The City of Miami Springs City Council created a Business and Economic Development Task Force to create recommendations that will be presented to the City Council to improve the business climate and help to spearhead business revival and economic growth.
The task force is chaired by Miami Springs resident and chairman of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, Mark Trowbridge. The task force is made up of the following members:
- Vice- Chair Maria E. Carrillo
- Board member Charlie Leonard
- Board member Max Milam
- Board member Jorge L. Guerra Jr.
- Board member Michael Finney
- Board member Francisco Fernandez
- Board member Patrick Kemmache
- Board member Fidel Garcia
- Board Member Nihal Perera
- Board member Jean-Marc Troillard
This board is doing a great job and it’s a joy to see these professional business leaders put their heads together for the betterment of our community.
Mayor Mitchell spoke at the beginning of the meeting and thanked the board for their commitment to the task force. She reiterated that the Council is looking at things to do now including modernizing the municipal code, addressing unsightly areas, providing communications to new businesses, and, of course, parking. Mitchell said, “We’ve heard it loud and clear…” She brought up adding more signs and making parking areas nicer. Mitchell also said that the City was looking into leasing some parking spaces to allow business owners to park in this leased space to then provide more parking to customers.
Councilman Victor Vazquez also spoke up and asked about possibly surveying residents in addition to the businesses to get feedback from the community on the types of businesses they want to see and their shopping habits.
Jennifer Graham, the president of the Historical Society, discussed the opening of the Miami Springs Museum and also brought up the point of making Miami Springs a center of innovation and doing all we can to attract technology and innovation to our area. Graham stated “We don’t have enough technology software and other types of business that could be here…”
Jeff Dunevitz, the owner of Burritoville also spoke to discuss the parking situation. He brought up the point of having signage, time limits, and maybe some spots for takeout only. He said some folks will park their car on the Circle and leave the car on the spot all day long. He stressed some better enforcement of regulating parking around Curtiss Parkway and the Circle to make it easier for customers to get in / out of the local restaurants.
Yours truly, Nestor Suarez (publisher of MiamiSprings.com), spoke at the Business and Economic Task Force Meeting. I brought up a couple of key points including parking on Westward, parking on Curtiss Parkway, the Gateway Overlay District, Circle redesign, and free business promotions for all Miami Springs businesses via the Miami Springs Business Directory. (You know I have to share the details on these ideas with you…)
Westward Drive Proposal
Make Westward Drive a one lane road in each direction along the business district. Add angle parking in the median. Keep all the big oak trees that exist there today. Expand the existing sidewalk to overtake the current curbside parking. This would attract far more sidewalk cafes and dining. Plus, you could add oak trees along this sidewalk to create a beautiful canopy that wraps everyone driving in and out of Westward. Key benefits in this plan include:
- More parking
- More trees
- Better canopy
- Larger sidewalk
- Pedestrian friendly
- Slow down Westward speeders
Long time resident and local architect, Manny Perez, was at the meeting and had actually come up with some modern renderings of this proposal. As you can see below, this proposal dramatically increases parking on Westward and increases the sidewalk. This will prevent speeding on Westward and make it more pedestrian friendly. It also keeps the beautiful oak trees along the median. (Don’t they look beautiful lit up in white?). The only thing I would do is add some oak trees along the sidewalk to create an even greener entryway down Westward and a beautiful canopy to drive under.
Curtiss Parkway Proposal
We DO NOT NEED two lanes on southbound Curtiss Parkway, just south of the Circle. In other words, when you go from the Circle towards NW 36th Street, you only need one lane. In fact, the way it’s designed today with two lanes has invited and caused accidents for years. Just last night. I was driving on the right lane with a desire to stay on the Circle when a pizza delivery driver attempted to make a right turn from the left lane. We were inches away from an accident had I not been aware of his intention to go from the left lane of the Circle onto Curtiss Parkway. He assumed (wrongly) that I was going to take the right lane on Curtiss and he attempted to get the left lane. This is an obvious problem. And you can see in the picture below why people can get confused.
Here’s the point. We can turn a known accident causing problem into a solution that will reduce accidents, slow down traffic, and provide more parking. The idea is to turn the first block onto southbound Curtiss Parkway into a single lane. Leave the left lane as-is. Use the right lane and the existing easement and turn it into angled parking. This will result in the following benefits:
- Slow down traffic coming from Hialeah that wants to fly down Curtiss Parkway
- Reduce the chances of accidents where someone on the left lane attempts to make a right turn onto the left lane of Curtiss since this makes it more obvious that only one lane can turn onto Curtiss
- Increase parking downtown
- Keeps the median of Curtiss Parkway as green space
Gateway Overlay District
We’re stuck with these new apartments downtown that clearly lack parking. More on that in Part II (coming soon). However, there’s nothing that says we must maintain the Gateway Overlay District as-is. We can change the district to reduce apartments and encourage more office space. It has bothered me since day one that these apartments were counterproductive to a thriving downtown. If we want people walking Monday-Friday and using our restaurants and shopping our stores, the proper mix is NOT residential and retail, but office space and retail. This means you have gainfully employed people with the necessity to eat lunch. You have businesses that need other business services. You have employees who can stop at Milam’s during the day or the bakery or the UPS Store. Plus, offices usually attract clients and vendors who can also shop our stores. By contrast, people in residential units usually leave to go to work or school Monday through Friday which means less people supporting local businesses during the times you need it.
