Palmetto Bay

Palmetto Bay seeks to boost downtown commercial development — and tax base

Palmetto Bay wants to revitalize its commercial strip in the southwest corner of the village, east of U.S. 1, into a real downtown. The hope is to give residents a walkable place to gather, dine, and shop —and the village a better diversified tax base.

On Wednesday, council members got good news from consultants it had hired to work on the project: If you build it, they will come.

Palmetto Bay should support roughly 1,200 new units of market-rate multi-family housing in the next 10 years, between 135,000 and 270,000 square feet of office space in the next five years, and roughly 100,000 to 110,000 square feet of retail space in the next 10 years, according to a 50-page market study presented by the Miami-based consulting firm Bermello, Ajamil & Associates.

The report included some caveats where retail and office space are concerned. Much of the demand for new retail and office space will likely be absorbed, the study notes, by redeveloped but existing spaces.

According to the study, retail and especially multifamily residential projects will be key to driving sustainable development in the area, and a first phase of development should only include about 20,000 to 30,000 square feet of new retail in the form of smaller shops and restaurants.

With 1,200 new housing units and 30,000 square feet of new retail, the report estimates an additional $600,000 in property taxes for the village annually. With 1,700 new housing units, 100,000 square feet of new retail and 50,000 square feet of office space, the report estimates $1 million in additional revenues annually.

The consultant’s report followed a short presentation by village building director Ed Silva, who also sits on the 40-member downtown redevelopment task force.

Silva’s presentation highlighted the disparity between growth in Palmetto Bay and the neighboring municipalities of Pinecrest and Cutler Bay.

Median household incomes are marginally lower in Palmetto Bay than they are in Pinecrest.

Pinecrest, however, saw about $28 million in new constructions since 2013 and Palmetto Bay only saw $2 million. Cutler Bay saw $17 million in new construction.

“Obviously something is askew. Our incomes are on par with Pinecrest. Our demographics are strong, but for some reason, businesses and developers are missing us and going either to Pinecrest or to Cutler Bay,” he said.

Two members on council – Mayor Eugene Flinn and Vice-Mayor John DuBois – appeared exasperated that time and resources had been spent establishing the simple fact that demand existed at all.

“It was my understanding that we were trying to get market projections to understand ‘what if.’ This is not a ‘what if.’ This is just a projection without any what ifs. Without any changes to incorporate new zoning and new infrastructure,” DuBois said. “From my point of view, this is a disappointment.”

“Whoever thought there wasn’t demand?” Flinn said.

Silva hastened to explain to council members that the study was divided in two parts — one establishing market demand, the other developing more specific strategies for capturing that demand — and that this presentation only covered part one.

“Task 2: Economic and Development Guidance, is exactly what you’re asking for. That’s the second task that will come after this one is accepted and we move forward. … So that is in here, and we’ll get there, but we’re trying to run before we can walk,” Silva said.

Payment for the study – $34,000 – is included in both parts, and part two could be completed in the next 30 days, he said.

The council voted unanimously to instruct consultants to proceed with their next report.

In other action, the council:

▪ Deferred discussion of two other studies relating to the downtown initiative.

▪ Received a completed design for the U.S. 1 median beautification project, which will extend from Southwest 136 to 184 streets.