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Here’s The Scoop … The May 26, 2011 University of Miami Design Review Workshop in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea … Is It The Right Time To Be Moving Forward? ….

TIME TO LET THE MONEY OUT OF THE BAG? ….

Dear Readers…We are now headed into the 2011-2012 budget season which begins next month and we have only just sent out our first RFPs for drainage and sewer engineering services which were to be the top priorities moving forward according to Commission last year…..As previously posted we have not completed one single new project in town that can show how this new Administration can handle a small contained area (which I will come back to later on in this post in the UM faculty representative’s closing remarks ) … I am told I need to revise that a little bit by a reader who brought up  our portion of the A1A  enhancement program but that project which was passed on to this Administration from the previous one seems to be amiss behind the scenes from what we have seen and heard which further adds to concerns about the abilities of those who want to go full speed ahead ….We have had been focused instead on multiple visioning and feasibility studies and reports to totally redo the 2004 Master Plan and redevelop the Town with monies going out under the Town Manager’s $15,000 limit not requiring Commission approval followed by some monies approved by the Commission for followup studies as well….I believe while some of the studies we requisitioned are interesting, educational, creative and entertaining they have been at the detriment of those projects that should  have been much further along in the process than they are… I have also found after seeing the renderings and listening to big picture plans for LBTS that much of what has been offered to us by this new group of professionals from this week and in the past months who are no doubt a creative bunch looks and sounds very much like what is contained in the existing 2004 Master Plan of big plans… tweaked a little here and there with newer products… I must also add again that unlike 2004 when the economy was booming at present time in 2011 with forecasts for no economic rebound in 2012 in my opinion this was not the time to do this visioning to this extent… While I repeatedly asked for Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk to return to town… (prev. posts)  and for the defunct LBTS CRA participants to come back to the table for information as well as the possible creation of an economic development committee I certainly did not want anything to take us away from those looming infrastructure projects (sewers/drainage) in the south end of town that absolutely need to come first and those projects come with cost estimates that are in the millions …(prev. posts) … Simply put …you can’t put up the wallpaper before the floors are put in…and to do what is suggested below whether small..incremental or big without getting those “floors’ in place first makes no sense at all….

Below is my post of portions of the 2 hour presentation made Thursday night …I encourage Readers to look at it online on the Town’s website (link below) to see the presentation and to obtain a copy of this report when it is made available.. I encourage the Commission to do their due diligence on the costs presented to see if they are accurate (they seemed to be a bit low to this writer) …The Commission and Administration need to obtain information on the populations of those cities used as examples by the UM faculty representative (see below…South Miami / Naples /West Palm) …as well as their millage rates and budgets and any impact and/or long-term debt incurred from moving forward on redevelopment in their municipalities …That is a must for presenting the full picture to the taxpayers before any decisions are made….. After all we are a small town with a small tax base … I am told once again Vice Mayor Dodd has put forth including referendum items on the June Roundtable for consideration by the Commissioners for the Jan. municipal election…After this presentation which once again included parking garages/ Town Hall and El Prado Plaza redevelopment etc…those referendum items must be included on the ballot along with Comm. Sasser’s addition of how we pay for these improvements… (The UM faculty representative spoke about stakeholders involvement) …We have RMA in June with the 5 -year plan and more costs associated with those plans ….and then we should be done with all this “fun and excitement” just days before reality comes back into play with the new budget… possible new millage rates …taxable value changes per the Broward County Property Appraiser…increase costs in services …and the final BSO contract …. We still have the millions we did not use this year and the Commission needs to make a decision on the parking “system” debt (aka Bougainvilla parking lot) whether to pay off or keep paying interest on it until 2020… And of course the campaigns which will begin soon for the moved up election in January…  What voters will be saying  in the voting booth?… Move forward …or bag it? ….This writer hears those stakeholders who have been front and center at this  juncture in LBTS’ political pendulum think there will be no opponents coming forth to even run against the incumbent Commissioners and they are so “pumped” by the lack of presence of their longtime opponents during this process that some have actually stated it is time to pick up where development left off in 2008 …. When the camera panned into the audience it showed that lack of presence of those opponents at this meeting as well  …I am told there was no sign- in sheet to provide data to see who is actually participating …( The UM faculty representative did say he would include a list in his report) …I am told there was a sign -up sheet on Saturday morning and the Mayor was keen to get the names on it … It’s imperative that we know if data was kept throughout the week with those who came into Jarvis Hall as well as those the “team” met with out in the field…(they said it was extensive) …That would be an important component to this process from a credibility aspect…in this writer’s opinion…

I have chosen to post the opening and closing remarks made by Mayor Minnet and the UM representative- “Chuck” who was presented by the Mayor who did not know his last name..and said she wished she has his card… I don’t believe the faculty representative followed up after the snafu with stating his last name or title either…I Googled UM School of Architecture faculty and I believe from the photo and finding only one faculty member named Charles the presenter was Charles C. Bohl- Associate Professor and Director, Graduate Program in Real Estate Development and Urbanism….The faculty representative did state in both his opening and closing remarks along with the students who presented each of the areas of they worked on that this contained  small/incremental and big plans…Chuck stated in his closing remarks what was presented was a “menu” which means everybody can find something they like.. I agree with that statement…and did find some areas I liked ….such as building in the future behind and in front of Town Hall and retaining a low-rise structure while gutting the inside ….Most of the smaller, incremental and big plans have been addressed and discussed by other consultants, boards and citizens before whether it is wayfinding signage (ad nauseum through the years )…the downtown area -pavilion-Lake Colon area …the El Prado “civic” park (parking lot)…Town Hall…Parking garage (s)…shuttles… Basin Drive waterfront area ….and so on and so forth … Will this new Master Plan go up on a shelf just as the previous one and the plans before that?…It was also something Chuck touched upon in his closing remarks… I guess we will know the answer to that very sooner rather than later with another election just months away…Unfortunately a large part of the presentation was cut off when it came to the portion dealing with the larger hotels due to problems that arose on the Town’s side and returned only intermittently after that throughout the smaller hotel presentation …This too is another priority that has not been completed this fiscal year…

Mayor Minnet’s opening remarks…

Mayor Minnet- ” I do also want to thank the residents and businesses and the staff for all their hard work and diligence during this past week. We’re all here, we’re all excited to hear the great ideas and designs that this group is putting forward. I am going to ask one consideration though of all you and that is to have an open mind. Not just today but I, the most important thing is that we agree on the concept and the idea and I just ask that if there’s one thing that you don’t see is a good idea please don’t let that stop you from thinking about all the other good ideas. Cause I’m sure that there will be something that you’re gonna say that’s just not something I want to see in this town. But I just ask you to have an open mind and listen to what the students are saying. Listen to what people are saying about these projects. Again more in a, it’s it’s totalness rather than just taking little bits and pieces of it. And again your input is why we’re all here. You said we want some changes to this town and you’ve said we want to move forward and we’re listening to you. We will continue to listen to the will of the people which is what all, every Commission member has said from day to day” …She went on to say the presentation would be an hour and a half to two hours…

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UM faculty representative’s opening remarks…

“So a workshop like this which started Saturday and ran right through today is very intensive. The team worked extremely hard and right up til the last minute. We had some final work being added to the presentation. This intensity is actually really good in terms of the energy and getting everyone’s ideas and trying to really get our hands around all the challenges at once. So this is a first cut at everything the team came up with.” He went on to give a general introduction and said the students would present their work. “We have to thank and er can’t name everybody individually though we can list them individually. I’m not going to do it verbally. But we had tremendous local support and help from the local community. Most of the team stayed up here for at leas a couple of nights and many of the students even stayed on their own throughout the entire almost week we’ve been here. We’ve had good food for lunch. We’ve had good places to stay and alot of great support from all the business owners. The city staff has been fantastic and helped put together information without which we never could have been prepared to do all this and the city attorney. I mean the list goes on here. But we thank you very much. You really made us feel at home and you really turned out and participated. It’s the only way this thing works  and we heard from you really loud and cklear. Now on our side from the University of Miami we have a big team.” He showed a photo on the screen and said a few were not included..He went on to describe the 3 different programs these students and professors came from …Bachelor of Architecture /Master of Urban Design/Master of Redevelopment and Urbanism…a multi-disciplinary team that was so by design…He introduced the Dean Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk  and a staff person who compiled that 2000 person hours of work went into this…”We spent some time learning about the history of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea. You have a wonderful community. We were given actually a written history . Short pieces as well as the material on the website that we found on our own and we don’t need to tell you about your history. You have a special history here . A special character of the community and we heard you loud and clear. How much you love the community and want to protect it. We also heard about things that you’re concerned about and that you don’t want to see happen and sometimes it feels like this cartoon (on the screen) probably like the people who are waiting to stop the, while the sign goes up saying “What the” is going to be in the future. So especially things like the height of buildings and everything you see presented and discussed respects the charter, the height limits in the charter and doesn’t touch any of the residential neighborhoods. Does not involve anything on El Mar, which is your loved street. Along there, so we listened carefully to that. But I wanted to to make just a few quick comments on the tension that is found in many communities between moving forward, staying where we are, figuring out what can happen in the future and what shouldn’t.and it’s not that different other places than it is here. And over the years people have become known , we’ve come up with many acronyms to describe people who oppose things and some of those, sometimes you hear people on maybe the development side complain about that oh it’s all theses NIMBYs (not in my backyard) , people that don’t want things to happen. But on the other side what you accomplished over many decades is you’ve preserved the essential character of the community. And these are just some some examples of people who opposed what they felt were wrong things from happening (on screen) from Jane Jacobs to really the preservation of Charleston, the renaissance of Miami Beach where they didn’t tear down the old hotels, but revalued them and then places like in San Francisco and Milwaukee and other cities where they’ve taken down the freeways and restored the boulevards. So opposing things isn’t a bad thing and being against things that’s actually good when bad things are happening and I think we’re all impressed with how you’ve been able to oppose and prevent the bad things from happening over the years and some of the most important things you can do is to stop the bad things from happening. But then the question is what then? You know when you stop all the bad stuff from happening the what’s next? What can you do that’s positive and the warning is this and as we look at Lauderdale-By-The-Sea and I’ll tell you what our study areas were in just a moment that we were focused on the Commercial corridors in particular and A1A and Commercial Boulevard. You have to be very careful that you don’t suffocate the community and by not allowing anything to happen you can almost love it to death. So that’;s the a danger, that’s a caution and a warning that we’ll put out there for you. And there’s many examples of places in Florida like West Palm (photo put up on screen) this was before its revitalization where nothing is on the ground around the church and it just withered for many years. Places that thought the solution to everything was more parking. (This brought forth a loud roar of laughter from the hall)… You can solve everything just have more parking and then suddenly you wake up and have no community left ..(the laughter erupted once more)… And then you know you find yourself waking up one day as a cartoon of sprawl and that everything has just degenerated into low density stuff like this (screen showed a sea of signs for McDonalds and other fast food joints) which believe me is everywhere. You know it’s everywhere and this isn’t what you want to be. So that’s the warning and the challenge. For this team and for you as a community is to, how do you sustain and how do you have a sustainable community, a sustainable business base that is consistent with the vision the community has for itself that protects all the things you love but that also pays for the things you would like. Like new parks and streetscape improvements and things like that. So that’s the balance that has to be struck and so our beginning and our method is to engage you and citizens in the process.” He showed some shots of previous meetings and the attendees (some have been running over the last week on channel 78 )…He stated “There were dozens and dozens of meetings. Alot of individual meetings when students went out to meet with folks.” He continued on with the team’s study areas showing some mapped areas on the screen as he spoke… “We have the Commercial Boulevard corridor from the intracoastal to the beach” “We have the second study area here is A1A. Roughly from your northern entry to your southern entry along the low rise area not up into this section (north of Pine Ave.) The Town Hall area where we are now which includes the property across the street and thinking through what might become of this in the future. The large hotels. There’s a couple of large hotels in particular we were asked to take a look at (anchored hotels at either end of El Mar Drive) and alot of these were as examples. Let’s take a few examples and look at them and see what could happen in the future and then a chunk of the small hotels particularly along the corridor on A1A. What you’ll see and hear about now are a whole variety of scenarios, not a huge number  but a selected few scenarios of modest to more dramatic change that, since the team did include numbers people we will put some numbers to things and so this is part of what we heard that we’ve done planning before, we’ve done visioning. We need to find a way to get started and part of the way to get started is to actually have cost estimates for things and to look at things incrementally. How you might take small steps to get where you want to go. Get some confidence in that and then move onto larger things. But the team has some great material to present to you from the small to the more dramatic. And oh, some quick highlights here. I think I covered this. We had great citizen input and heard about what you loved and things you don’t like and we’ll be focusing especially on streetscape material to make it more walkable, manage the cars, better the traffic, the parking, the signage, more places for community activities. We have alot of notes and documentation but we don’t need to tell you what to think at this point just that we listened to you very carefully.”… He then introduced the students to begin the presentation of area one

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Some notes on the presentation…

The 1st area Comm. Blvd Team spoke of the concerns they heard …”Pelican Square” economic viability + traffic congestion/”Market Square” just west of Pelican Square needs parking and an identity/”Marina Plaza” (Basin Drive/Commercial west of Market Square) struggled most, economic problem, pedestrian, visioning nothing happens ..the need for parking -vacant parcels that can be used in that area and a convenient transportation system for the far west Comm. area-cntral lease -retail window program-unified brand for shopping mall-crosswalks to connect to opposite side of street -shade trees for walking-improved wayfinding signs-Tenant improvement grants/Pelican Square eliminate center medians-curbless-trees-no parking east by pavilion except Aruba + Pier Lot parking-lighting shown in rendering/A1A-Seagrape transitional zone streetscape improvements-remove medians-sidewalks 10 ft.-build-in buildings-open air markets-Poinciana + Bougainvilla rendering shown/ more west-more suburban utilize deep set backs -convert parallel parking to angled-less congestion/West area after the bridge-centralized valet and parking/Marina access water- becomes more like a street/Most western lots Benihana + Blue Moon -provide open air plazas-viewing areas after the bridge/rendering shown-Welcome to Lauderdale- By- The- Sea + re-designed bridge tender house (we do not own the bridge for signage or the house)- costs for street improvements and Marina Plaza was approx $3.7 million- compared costs were made using Delray actual costs/ A1A south by Chamber of Commerce – streets from A1A to portals on Hibiscus-Datura -Palm Ave. -unwelcoming-not pleasing-traffic congestion- back out parking- change to parallel parking from “head in” parking (Walgreens as well)  some done with land swap for easement shared liability -shade trees-turning lanes become medians /Parking garage A1A behind wings Bougainvilla Lot enter through alleyway (BC-must buy apartment bldg to achieve) -Farmers Market (student presenter said parking garage needed for farmer market venders to park in)-cost $5.5 million -will have retail on 1st floor- street furniture was shown as well street lights (very close to the 2004 MPlan renderings) -”City”  shuttle -A1A business $655,580- A1A Civic $990,670.-A1A Hotel $1,823,000-A1A south cost per block $837,400-Datura cost per block $500,150- Southern entry unfocused underwhelming-unwelcoming-obelisk at entryway south end w/ public plaza +park -re-rout bike lanes to El Mar Dr. from A1A /Town Hall & El Prado pkg lot -3 choices add buildings in front & back- new buildings-sell property estimate property at $8-11 million- El Prado “Plaza” 3 choices -green space/ green space plus civic buildings (low rise connected)/ green space-civic bldgs + amphitheater -# 2 +#3 block 30% ocean view but provide use for 316 people/ Large hotels used anchors- renovations for northern hotel total $4.7 mil- $1.6 interior + $3.1 mil exterior (rendering was really awful in this writer’s opinion) -rooftop use- 2 distinct hotels renamed “Shutters Hotel ” (A1A front hotel) + “Beach Club” (oceanfront smaller hotel)/ Southern end hotel had facade additions (much nicer result in this writer’s opinion)- public parking garages were also included (as in the past) along with possibility of retail in parking lot as well southern hotel- electric shuttles for guests to get to Town etc…possible shared use (same owner of both hotels)/ smaller hotels showed presentation of what their revenues are and pointed out the biggest bang for the buck would be interior improvements-(also addressed in closing remarks)-increased density within charter – hotel conglomerations for smaller hotels-renderings (much more appealing than for the larger hotel north end of El Mar Drive )-unified marketing plan for hotels coordinating guest bookings etc…

UM faculty representative’s closing remarks…

“Inevitably you have a presentation like this and you see a whole variety of ideas. small, incremental, big, and then big ideas as well and you see numbers run around inevitably everyone starts asking how can we do that? Things seem expensive. Everything can seem impossible. Where do we start? And I really encourage you, I mean there was a real effort here and you’ll see it in the details as well that we provide to the city to give you a whole menu of options both on the private sector side and the business owners with the analysis you saw that the students just went through as well as on the streetscape side and the public realm improvements and there’s a connection between the two. The improvements to the public realm, to the streets, to the parks that’s  something shared by everyone but really I mean the streets are also your front door. It’s almost like the whole community is, this is your house and you’re all stewards of this home and parts of it are in disrepair. So the streets are almost your front driveway, the facades on alot of these buildings are your front door. And you saw it in the last analysis, it’s interesting that investment in the facade improvements doesn’t pay back the property owners nearly as much as the more expensive internal improvements. So, flat screen tvs, bathroom renovations those types of things are going to bring the room rates up and help them achieve a better market. The facade improvements are something that improves the public realm as well. So when you have this discussion about you know why should we have a facade improvement program there’s some real relevant rational in that you see it everyday as well and it’s a reflection to everyone passing through. It will be you as citizens and then visitors whether this is a successful place  or a sustainable place that cares about itself. That you know there’s an element of civic pride in this or whether you know through the main corridors of the town it’s a sense of decline and disinvestment. So, there’s alot for you to discuss and it was presented as a whole menu of options that the feeling is when you’re presented with a menu it’s kind of hard to say I don’t like anything on the menu. You know everyone should be able to find something to agree on and you can bite things off in small pieces. And so I’ll say a few words about implementation. About a hundred years ago alot of communities you saw spring up, these civic improvement societies and they would be doing exactly the kinds of things that you’re doing here having discussion about how to improve the public realm,add parks, make the community better and these were citizen movements, garden groups. It was really a phenomena of the time and nowadays we kind of rely on professional staff and people in the leadership of the community to carry the ball completely and I encourage you not to do that. It’s really hard to do alot of these things and I know , I’ve come to know alot of people who work in community redevelopment agencies, elected officials, town managers, especially the staff that are kind of in between the elected officials and the citizens. And it’s really important for citizens and business owners and property owners to become involved. It’s very easy to sit back and say well I’m against it,you know can’t do nothing, can’t do it’s impossible. That’s the easiest thing in the world to do. Then nothing improves and everything continues on the trajectory going. So you really need to have a stake in this community and decide where resources are best invested to make a difference for everyone.” He went on to say he had two examples after saying “you see the plans, the images and things are impossible”…

He said the first example was close to them, South Miami stating “Did what they call a hometown plan and they took one block you know, alot of skepticisms like you know you’re gonna spend money on these pavers and things and street lights and you know what’ll it do? So they said look , let’s take one block and do a demonstration project and then we’ll stand back and have a discussion in the community and decide whether or not we like it. So this is the block (on screen) and this is the change and the only thing changing here is the public realm. Same old concrete post, same buildings here and they allowed cafes to come out and have pavers and things. This was a big success. It showed people what was possible. It let everyone to see the cost. See the benefit and decide whether or not we want to do more of this or not and with the change. And South Miami continued along this path. So really it’s a similar scale as Lauderdale-By-The-Sea as well, which is interesting and you can see kind of the before the streetscapes investments and after. There’s a real estate story behind this as well and the real estate story is you know part of the re-investment then comes back to the community in the form of property taxes that then the community can then re-invest in other things in the public realm. So good story, good example of how the public investment pays back.”

BC- This was what I was referencing in the beginning of this post…When asked early on by the TM and the Mayor along with some Commissioners and others was to do the downtown area that fixed “Lake Colon” and to show how well a project can be done …as previously posted…What a hoot that at the end of this presentation that was the first example used!… Again I would like to know how similar S. Miami and the example below Naples are in population/budget/millage and debt…

The UM faculty representative continued on with Naples and said they too were similar scale to LBTS …  “vision thing happened you know, you hear it’s gonna end up on the shelf and nothing happens. But the community acted. The community came together and said we’re going to do this. We’re going to do it for our mainstreet. Your mainstreet is essentially Commercial Boulevard and A1A. It’s the hotel and civic connection to the community. And so they carried out this project. Same thing about two stories, two to three stories along the street. Improve streetscaping. Cafes and businesses came in and wow you’ve got things you can actually do. It’s not just for the visitors. It;’s for the citizens as well. It’s a place for everyone to enjoy. I’m gonna leave those thoughts can do, you can do. You know think incremental and carry things out.”…

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Mayor Minnet’s closing remarks…

Mayor Minnet-” Well, I just have three words, wow to the u! I think ya all deserve another round of applause. That was incredible! I heard a couple of themes tonight and I’m going to steal some of the words that many of you have been saying, both the residents and the students. And one of the things that I heard tonight and also through the whole meeting is that the Town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea is the business and I think that’s been a theme that has gone through all of this. We’ve seen what’s happened on Commercial or A1A or through our local you know small hotels or the large hotels. Again, I want to thank the University of Miami for bringing this incredible presentation to us this evening. I’m gonna ask for one of my Commissioners to adjourn this meeting but I’m going to ask that you all not adjourn. Stay here. Talk to the students. Talk to the professors.Talk to all of us. But more importantly, take all the information you hear and make this vision come true! Because we can only do as much as you want to do and we’re here because of you and I’m just asking that you take this. Let’s, if it is the decision of us to move forward with this we need to hear from you. We need your input. We need your commitment. This is incredible for this town and I’ve think, seen just from this presentation for two hours what we can accomplish if we all work together. And I think what one of the statements was, was an attitude of collaboration and I love that and I think that will be the theme that I’ll take forward from today and move on forward because we do have a great town. I’m seeing business owners. I’m seeing residents. I’m seeing um, business owners who are residents and visa versa. We have alot at stake in this community and I look forward to all working together in making this a better place not for today but for tomorrow as well.”…

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more to come….

Link to Town website for the video of the May 26,2011 UM Design Review Workshop … http://www.lauderdalebythesea-fl.gov/

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