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South Dade Busway Study
FAU/FIU Joint Center for Environmental and Urban Problems

South Miami-Dade County can be...

How can South Dade be all this?

Project Summary

The purpose of the South Dade U.S. 1 Corridor Project is to coordinate nearby land uses with the Busway. The most effective way of meeting this purpose is by encouraging two types of development in the U.S. 1 corridor: community urban centers (CUC) and the highway corridor. The latter - the highway corridor - is defined as those portions of the corridor in between the community urban centers.

Community urban centers are places where higher intensity development will be encouraged, and where people can use the bus, walk, bicycle, or drive. A bus stop on the South Dade Busway will be the central feature of each community urban center and will be surrounded by a mix of shops, businesses, residences, open space, and civic uses. Each community urban center will be about one-quarter mile in radius, measured from the bus stop. The precise boundaries and land uses will be chosen by the community during a community planning process.

Each community urban center is expected to have a different character, or "flavor," that will be identified and featured during the community planning process. The four community urban center locations, as shown on the map in the center of this booklet, are:

1. Goulds, at S.W. 216 Street
2. Princeton, at S.W. 248 Street
3. Naranja, at S.W. 264 Street
4. Naranja Lakes, at S.W. 280 Street

These four sites were chosen initially because they had a major cross street, were a center of community activity (or had the potential to be), and had vacant land where additional land uses might be planned to enhance those already located in the CUC. The community urban centers are described in and their locations given the Comprehensive Development Master Plan .

The Planning Process

Beginning in 1995, representatives of the South Dade community developed a vision and a set of goals to help the project fulfill that vision. The vision is: a livable community where people have more choices in transportation, housing, jobs, shopping, neighborhood services, and recreational opportunities.

Together, the Joint Center and the Work Group determined which bus stops would be the best ones for community urban centers.We discussed density,mixing uses, economic development in South Dade, the impact of Hurricane Andrew, zoning ordinances, the Busway, and many other subjects. Each topic affected the plans for the corridor and the urban centers.

The community urban center (CUC) zoning ordinance became the focus of this joint planning effort. This ordinance would govern development in each of the four CUCs. To identify certain features of each CUC, residents, property owners, business people, and other interested parties would be given the opportunity to participate in a community planning process. The resulting community plan would identify the boundaries of the CUC, any special features, the type of development the community desired, and any land uses that needed to be added to those already present. Both the plan and the ordinance will be adopted by the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners in the same manner as other zoning ordinances.

The community urban center ordinance also needs to work in tandem with the type of regulation chosen for the highway corridor area-the area in between the CUCs. As in the CUCs, the most important consideration in the highway corridor is making the areas transit-oriented.

The Department of Planning & Zoning will address the desired types of development in the highway corridor as soon as staff have finished working on the community plans for the four CUCs.

How Will The South Dade Community Benefit from the Urban Center & Corridor Design

Study Participants

1. The FAU/FIU Joint Center for Environmental and Urban Problemsan applied research center within the Florida state university system-whose staff is involved in research and community planning projects throughout South Florida and beyond.

2. The South Dade Planning and Design Work Group-organized in 1995, whose members are residents, property owners, and business people, as well as representatives of neighborhood associations, civic groups, and business associations in South Dade. There are also several technical members-representatives of those county and state agencies that will be involved in planning, permitting, and regulating development in the South Dade area. The Work Group brought the ideas and opinions of area stakeholders to the project, while the Joint Center brought the professional expertise to translate these ideas into a plan and implementation strategy. The Joint Center project team appreciates the input of the Work Group and could not have succeeded without them.

3. The Miami-Dade County Department of Planning & Zoning- involved since the beginning of the South Dade project because the department will be responsible for planning, permitting, and regulating development in the project area once the Joint Center's work is complete.

4. The Miami-Dade County Office of C o m m u n i t y a n d E c o n o m i c Development, the Miami-Dade Transit Agency, and the Florida Department of Transportation have also been essential participants in the South Dade project.

5. The South Dade community. Since the beginning, the Joint Center project team has recognized that community involvement is a vital part of the planning process; input from residents, property owners, business people, and others gives the project team an understanding of the conditions in the area that can only come from those who live and work there. Community representatives also play a valuable role in disseminating information back to the community. To facilitate this dissemination of information, the Joint Center has made presentations to and worked with numerous organizations.

Transit-Oriented Development

Transit and public transportation in South Florida often translate into images of isolated bus shelters on the edge of a parking lot or lone benches on the side of a busy highway. Instead, picture a bus stop in front of a store on a traditional mainstreet. A few people are sitting on the bench while a passerby stops at a nearby kiosk to buy a newspaper.

