The Gateway Overlay District covers a three block area of downtown Miami Springs.  Many have suspected that the Gateway Overlay District was created in order to allow the project at One Curtiss Parkway to become a reality.

Gateway Overlay District Miami Springs, Florida
Gateway Overlay District Miami Springs, Florida

As we reported back in July, the Gateway Overlay District has a zoning mess.¬† At Monday’s Miami Springs City Council Meeting, the City Council attempted to fix this mess.

Gateway Overlay District has a Zoning Mess; No Easy Fix

Legal Mess

As we previously reported, a veterinarian was attempting to move into the Springs Town Center building at One Curtiss Parkway. Allegedly, the vet had received paperwork and emails from the City of Miami Springs confirming their approval to move into the Springs Town Center.  So with approvals on hand, the vet begins to make financial investments and commitments in order to open up the location.

Then the City of Miami Springs allegedly reneged because the veterinary office did not qualify as retail or restaurant (the only allowed uses in the first floor of the Gateway Overlay District).  This improper approval appears to be the final straw that led to the firing of the former City Planner, Chris Heid.

To fix this situation and avoid a costly legal battle, the city didn’t choose to approve a variance, but instead has proposed the following change to the Gateway Overlay District:

Veterinarian Use (which may provide short-term boarding for medical purposes 88  only, for no more than 48 hours), along Hook Square or Canal Street frontage only,  provided that no Veterinarian Use may be located within 0.25 airline miles of the  front door of an existing Veterinarian Use within the Gateway District. The distance  shall be measured from the front door of the proposed Veterinarian Use to the front  door of the existing Veterinarian Use.

This is not the retail and restaurant options that were sold to us when the whole concept of the Gateway Overlay District came to be.  However, thanks to bad management (that led to the firing of Chris Heid) the City of Miami Springs is placed in a position where they either have to allow the veterinary office open or fight a legal battle in court which would ultimately cost the tax payers without much of a positive benefit for residents.

Miami Springs Town Center at One Curtiss Parkway, Miami Springs, Florida (Photo Credit: MiamiSprings.com)
Miami Springs Town Center at One Curtiss Parkway, Miami Springs, Florida (Photo Credit: MiamiSprings.com)

Office Use / Personal Services

We have long advocated that downtown Miami Springs needed a greater mix of businesses.¬† That’s why we have argued consistently that we needed to push for office spaces in the upper floors and prevented residential units downtown.¬† Office spaces attract professionals including doctors, dentists, architects, accountants, etc.¬† They bring more jobs to our community.¬† And they attract employees, customers, and vendors during the weekday that can then stop at the local retail and restaurants.¬† Of course, we didn’t get that.¬† Instead, we’re getting over 50 apartments in downtown Miami Springs.

The argument was that there said there was no demand for office space.¬† Yet, what are we seeing?¬† Doctors and dentists that are interested in moving their practice to the Miami Springs Town Center.¬† Obviously, that doesn’t fit the definition of retail or restaurant.

However, despite the clear zoning change in the Gateway Overlay District that requires retail or restaurant for the first floor, we’ve seen and shared with you a variety of businesses that are not retail or restaurant that have been approved within the Gateway Overlay District.¬† To be clear, here are the permitted uses within the three blocks of the Gateway Overlay District.

Uses. The uses in the CBD shall remain in effect for the Gateway District, except that hotels shall be prohibited in the Gateway District. Additionally, first floor uses along road rights-of-way shall be limited to restaurant and/or retail. The ground floor shall contain occupiable, air-conditioned space for permitted commercial uses with a minimum depth of 40 feet from the building façade for those portions of the building along road rights-of-way, except such features as, without limitation, driveways, utility infrastructure, colonnades and outside dining areas. Direct access to such uses and full storefront windows are encouraged. Upper floors may be commercial, office, residential, or a mix of residential, office, and commercial. The mixed-use ratio found in § 150.070 of the Code shall not apply to the Gateway District.

It has been said that the uses above only applies to new construction.¬† It doesn’t apply to the whole three blocks.¬† Anyone who says that is being disingenuous. The uses apply to the full Gateway Overlay District.

The city did give itself a loophole where it can provide an exemption to existing structures. In other words, the administration has authority to provide exceptions to the rule.¬† But the rule still remains.¬† So every time they’ve allowed non-retail or non-restaurant to open up, the administration is using the exemption clause to create an exception.¬† .

The City Administrative Staff shall retain the authority to exempt any proposed development or redevelopment project for this district that is being proposed for any existing structure or structures from the application of any or all of the provisions of Code.

So as the City of Miami Springs administration continued to allow exemptions to the retail and restaurant rule for new businesses, it was obviously not following the intention to promote more retail and restaurants across the three blocks of the Gateway Overlay District.  Thus, the City created a zoning mess and frankly has not been fair.

