Tag Archives: West Avenue bridge

Get ready for continuing construction at Belle Isle’s doorstep

Rendering of proposed Marriott hotel

Rendering of proposed Marriott hotel

A Marriott Residence Inn on 17th Street. A West Avenue bridge over the Collins Canal. A streetscape project in Sunset Harbour.

If you think the maze of detours and clamor of construction equipment just east of Belle Isle will end with the completion of the Alton Road project  (and the Venetian Isles streetscape), think again.

There’s a series of new projects in the queue, Belle Isle residents learned  Wednesday night at a meeting at the Belle Plaza condominium.  Belle Isle Residents Association President Scott Diffenderfer gave this overview:


The lot is the triangle shape northwest of the A

The Marriott Residence Inn the city approved last spring for the pie-shaped property at West Avenue between 17th Street and the Collins Canal is in the process of being permitted by the city, and work could begin in a month or two. The city approved a 116-room hotel designed by architect Kobi Karp for the site.

Commissioners chose this configuration for the bridge.

The city chose this configuration for the bridge.

– Design work on the proposed West Avenue Bridge, which would cross the Collins Canal and link Sunset Harbour with the West Avenue area near Epicure, is moving forward, though construction won’t begin until the Alton Road project is complete.

The city commission approved construction of the bridge in April 2012. The bridge will include one northbound lane and two southbound lanes, one of them for cars turning left on to 17th Street from Sunset Harbour. There will be a sidewalk and bike path in each direction.

– The city is preparing documents to enable bidding for a streetscape  project in Sunset Harbour that will include solving the flooding problem and installing new sidewalks, lighting and landscaping. Bids will be sought this summer.

Belle Isle residents received updates on a variety of other issues:

– Alton Road reconstruction. The city and the Florida Department of Transportation are trying to get the project finished by December 2014, seven months earlier than projected, by working longer hours Belle Isle residents will get updates on a variety of public and private construction projects on and around our island when the Residents Association meets Tuesday night.
Among the items on the agenda:
– We’ll learn the latest timetable for switching the toll collection on the Veneitan Causeway to Sunpass, and how that may affect annual pass renewals, which happen each May.
– The Florida Department of Transportation will provide an update on the Alton Road construction project, which has disrupted traffic throught the east side of Miami Beach.
– The city will report on the sulphur odor on Belle Isle and around the park, as well as the park landscaping.
– The city will explain the delays on the Collins Canal bikepath, a partially completed project that was due to be complete last year. The pathway is mostly done, but lighting and landscaping are not.
– We’re get a report on the Sunset Harbour pumping station project, designed to reduce flooding in that neighborhood.
– The Belle Isle Residents Association will update several development projects near us — the 17th Street Marriott Residence Inn, proposed apartment on Belle Isle at the Belle Isle Key apartment location and a proposed parking expansion and renovation at The Standard.

The meeting happens at Belle Plaza, 20 Island Ave. There is a meet and greet at 6 p.m. and the meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Sent from my iPad on construction. FDOT representative Enrique Tamayo told homeowners that FDOT will try to minimize the impact on neighborhoods, but a major project like this is very disruptive.

Venetian Causeway conversion to SunPass. This is expected to happen in late summer. Venetian Island property owners with C-Pass transponders will be contacted so they can register their SunPass devices to work properly on at the toll plaza. We’ll still pay an annual $24 fee; other causeway users will be charged a toll each time on their SunPass. There will no longer be toll takers at the plaza.

The city has switched from iPark devices to a PaybyPhone, a smartphone app to allows you to charge metered parking to a credit card. The new app will be in service in a month or so.

– Proposed Standard Hotel renovation and new parking structure. This idea, floated by the hotel in January 2013, isn’t being pushed by the owners. They received a lukewarm reception from the neighborhood last year, and haven’t submitted a formal proposal to the city.

Belle Isle gets glimpse of proposed 17th Street hotel

Rendering includes proposed West Ave. bridge.

Rendering includes proposed West Ave. bridge.

The developer of the proposed Marriott Residence Inn on 17th Street and West Avenue gave Belle Isle residents a presentation of plans for the 116-room hotel on Thursday.

