A group of civic leaders tasked with neighborhood planning in the Arts & Entertainment District, including Jessica Goldman Srebnick, are asking Florida Transportation Secretary Jim Wolfe to hold off on approving the winning team for the design of Miami’s I-395 new signature bridge and reconstruction.
In a letter sent to Wolfe, obtained by The Real Deal, the Town Square Neighborhood Development Corporation requests a stay in awarding and negotiating the contract for the $800 million project to the joint venture led by Archer Western and The de Moya Group.
“We are writing you to express grave concern with the outcome of FDOT’s project,” the letter states. “We respectfully request that you carefully review and consider our concerns.”
Transportation officials could not be immediately reached for comment, but a final decision is likely to be delayed following the second-ranked team announcing it will formally protest the selection of Archer-de Moya.
“We are hoping a project that will have a very deep impact on the future of our city will be given much more consideration,” said Goldman Properties CEO Goldman Srebnick, who is vice chairman of the Town Square Neighborhood Development Corp. “We are not here to advocate for particular group or design, but the process was closed to public opinion and the process changed at the 11th hour. We felt we needed to make our voices heard.”
Due to a bid award confidentiality rules that shut the public out of the process until FDOT’s evaluation committee made its pick on May 12, proposals by four finalists were kept under wraps. So, virtually no one from the public, including local government officials, saw or could comment on the final proposals until after the winner was picked, critics like Goldman Srebnick noted.
“We wanted to be influential in making sure that what went on top of the bridge and what went underneath the bridge were equally important as the ease of [traffic movement] on the bridge, which is the purpose they are doing this in first place,” she said. “Whatever money is spent is being spent in our front yard, this is something we will have to live with for 100 years.”
Goldman Srebnick said FDOT’s decision ran counter to a settlement of a lawsuit by Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado and then-city commissioner Marc Sarnoff. The agency had agreed to appoint a committee made up of four community representatives and one FDOT official to score the proposals on aesthetic grounds, including ground-level improvements along a one-mile stretch cutting through Overtown and the Omni and Park West districts.
According to the letter to Wolfe, the corporation accuses FDOT of undermining the will of the committee and “appears to have violated the letter and spirit of the settlement agreement.”
“Unless rectified now, an outcome that is inconsistent with the letter and the spirit of the settlement has the potential to cause permanent injury to Miami-Dade County’s 2.7 million residents, its national and international visitors, local businesses and cultural institutions for multiple generations,” the letter states. “[The corporation] will be reviewing the project proposals and reserving its rights to exercise any and all remedies available under the law in order to ensure that the best outcome for the residents of Miami-Dade County and its cultural institutions are achieved.”