New Ordinance Encourages Ground-Level Retail Along Kennedy Causeway
North Bay Village has big plans for Kennedy Causeway. File photo by Mitchell Zachs/MagicalPhotos.com.
“I remember when there was a bowling alley here.”
By Angie Hargot
Last week the North Bay Village City Commission passed an ordinance prohibiting residential developments on Kennedy Causeway that do not include commercial uses.
The item passed quickly during the Nov. 8 meeting with relatively little deliberation from elected officials or citizens.
“What we’re saying with this ordinance is you can’t build an all-residential building on the causeway anymore,” Mayor Joe Geller said. The plan is to allow only mixed-use buildings in the commercial (CG) district, thus encouraging additional commercial and entertainment businesses to move into North Bay Village. The ordinance is also designed to drive more pedestrian traffic to those businesses, and Geller says the ordinance is intended to keep “entirely residential buildings from taking up space in [the city’s] limited commercial district.”
The meeting was the first for newly elected at-large City Commissioner Reinaldo Trujillo. Trujillo took the spot vacated by now-former Commissioner Tzvi Bogomilsky, who chose not to run for re-election. Trujillo ran unopposed.
Bogomilsky bid a fond farewell to the citizens and the commission, and looked on as staff replaced his name placard with Trujillo’s.
One of Trujillo’s first orders of business was the causeway item. “My understanding is we want commercial business [in the city],” Trujillo said.
Although the change would hardly return development-attractive North Bay Village to the unique quaint character of its past, Commissioner Paul Vogel reminisced about a time when the city had different kinds of businesses within its borders. “I remember when there was a bowling alley here,” he said.
Introduced by newly reappointed Vice Mayor George A. Kane, the Kennedy Causeway item made its way to the commission after approval by the Planning & Zoning Board at a meeting on Aug. 15.
“The way our code is at the moment, we wouldn’t be able to [for example] tear down the Crab House” and replace it with a mixed-use building, Kane explained. The new ordinance also allows businesses located in mixed-use residential buildings to direct their signs toward the street. Previously only stand-alone businesses were allowed to have signs.
“The Lexi development, with two floors of commercial [businesses], is exactly the kind of building we’re looking for,” Geller said. The Lexi is scheduled to open in 2007 together with a handful of publicly accessible shops, including a Starbucks. (Lexi developer Scott Greenwald and his associates were also present at the Nov. 8 meeting.)
Other causeway-related moves conducted at the meeting were heralded by the administration as a response to calls to beautify the thoroughfare that came out of the city’s charrette in June. Although voters did not pass a $2 million bond item slated for landscaping and aesthetic improvements to the causeway in September, other measures are being taken to actualize the results of the charrette – or what the commission sees as citizens’ desire to have the causeway improved.
At the same commission meeting, an item was passed authorizing the expenditure of $68,350 to Iler Planning Group, who hosted the city’s charrette, to devise a “causeway plan, design guidelines and code amendments.”
The allocation of $35,000 was also approved to go to LaRue Planning and Management Services to revise the city’s comprehensive plan as state law requires, following the city’s recently approved Evaluation and Appraisal Report. The state gave the city 18 months to move forward on the comprehensive plan, setting the deadline for plan changes in late 2007. Geller says some incremental changes, such as design guidelines, have already been adopted.
“That doesn’t mean I’m going to approve any high-rise,” he said. “We don’t want it to turn the city into ‘condo-canyon.’”