Doors to retail shops open and close as shoppers run errands. When the bus pulls up, riders step down onto the sidewalk and have a choice of several establishments to patronize. Those riders waiting on the bench have only a few steps to board the bus, some with bags of merchandise purchased at a store nearby. The difference between the bleak lone bench located at the edge of the parking lot and the lively bus stop is something called (TOD).

Transit-oriented development places offices, shops, homes, and schools within walking distance of each other in such a way that many people find it easier to take the bus or to walk than to drive. TOD provides safer, more inviting places to wait for the bus- places that are open, well lit, and full of people that live or work close by.

Transit-oriented development has much in common with traditional towns that were built before families relied on automobiles for all their transportation needs. Cars require a lot of space: think of the miles of asphalt needed for roads and the expanses of pavement that make up parking lots. All of this pavement creates a challenge for people who walk across these asphalt deserts between buildings. These expanses are discouraging to walkers and are expensive to build and maintain.

When cars were less prevalent, it was more important to provide good places for people to walk-otherwise the shopping districts would not survive. In transit-oriented development, sidewalks are wider, buildings are closer to the street and to each other, trees or awnings shade people walking
by, parking is placed conveniently behind buildings, and blocks are shorter, allowing the pedestrian to take the shortest possible route.

This type of design creates places that people can drive, take the bus, or just walk to. Not everyone may want to live here, but many will enjoy the freedom of not having to depend on a car for every transportation need. Less reliance on the automobile may also save a household money that could be spent on another worthwhile item. transit-oriented development

Goulds: The First Community Urban Center

The Goulds community had been involved in the South Dade project since the beginning and development was planned or about to occur in several places. When the Joint Center was ready to test the community urban center zoning ordinance by applying it to one of the urban centers, Goulds was ready to be that urban center. The Joint Center, along with Robert Barnes & Associates (serving as design consultant), worked with the Goulds community to prepare a community plan, based on the street types and design parameters in the ordinance.

Several members of the community, as well as representatives of the various county agencies, served on the community's steering committee. In consultation with the steering committee, we selected March 1999 as the date for the Community Urban Center Charrette. Because residents were already familiar with the charrette concept and their community urban center, they were very supportive. Following the actual design session, many Goulds residents attended the presentation of the results and expressed satisfaction with the results. The Goulds community continues to support the development of the community urban center according to the plan.

It is essential that any businesses that become a part of the community urban center thrive and be successful in the long term. To determine what types of business would be most successful in the CUC, the Goulds Community Development Corporation has hired a consultant to prepare a market feasibility study. When the consultant's report is complete, the CDC will call another community-wide meeting to present the results and to discuss any changes in the community plan that may be necessary.

Next Steps

The Miami-Dade County Department of Planning & Zoning is working with the two chambers of commerce to conduct a planning process for the second community urban center: Naranja, at S.W. 264 Street. This process is expected to take place later this year.

Following the Naranja community plan and as soon as funds are available, the county will conduct community planning processes for the Princeton community urban center, at S.W. 248 Street, and for the Naranja Lakes community urban center, at S.W. 280 Street.

What can residents and business people do to promote development of the U.S. 1 Corridor, especially in Community Centers?

In order to fulfill the vision and goals identified by the South Dade community, additional economic development in the U.S. 1 corridor is essential. At this time, there is little new investment taking place; the economy is stagnant. To encourage economic development and thereby promote physical development in the U.S. 1 corridor area, a number of obstacles must be overcome:

Lack of a strong market to encourage investment. The area is caught in a vicious circle trying to attract more middle-income residents without sufficient job opportunities and commercial, recreational, and other amenities. Yet, without this employee/consumer base, prospective employers offering well-paying jobs will not be attracted to the area.

Lack of attractive market rate housing in combination with a significant amount of poorly maintained low income housing.

Lack of aggressive marketing for the regional vision, which would counteract many of the current misconceptions of south Miami-Dade County.

Inadequate or outdated infrastructure. Some work is beginning, but investors, developers, and the community need a better understanding of what improvementswill be made and when.

Inappropriate land development codes. The county is beginning an overhaul of its zoning code and will then need to address all related regulations. The new codes should encourage appropriate types of development in support of the regional vision.

Neighborhood resistance to change. Some area residents have chosen to live in south Miami-Dade County because of its rural nature. Adding higher density urban centers and other development must be done with great sensitivity.

