West Ave Project Will Continue Through Resilience Accelerator

Resiliency , West Ave

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

West Ave Project Will Continue Through Resilience Accelerator:

100 resilient cities and columbia university choose miami beach for initiative

The West Avenue Neighborhood Improvement Project, which is one of the projects that has been on hold while Miami Beach “reorients” its resiliency program, will proceed via The Resilience Accelerator, a joint project of 100 Resilient Cities and Columbia University. Though the Accelerator is a competitive grant program, Greater Miami and the Beaches were chosen to participate directly and the City of Miami Beach specifically for the West Avenue Project.
In a Letter to Commission, City Manager Jimmy Morales said, “The Resiliency Accelerator will use an interdisciplinary approach to holistically integrate grey and green infrastructure and identify larger co-benefits that are consistent with the ULI and Harvard recommendations” released in April to help the City identify enhancements to its resiliency program.

“The Resilience Accelerator,” according to its description, “spots key moments in a project’s lifecycle where we can bring people together to connect expertise, create more funding and investment opportunities, and produce better resiliency outcomes.”
“The West Avenue Neighborhood Improvement Project is an ideal project to put through the Resiliency Accelerator to keep the project moving forward while integrating a more holistic resiliency approach,” Morales wrote. “West Avenue is one of the lowest lying areas in the City with elevations as low as 1.7 NAVD. Without the deployment of temporary pumps, segments of the neighborhood flood regularly during intense rain events and king tides.” The City’s Resiliency Policy calls for raising roads to 3.7 NAVD.
Elevation of West Avenue at 14th Street with the Waverly in the background (before it was painted!)

“Concurrent to the Florida Department of Transportation’s renovation of Alton Road, 10th Street and 14th Street were raised by the City as the first phase of the West Avenue reconstruction, creating an unharmonized existing condition,” Morales wrote. “Columbia will be working with the West Avenue community to build consensus on the design and will identify design opportunities to help the city better adapt to climate change.”
Through a “multi-day design driven workshop” this summer, the Columbia team will identify enhancements “that can integrate resilience thinking and design expertise to produce better resiliency outcomes,” according to Morales. The process combines “key local stakeholders with creative thinkers and technical experts.”
Miami Beach Chief Resiliency Officer and Assistant City Manager, Susy Torriente, told RE:MiamiBeach, “It’s an amazing opportunity… and I think the timing is perfect because just on the tails of what we’re learning from ULI and Harvard we have an actual opportunity to go through a process and learn from that process – and not only us as staff, but with the residents as stakeholders.”

“It’s really nice that the region is getting this kind of attention… and resources,” she said. “The beauty of being in the network with 100 Resilient Cities, we have resources… the intellectual resources but there’s also that monetary savings as part of the network.” In addition to this project, 100 Resilient Cities paid for the interdisciplinary team of experts from ULI.
ULI recommended the City take more of a multi-disciplinary view. “That’s the approach we’re taking in developing our resiliency strategy, breaking down silos and looking at our projects in a different manner, investing in our city so that we have projects with co-benefits. It’s a smarter way of investing and using our resources,” Torriente said.
She said she’s excited about the opportunity to test both the City’s learning to date and the ULI recommendations by taking “a project that is in a certain percentage of design but before we actually build it, put it through the accelerator project, and get a better process and a better project for our residents.”
Beginning Monday, a team from 100 Resilient Cities and Columbia will be in town for information gathering in preparation for a three-day workshop in August.  On this initial visit, they will meet with stakeholders from West Avenue and various City departments including Capital Improvement Projects (CIP), Communications, Fire, Parking, Planning, Public Works, and Transportation for an integrated approach.
The lack of trust in the process was identified by ULI as one issue the City needs to address. Torriente believes the Accelerator process, which includes the community as an integral part, will be a step in that direction. “I do think that that is an important factor in this process,” she said. “It will be very transparent. It will be very out in the open and stakeholders are going to participate. The HOAs are being interviewed next week as much as the staff. I think this will be a very good step in restoring that trust.”
What she expects to get out of it is a better understanding of the process. “Are there steps that we can include in future projects, how do we change the design and construction project, identify co-benefits, additional resilience benefits? It’s going to be an incredible learning experience for staff,” she said. “Everyone is excited and open to the process.” In the end, she said, the process will result in “a more complete project to [bring to the] City Commission so we can build something that everyone is pleased with.” 
The Resiliency Accelerator is a partnership between 100 Resilient Cities and the Center for Resilient Cities & Landscapes at Columbia University. It is funded through a $3.7m grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.

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