Miami Beach

North Beach residents asked to help create a vision for the neighborhood

More than 100 people attended Monday night’s information session on the development of a new master plan for North Beach.
More than 100 people attended Monday night’s information session on the development of a new master plan for North Beach. Miami Herald Staff

Miami Beach officials are looking to residents of the culturally and economically diverse North Beach to help create a vision for the future of the neighborhood.

The swath of Miami Beach from 63rd Street to the northern city boundary at 87th Terrace, stretching from Normandy Isle to the sand, holds an eclectic mix of residents and businesses. Older Hispanic immigrants rub shoulders with young service workers and other professionals moving in, populating low-slung apartment buildings and quiet streets with single-family homes.

Politicians and civic activists have repeatedly called for a “revitalization” of North Beach, pointing to some rundown and underdeveloped areas that could use some tender loving care. But the challenge will be how to balance sprucing up what’s already there and spurring the right kind of redevelopment — an issue aggravated during the recent vote on whether to increase floor-area ratio for Ocean Terrace (55 percent of voters said no).

A master plan commissioned by the city is ultimately intended to act as a road map for North Beach’s future.

More than 100 locals got some preliminary details Monday night about how they can have a voice in the process of creating the plan, which is being undertaken by town planning firm Dover, Kohl & Partners. Planners met with residents at the North Shore Park Youth Center.

In February, the community can take part in public workshops, during which locals can share their ideas on what they want North Beach to look like — from parks to infrastructure for bicyclists to how to make over existing buildings. The process, called a charrette, begins with a kickoff meeting on Feb. 11.

The planners have put together a team of consultants that include experts in bicycle/pedestrian needs as well as historic preservation — a popular topic in an area rich with MiMo architecture. They will all take input from residents to determine what this revitalization actually looks like.

I’m hopeful, but I’m skeptical.

Patty Santangelo, on whether the North Beach plan will lead to real changes

Should any significant changes be made as a result of a plan, a likely challenge will be to keep housing affordable for many of the working class people who make up the neighborhood. Rents are already going up, and big changes could drive them higher and force lower-income residents out.

Jeffrey Oris, the economic development division director for Miami Beach, said Monday night that the city has already started conversations about this sensitive issue. In a city that owes so much of its success to the tourism industry and the service workers who keep it running, planners have to find ways to keep lower-income residents within city limits for plenty of reasons — including to get cars off the clogged streets and to keep the neighborhood diverse.

In short, smart planning involves people of all income levels.

“Behind the scenes, we’re talking about ways to maintain a stock of affordable units,” Oris said. “We need these people to live here. We need them nearby.”

Some residents who have seen previous master plans gather dust wonder whether whatever vision they develop will actually get realized.

“I’m hopeful, but I’m skeptical,” said Patty Santangelo, a North Beach resident since 1999 who lives in St. Tropez Ocean Tower on Ocean Terrace.

Others, like Normandy Isle resident Blair Hollingsworth, were more eager to start thinking about that they want for the character of their neighborhood.

“I’m excited about this,” he said. “This is my first experience like this as a property owner.”

For a week in February, the design team will set up shop in the Byron Carlyle Theater at 500 71st St., where residents can visit and provide input as ideas are being developed.

According to planners, a final draft should be ready by next fall.

Visit plannobe.org for updates, including future meeting times and locations.

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech

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