Government relations and lengthy review/permitting processes. Even though some streamlining of these processes has taken place, county government is still perceived as obstructionist and the processes as too arbitrary, too lengthy, and too uncertain in outcome.

Public school disparities. Schools in older areas are often perceived as less desirable than those in new neighborhoods. Overcrowding and poor student performance are serious problems throughout South Florida. Solving these problems is beyond the scope of the U.S. 1 Corridor Project, but their negative impact on successful development within the corridor should not be underestimated.

Perception of crime and lack of code enforcement. Statistics available from the police show that the perception of crime is greater than its actual occurrence. However, crime is an issue and is being addressed by the police department. Code enforcement has been a problem, but recent efforts to bolster the program are showing early success.

Not only do these obstacles need to be overcome to attract development, but also incentives must be offered to offset the advantages developers have when they develop large, vacant sites on the suburban fringe. These incentives may include public ones (e.g., improved services, tax abatement) and public investment (e.g., parks, landscaping, cultural centers); business and developer incentives (e.g., streamlined processing, special assistance); and community involvement.

The Future of the U.S. 1 Corridor

Development of the U.S. 1 corridor is expected to take place over a number of years, possibly several decades. As businesses identify a market for their goods and services, they will decide to locate in one of the urban centers or in the highway corridor areas. As developers identify a market for housing, they will build apartments, condominiums, or detached houses to fill that demand. At the same time, parks, sidewalks, streets, and the other amenities identified in the community urban center planwill be built and maintained.

Efforts are underway to create an area with a compact, urban form that encourages transit use, pedestrians, and bicycles as alternatives to the car, and that will make the area more attractive to those who will use these forms of transportation. An area that features a variety of housing types and prices will be attractive to a larger number of potential residents and employers. As the population of Miami-Dade County increases over the next 20 years, many new residents will settle in the south part of the county because the northern and western sections of the county are now filling up.

One of the major issues in the southern part of Miami-Dade County is the location of potential development. Much of the land in this area is either agricultural, environmentally sensitive, or included in either the Biscayne or Everglades National Parks. Thus, encouraging development in the U.S. 1 corridor, the historic spine of development in the area, is a sensible approach. Development near U.S. 1 will join development now occurring in Homestead and Florida City to bring more jobs, businesses, services, and market-rate housing to south Miami- Dade County.

Two activities now underway in south Miami-Dade County are expected to have an impact on the U.S. 1 corridor: the redevelopment of Homestead Air Reserve Base and the Empowerment Zone(EZ) designation.

Homestead Air Reserve Base was scheduled for closure within several months when Hurricane Andrew closed it overnight. The resulting economic disruption and population displacement is still felt in south Miami-Dade County. Attempts to redevelop the base have been stalled by the need to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement ( ; until it is complete and the community sees what impacts the SEIS results will have on potential development, it is difficult to determine what could be built on the base. Some development has taken place, but the major uses remain uncertain.

Major development is expected to bring businesses and jobs to the area. Employers and employees of these new businesses will be looking for housing and services, such as shopping and recreation. This influx of new residents and workers will be a real economic "shot in the arm" for the area.

Another unresolved, Base-related issue is the railroad spur that connected the Florida East Coast railroad to the Base. While the railroad company owned the main line outright, the land on which the spur runs was leased by the federal government from the property owners at the time the Base opened. Information provided to the Joint Center by the federal agency responsible for Base closure indicates that the spur property will revert to the property owners now that it is no longer being used as a railroad. Members of the Work Group have suggested that it would be appropriate to construct a leg of the Busway in the spur, to connect the main Busway to the Base. The county will need to determine if the spur can be used for an extension of the Busway.

In 1999, Miami-Dade County was awarded an Empowerment Zone designation by the federal government. Parts of Homestead and Florida City have been included in the Zone, while much of the rest of south Miami-Dade expects to benefit indirectly from the designation. At this time, the funding for the EZ is pending the resolution of a disagreement over the exclusion of another area of the county. As soon as the project moves forward, the benefits of designation will begin to be felt throughout south Miami-Dade County. Even though the Joint Center expects to continue its involvement in South Dade, the community needs a means to market the area and monitor future development in the community urban centers and the corridor areas in between.

Joint Center staff considered several different types of oversight group: community redevelopment agencies, neighborhood improvement districts, community development districts, enterprise zone development agencies, community development corporations, not-for-profit corporations, homeowners associations, condominium associations, business improvement districts, and community land trusts.We also considered the role Miami-Dade County's community councils play in planning and zoning decisions. The choice of oversight group will be made by the community during the planning process for each community urban center.