Well, after local businesses and residents were denied the ability to move into the Town Center, the City Council is proposing adding Office Use and Personal Services to the allowable uses.  Interestingly, the proposed rules limits the office spaces to Canal Street and Hook Square.  They are preventing office spaces from Curtiss Parkway and Royal Poinciana Boulevard.

Furthermore, Personal Services (like barber shops and beauty parlors) are being limited to Hook Square.

Personally, I think this micro zoning is ridiculous.¬† Either allow it on all three blocks or don’t allow it all.¬† But this targeted, spot zoning is bad legislation forced upon this council thanks to the bad management and lack of standards by the prior city management.

Now, who benefits most from these changes?  The developer at the Miami Springs Town Center.  The zoning changes increases the available pool of renters they can use to fill their bottom floor.

What’s interesting is that the City of Miami Springs is planning on making this change, but hasn’t legislatively forced the developer to open up the full parking garage as public parking.¬† There is nothing in place today to prevent the Miami Springs Town Center from placing a private gate and limit public access to the parking garage.

As I’ve been told by concerned parties:

“We already know all the mistakes by the prior administration and council in approving the Town Center.¬†

We know we didn’t assess parking fees. 

We know that although the Developers own traffic study was based on ‚Äúshared parking‚ÄĚ (I.e., the 75+ parking in garage is open to the public for business parking, for which the city relied upon in approving parking for the project) yet the developer was not restricted from gating garage, not restricted from assigning parking spaces to tenants, and no public parking signage has been provided.¬†

Here we are for round two of the ‚ÄúGREAT GIVEAWAY‚ÄĚ by the administration. ¬†

We are about to approve an amendment to the code (first reading already passed) for the Gateway District allowing all types of new non-retail/restaurant uses to further enrich the developer without consideration to holding the developer accountable for all aspects of shared parking by including such in the amendment to the code or the development order. Such amendment should have included a maximum allowance for such new uses (such as 25% of the ground floor gross leasable area) and should have mandated compliance with the shared parking as indicated by the developer in the parking study by agreeing to no assigned parking spaces for tenants, no gated entry to the garage, and lighted signage as approved by the city at the entrance to the garage that says ‘Public Parking’.”

Ground Floor of the Parking Garage at the Miami Springs Town Center located at One Curtiss Parkway in Miami Springs (Photo Credit: MiamiSprings.com)
Ground Floor of the Parking Garage at the Miami Springs Town Center located at One Curtiss Parkway in Miami Springs (Photo Credit: MiamiSprings.com)

The changes to the Gateway Overlay District passed the First Reading at Monday’s City Council Meeting by a vote of 4 – 1¬† The vote went as follows:

  • Jorge Santin:¬† Yes
  • Jacky Bravo:¬† No
  • Walter Fajet:¬† Yes
  • Victor Vazquez:¬† Yes
  • Maria Mitchell:¬† Yes

Read the full language below:

Section 150-070.1. – Miami Springs Gateway Overlay District.

(C) Design Standards. The City desires for new and existing buildings within the Gateway¬† District to become more aesthetically pleasing, have architectural elements that highlight¬† the City’s history, facilitate pedestrian activity and walkability, and assist in traffic calming.¬† As opposed to a mandate, the City desires to accomplish these objectives through incentives in development standards that will encourage property owners to improve their¬† respective properties in a manner that results in cohesive building design and features¬† throughout the Gateway District. The standards are as follows:

3. Uses. The uses in the CBD shall remain in effect for the Gateway District, except that hotels shall be prohibited in the Gateway District. Additionally Notwithstanding, first floor   uses along road rights-of-way shall be limited to:

a. Restaurant (and lounge), café, cafeteria.

b. and/or Retail Use.

c. Office Use, including medical and dental, along any street frontage except Curtiss  Parkway and South and North Royal Poinciana Boulevards.

d. Personal Services (e.g., barbershops, beauty parlors, physical therapy clinics),  with hours of business between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., along Hook Square frontage only.

e. Veterinarian Use (which may provide short-term boarding for medical purposes 88  only, for no more than 48 hours), along Hook Square or Canal Street frontage only,  provided that no Veterinarian Use may be located within 0.25 airline miles of the  front door of an existing Veterinarian Use within the Gateway District. The distance  shall be measured from the front door of the proposed Veterinarian Use to the front  door of the existing Veterinarian Use.

The ground floor shall contain occupiable, air-conditioned space for permitted commercial uses with a minimum depth of 40 feet from the building façade for those portions of the building along road rights-of-way, except such features as, without limitation, driveways, utility infrastructure, colonnades and outside dining areas. Direct access to such uses and full storefront windows are encouraged. Upper floors may be commercial, office, residential, or a mix of residential, office, and commercial. The mixed-use ratio found in §150.070 of the Code shall not apply to the Gateway District.

Miami Springs Town Center at One Curtiss Parkway, Miami Springs, Florida (Photo Credit: MiamiSprings.com)
Miami Springs Town Center at One Curtiss Parkway, Miami Springs, Florida (Photo Credit: MiamiSprings.com)

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