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Thursday, December 31, 2015



Written by John Charles Robbins on December 29, 2015 – Miami Today.

Of all the legislative changes made this year designed to encourage the continued evolution of the Wynwood Arts District, one item remained in limbo for months.

After fine-tuning and tweaking and re-tweaking, Miami city commissioners in December finally adopted an ordinance creating a new public benefits trust fund devoted entirely to the booming neighborhood north of Northwest 20th Street.

What is the most significant outcome of the delay? The final version will require annual allocation of at least 35% of the money in the trust toward affordable and workforce housing.
Much of Wynwood is in District Five, represented by Commissioner Keon Hardemon, and he fought for the changes – particularly setting aside a larger share of the new fund for affordable housing in a city that has little.

In July, commissioners approved the start of a process to expand the boundaries of the Wynwood Business Improvement District, or BID, and gave preliminary approval to a handful of ordinances to provide new tools to the booming area east of I-95, including land use and zoning changes.
And the commission approved on first reading the Wynwood Neighborhood Revitalization District Plan.

The first of its kind in the city, the plan’s new zoning regulations for Wynwood are designed to encourage new, mixed-use residential and office developments, create dedicated funding for neighborhood improvements, promote pedestrian-focused activated streets and preserve the area’s unique artistic and industrial character.

Commissioned by the Wynwood BID, the plan was developed by planning firm PlusUrbia in conjunction with the improvement district and the City of Miami’s Planning Department. Supporters have referred to the plan as Wynwood 2.0.

Final approvals came from commissioners in September, with a few modifications. However, the proposal to create a public benefits trust fund and a body to oversee the funds was deferred at the urging of Mr. Hardemon.

City planners were directed to rewrite the enabling legislation.

At the December meeting, Mr. Hardemon said he still wasn’t satisfied with the wording. The item was again deferred to later in the day for final modifications.

Planning Director Francisco Garcia later said that staffers sat down with stakeholders to author a “better” ordinance.

Commission chairman Wifredo “Willy” Gort spoke in favor of offering incentives to developers that will lead to more affordable housing.

“It can be done. We need to start mixing housing,” said Mr. Gort.

“As Wynwood is growing, it should have a mix,” Commissioner Francis Suarez said.

Along with increasing the percentage of money earmarked for affordable housing, the final version of the ordinance built in more city commission oversight and control of the fund.

Mr. Hardemon said the final version was “more palatable.” The ordinance was adopted unanimously.
Steve Wernick, representing the business improvement district, told commissioners this involves a brand new revenue stream that will be spent to make public improvements. He said improvement district members have “a strong commitment to invest in the public realm.”

The legislative changes in large part are designed to encourage further transformation of Wynwood from a non-descript manufacturing and warehouse area into a colorful and thriving neighborhood of galleries, shops, restaurants and pubs while nurturing a street art scene that has gained international attention.

The overall redevelopment plan promotes inclusion of murals and glass on new buildings, creates financial incentives for low-rise buildings, and reduces allowable heights for most new buildings to eight stories. It also encourages pedestrian walkways and open spaces, green roofs, parks and increased shade.

Instead of calling the new plan the “Wynwood Neighborhood Revitalization District Plan,” commissioners followed Mr. Hardemon’s recommendation to change the name to Neighborhood Revitalization District-1 or NRD-1.

The moniker is referred to in the final ordinance creating the public benefits trust fund.

The legislation notes that “unique conditions exist within the boundaries of the NRD-1 including a lack of parks, open space and civic space and a lack of public land that is available to be developed or dedicated by the city for such purposes … and the city seeks to encourage reinvestment in infrastructure and seeks other creative solutions to create parks, open space, civic space, and civil support uses to allow for and facilitate new residential uses within the NRD-1 boundaries.”

It’s intended that the public benefits trust fund be established “in order to collect the cash contributions made according to the Miami 21 Code … to supplement affordable/workforce housing, public parks and open space, and green building certification shortfalls,” the legislation says.

The Wynwood Business Improvement District, through a five-member committee, will allocate money in the fund within the NRD-1 boundaries.

The committee will be made up of one member directly appointed by the commissioner from District Five, one member appointed by the commissioner from District Two, one member appointed by the full city commission, and two members appointed by the improvement district’s board and submitted to the city commission for confirmation.

The committee must report to the commission annually, and the trust fund is to be reviewed by the commission every three years.

The business improvement district formed in 2013 as a city municipal board. Its directors are drawn from the hundreds of property owners throughout the 50-block community. The improvement district works to enhance security and sanitation services, raise awareness of advancements and plan for the future of Wynwood.

A planning staff report on the revitalization district says: “Wynwood is transitioning into a globally-recognized destination for art, fashion, innovation, and creative enterprise. It is vital that the Wynwood Arts District accommodate new uses and development while creating new public and private open space opportunities for its existing and future residents.”

The revitalization district is to establish protective regulations to guide the transition from an industrial district into a diverse, mixed-use area to include industrial, retail and residential components, the report says.

“The neighborhood revitalization district regulations will also preserve the unique street art and industrial characteristics of the current Wynwood Arts District while promoting an environment where people work, live, and play,” it says.

Although many of the components of Wynwood 2.0 were approved, the boundaries ultimately did not expand.

