February 22, 2023
In a unique and unprecedented example of municipal collaboration between the Miami City Commission and the Miami community, a significant milestone has been achieved in consensus planning for the Underdeck, the 33-acre public multi-purpose open green space designed to complement the new I-395 Signature Bridge.
In 2021, through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the Underdeck Committee entered into a formal partnership with the City of Miami, committing to provide community-driven recommendations about the process of the Underdeck should be designed, named, branded, programmed, operated, governed and maintained. The MOU also facilitated a collaborative commitment to secure state funding from the Florida Department of Transportation and federal funding through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s “Connecting Communities” federal grant to advance the project.
Empowered by the City of Miami and the established MOU, the people of Miami have remained the focal point of the planning and development of the once-in-a-lifetime public project. Members of the community, particularly from the Overtown and Downtown resident and business communities, have played pivotal roles on the Underdeck Committee, its Working Groups and as participants in meetings and forums, advocating for the community’s currency to benefit in all areas from the project.
In 2022, 124 members of the community served on five Underdeck working groups focused on Stakeholder Awareness and Engagement, Operations and Maintenance, Traffic and Mobility, Funding, and Governance. A total of 129 working group meetings were held during the year. More than 35 community in person and virtual meetings were held in Overtown and Downtown to serve local residents. Survey respondents providing feedback for the Underdeck Naming totaled more than 2,000. Two special interest groups were created for Economic Development and Youth Engagement, further expanding the Underdeck Committee’s outreach.
The culmination of this collaborative work is a 400-page comprehensive report of community-based recommendations submitted to Miami City Manager, Arthur Noriega, which can be found here, with a summarized Year in Review document available here.
“With the Underdeck positioned to be a legacy greenspace designed to “bring Miami together”, the commitment by the Miami City Commission to activate community participation in the planning stages should not only be acknowledged but celebrated. Considering that the Underdeck will run adjacent to the Overtown neighborhood that suffered profound displacement and disconnection during I-95 highway construction in the 1960’s, having residents, business owners and community leaders from Overtown to Downtown actively involved with the comprehensive planning of the Underdeck truly makes this a project of the people, for the people and by the people”, commented Dr. Nelson Adams, Chair, Stakeholder Awareness, Education & Engagement Working Group.
With the community-based Underdeck Committee report submitted to the Miami City Commission, the next step will be to compile the submitted recommendations for a Commission vote in the upcoming months. Given the nationwide focus on and funding opportunities for projects that prioritize reconnecting communities, with a yes vote, the City of Miami can establish the Underdeck project as a testament to the impact of community collaboration and the value of community engagement in the development of community-focused public spaces.
To further engage the community, www.underdeckmiami.com was launched in early 2022 as a virtual hub to keep the community abreast of all things Underdeck. A growing database of meeting attendees and other involved stakeholders are included in the distribution of the Underdeck Chronicle monthly newsletter. Through the website, residents and other stakeholders can volunteer to join any Underdeck working group advocating for the project.
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