue.
Creating mixed-use residential and retail environments, particularly loft spaces,
in special districts like Buena Vista and the Arts and Entertainment area to the
north of the Performing Arts Center now under construction.
Creating affordable housing within Little Haiti from Northeast Second Avenue to
the FEC tracks and from Northeast 54th Street to Northeast 58th Street. The plan
suggests rehabilitating single family homes, as well as helping current renters
buy their own homes. Other areas in Little Haiti and Wynwood would also be targets
for housing plans.
Designating Wynwood as the primary industrial area and light manufacturing district
for businesses like custom metals or furniture.
Murray said the city can attract developers to the corridor by changing land use
and zoning laws, providing money for sewer, light and street improvement, and partnering
with the county's Metropolitan Planning Organization on the trolley line and the
U.S. Department of Transportation on streetscape improvements for Biscayne Boulevard.
''Acts of good faith need to be put into place,'' Murray said. 'There has to be
a clear plan that is fully supported by the city with clear action steps to make
a developer say, `We're going to take a risk here because we believe the city is
a true partner.' ''
David Lombardi, a broker and developer, has already taken a chance on the area by
purchasing 12 buildings in the past 18 months.
Lombardi says other developers just don't yet know the positive side of doing business
in the area. He likes the idea of retail in the Buena Vista Yard to attract them.
''If they put in big box retail, there will be 100,000 cars a day going to those
stores,'' Lombardi said. ``If you bring up the traffic count, people will be inspired
to invest more.''
Dena Bianchino, Miami's assistant city manager for planning and development, said
the study was funded by a grant from the federal Economic Development Administration.
''Everything we're doing is in support of economic development,'' she said. ``It
is all designed to attract business into the corridor.''
Winton said the commission hopes to ensure the plan actually gets put into effect
by asking City Manager Carlos Gimenez to take a number of immediate steps to move
''No one wants another plan that just sits on the shelf,'' said Murray.
``One of the recommendations is to create a marketing plan around the study because
a lot of the development is going to be done by private investors, Murray said.''