Flagler Street improvements depend on county vote

Miami-Dade commissioners must approve $6M in funding for project to happen

Jun.June 27, 2014 01:30 PM

A $13 million plan to renovate downtown’s Flagler Street could be in jeopardy if Miami-Dade commissioners don’t agree to finance half of it. The Miami Downtown Development Authority is seeking $6 million from Miami-Dade’s Building Better Communities bond program.

The request will be voted on at Tuesday’s public hearing, in the form of a measure sponsored by County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, who sits on the development authority’s board of directors and represents the district that includes downtown. It is also supported by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Commission Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa, according to government records.

Approval is expected, but if for some unforeseen reason commissioners reject the funding, “the project dies on the vine,” Downtown Development Authority deputy director Javier Betancourt told The Real Deal. “This is really our last chance. We really need the county commission to approve this.”

The reconstruction plan is the result of work by the Flagler Street Task Force — formed by the development authority three years ago and made up of property and business owners, residents and other stakeholders.

“By fixing up the street, it will bring more people to the area and act as a catalyst to attract more private dollars and redevelopment,” Betancourt said.

The goal is to make Flagler Street more pedestrian-friendly and bring more people to the urban core. The plan calls for expanding and straightening sidewalks, along with adding trees, benches and bicycle racks from Biscayne Boulevard to North Miami Avenue.

“The sidewalks are awful,” Betancourt said. “The last time Flagler Street in downtown Miami was renovated it was poorly designed, poorly implemented and poorly maintained.”

The City of Miami set aside $6 million from its general obligation bond fund and the development authority raised another $1 million from property and business owners. In March, the county commission voted unanimously to approve a measure directing Gimenez to find money for the remaining $6 million. If county commissioners decline the funding — or delay awarding it until after July — the city would be forced to rescind its allocation.

“If the bond dollars are not spent within a certain amount of time, then the city could face federal tax penalties,” Betancourt said. “So there is a level of urgency to this.”

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