(John P. Hernandez)
Residents of Miami Beach are increasingly unhappy with how construction is affecting the quality of life on the densely populated barrier island, something that warrants municipal pushback against “irresponsible” development, the mayor told the Daily Business Review.
“The days of unbridled growth where a lobbyist [for a large development] would give money to an elected official and the elected official would look the other way and disregard the quality of life—as long as I’m mayor, those days are over,” Mayor Philip Levine said in an interview days after the city released its 2014 survey of citizen satisfaction.
That biannual survey, which interviewed more than 2 percent of the city population of 92,000, found a sizable spike in respondents who said construction-related problems were a major concern. About 11 percent of survey takers said decreasing the amount of construction or requiring quicker completion would be the best way to improve things. Only 5 percent of those surveyed were aggravated by construction in 2012.
“They need to stop building the high rises and finish Alton Road,” an anonymous respondent said. Another noted, “Keep the development down. It is ruining our city.”
Dealing with construction concerns is as important to Miami Beach residents as addressing persistent flooding, the survey found. Improving traffic was by far the most common demand, with 22 percent of survey takers paying attention to that issue. Improving infrastructure and parking also were big concerns, the study showed.
It’s unclear how citizen pushback against development could influence city officials, who received the survey results in recent weeks.
Levine, who took over as mayor last November, told the DBR he believes citizen concerns about traffic, construction and infrastructure are intimately linked. He said his administration will keep an eye on project proposals that would “add more density and create additional population.”
At least one developer has seen a backlash from a municipal board. In May, the city planning board criticized plans for drawing crowds to a waterfront mega-hotel on 4041 Collins Ave., citing noise, traffic and parking issues for a proposed resort four blocks south of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach.
At its May 28 meeting, the board asked the owners of the proposed Thompson Hotel on Collins, slated to open in November, to come back with more information about how they’d address those issues. The board received more information and approved the plan last week, but board members were still wary of the effects that development would have on the neighborhood and asked the hotel to come back 90 days after it was open for business to review how its operations are affecting the area.
In that case, Levine said the appointed board members acted in the best interests of citizens.
“It’d be irresponsible for this administration not to point out that, ‘Hey, you don’t have enough parking or proper access’ if that’s the case,” he said.
While Levine stressed his administration wasn’t against “responsible” construction, he suggested developers would be wise to focus on parts of the city away from the crane-heavy sections of South Beach.
“You know in the olden days when they said, ‘Go west. Go west, young man.’ I would say, ‘Go north. Go north, young man,’ ” Levine said. “North Beach is already and will continue to become more like South Beach. North Beach is hot. It’s becoming the real growth area of Miami Beach.”