By Natasha Alfonso-Ahmed, RMA Director of Urban Design & Planning
One of the most exciting aspects of reinventing cities is when the plans you envisioned become reality. Most of the time the tangible progress takes years, however, in North Miami Beach the economic turnaround has been stunningly swift. Previously, we shared information about our plans for the city: RMA plans for success in North Miami Beach; Is Your City’s Building Code Hindering Redevelopment? North Miami Beach, Part II. Now, we are thrilled that those strategies have, in just two years, spurred $200 million in land sales, and created an estimated $500 million in new construction underway or approved.
This developer demand, however, only came to fruition thanks to extensive research, planning and negotiating by our dedicated RMA team. We are very proud that the Mixed-Use Comprehensive Plan Initiative, for North Miami Beach, won the APA Florida Award of Merit.
Kevin Crowder, RMA’s Director of Economic Development, conducted a thorough market assessment of North Miami Beach which helped guide the vision plan. His assessment led to market based code revisions on height and density.
The Urban Design and Planning team, that I lead, then crafted a vision plan and form based zoning regulations that centered on the principles of good urban design and achieved a balance between the needs of the community and the market realities.
Additionally, strong leadership by the city’s elected officials and professional staff was critical, and they redefined the city’s identity and reputation to one that supported investment and economic growth in a very short time. Implementation of the new vision plan would not have been possible without that strong leadership. The elected officials were focused on long-term, sustainable economic growth for the community rather than scoring short-term political points.
These initiative sparked interest from developers, but there was another strategy we wanted to implement.
We revamped the CRA Tax Increment Recapture Incentive program to provide greater benefits to the city. RMA’s plan restricted the benefits developers would receive by making some of the incentives contingent upon the developers adding public benefits to their projects, including enhancements to the public streetscapes and infrastructure, public open spaces, public parking, public art, Green buildings and paying into a public open space fund for the beautification of the Snake Creek Canal.
RMA’s involvement, however, went much deeper than implementing changes on paper, the team was hands-on in negotiating and mediating deals.
For example, the site of the adult entertainment center, Dean’s Gold, is now set to become an upscale waterfront residential development in the city. Thanks to RMA’s initiative, the owner of the gentlemen’s club declined a pharmacy chain offer, and instead sold for a much higher price to a developer, who was influenced by the city’s new vision. RMA was also instrumental in stipulating that the developer include public spaces in the design.
With the West Dixie Highway project, RMA halted the initial development plans for the once contaminated former gas company parcel in order to mediate a better design. RMA listened to the residents’ concerns about the developer’s height plans, which would have encroached upon the neighboring single family homes, and mediated between the residents and developer to negotiate better design criteria, while also requiring an array of new public spaces.
These are just a couple of the exciting new developments that are creating a dynamic new North Miami Beach. Thanks to the new vision plan, there are now over 1,500 residential units, 270 hotel rooms, 215,000 sq. ft. retail and over 100,000 sq. ft. of office space approved or underway.
RMA is proud to have been instrumental in helping define the vision and strategies that are now attracting exciting new developments and reinventing a city residents can be proud to call home.