Miami Beach

Lincoln Road’s $67M makeover takes big step with new accord between owners and city

At Euclid Avenue and Lincoln Road, the current turf-covered oval would be redone as part planter and part amphitheater, with loud colored floor.
At Euclid Avenue and Lincoln Road, the current turf-covered oval would be redone as part planter and part amphitheater, with loud colored floor. James Corner Field Operations

Lincoln Road property owners have agreed to tax themselves at a higher rate to pay for part of an ambitious plan to revamp the look and feel of South Beach’s outdoor mall, part of a deal with the city that aims to jump-start the first large-scale makeover of the walkway in more than 20 years.

After many months of discussion between owners and Miami Beach administrators over how to divvy up the costs of the improvements, commissioners heard the details of the compromise Wednesday. The city, which has already funded pre-construction design costs out of an estimated $67 million total, would foot the whole construction bill while the property owners in the Lincoln Road business improvement district would tax themselves an additional 25 percent to pay for promoting activities on the road.

In short, the city would deliver a shiny new Lincoln Road, and the property owners would pay to put people and cultural activities on it.

Commissioners unanimously voted to solicit bids for the construction project, which will allow the city to put together a guaranteed maximum price. Dollars for the construction will come from a combination of city and county taxes, bond money and other funds earmarked for infrastructure. That final price will require another commission approval. The bidding will take a few months.

In the meantime, Lincoln Road property owners will vote on whether to expand the boundaries of their self-taxing district and extend the life of their organization to 10 years. The changes would produce an estimated $16 million to pay for programming on Lincoln Road.

Wednesday’s vote sparks movement on a project that had languished for months in a debate over who would pay for what. Even before that, Lincoln Road improvements had been in some form of planning for years.

In 2014, the city hired James Corner Field Operations to draw up designs for a Lincoln Road makeover. The area, a short walk away from the Miami Beach Convention Center, attracts about 11 million visitors a year. The James Corner plan includes a reorganization of cafe tables, new sculptural elements and more public seating and green space. From a touched-up black-and-white piano key pattern on the ground running up the center of the walkway to reimagined planters, lights and public art, the colorful proposal debuted a few years later and has remained stuck in the planning stages.

“I think we need to just light a fuse and start this,” said Mayor Dan Gelber.

The New Lincoln Road Master Plan_Page_181.jpg
A view of the master plan for the LIncoln Road pedestrian mall. James Corner Field Operations

Other improvements include drainage upgrades and security bollards at each end of Lincoln Road’s pedestrian mall to prevent vehicles from driving onto the walkway. One element of the James Corner plan, a horizontal trellis near Washington Avenue, has been removed from the city’s plans to bring down the cost.

David Martinez, the Beach’s capital improvements director, told the Herald the last stage of planning can now proceed. After a few more approvals from commissioners, the work could begin as soon as late spring 2020.

“This is a big moment for this project,” he said.

The business owners who have long clamored for improvements were glad to see the item move forward Wednesday. The president of the Lincoln Road business group, Steve Gombinski, said in a statement that the planned improvements will keep Lincoln Road a destination for tourists and locals, fueling an economic generator for the region. Should the business district expand, the additional millions can be spent on organizing more activities to bring more life to the area — from music performances to fitness classes.

“The business improvement district’s cultural offerings will be a critical element of our reimagined Lincoln Road. We are looking forward to working together with the city on this incredible project,” Gombinski said.

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Joey Flechas covers government and public affairs in the city of Miami for the Herald, from votes at City Hall to neighborhood news. He won a Sunshine State award for revealing a Miami Beach political candidate’s ties to an illegal campaign donation. He graduated from the University of Florida.