The Biscayne Times

Jul 08th
I’ll Take the Garage, Please PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jack King, BT Contributor   
December 2017

Miami Parking Authority tries to corral a cash cow in the Grove

A Pix_JackKing_12-17few weeks ago I was cleaning out old files and ran across a page from USA Today with the headline “One Solution for Miami: Nonexistence.” The date: Friday, December 6, 1996.

The solution under discussion was abolishing the City of Miami and making it come under county government.

Gee, I thought that already happened in 1956, when Dade County got the Florida legislature to pass a law just for Dade, establishing “home rule” for us, which granted exceptional autonomy. The legislation wasn’t so well received by the City of Miami or other municipalities in Dade County. The other cities wanted their own enhanced autonomy from the county.

The war has continued for many years, primarily because the City of Miami has had a serious financial crisis every 10 to 20 years and the county has been reluctant to bail it out.

Miami’s facing another such crisis right now. It’s not major, but it certainly could become one any minute. I’m not sure our new mayor, Francis Suarez, and the city commission even realize it.

This one has been looming for a good while -- ever since the city made one of its trademark “economic moves” and turned over the shuttered Coconut Grove Playhouse to the county. This way the county can lose its own shirt refurbishing the structure.

Handoffs like this have become standard operating procedure for projects the city wants somebody else to build and/or maintain -- with one exception: parking. The city’s quasi-autonomous Miami Parking Authority wants to keep that cash cow.

Art Noriega, CEO of the Miami Parking Authority (MPA), knows a cash cow when he sees one. His first parking plan for the Playhouse -- which hasn’t yet been designed, much less built -- was to propose a parking garage to accommodate at least 410 vehicles. Bear in mind that there’s not even a parking study yet for how many parking places will be needed.

I’d think that the county, not Miami, would develop a use and size for the Playhouse before it makes any decision on a parking garage.

It seems the MPA itself hasn’t even done a traffic study for the place yet. So how do you get 410-plus cars in and out of the garage, and in and out of Coconut Grove? Inquiring minds want to know, which is why I called my architect buddy Charles Corda and asked him what he thought of the plan.

His reply: “The new garage is accessed from Main Highway (two lanes), will have one way in and out, and will provide access for 410 cars. Let’s assume the cars are going in and out about the rate of 20 seconds per car, not including stopping for pedestrians, etc. A best guess is about 20 seconds a car in and out.

“So 420 cars times 20 seconds each equals about two and a half hours to fill or empty the garage,” he says. “That will pretty much stop traffic for two hours per performance on Main Highway (two lanes), Grand Avenue (two lanes), and South Bayshore (two to four lanes).”

Corda says that a traffic planner needs to study the impacts on the surrounding streets. “And as of right now,” he says, “I don’t see a traffic planner listed as being involved in this aspect of the Playhouse renovation.”

Several years ago, the county brought in Michael Spring, the Miami-Dade County director of cultural affairs, to assist with the Playhouse planning. He held several years of meetings -- and after all these meeting, nothing was really said. No substantive plans, not even comments. And apparently no one from the county, other than Spring, ever showed up. And he had pretty much nothing to say.

I got the feeling that the county sent him over to placate us in the Grove so we wouldn’t attack county hall. I’ve made up a word for that behavior, briggleling: the art of talking and not saying a damn thing.

Coconut Grove, you may not know, was founded in 1887, nine years before the City of Miami. I have it on good repute that the residents of the Grove were quite happy not being part of Miami. Then one day in 1925, Miami decided it wasn’t happy watching us be so happy. All that sailing, fishing, partying, and living on the water.

The Miamians, unhappy as they were, wanted to do something about it, and they did. They set about to have a referendum for the Groveites to see if we wanted to be part of Miami. And they held their referendum in the middle of summer, when most of us were smart enough to get out of town. We came back and found out that we were living in Miami.

We got the last laugh. We still have their city hall!


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