That failure can still be rectified for the rest of the district. Let’s promote the development of real office space downtown. Think about it. Where are the downtown office spaces? The only real “office building” is the Milam’s Markets headquarters. There are no other real office buildings downtown. The one great opportunity we had to put offices downtown was squandered and turned into apartments. Hopefully, that doesn’t doom our business district forever. Nevertheless, the City Council can update the Gateway Overlay District to encourage office development on Hook Square and other properties. The last thing we need are more apartments. Oh, and they need to change the district to follow parking code and not leave it to a sole city official to decide. That’s a recipe that can create corruption. We need to eliminate things that smell like corruption and promote consistency and rule of law. Variations of our law should be decided by the Board of Variance and City Council and not by a sole official.
The Circle is a mess.
It shouldn’t take 5 minutes to get from in front of Milam’s Markets just to get around the Circle to Ray’s Taekwondo or Burritoville. I know people say, “Well we all know how to avoid or get around the Circle.” That’s disrespectful to all the residents that live on those side streets. Plus, it does nothing for the people actually trying to get to a business on the Circle.
We used to have a dedicated inside lane for staying on the Circle. That used to work wonderfully. Now it’s gone.
We used to have 4 lanes on the south side of the Circle including a dedicated lane for continuing onto South Royal Poinciana Boulevard. That’s gone, too.
So the new Circle has made no difference for people cutting through our city…coming down Curtiss from 36th Street to get to Hook Square. The new Circle actually made it worse for any local trying to get from Westward to Burritoville. How is that improvement?
Plus, the glorious effort of make the Circle pedestrian friendly has been a dismal failure. As I said at the Task Force Meeting: I’ve only ever stopped once to allow someone to cross the poorly placed new crosswalk from the Curtiss median to the Circle. But I stop dozens of times to allow J-walkers cross from Burritoville to the Circle, from Starbucks to the Circle or from Milam’s to the Circle. In other words, the crosswalk is in the wrong spot. Everyone in Miami Springs knows this. So let’s allow a County planner with no idea what our city is like to destroy our Circle
We need a cross walk, as I said years ago, from Burritoville and Starbucks to the Circle. It’s stupid that all this money was spent and we didn’t get this accomplished.
In addition to that, I’m super pissed off that the supposed “expert” traffic designers form the County that redesigned the Circle never fixed the obvious pedestrian problem we have of crossing from the gas station on Palmetto Drive to Ray’s Taekwondo. Where’s the crosswalk? Where’s the crosswalk sign? How are people in the new Palmetto Drive Apartments supposed to walk to Burritoville? My goodness.
In the private sector, when you do something there’s a constant assessment and evaluation to see if what you’re doing is working. Has it made things better or worse. Did sales go up or down.
The County comes in. The reinvent the Circle and never come back to evaluate and say, “Hey. Is this working for you?”
The Circle needs a professional redesign that addresses local access to our local businesses. Plus, it needs to address the glaring and obvious concerns over pedestrian foot traffic. if we want to promote pedestrians walking more and visiting more businesses we need to address the heart of the district…The Circle…and provide a complete rethinking of how pedestrians can access the Circle from multiple points instead of the J-walking they do all the time.
On the topic of the Circle, Jorge Santin (who’s wife runs Twice As Sweet) also spoke at the Business and Economic Task Force Meeting. He discussed turning the Circle into our Central Park. “Make the Circle more of a destination.” We love Jorge’s idea of using the Circle as a primary draw to the downtown area. That goes back to the point I described above. We need to add proper pedestrian access from the businesses to the Circle in order to make the Circle a better draw.
The meeting then went on to discuss a survey of businesses. Board Member Charlie Leonard discussed keeping the survey short and simple. His feedback was this if it was too complicated nobody would fill it out. Keep it short and simple.
Board Member Juan Garcia wanted to ensure it was a multi-channel campaign using print, text, email, etc. He wants to ensure distribution is maximized to reach as many people as possible.
Chairman Trowbridge shared the sentiment of using multiple vehicles to distribute the survey and suggested working w
Parking has been a major issue at the last business and economic task force meeting. Even the City Council Meeting last month had a lengthy discussion of the problems residents and businesses face in finding parking when trying to utilize and patron our local businesses.
Now, Max Milam had an incredible presentation that revealed a lot of information never before disclosed. Stay tuned for Part II of the Economic and Business Development Task Force article. Trust me…You’re not going to want to miss what Max Milam presented.
You can watch the full video of the meeting or skip to hear the speakers you’d like to listen to via the YouTube video below: