Palmetto Bay

Palmetto Bay in line for county grant to revitalize Franjo Road

Palmetto Bay is poised to get its downtown redevelopment effort going in earnest with $7.5 million in county funds. A unanimous vote by Miami-Dade County commissioners Tuesday put the village first in line to recapture money if any projects already approved to receive dollars through the Economic Development Fund program fall through.

Part of the county’s Building Better Communities Bond Program, the EDF is a grant program aimed at spurring private sector development through public infrastructure improvements.

Palmetto Bay has been eyeing the Franjo Triangle — the area delineated by Franjo Road, U.S. 1 and Southwest 184 Street — as prime for redevelopment basically since incorporation. A community-wide charette in the village’s early years put Village Hall there, and a downtown redevelopment task force at work since 2013 has been studying the area for infrastructure updates and code rewrites. The hope is to diversify the village’s tax base by revitalizing the village’s depressed commercial corridor along U.S. 1 into a walkable, transit-connected and vibrant mixed-use downtown.

According to interim village manager Ed Silva, this will help “kick-start” what has up until now been largely a visioning exercise. If the village gets the grant, it plans to use it — along with $3.5 million from village reserves and $1.4 million in land from developer Wayne Rosen — to make major changes to Franjo Road, the street the village wants to make the centerpiece of its new downtown.

According to Miami-Dade Communications Director Michael Hernandez, with so many economic impact and employment obligations tied to the program, it is “very possible” that one of the projects currently approved to receive EDF funds will have to forfeit its grant.

“We’re the first government to put in for this money,” said Palmetto Bay mayor Eugene Flinn. “It’s a great project, it really does follow the goals of that money in terms of creating economic stimulus. When we revitalize Franjo Road, when we do these public investments to spur the private investment into our area, you’re really going to see a positive change here.”

A resolution sponsored by District 8 Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava sets a six-month deadline for projects to negotiate a deal with the county before their funds are directed to other eligible projects. For most projects in front of the Palmetto Bay initiative, that means a July 21 deadline.

“[Palmetto Bay’s plan] really has all the things that we want for smart development and smart growth. It’s along a major transit artery with public transit on the busway,” said Levine Cava, who also sponsored the Palmetto Bay item. “We can have a better density and better tax base for the village. So it was a really good fit with the economic development dollars available.”

The grant dollars would pay to ground utility lines, build and widen sidewalks, build bike lanes and bus shelters (complete with solar-paneled roofs), update lighting and signage, improve drainage and put in new landscaping.

If there’s enough money, the village also hopes to break ground on a new street that would extend Southwest 95th Avenue south from 174th Street — cutting across Palmetto Bay Park — down to 184th Street. Running parallel to Franjo Road to the east, the extended Southwest 95th Avenue would help alleviate traffic in an area expected to grow increasingly congested with a growing population in the southern part of the county.

Ultimately, the village also hopes to build a multi-modal transit station adjacent to village hall with parking and charging stations for commuter buses and electric cars, but that project — and its roughly $20 million price tag — are currently unfunded.