Front Page » Government » 33-acre Underdeck has a plan but not the money
33-acre Underdeck has a plan but not the money
Written by Monica Correa on February 21, 2023
“The Overtown Miami Greenway, the heart of the city” is the name recommended by the Underdeck Executive Committee through survey results in its community engagement efforts to plan for the 33-acre green space that is to be built under the I-395 signature bridge that is under construction, with a 2026 date for completion. The project is not yet fully funded.
“This name encompasses the sense of the diverse neighborhoods and cultures of the adjacent communities,” said Lisa Martinez, Underdeck Committee manager and facilitator, “and it captures the strong desire from residents for a shaded, green space, and not a concrete pathway.”
Now, the Miami City Commission is to vote on the project “in the upcoming months,” she added, taking into account the work done by the executive committee, to then send unified recommendations to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). Recommendations are to include public input on design, funding strategies, management and operations models, cost estimates, and future conservancy.
The Underdeck Committee, the community engagement arm that started under the Town Square Neighborhood Development Corporation under a memorandum of understanding with the city and FDOT in December 2021, finished its full recommendations, known as the consensus plan, and submitted it to the city Dec. 5 after a full year of work.
After 35 in-person and virtual meetings, 129 working group meetings – including the government, project management and strategic oversight group; the stakeholder awareness, education and engagement group; the funding strategies group; the traffic, mobility and utilities group; and construction, operation, and maintenance group – almost 2,500 survey responses and 124 community members serving on its working groups, the committee recommended that the project’s executive leadership and administration, as well as the fundraising leadership, should be individuals hired in-house, as opposed to mostly contracted.
Similarly, programming and marketing should be led in-house, with some outside contracting; maintenance should be overseen in-house, but mostly contracted out; and security should be overseen in house, with a contracted company, but implemented in collaboration with the city, according to the report.
Costs of operations for hiring full time employees in-house range from $4.8 million to $6.09 million a year, compared to a majority-contracted staff that would cost $3.7 million to $4.9 million, according to estimates by Hargreaves Jones, a cost consultancy firm that works with public spaces across the nation.
Hargreaves Jones also developed the consensus plan for the design, which has been agreed upon by the city and FDOT. Under this design, 55% of the space is softscape and 35% is hardscape, with an amphitheater, and event lawn, a community plaza, three playgrounds, a dog park, water features and parking. The Underdeck Committee does not list where the other 10% will be allocated. The total cost is $56,193,863.
A previous 2016 design by CJV, the entity that is building the I-395 bridge, proposed 70% hardscape and 30% softscape, costing $29,313,289.
In addition, as part of the recommendations report, the executive committee developed a capital funding strategy through its fund development working group, to address the $56 million-plus cost of the project and the $5.74 million annual maintenance and governance plan, composed of administrative costs, programming and marketing, maintenance, security, and coverage for liability.
FDOT committed to securing 30% of the construction cost and the city is committed to securing 20%, in a joint proposal submitted in October to receive the Reconnecting Communities Grant of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, which grants communities determined to connect geographically with safer walking paths from a social, programmatic and economic development standpoint. The fund has $150 million, and the submission of the proposal asks for $26.5 million for the Underdeck/Overtown Miami Greenway.
“The community should be finding out about the results in the next days or weeks,” said Ms. Martinez. “The city is proactively compiling proposals for additional federal grants. The remaining funds would have to be secured before 2024, when construction is anticipated to commence. So, there is time to identify the funding.”
Additional funding strategies, as outlined in the report, include engaging Overtown CRA and Omni CRA for capital needs; Miami-Dade County support for capital needs; state level funding advocacy during the 2023 legislative session; and other local, state and federal government funded opportunities, including a federal Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) grant, which the city and FDOT is currently compiling, due Feb. 28.
The project’s preferred governance style would be under a conservancy model, according to the report, with appointed directors from the city, the county, the state, and the stakeholder groups.