Miami Beach

Miami Beach Commission to weigh recommendations for making Ocean Drive cleaner, safer

Folks eat outside at the News Cafe, 800 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach.
Folks eat outside at the News Cafe, 800 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach. Miami Herald File

After months of discussion by Ocean Drive businesses on how to make the busy nightlife hub cleaner and safer, the city will consider a list of recommendations including widening sidewalks, adding more lighting and using lower-profile umbrellas to cover sidewalk cafes.

A task force of business people led by Jonathan Plutzik, owner of The Betsy Hotel, presented suggestions to a committee of city commissioners Wednesday. The committee agreed to send the recommendations to the full commission for further discussion.

I personally want to make Ocean Drive a place where residents and families and visitors feel equally at home.

Jonathan Plutzik, owner of The Betsy and chairman of the Ocean Drive Task Force

Among the recommendations:

▪ Install smaller cafe umbrellas to reduce the “tunnel effect” and open up more views of Art Deco facades. Miami Beach police also favor having more room to see and move around along the west sidewalk.

▪ Widen sidewalks and add more lighting. The west sidewalk could be extended five feet.

▪ Increase safety by adding more police officers and private security. Police presence has grown after a group of businesses put $89,000 toward paying for more beat cops for a month-long period that will end just before March. Police say initial results are promising.

▪ Create a business improvement district in which property owners can tax themselves to pay for improvements and oversight.

▪ More frequent closures of Ocean Drive for pedestrians, such as during Art Deco Weekend in January.

The committee sent the proposals to the full Beach commission with the understanding that some of these changes need to be further discussed and could take some time to implement.

After the presentation, Plutzik told the Miami Herald he was pleased with commissioners’ openness to the recommendations, which include finding ways to attract families to the street and Lummus Park.

“I think Lummus Park is really meant to be one of the great urban parks in America,” he said. “At the moment, it’s kinda of a dismal patch of grass. And not to diminish the importance of green space because green space is really important, but we’re really not taking advantage of this great piece of grass.”

Most of the recommendations were readily embraced by owners of the some big-name establishments on Ocean Drive, but the proposal to scale back the size and amount of cafe umbrellas did lead some to ask for the measure to be further examined.

“How do we work on eliminating the problems that come with a very popular tourism destination while still maintaining customer service quality for those visiting?” asked David Wallack, owner of Mango’s Tropical Cafe. “You can’t just have them have a birthday party, they order a steak or a lobster, and when it comes to the table, they’re drowned in a rain.”

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech