The City of Miami Springs Business and Economic Development Task Force met again last Thursday as they continue to work on ways (some new…some old) to help improve the business environment, drive new business, and revitalize our commercial areas.
Jorge Santin spoke in front of the board and discussed the need to beautify facades. Our business area needs to be attractive in order to attract shoppers. Go up and down our central business district. Pretend you’re looking at the business district for the very first time. I think most readers would agree that our business district looks old and dated at best and run down at worst. What can we do as a City to incentivize renovations, facade improvements, and investing in our neighborhood.
Santin also reiterated the need to make the Circle more pedestrian friendly. He wants to make the Circle a destination. Whether it’s crosswalks to the Circle from StarBucks, Burritoville, and Westward, or adding parking that surrounds the interior of the Circle, we need to make the Circle pedestrian friendly.
Kristie Milam dialed in via Zoom. She kicked off with a great question:
Do you know anyone dying to open a business in miami springs?
She didn’t pull any punches accurately describing the current facade of businesses on Westward Drive as “pretty terrible.” Miami Springs businesses and property owners need to upgrade their decades old facades in order to become more appealing and more inviting to new customers. She wants to revamp Westward Drive. Kristie explained that Miami Springs needs to “have places to gather.” She expressed the need to expand sidewalks on Westward Drive and have more space for sidewalk cafes, restaurant seating, and friendly sidewalks.
Board Member Captain Nihal Perera took the floor and expressed frustration over the many recommendations that have appeared before the City of Miami Springs City Council in the past and nothing has ever been done. He highlighted recommendations from previous Architectural Revue Boards as well as designs submitted by Miami Springs resident and architect Manny Perez-Vichot that have gone ignored.
Board Member Charlie Leonard also brought up some of the great recommendations that have come up from prior boards that have fallen flat.
Vice Chair Maria Carrillo acknowledged that some of the recommendations from this board may be similar to what past boards have recommended, but she highlighted that we have a new Mayor and new City Council and that this Council may be more receptive to getting some of these initiatives finally passed.
Max Milam also expressed his concern that something get done. “We have to be willing to adapt…do something.” Then he posed the big question for the BizDev Task Force, “Who’s going to write this report?” He took the bull by the horns and suggested the board begin feeding the recommendations now to the City Council. “As we go along and good ideas come up, let’s give it to the Council…That’s our report.”
The discussion them moved to Incentive Programs. Board Member Charlie Leonard brought up his experience at the Beacon Council. Leonard gave examples of what business incentives looked like for him including:
- Expedited permits for businesses
- Tax relief for investments on their property or business
- Grants to help owners fix facades
Other incentive programs may also include a low interest loan program where the City finances improvements to facades and beautification projects that are completed by a certain date. Possibly something similar to the YGRENE program.
Leonard made a motion recommending the City of Miami Springs administration seek sources of incentive programs, including tax incentives, tax abatements, expediting permits, federal grants, or other programs that may be available to municipalities.
The board unanimously approved Leonard’s motion.
The discussion then moved to public parking. The issue of a moratorium on new development came up again. One of the Board Members (off camera possibly Board Member Michael Finney) brought up the issue of a moratorium until such time a parking plan can be resolved.
Board Member Fidel Garcia brought up the idea of charging for parking in certain sections of Miami Springs. (It would be ironic if the city ended up making a revenue stream from all paved parking spaces within the Gateway Overlay District.)
Board Member Fidel Garcia brought up the success Francis Suarez has had with crypto investing in the City of Miami. Board Member Charlie Leonard suggested the City of Miami Springs not reinvent the wheel and have the Miami Springs City Attorney talk to the City of Miami City Attorney to learn more about how Miami Springs may benefit from crypto.
At the very least, the City of Miami Springs should look at how they may be able to accept payment via crypto-currency and allow businesses and other entities pay tax bills and/or other fees via crypto.
Some argue that crypto investing is very speculative and far from a safe bet.
Captain Nihal presented the following recommendation where the City of Miami Springs would upgrade the first two blocks of Westward Drive for the purpose of widening the sidewalks, adding angle parking on the median, and reducing Westward to a single lane in each direction. The recommendation was approved unanimously.
A RECOMMENDATION OF THE BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT TASK FORCE OF THE CITY OF MIAMI SPRINGS, FLORIDA, REQUESTING THE CITY COUNCIL IN A TIMELY MANNER TO TAKE STEPS TO MAKE IMPROVEMENTS TO THE FIRST TWO BLOCKS OF WESTWARD DRIVE FROM THE CIRCLE TO PARK STREET PROVIDING FOR ADDITIONAL PUBLIC ON-STREET PARKING AND SIDEWALK WIDENING
WHEREAS, the City of Miami Springs (the “City”) Council passed and adopted Resolution No. 2021-3918 on the 14 th day of June, 2021, that established the Business and Economic Development Task Force (the “Task Force”) for the purpose of studying, advising, and making recommendations to the City Council with regard to marketing the City, attracting new businesses, supporting existing businesses, and providing a vision for the City
future economic and business development; and
WHEREAS, commencing September 2021, the Task Force has held monthly public meetings with notice of such meetings provided as required by Florida law; and
WHEREAS, the Task Force believes that the Central Business District (“CBD”) is significantly underserved in public parking spaces that are necessary to serve those businesses operating within the CBD that lack on-premises parking; and
WHEREAS, the Task Force believes the City Council needs to take immediate actions to create additional public parking spaces that are in close proximity to the businesses operating within the CBD; and
WHEREAS, the Task Force believes, that with respect to the CBD specifically Westward Drive, the City needs to evolve with the current times, as many other South Florida municipalities have already done, to develop wider sidewalks that encourage enhanced outdoor pedestrian activities and seating that provide a more welcoming experience for outdoor dining and create more space for pedestrians to safely and comfortably walk. Widening sidewalks around shopping and dining areas allows more window-shopping to view store advertisements, which leads to increased customers for local businesses. Wider sidewalks promote opportunities for citizens to actively connect with their communities, create safer pedestrian environments, and produce healthier neighborhoods; and
WHEREAS, the Task Force believes the proposed sidewalk widening, reducing Westward Drive to one lane each way, and creating angled parking as denoted on Exhibit “ A” on Westward Drive from the Traffic Circle to Park Street attached hereto, will provide a much needed seventy five (75) parking spaces to support local businesses, promote outdoor dining and pedestrian activities, support and attract new businesses within the CBD, and increase property values; and
WHEREAS, the Task Force finds that this recommendation on is in the best interest and welfare of the residents of the City.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT TASK FORCE OF THE CITY OF MIAMI SPRINGS, FLORIDA, AS FOLLOWS:
Sec on 1. Recitals. The above recitals are confirmed, adopted, and incorporated herein and made a part hereof by reference.
Sec on 2. Approval. The Task Force hereby approves the sidewalk and parking improvements in substantial ally the form attached hereto on Exhibit “A” on Westward Drive from the Traffic Circle to Park Street.
Sec on 3. City Council. This recommendation on shall be presented to the City Council for immediate consideration and action.
We applaud the Business and Economic Development Task Force’s efforts to get something done. Each board member is sacrificing time away from their family and their business to help improve the business environment.
Thank you for your continued hard work and efforts. We hope your proposals don’t fall on deaf ears when it reaches the City Council and something actually gets done.