The project is scheduled for a Planning Board review on April 30.

Here are the vital statistics:

Rendering of the hotel from the Collins Canal.

Rendering of the hotel from the Collins Canal.

– It’s a five-story building, the same height as the retail apartment building immediately to the east that houses the Vespa store on the corner of 17th Street and Alton Road. It would have 66 parking spaces in a mechanical lot.

– The development site is tiny, about 25,000 square feet north of 17th Street, east of the planned West Avenue Bridge, and south of the Collins Canal, which parallels Dade Boulevard.

– Residence Inns feature studios and suites with small kitchens tailored toward business travelers and families. It will have a ground floor restaurant for guests only (these hotels provide free breakfasts), a small conference room and a rooftop pool to serve hotel guests only (11 p.m. close). There will be no outdoor bar counter on the roof, and the owner has proposed to agree not to hold any events on the rooftop.

– The developer is the Finvarb Group, headed by Robert Finvarb. The company has a number of Marriott properties in Florida and elsewhere, including the Courtyard Inn on Washington Avenue at 16th Street.  The architect is renowned Kobi Karp.

Belle Isle Residents Association members at Thursday night’s meeting at the Belle Plaza condo had lots of questions about how the hotel would accommodate deliveries, the expected traffic impact, and when employees would come and go.

Traffic planner Richard Garcia said his impact study showed the hotel would generate less than half the traffic of some other uses that could be allowed on the property, such as a pharmacy, dry cleaner or fast food restaurant. He projected the busiest hour for traffic to be 5-6 p.m., when about 33 trips would be made in and out of the property.

The project’s land-use lawyer, Michael Larkin, projected that no more than 12 employees would be working at the hotel at any given time, but that did not include parking valets.

So, what do you think?

Miami Beach Commission approves West Avenue bridge

Miami Beach City Commissioners on Wednesday approved the concept of building a West Avenue bridge over the Collins Canal to provide a direct route from South Beach to Sunset Harbour.

In a 6-1 vote, commissioners decided to exercise an option for property held by the Miami Beach Housing Authority at West Avenue between 17th Street and the Collins Canal. That land provides the path for the bridge crossing.

Commissioners chose this configuration for the bridge.

Their vote backed a recommendation from Florida Department of Transportation consultants for a bridge that includes one northbound lane and two southbound lanes, one for cars turning left on to 17th Street from Sunset Harbour. The recommendation included bike lanes and a separate sidewalk in each direction.

The vote  also called for the commission’s Neighborhoods committee to explore the impact of a bridge that included a northbound right turn lane to 17th Street, and traffic calming measures for West Avenue south of Lincoln Road.

Commissioner Jorge Exposito said he supported the bridge but didn’t want to be locked in to the specific configuration supported by planners, and wanted them to explore adding a right turn lane at 17th Street.

Commissioner Jerry Libben voted no. (Note, an earlier version of this post incorrectly said Expositio had voted no).

Planners have said it will be two years before work will start on the bridge, but the commission had to decide on whether to acquire the right-of-way from the Housing Authority by May 2. If they did not act, the Housing Authority had several bidders interested in buying the land for development.

During nearly two hours of discussion, commissioners heard from several West Avenue residents who worried the bridge would attract more traffic and congestion to their neighborhood, as commuters seek to avoid Alton Road.

Supporters of the bridge said the traffic will come with or without the bridge. And residents of Sunset Harbour said with the restaurant and retail boom in their area — and the construction of the new city parking garage — the bridge is a necessity.

“Sunset Harbour is now a destination,” said Frank Kruszewski, a leader in the Sunset Harbour condominium association. “You have to do this when you have the opportunity.”

Miami Beach faces key West Avenue bridge vote Wednesday

The Miami Beach City Commission on Wednesday faces a key vote that will determine whether a West Avenue bridge is built over the Collins Canal to connect Sunset Harbour with South Beach.

Commissioners have until May 2  to decide whether to exercise an option for an easement on a small triangle of land owned by the Miami Beach Housing Authority north of 17th Street and the Collins Canal at West Avenue.

The neighborhoods around the proposed bridge — lower West Avenue, Sunset Harbor, lower North Bay Road, Belle Isle, Collins Park — are divided on whether it should be built.

