Palmetto Bay’s “Downtown Experience,” an event hosted by the village and the Downtown Redevelopment Task Force (DRTF) on Friday, Mar. 14, drew a crowd of residents and business people, most of whom were “new faces” who normally don’t attend regular monthly meetings.
Featuring a brief panel discussion, food provided by 18 restaurants, live music, prizes and an architectural model and renderings showing how such an area might look, the event seemed to tap into interest regarding how a downtown district could revitalize the area and the village as a whole.
Hal Feldman, a resident and Realtorwho is a member of the Task Force, said he was pleased with the way the event played out at the Municipal Center.
“Having worked on the DRTF for nearly a year, it was rewarding to see such strong turnout,” Feldman said. “The Downtown Experience allowed us all to see part of the vision in real-life, as Palmetto Bay residents journeyed to Franjo Triangle and did some of what we’ve been envisioning.”
Attending the panel discussion were village manager Ron Williams, Mayor Shelley Stanczyk, Councilmembers Joan Lindsay and Tim Schaffer, Miami-Dade Commission Vice Chair Lynda Bell and Cutler Bay Councilmember Sue Ellen Loyzelle.
Williams and communications manager Bill Kress made initial comments welcoming everyone, then Ed Silva, director of Building and Capital Projects, thanked the village staff, the restaurateurs and others who participated.
“We have been working at this for 10 months,” Silva said. “I do want to remind everybody that this is an advisory group and all we’re doing is providing information to the council.”
He later added, “I have never seen so much enthusiasm and dedication.”
Silva introduced the panelists, Lou Kallinosis, Hal Feldman, Peter England, Desmond Chin and Scott Silver, mentioning that there are more than 45 members of the DRTF. Following a brief general overview of the project, there was time for questions and answers.
One woman attending asked, “There are empty storefronts on US1. What interest have any businesses expressed in filling those storefronts, and will this project affect that?”
Panel members said that once there are restaurants and businesses in a downtown area that more people will start coming in and that will help the whole area.
Silver mentioned that one of the problems before was that there was inadequate water and sewer to support commercial growth.
In response to one resident businessman’s question about the possible use of eminent domain since there is not a lot of empty space for a downtown area, the response from the panel was “absolutely not.”
The results of a survey were presented. The single most important thing people wanted in the area was an increase in restaurants. Beyond that, the basic idea of the project was well received. Of 580 responses 275 (47 percent) said they were very supportive of a Downtown District in Palmetto Bay; 130 (22 percent) were supportive; 96 (16 percent) were somewhat supportive; 51 (8 percent) thought it was not important, and 28 (4 percent) said they needed more information.
A similar response was brought by the questions: “How important is it for the village to diversify its tax revenue through a downtown district?” and “How important is transportation connectivity in Palmetto Bay (bus rapid transit, light-rail, bicycle, etc.)?”
Those who had participated in the survey were entered in a drawing for prizes and the winners were announced during the event. Eladia Chavez won the $50 dinner certificate to Romanza Restaurant in Palmetto Bay. Dan Cordoba was winner of a $50 certificate to A Pizza Brooklyn. Jacqueline Caproon won the $999 Weber Grill donated by Evenings Delight.
“We’re doing this because we want to enhance our community,” Silva said of the project. “This will not happen overnight. This is about the next 50 years.”
Feldman summed up what he thought was significant about the event.
“For me, it’s important because it allows me to listen to the community at large and insert their vision into the already vibrant DRTF discussion,” Feldman said. “This is our seminal moment to a grander future. Once we define what we want our Palmetto Bay to be, I trust private investment will make it happen.”
For information about the DRTF call 305-259-1234 or visit online at www.Palmettobay-fl.gov.