15 Projects proposed for ‘West End’ growth

Creating a new identity and perhaps one or more incorporated cities in West Kendall has been an overlying mission for Miami-Dade District 11 Commissioner Juan C. Zapata since taking office in 2012.

To that end, the former Miami-Dade state representative commissioned a 194-page research report by Florida International University early in his administration before announcing its completion when released online June 2.

“We did not use any tax or district funds to finance the report,” noted Stephanie Cornejo, special projects coordinator for Zapata’s District 11. “We have been seeking funding for the West End Connectivity Plan priorities… which dovetails with the West End Strategy as we collaborated on the transportation and greenway improvements.”

The study, funded by 17 individuals, agencies and businesses, was undertaken by 14 FIU students working as graduate research assistants in several university departments.

Commissioner Zapata said he named a special committee to discuss strategic planning and a vision for the West End future, described in his monthly newsletter to residents as “an ongoing process and collaborative effort among Miami-Dade County Commissioners, Administration, and other interested parties.”

He discussed the report in detail on June 15 with the new Strategic Planning and Government Operations Committee formed by incoming chair Jean Monestine on Jan. 15. Zapata chairs the committee with Commissioners Rebecca Sosa, Esteban L. Bova, Daniella Levine Cava, Sally A. Heyman and Javier D. Souto.

The report foreword describes its contents as a method “to re-think the West End in terms of its unique assets, strengths, hidden value, position in the regional economy, and its role in addressing important county-wide objectives, including economic diversification and structural change.”

Fifteen “Action Items” emphasize a variety of projects to brand the district, create new jobs and leverage assets for new employment opportunities, re-connect and plan new transportation methods and “rethink” future development patterns.

Key items:
• Brand the “West End” with a comprehensive program with three sub-areas: North, South and Central West nomenclatures;

• Develop a distinctive West End digital information program and website.

• Initiate a pilot program to re-purpose under-utilized properties for shared office and satellite office space.

• Initiate a second program to support development of new small business incubators.

• Pursue high-speed Internet and data services, including immediate West End application as a Beta-Tester for Google Fiber.

• Support Baptist Hospital service expansion.

• Capture employment and high-end business development at Florida International University.

• Develop a South West End Employment Center, adjacent to Miami Executive Airport (formerly Tamiami- Kendall Executive Airport).

• Create a rubber-wheel trolley service connecting three West End areas with a crossover station at SW 88th Street and SW 147th Avenue, providing linkage in “Bow Tie” routes to Hammocks Community Park, Boystown Pineland County Park, Water Oaks Park, FIU and West Kendall Baptist Hospital.

• Adopt a completed West End-Wide Streetscape and Complete Streets Design Standards program.

• Target key locations for developing “Gateway” identities as major entrances to the West End.

• Consider a long-term plan to connect the CSX Railroad line for a public transportation loop along the northern, western and southern West End edges. (Develop immediate solutions to deliver congestion relief and expand lanes by developing incremental approaches to major transportation capacities.

• Consider a Regional Trip Reduction Policy through parking pricing, transit subsidies, ride-matching, flextime, compressed work weeks, pedestrian and biking facilities and incentive programming.

• Consider high-density and rezoning to provide mixed-use development at selected locations (for example, create 70 units per acre zones on central corridors such as SW 88th Street, 137th and 157th avenues; rezone The Palms at Town & Country Center and Kendall Town Center (SW 88th Street and 162nd Avenue) for new cultural, retail and entertainment options, as well as new residential uses.

On one page of an Executive Summary of the full report, a chart illustrates potential clusters of mid-rise buildings in six different areas, centered on the two major shopping centers. Web address for the report: http://carta.fiu.edu/wpcontent/uploads/architecture/WestEndDistrict11_FullReport1.pdf.

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