Fearing the typically slow-moving administrative review might kill the plan to open a North Beach version of Wynwood Yard, some Miami Beach commissioners want to streamline the approval process.
For about a year, Commissioner Ricky Arriola has been pushing for the creation of North Beach Yard, a hip outdoor gathering space that would include food trucks, small retail businesses, a bar, live entertainment and daytime programming on a city-owned lot at 81st Street and Collins Avenue.
A controversy over the future of a 1930s log cabin that used to stand on the property slowed the project. That cabin has since been dismantled — causing considerably outcry — with the intention of using a portion of the original structure to re-assemble a cabin elsewhere.
Now, the latest snag for North Beach Yard planners is the city’s development regulations. The Yard would need a host of variances, waivers and other approvals before a shovel could hit the ground. But the Yard would be temporary development, constructed with storage containers and tents and meant to occupy the lot for five years, and the city’s code doesn’t have provisions for such a project.
Organizers say stalling the project — which could face several months of review, redesigns and scrutiny from multiple city boards — could defeat the purpose of creating such a place for what is ultimately only a five-year lease. That lease, approved in July, calls for free urban farming classes, live local music, nonprofit events, cooking workshops and fitness classes.
Proponents worry the time it would take to cut through City Hall’s red tape would make the investment impractical.
“We’re going to impose our code that will probably kill this project or any project like it,” Arriola said at Wednesday’s commission meeting.
He asked commissioners to create an exception to the city’s requirements to help North Beach Yard along. With some resistance, the commission voted to draft changes to the city code so North Beach Yard can move along more quickly. The changes will go to the planning board next. They will be discussed by commissioners in the land use subcommittee. A final vote to clear a fast-track path for North Beach Yard could happen in May.
Commissioners Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Michael Góngora said they support the North Beach Yard concept, but they worried going too quickly might catch neighbors off-guard.
“I don’t want to go so fast that we mess it up,” Góngora said. He insisted the city conduct a traffic study, which was approved in a vote.
Noted architect Andrés Duany presented his designs for North Beach Yard, which include an array of repurposed shipping containers, food trucks, cafe seating, a stage and a bar under a tent. Duany described the place as a kind of public square that will feature different kinds of activities during the day and in the evenings.
The temporary nature of the setup would allow the Yard to be nimble and adjust its layout and the makeup of its vendors easily.
“It’s the most responsive kind of retail you can have,” Duany said.
Rosen Gonzalez urged the city administration to make sure neighbors are properly notified of the project’s progress, echoing some concerns that have been raised about noise.
Duany acknowledged the need to satisfy residents, saying that the Yard’s team would like to use a sound system with small, low-slung speakers that do not project sound loudly beyond the property line.
“We know that this will not succeed if any of the neighbors get mad,” he said.
Noise restrictions and hours of operations are built into the agreement. Businesses must end all sales by midnight and close by 1 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Sunday through Wednesday, sales will end at 11 p.m. and doors will close by 11:30 p.m. The Yard will open daily between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.
City staff assured commissioners that public outreach will continue as the process moves forward.
Della Heiman, co-founder of the Wynwood Yard and the head of the North Beach concept, told the Miami Herald she was happy the project is making progress.
“I’m very thankful to the commission for their support of the project,” she said.