Miami DDA OKs downtown master plan

South Florida Business Journal – by Oscar Pedro Musibay

The Miami Downtown Development Authority gave its blessing Friday morning to a blueprint for the future of the city’s downtown area.

The plan, which has been years in the making, looks to develop a convention center, facilitate waterway and road transport, and assimilate its waterfront into burgeoning districts.

bank-of-america-tower-at-intl-place-2The DDA’s goal, through its 2025 Downtown Miami Master Plan, is to shape the area into the “epicenter of the Americas,” a hub for business and culture.

The DDA came up with new ideas and incorporated scenarios from prior plans to complete the plan, said Javier Betancourt, its principal master planner.

The goals include enhancing downtown’s position as the business and culture center, leveraging open and developable space along the waterfront and boulevards, and better connecting Brickell Avenue to downtown and beyond (to places such as Miami Beach and to the north through existing systems such as Tri-Rail).

The approval is a significant step, since there have been multiple visions for Miami’s downtown, some of them in conflict with each other, and, until now, no single plan has been acted on in a substantive way. Friday’s approval marks a departure from the lack of consensus on planning for downtown Miami’s future.

The plan touches on a short-term goal of solidifying the city’s role as hub of the Americas through the development of a convention center. Sub-goals would including ensuring “that the economic benefits of the center and its associated development are shared by the residents and businesses in the surrounding communities,” the master plan states.

Jerome Hollo, son of Miami developer Tibor Hollo, said the convention center was a worthy goal, but added that it would take $1 billion and time. He suggested that the DDA instead focus on existing resources to achieve its conference-related goals for the downtown area.

Betancourt also touched on the DDA’s desire to focus attention on Biscayne Boulevard, making it more pedestrian-friendly. The group wants to turn what is currently parking at the center of the boulevard into a promenade, which would require relocating the parking, he said.

“Biscayne is our front door,” Betancourt said. “We really need to elevate it to international iconic status.”

The plan also attempts to focus development and community activity around Brickell Avenue, the main thoroughfare for downtown’s financial district.

“The intent of this goal is to physically transform these streets, from Bayfront Boulevard and financial and residential addresses, respectively, into vibrant, attractive public spaces to rival the great streets of the world like the Champs-Élysées in Paris or Las Ramblas in Barcelona,” the report states.

Although some board members raised concerns about the plan’s implementation, DDA Vice Chairman Neisen Kasdin said it would be the group’s job to prod the ideas into action. He said the DDA had taken its first major step toward doing that.

“Now, we have a vision, he said.

The DDA plans to form new committees, and make use of existing ones, to create strategies and move forward on implementation of the plan’s goals.