opinion: a critical review of the rm-1 overlay district ordinance being considered by city policy makers now

North Shore

Reinaldo Borges
Reinaldo Borges

opinion: a critical review of the rm-1 overlay district ordinance being considered by city policy makers now:

"the future is not what it used to be"

Given that “the future is not what it used to be” we need to think differently about zoning regulations that will affect the potential preservation and redevelopment of the RM-1 District in the North Beach Normandy Shores neighborhood. We know that the impact of Climate Change in this community is already being felt. Most of the neighborhood is almost at Sea Level. There is a definite future impact of Sea Level Rise on Miami Beach and Coastal Cities in general that requires that zoning ordinances consider the economic hardship of Sea Level Rise. The City needs to develop an Economic Model that will inform the many variables of redevelopment of these neighborhoods. The Metrics should include the age and quality of the existing housing stock, the cost of land, construction, infrastructure and other significant costs associated with preservation and redevelopment of this neighborhood as well as others.
 
There can be no serious Master Planning or modification of Zoning Code Ordinances that is not informed by a comprehensive economic model that will inform citizens, stake holders and policy makers of how this will play out from an economic perspective. To rush the current process without this economic model I think is like designing a building without foundations. The objective of the conservation overlay district is a necessary zoning tool for sure, however it is not responsible to push it through without understanding the real long-term consequences of true redevelopment of this neighborhood. Those that want to protect its architectural heritage have their passion towards preservation without understanding the economics of this specific neighborhood. I do not think Normandy Shores can be measured and compared to other Historic Neighborhoods in other parts of the City because of its low elevation and flood risk. Given the reality of our context in this Coastal City -- that “the future is not what is used to be” -- the way we plan and preserve our architectural heritage requires a greater understanding of the complex economics of future proofing our Cities. Making long term planning and zoning regulations now, without incorporating a comprehensive economic model is at a minimum short sighted and some would say irresponsible. Once zoning ordinances are voted on by City Commission, they will be very difficult to modify and could be detrimental to real world redevelopment of this special neighborhood that has seen little to no new development in over 30 years, especially on the rental market which is greatly needed.
 
Studies that my office has performed in the RM-1 neighborhood indicate that the current development capacity of an F.A.R. factor of 1.25 does not allow for there to be any kind of return on investment for developers, thus preventing investors and developers from producing the needed upgrade of this neighborhood. The City and neighbors all agree that this needs to be a modern resilient and sustainable neighborhood. What is missing is the economic equation that will allow developers to move forward with redevelopment plans that will produce new MiMo inspired architecture that will conform to the new regulations at the local level as well as FEMA regulations that will allow these new buildings to afford the significant costs of insurance that Coastal Cities will face in the coming future and generate new taxable real estate assets that will increase the tax revenue to the City that is needed to help with the significant costs of adapting a barrier Island to the significant impacts of Sea Level Rise.
 
This community cannot afford a shortsighted consensus Master Plan with no real world economic strategy and conservation district design guidelines that do not consider the economics of our changing environment. The active neighbors and members of the Blue Ribbon Panels would benefit from having a more informed method to the current zoning overlay ordinance that would provide a well balanced smart growth approach to the future of this neighborhood, while considering its contributing buildings and the architectural heritage aspect. Knowing what we know now, this I find tragic and a "mis-opportunity". We clearly know the stresses that Climate Change is bringing us and we need to test these scenarios with an economic model that will provide the necessary information to make smart decisions for our City’s future. The residents and stake holders deserve better from its policy makers and for the public benefit and redevelopment of the community and its residents.
 
Reinaldo Borges, AIA, ULI, Principal of Borges + Associates Architects, Pillar Chairman at Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce, Chair of AIA Miami SLR Task Force
 
 
 
 

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