Now is the time for leadership

Where will the City of South Miami be in the next 10 years? Will it continue to be 20 years behind the rest of Miami-Dade’s municipalities or will it step up and take its rightful place as the center of South Dade? Here are few things to consider.

Architect and planner Victor Dover spoke on the intended use and the rationale behind the Transit Oriented District (TOD) that surrounds the Metrorail station at a free refresher course for the City Commission and the public in South Miami recently.

Dover and Mayor Phil Stoddard made the case that by limiting the heights of properties surrounding the Metro station the city’s zoning changes have effectively discouraged building projects with higher densities that would bring greater financial resources to the city. Increased density around public transportation hubs like South Miami’s Metro station will also help to reduce the carbon footprint by significantly decreasing auto emissions and thus improve the natural environment.

The original vision for South Miami’s Madison Square project includes a mixed-use designation to return commercial uses to the area east of Dixie Highway to help reinvigorate the neighborhood. The city’s Citizens and Concerned Clergy Coalition continues to support this designation and requests that the City Commission reconsider its downzoning of the project. They also suggest that the city create a program to entice area residents and previous residents to start businesses in Madison Square and return the neighborhood to its former level of economic viability and vitality.

The Shops at Sunset is currently for sale and a new owner is slated to be selected by the end of January 2015. It is anticipated that the new owner will look to restructuring the northwest portion of the building complex. This will require forward thinking to rezone the building and to entertain the possibility of bringing a quality hotel to our downtown (consider that the Dadeland Marriot enjoys a 97 percent occupancy rate and $25m annually).

Density permitted in the TOD, Hometown District and other appropriate areas of the city will significantly reduce the tax burden to South Miami residents.

One such project to consider is our city’s need for a new home for its city hall. Everincreasing repairs, structural and equipment concerns, health hazards such as mold and asbestos, and the over-crowding of staff (now spilling over into the Sylva Martin building) are issues that demand a solution. That solution could well be a new LEEDcertified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), sustainable structure that could adequately serve the needs of city government and provide revenue-producing offices that would benefit the city’s budget. But the zoning must allow for greater height. Certainly, this new building would put into solid form the current administration’s wellintentioned resolutions and ordinances dealing with concern for the environment, sealevel rise, and the reduction of the city’s carbon footprint.

To attract the right kind of financial interest in South Miami, green building projects and responsible, responsive zoning are essential. South Miami has the potential to take the lead in South Dade. This will require courage and foresight from our elected officials, proper communication with the electorate, and the ability to remain on task.

Are you ready South Miami?

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