Miami Beach

North Beach will see first draft of new vision for neighborhood Tuesday

The Byron Carlyle Theater is on 71st Street in Miami Beach, which planners envision as a “town center” for North Beach.
The Byron Carlyle Theater is on 71st Street in Miami Beach, which planners envision as a “town center” for North Beach. jflechas@miamiherald.com

The public on Tuesday will get a first glimpse at a vision for the future of the diverse neighborhood at the north end of Miami Beach.

The city commissioned the planning firm of Dover, Kohl & Partners to develop a master plan for North Beach, an economically and culturally vibrant community that represents a quieter, homier and more affordable counterpart to South Beach.

City leaders and civic activists have long said they wish to see North Beach attract more development, but there’s been debate about how to do that. That debate was highlighted when voters rejected an increase to the maximum size of allowable development on Ocean Terrace in November — a plan for beachfront property in North Beach that has since been modified to include promises to preserve historic facades while still asking for additional height.

Residents want the master plan, which is being developed with public input, to reflect the neighborhood’s desires and provide a road map for the next several years.

After a public brainstorming process in February and months of discussions with residents and civic leaders, planners will unveil a first draft of the plan for the City Commission and the public at separate meetings Tuesday.

“We’re looking forward to reaction from the public,” said Hernan Guerrero, a planner for the Coral Gables-based firm.

The presentation will be a draft that will be tweaked further during the summer. Dover, Kohl & Partners plan on providing a final report to the City Commission around August or September.

Discussions about the plan have mostly revolved around a handful of key issues that affect life in North Beach, such as traffic mobility, historic preservation of the area’s stock of Miami Modern architecture, use of publicly owned land on upper Collins Avenue and development of a “town center” that would act as a downtown for the neighborhood along 71st Street.

As with much of the Beach and greater Miami area, traffic congestion has increased, and the plan will likely recommend solutions along the lines of more bike lanes and/or dedicated bus lanes to cater to people who are ditching cars.

Preservationists have played a role in the planning process by calling for the creation of local historic districts that would protect MiMo buildings. So far, planners have suggested a mixture of local districts, which provide protection from demolition, and conservation districts, which allow for some demolition but would provide design guidelines for redevelopment in order to maintain the character of the neighborhood.

“I’m eager to see how we invite and plan development in certain areas, and also at the same time how we’re going to maintain our residents’ quality of life and the overall feel of our community,” said Daniel Veitia, a resident of Normandy Isle and president of Urban Resource, a North Beach-based real estate and property management company. Veitia is on the steering committee guiding the development of the plan.

The feel and character of North Beach are also linked to the diversity of its residents. Not far from single-family homes on the west or condo towers the hug the shore, there’s a mix of incomes, age groups and nationalities that populate low-slung apartments. Maintaining that mix will be a challenge if new development arrives.

“North Beach is the most affordable area on the Beach. So in terms of protecting and and enhancing neighborhoods, we don’t want to price everyone out of the area,” said Guerrero, the planner. “The idea is to enhance the character of the area, improve quality of life and enable long-term residents to stay.”

Any new development will have to factor in rising sea levels in the low-lying Beach. And how to preserve historic structures amid the rising tide will provide a new challenge.

The master plan, even when it is finalized later this year, will only be a guiding document for City Hall. It will be up to elected leaders, city staff and residents to work on what aspects of the plan are implemented during the next several years and decades.

Still, locals are eager to see what the planners recommend.

“I do feel it will bring confidence to the community, the private market and the city to move forward in a positive way,” Veitia said.

Dover, Kohl & Associates will present the first draft of the master plan to the City Commission in a public workshop at 10 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 1700 Convention Center Dr. The firm will hold a public meeting in North Beach that evening at 6:30 p.m. at the North Shore Youth Center, 501 72nd St.

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech

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