Opponents worry it will lure traffic from overburdened Alton Road to residential neighborhoods.

Proponents say because of growth in the area — particularly in Sunset Harbor — the neighborhoods need a safety valve.

The issue is scheduled for discussion at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday.

Scott Diffenderfer, president of the Belle Isle Residents Association, supports the bridge, but in a Dear Resident letter today conceded flaws in the planning so far:

The strongest arguments against the bridge are 1) that the traffic studies did not incorporate the surrounding neighborhoods, 2) that the building the bridge will add to both local and “cut through” traffic on West Avenue and lower North Bay Road and 3), that a bridge will encourage increased development (particularly “big box” development) in Sunset Harbour.  The first argument is very true – traffic studies are not comprehensive and did not go far enough to study the impact on the greater area.   But development in the neighborhood has ALREADY occurred and will continue to occur regardless of traffic studies say. 

  The argument that the bridge will be responsible for bringing additional traffic on West Avenue and lower North Bay Road and increase development in Sunset Harbour ignores the fact that traffic has already increased on both of these roads because of the continuing deteriorating conditions on Alton and the additional development..  The bridge will not create more traffic but will be a tool to manage traffic that already exists and will unfortunately continue to increase along with development.   

Residents opposed to the bridge are justifiably angry because of the current lack of traffic calming and enforcement in their neighborhoods.  But that should not be an argument against a bridge.

In a previous post on the bridge debate, a dozen people posted arguments for and against the proposal. It’s worth a look.

FDOT recommends plan for West Avenue bridge, gets divided feedback from neighborhoods

Rendering of park next to proposed West Avenue Bridge

The Florida Department of Transportation and the city of Miami Beach released recommendation for a West Avenue Bridge that would connect Sunset Harbour and West Avenue behind Epicure over the Collins Canal.

Presented at a public hearing Tuesday night at the Miami Beach Regional Library, engineers recommended a crossing with one northbound lane, one southbound lane, a southbound left-turn lane on to 17th Street and  bike-pedestrian lanes in each direction.

Engineers told the crowd of about 80 people that they considered six alternatives during their study, ranging from doing nothing, adding some traffic safety measures without building a bridge, and four different bridge alternatives (with one vehicle lane and one bike lane each way to a five-lane plan (one north plus on a northbound right turn lane, with one southbound lane and two southbound left-turn lanes on to 17th Avenue plus a bike lane in each direction).

(You can find the public hearing presentation here.)

The recommended plan would cost roughly $4.1 million to build, and construction wouldn’t begin until 2013. The proposal still needs approval from the state, the federal government and the Miami Beach City Commission.

And commissioners will hear from affected neighborhoods, which where decidedly divided on whether a bridge should be built at all.

Residents from West Avenue — representing the south end and the area around Lincoln Road — said the bridge would bring too much traffic and would be dangerous to pedestrians.

“This is simply a way of dumping Alton Road traffic on to West Avenue,” said Gayle Durham, head of the West Avenue Homeowners Association. “I didn’t move to West Avenue to have a traffic jam at my front door.”

Homeowners from lower North Bay Road — the neighborhood immediately north of Sunset Harbour — also opposed the plan. They said they fear commuters avoiding Alton Road through Sunset Harbour would continue north on their quiet street of single-family homes.

Michael Hammond, president of the Lower North Bay Road Homeowner Association, said he raised concerns at a hearing in November about overflow traffic in his neighborhood, and engineers said they would address it.

“They have not contacted us, and have taken no additional steps. They are saying 12 percent of traffic will come off Alton Road. That’s 4,000 to 5,000 trips a day down West Avenue, up to the entrance to our street. How many will come to us? They don’t know. You’ve done nothing to address this issue.”

But representatives from Belle Isle and Collins Park said they believe the bridge will ease overall traffic in the area.

Belle Isle Residents Association president Scott Diffenderfer said he was sympathetic to the worries of West Avenue residents, but development  in Sunset Harbour — with the new Fresh Market, restaurants and additional retail and parking in the soon-to-be completed parking garage –  demands the bridge.

