Stalemate Over First Street Flood Mitigation Project Broken

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Stalemate Over First Street Flood Mitigation Project Broken:

Commission rejects South Pointe Park location but agrees to alternative

A stalemate over where to place a new stormwater treatment system to replace aging infrastructure and mitigate flooding from sea level rise in the City’s First Street area was finally broken after Commissioner David Richardson suggested a twist on one of the options for its location. 

The project was put on hold in February after then Acting City Manager Raul Aguila said there was not a consensus among the stakeholders on where to put the components of the system. After the City Commission urged the Administration and neighborhood to try again, there was still no agreement, but the Administration decided to bring its recommendation back to the Commission for another discussion.

Miami Beach Public Works Director Roy Coley presented Commissioners with the six options that had been evaluated including the Administration’s top recommendation, the so-called Option 1 – an aboveground system in a parking lot at South Pointe Park with an underground outfall running through the park. Coley said his team considered only engineering and cost factors in making its recommendation, emphasizing the ultimate decision was up to the Commission. 

Following an outcry from the community and threats of legal action if the park location was chosen, Commissioners were not inclined to consider that option. The South of Fifth Neighborhood Association (SOFNA) offered Option 6, a dog park at 2nd and Washington, but their proposal generated a campaign to go with the City’s recommendation and save the dog park.

After walking the area, Richardson suggested what he called Option 5B.

Comparison chart of locations created by the City of Miami Beach Public Works Department

Option 5, located at First Street and Washington Avenue, as presented placed the generator for the system in the middle of Washington Avenue. Option 5B reverses the equipment placement, moving the generator to a small parking lot.

“We’re going to have to make a tough decision today,” Richardson said. “I agree that Option 1 is the best and the cheapest, but it may not be the most viable in terms of getting the most votes.”

“Option 6,” he said, “is significantly flawed. I spent a lot of time down there walking in that park. It’s got some beautiful trees on it and some other things.” The property, Richardson opined, is probably “worth several million dollars. I want to always avoid encumbering one of our properties where we don’t have to… We don’t know what the City’s needs will be 50 years from now.”

Richardson said he liked Option 5 “but I felt like we could improve upon it.”

“We should always avoid, where possible, putting these mechanical generators in the middle of a road,” he said. “It’s not the prettiest thing and I think it disrupts communities” using Sunset Harbour as an example. The City ended up paying nearly $800,000 to screen a pump station in the middle of 20th Street several years after it was installed in the Sunset Harbour neighborhood.
Richardson proposed placing the underground portion of the South of Fifth system in the middle of Washington Avenue and the generator in the south end of the small parking lot at First and Washington. “It’s a small piece of property [that will] probably not have significant use in the future,” he said, making it a better option than the dog park.

While the $46 million price tag is $2 million more than the South Pointe Park/Option 1, it is $2 million less than the dog park/Option 6, Richardson noted, and avoids “taking two properties that are worth millions and millions of dollars out of future use.”

The work to date has involved preliminary reviews of locations but not design or aesthetic considerations. In getting behind Option 5B, Commissioners asked for design concepts and a process to engage the community throughout the next step of the project.