Thanks to Miami Today for recognizing the leadership of city of Miami appointed and elected officials who worked on approving every element of the Wynwood NRD.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015



Bill Fuller, responsible developer and guardian of the essence of Little Havana, recently posted this update to the online petition he launched to get the classic marquee restored at the landmark Tower Theater in the core of Calle Ocho.

He, like us, embraces all the great things MDC does for the community. But he is encouraging a dialogue that can result in restoration of the signature marquee while also meeting the Tower's modern marketing needs.

Here's the post:

Thanks to everyone who has visited this site to learn about the crown jewel that is Little Havana’s Tower Theater and to sign a petition in favor of restoring its classic marquee. We are pleased to report that a representative of Miami-Dade College, the theater operator that put up an LED panel in place of the marquee, attended today’s Viernes Culturales board meeting. Juan Mendieta, Director of Communications for MDC, opened the dialogue that can lead to a positive resolution of this issue.

We state for the record that Miami Dade College is one of the greatest assets that greater Miami has. The inclusive college has educated tens of thousands of young people – including many who grew up to be revered leaders in our community. MDC has restored and programmed the Freedom Tower and Koubek Center and produced globally-renown cultural events such as the Miami International Film Festival and Miami Book Fair International.

MDC, under the leadership of President Eduardo Padron, also has turned the underutilized Tower Theater into a multicultural art film palace that is the pride of Calle Ocho. We truly believe the effort to replace an aging hand-lettered marquee with a flashy LED panel was well-intended. However -- the countless members of the community who are working to return prosperity to Little Havana through historic preservation, adaptive reuse and fiercely guarding the authenticity that produces four million visitors each year -- should have been consulted.

We are confident that this oversight can be corrected. We welcome MDC’s visionary leadership to the table and look forward to a collaborative effort that can enhance both the Tower Theater’s landmark look and the need to market the venue to a larger audience.

We will contribute our resource toward the restoration of the classic, old-fashioned, hand-lettered marquee. We look forward to sitting at the table with MDC and turning this misstep into a learning experience that can be used to protect the architecture and character of the incomparable Calle Ocho corridor.   -- Bill Fuller, Dec 18, 2015.

The petition, originally seeking a humble 100 supporters, is now 50 shy of 500 signatures.
Some of Miami's most prominent historians and leaders have signed the petition and left their thoughtful words of wisdom about preservation in the comments section.

This avalanche of support for the classic marquee comes at a time when almost all of us are doing last minute shopping, on the road for the holidays, or already home and disengaged from civic activity.

If this were another time of year, we are confident that more than 1,000 would have signed the petition.

Here's your chance to sign the petition and encourage MDC to resolve this issue 

Sunday, December 20, 2015



(By EarthBound Tomboy: Heidi Johnson-Wright)

Greetings, my friend in red. Hope this missive finds you and yours in fine form. With all this talk of global warming, I worry that Donner and Blitzen are applying Coppertone while Dasher and Dancer compete to craft the perfect cannonball in the deep end. (If you’re a regular viewer of “Fox and Friends,” then please accept my apology. I don’t intend to offend.)

It’s true I haven’t written since last year and it seems I reach out only when I want something, but I imagine that’s simply business as usual in your line of work. So, let me get straight to the point: I’m only asking for one thing this year, but it’s a doozy. (Yes, Kris, you’re probably thinking “Why can’t she be content with another Chia Pet?” But until they come up with the Chia Cthulhu, please no more ceramic weed farms.)

I’ve decided to go for broke this year. My first thought was to ask for a shopping spree at a Pucci boutique. A new wardrobe of gorgeous abstract prints and fine fabrics would be just the ticket for a vacation at a Venetian villa. (You could throw that in, too, right?) But that seemed a little too pedestrian.

Then I considered asking you for a week at the Four Seasons Bora Bora, an all-expenses paid, once-in-a lifetime trip with my significant other and 10 of my dearest friends. Each of us could have our own villa over the turquoise waters. How divine! Then I imagined running into Justin Bieber au natural and I felt as queasy as the time I competed in that corn dog eating contest. Ick.

Then I thought: wouldn’t it be heavenly to rent out the Hollywood Bowl and have Kate Bush perform all her tracks from “Hounds of Love” and “The Dreaming”? The audience would consist of just me, my husband and our two kitties sitting in La-Z-Boy recliners on the stage right next to Her Royal Kateness. Oh, and Weird Al Yankovik could be the opening act! 

But then I thought, no, I’m going to swing for the fences this Christmas. I’m going to ask for something so spectacular, so marvelous, so blow-the-doors-off incredible that my friends will be simply chartreuse with envy. 

That’s right, Santa: I want a ride with Uber. 

But wait, please, before you crumple up my letter and use it to wipe the reindeer doo-doo off your boots; please just hear me out! If Uber – or Lyft or any smart phone-booked ride service – can provide rides to the non-disabled, they can do it for wheelchair users, right?

It’s an eleventy-bajillion dollar business, so surely they can have drivers in every major market with wheelchair-lift vans, can’t they? These titans of industry can be convinced that disenfranchising an entire segment of society is not just illegal but morally wrong?

Please, Santa, tell me I’ll someday be able to book a ride on Uber with the same ease and speed as anyone else! 

Ok, I’ll settle for a ride in your sleigh. Sure beats seeing the Biebs nekkid.