“I do believe there is a problem on West Avenue and city has done a horrible job with enforcement,” he said. “But this bridge….is just inevitable. There is too much development without it.’

Former Miami Beach Commissioner Nancy Liebman, a resident of Belle Isle, said her daughter lives in Sunset Harbour and “it’s gridlock” at times there. She said she believes the bridge should be built — and the surrounding neighborhoods should band together to make sure improvements are made to make West Avenue safer and to shelter lower North Bay Road from Alton Road spillover traffic.

“I am very saddened to see that neighborhoods are pitted against neighborhoods,” she said. “

As West Avenue Bridge meeting approaches, who supports what?

The Florida Department of Transportation and the city of Miami Beach hold another public meeting Tuesday on the proposal to build a West Avenue bridge over the Collins Canal.

Sentiment in the neighborhoods around the West Avenue path — from Belle Isle and Venetian Islands to Sunset Harbour, lower West Avenue and North Bay Road — is divided.

“One neighborhood’s solution becomes another neighborhood’s problem,” said Gayle Durham, of the West Avenue Neighborhood Association, which represents West Avenue residents south of Lincoln Road and opposes the bridge.

The engineers studying bridge options say there are several, ranging from building no bridge at all to a bridge with two traffic lanes in each direction and bike lanes and sidewalks.

The four bridge alternatives, from two lines to five.

The city and the FDOT have held several neighborhood meetings, as well as  “stakeholder” meetings with businesses in the area. Support among businesses  is much clearer and for good reason — as Sunset Harbour becomes a bigger destination, with many more businesses soon to come with the new city parking garage, they want the neighborhood to be easier to reach.

The Belle Isle Residents Association has come out in support of the bridge that supports pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle access, says BIRA president Scott Diffenderfer.

“Recent development in Sunset Harbour has caused traffic patterns and increased volume that hinders traffic flow in that neighborhood as well as on Venetian Way and 17th Street, main thoroughfares in the area,” he said in a note to Belle Isle residents.  “Additional development is already approved in the area and the City will be relocating well over 100 city vehicles to the garage currently under construction, adding to the gridlock.  In addition, there is currently no easy way for pedestrians, bicycle and automobile traffic to access the neighborhood from the south.”

In Sunset Harbour, residents certainly disagree. Some, in the highrise condos, think the new bridge will shift traffic from Purdy to West Avenue, and that will be better for the neighborhood.

And a goal of the bridge is to smooth out traffic on Alton Road, though some residents dispute how well that will work.

“According to the city’s West Ave Bridge Traffic Report, a bridge will increase traffic on West Avenue by 10 to 25 percent, while alleviating traffic on Alton Rd by 10 percent,” Durham said said.

Others worry it will flood the entire neighborhood with traffic, and should not be built. This is a theme of Sunset Harbour townhouse residents, who live where West Avenue dead-ends near Publix.

That’s the opinion of Marilyn Freundlich, a townhouse resident who emailed a group of neighborhood activists warning the bridge will make Sunset Harbour a destination, and the next thing you know, you’ll have a Home Depot at your doorstep.

“The disadvantages to having a bridge outweigh the advantages.  For example, the bridge will be used by people who have no business coming into Sunset Harbour just to bypass the traffic on Alton Road.  They will cross the bridge, go through our entire neighborhood bringing traffic, congestion, pollution and noise, and exit on 20th Street East to join Alton Road, or worse, continue on South Bay Road and join Alton Road at the Mount Sinai Bridge, also intruding into that strictly residential neighborhood.”

Some North Bay Road residents have said they support the bridge — if access to North Bay Road is limited from the south, so it doesn’t become an Alton Road bypass as well.

Residents in the Lincoln-West Residents Association also worry about the bridge turning West Avenue into a speedway — especially at the corner of West Avenue and 17th Street.

Tuesday’s meeting starts at 6 p.m. (formal presentation at 6:15 p.m.) at the Miami Beach Regional Library, 227  22 St.

What do you think about the bridge? Post your comments.

Planners meet public in Sunset Harbour on proposed West Avenue Bridge

The West Avenue Bridge information campaign travels to Sunset Harbour tonight at 6 p.m. The meeting happens in the Sunset Harbour south tower, seventh floor clubhouse, 1800 Sunset Harbour Dr.

