Letters to the Editor

‘Political deal’ in Buena Vista disturbing

The Herald’s June 10 Editorial Neighborhood spared – for now raises disturbing questions about Miami’s urban planning process. It congratulates the Buena Vista East Historic Neighborhood Association for cutting a deal with Norman Braman’s Institute for Contemporary Art and Design District developer DACRA in exchange for its support of a 70 ft. tall museum abutting the historic district.

The city of Miami has given its blessing to the demolition of three homes as a “buffer” between residents and the giant structure. The ICA also plans to build a private sculpture garden, surrounded by a tall fence no ordinary homeowner in our historic district would be allowed to have.

Many of us in Buena Vista find the political deal making that brought us here profoundly disturbing. The neighborhood association’s private agreement, the details of which have not been revealed to residents, apparently involves the developers agreeing “not to further encroach upon Buena Vista’s boundaries.” This strategy seems naïve. DACRA previously agreed to cap development on the museum site at 50 feet in order to gain the neighborhood’s support for their massive development of the Design District. How can we trust that they will not change their plans again? In the case of the ICA, it seems the Planning Department, the agency responsible for neighborhood protection and zoning enforcement, is actively helping the wealthy and politically influential Mr. Braman.

Miami 21, the city’s painstakingly revamped zoning code, provides explicit protection for neighborhoods. So does the Miami Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan, which lays out overall goals for city development. Demolishing three homes to build a futuristic-looking museum that will tower over a street of modest, historic homes violates the spirit and the letter of the Plan.

The consistent and fair application of zoning rules would benefit residents, investors, and historic preservationists alike. In the case of the ICA, the rules are being tailored to the project, instead of the other way around. Moreover, it opens the door to other developers seeking similar favors in other neighborhoods citywide. Is it now every neighborhood for itself? Do we have to bargain with powerful developers for “protection”?

Robin Porter, Carlos Alvarez, Basil A. Binns II, Anita McGruder, Luis R. Gutierrez, Frank Perez Toledo,

Alan Murphy