The city of Miami Beach has until May 2 to decide whether to exercise an option for an easement on a small triangle of land owned by the Miami Beach Housing Authority north of 17th Street and the Collins Canal at West Avenue, which would provide the path for a bridge linking the West Avenue neighborhoods west of Epicure with the booming little Sunset Harbour hood.

The Florida Department of Transportation has had two public hearings to tell residents about options for the bridge (one is not to build a bridge at all) and gather feedback, and has another planned for 6:15 p.m. on March 27 at the Miami Beach Regional Library, 277 22nd St.

The Sunset Harbour meeting is the third planners have held with neighborhood groups; they met earlier this month with homeowners in Flamingo Park and on the Sunset Islands.

Next West Avenue Bridge public meeting set; Miami Beach faces May deadline on land

One of the West Avenue bridge options.

With a key decision on whether to build a bridge over the Collins Canal on West Avenue less than four months away, the Florida Department of Transportation has scheduled its next public meeting on the proposal for March 27.

Housing Authority parcel is south of the Colllins Canal

The city of Miami Beach has until May 2 to decide whether to exercise an option for an easement on a small triangle of land owned by the Miami Beach Housing Authority north of 17th Street and the Collins Canal at West Avenue, according to city public works engineer Rick Saltrick.

If the city exercises the option, planning for a bridge connecting Sunset Harbour and the area west of Epicure would move forward. A final decision on whether to build the bridge — and its features, if built — would come later.

But if the city commission doesn’t act on the Housing Authority option, there is no path across the canal, and the project essentially dies right there.

The state DOT held an earlier public forum on the bridge proposal on Nov. 15, in which it presented four options, including building no bridge at all. Many residents who attended the meeting proposed another idea — a bike- and pedestrian-only bridge.

There was much enthusiasm from residents around the no-car bridge, but it looks like it isn’t possible. There is still no mention of it on the project website, which lists the other construction options.

Here is the short description of the project from the site:

The proposed West Avenue Bridge would span the Collins Canal, which is a city-owned manmade canal.  Proposed improvements would likely include approximately 110 feet of new roadway and an approximately 55 foot long low-level fixed bridge over the Collins Canal.  The bridge would include two northbound and southbound through-lanes and possibly turn lanes as well as bike lanes and sidewalks on each side.

At the Belle Isle Residents Association meeting on Jan. 18, homeowner association president Scott Diffenderfer said residents shouldn’t delude themselves about a bridge that doesn’t carry cars.

The funding that’s in place from state and federal sources is specifically for a road for vehicles. If the city wants a bike-only bridge, it will pay for it on its own, he said.

The March 27 meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the Miami Beach Regional Library, 277 22 St.

Belle Isle residents to get updates on causeway construction, proposed new apartment complex

The Belle Isle Residents Association has scheduled its annual meeting for Wednesday, Jan. 18, and the agenda is packed with issues of interest to residents on Belle and other Venetian islands:

–An update on Venetian Causeway construction.

– A presentation on proposals to build a West Avenue bridge over the Collins canal.

Plans to replace the Venetian Causeway bridges.

– Bike path plans for Dade Boulevard.

– An update on the proposed apartment project to replace Belle Isle Key apartments at 31 Venetian Way. The owner of the property sued Miami Beach last year after the Design Review Board limited the height of one of the buildings he proposed to four floors

If you have issues you’d like to discuss,  email the residents association board of directors at bod@belle-isle-residents.org before Jan. 12.

The business meeting on Jan. 18 will take place in the board room at Belle Plaza, 20 Island Ave., starts at 7 p.m. There will be wine and conversation starting at 6 p.m.

FDOT presents West Avenue bridge options and fields a request for a no-car crossing

Examining the exhibits at the West Avenue Bridge meeting.

When the Florida  Department of Transportation heard neighborhood feedback Tuesday on alternative plans for a bridge linking West Avenue over the Collins Canal17th Street, the clearest message came from people who feared the bridge would turn the neighborhood into a shortcut for avoiding Alton Road.

FDOT public information officer Yvette Holt asked the crowd of about 50 residents from the Sunset Harbour, West Avenue, North Bay Road and Belle Isle neighborhoods what they thought was the best option of many discussed at the two-hour meeting. The largest group — about one-third of those attending — said they preferred a bridge that only served pedestrians, runners and bicyclists.

Proposed path for the West Avenue Bridge.

Their fear: that the proposed bridge would serve as an alternative to congested Alton Road, and the growing but quiet Sunset Harbour neighborhood would shift from a destination for neighborhood restaurants and stores to pass-through for commuters.

FDOT consultant  Jose Lavell, the deputy project manager, gave an overview of the planning process for the proposed bridge, which began with a study in 2007 and is now in its public input and design alternative study phase.

FDOT has a website on the bridge project, which will be updated with materials shown at the meeting. The site also can be used by residents to submit questions for the planners, Holt said.

If the process moves forward toward building a bridge — something the Miami Beach City Commission will ultimately decide — the design phase would happen in 2013 and there would be one to two years of construction. So if a bridge is built, it won’t be in place  until 2014 or 2015.

Tuesday’s meeting was the second held to tap neighborhood sentiment about the bridge. There will be more, Lavell said.

“We want as much feedback as possible,” he said.

He received plenty.

In a PowerPoint, FDOT showed four options for the bridge. All include at least two lanes for cars, a bike lane north and south, and eight-foot-wide sidewalks on either side. They varied in the number of vehicle lanes based on how traffic would be allowed to  turn off West on 17th Street and Dade Boulevard. They ranged in cost (estimated, of course) from $3.9 million to about $4.7 million.

The four bridge alternatives, from two lanes to five.

Feedback was frequent, pointed, and driven from the perspective of the different neighborhoods. Most focused on concerns that a bridge connecting West Avenue would lure drivers trying to avoid heavy traffic on Alton Road.

Two residents of the lower North Bay Road neighborhood (north of 20th Street) said they supported the bridge, but only if the south end of Bay Road — near the entrance to Sunset Islands and Mark’s Cleaners — is only for traffic leaving North Bay Road.

“What we want to see at the south end of North Bay Road is an exit only,” said lower Bay Road resident Mark Ausley. “Otherwise it would be disasterous to our neighborhood” because of drivers heading north to avoid Alton Road.

A representative of the Sunset Harbour condo association said his neighbors support the bridge because Purdy Avenue already serves as the cut-through to avoid Alton, and this would divert some of it. He said the upcoming opening of Fresh Market and the new city parking garage, there will be even more traffic in the neighborhood and this would help relieve the congestion.

And Michael Comras, a business owner at 1261 20th St., said he also backed the bridge.

“This is no longer a sleepy little area,” he said. “It’s all about balance.  With Fresh Market, the new parking garage, the area will be very constricted. It’s all about a compromise.”

But residents of the Sunset Harbour Townhouses, on 20th Street, said they worry the bridge will bring traffic through the center of the neighborhood only to collect where West Avenue ends — right at their front door.

Another Sunset Harbour Townhouse resident, Nina Boniske, said planners would spoil the neighborhood with the bridge.

“What makes this neighborhood unique is that it is an enclave, she said “It is a natural enclave. The minute you put the bridge in here all you are doing is moving traffic from one road to another. If you are just looking to help the Beach have more bicycle and pedestrian access, this won’t do it.”

Boniske said the area can advance without the bridge.

“If you use the existing  roadways and reconfigure them, and increase green space, you can keep the neighborhood enclave,’ she said. “We are as a thriving commercial area already without having this access, without having parking.”

Mark Wohl, who lives in a condo at 1688 West Avenue, where it currently ends at 17th Street, said FDOT and the city haven’t  listened enough to resident input and been open to alternatives to the bridge. He criticized the current construction at Dade Boulevard and Bay Road, where a concrete median has been installed to prevent westbound drivers on Dade from turning right on to Bay.

Lavell said there are a variety of tools that can be deployed to slow traffic on the bridge, and to prevent drivers from using the bridge — and the neighborhood to avoid Alton Road. Few lanes, no left or right turns at 17th Street or Dade Boulevard, traffic calming devices — all could have an impact.

FDOT also could propose is no bridge at all, he said.

Cost projections