Former-former-former North Miami Beach mayor Jeffrey Mishcon was noted for saying, “If you don’t build it, they won’t come.” He was right. Nothing was built during his sixteen year term, and nobody came. He fought development tooth and nail. According to the 2010 Census, we have roughly the same forty thousand or so residents that was recorded in the 2000 Census. No new growth equals no new revenue.
The good news is that development is coming to North Miami Beach. And not a moment too soon. The long-stalled project, formerly known as Marina Grande, will finally be constructed. According to a Miami Herald article, Marina Palms Yacht Club & Residents “will boost [sic] two condominium buildings, consisting of 234 residences in each tower, along with a full-service marina with 112 slips.” I’m pretty sure it will boast them, too.
The Biscayne Boulevard property’s scandalous history includes a lawsuit challenging the 2004 city council’s interpretation of the zoning code, for which the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and over which the plaintiffs subsequently and mysteriously “settled” in order to allow the city to build the development they claim they didn’t want built. (Huh?) Unfortunately, as the article states, by the time it was “settled” in 2006, just like old milk, “the economy had started to turn.” After receiving a settlement of an undisclosed amount from the developers, and stalling the project long enough for the real estate bubble to inevitably burst, the savvy plaintiffs got exactly what they set out to receive – enough cash to buy a new mayor, and a room with a view.
The rest is history. That mayor turned out to be as crooked as the day is long, the economy started turning around, and another window of opportunity has opened for North Miami Beach to enter the 21st century.
I will not hold my breath, though.
I fully expect the usual suspects to continue fighting the Marina Palms project until the bitter end. The same way I expect the same ilk of people to fight the Braha Dixie project from breaking ground under the guise of “saving” Greynolds Park. At least one of the four petitioners in this new lawsuit does not live in North Miami Beach, yet that didn’t stop Charles M. Baron from trying to stop development in our city. He has a problem with a proposed ten story complex outside the West Dixie Highway entrance of Greynolds Park. He does not, however, have a problem living in a seven story condominium outside the West Dixie Highway entrance of Greynolds Park. Go figure.
Although I’m told that one of the petitioners, Shelly Clay, does live in NMB, since I’m also told this isn’t her real name, I have no way of either confirming or denying whether she does or not.
Another anti-development activist-slash-treehugger, Amy Werba, I’m told is behind the “grassroots/Facebook” effort known as Save Greynolds Park. She is also a director (along with the lawsuit petitioner Errol Alvey) and registered agent of the non-profit corporation Friends of the Oleta River, Inc., which organization helped to successfully put the kibosh on a project known as Blue Palms several years ago.
In addition, Ms. Werba is also a director of the non-profit corporation Arch Creek Trust, Inc., which (and this is a good thing) successfully stopped the City of North Miami from completely bulldozing the historic and beautiful Arch Creek Park to build a car dealership. As if Arch Creek Park wasn’t worthy of saving in and of itself, the League of Paranormal Investigators, Inc. found “medium levels of paranormal activity” there and that “one psychic got the impression that native spirits are hiding in the trees.” Ghosts notwithstanding, North Miami did not need another car dealership and, fortunately, Arch Creek Park still exists today.
Unlike Arch Creek Park, no one is trying to bulldoze Greynolds. Not even close.
Yet another non-profit organization of which Ms. Werba is a director is the North Dade Orchid Club, Inc. I know this group meets at NMB City Hall, where I imagine the members talk about how much they like orchids. Orchids are pretty flowers. What’s not to like? Orchids are really hard to grow, though. I know, I’ve tried. Please don’t tell Amy, but I accidentally killed a few before I realized that orchid growing is not my calling. If she finds out, she might have me arrested for murder. Or worse, she might get her posse to form a human chain around my house like they do at nuclear reactors to protest any future orchid-cide I might be contemplating. Not to worry, Amy. My Adventures in Horticulture are a distant memory.
In all seriousness, though, as far as I’m concerned we have been stuck in the shadows of several progressive cities, i.e., Aventura, Sunny Isles Beach and, yes, even North Miami, all of which have not only embraced the future but have risen to the occasion. Both literally and figuratively. It’s long past time that North Miami Beach either follow suit by reinventing itself or just continue to slide into the muck of obscurity. The only thing keeping this decaying city from completely rotting off the face of the map is our prime location. I almost expect the cities of Aventura, Sunny Isles Beach and North Miami to figure out a way to build a sky bridge heading east from I-95 and linking all three cities, which would enable drivers to safely bypass the crime ridden, wild west-like streets of North Miami Beach altogether.
But, hey! That would solve our traffic problems, eh?
It would also solve the high rise “problem” that some residents seem to think we’re in danger of contracting once we start developing. Instead of the dreaded “tall buildings,” we’d have expressway overpasses blocking our view and our sunshine. Not to mention cutting our neighborhoods in half like they did in Overtown. If NMB continues to be the slum of northeast Miami-Dade County, don’t think for one minute it can’t happen here.
The leaders of Aventura, Sunny Isles Beach and North Miami would be justified in ignoring (or, hopefully, eradicating) our existence. Who could blame them? We are a blight in their midst. Upon entering the Gateway to North Miami Beach from I-95, visitors are greeted to a view of run down strip malls, tattoo parlors, palm readers, XXX video stores, pawn shops, fast food joints and Asian “massage” parlors. If they keep heading east, they eventually pass by our “anchor” store, Wal-Mart, which we can’t even claim as ours. The ability to bypass North Miami Beach Boulevard would certainly help our neighboring cities attract more visitors!
It took nine years to get one decent development built in NMB. (And that’s IF it gets built!) Will it take another nine years to get another one off the ground? At this rate, we’ll enter the 21st century by the time the year 2099 rolls around. Luckily, none of us will be around to enjoy it. Or care.
Then again, most of the people who are protesting development in North Miami Beach either don’t live here, or used to, but moved out a long time ago. On the Save Greynolds Park Facebook page, those out-of-town folks are calling for the heads of all the current elected officials, threatening to vote them out of office. News flash: You have to live in NMB to vote in NMB.
The Mayor and Council are also receiving letters from people urging them to stop development. I had to laugh at the letter from a woman who lives in uber upscale Yorktown Heights, New York (home of the headquarters of the IBM research center and where median housing prices are $614,260), who wrote:
“I am opposed to the multi-story building project that would be adjacent to Greynolds Park…Allowing a large development project to come in will irreversibly damage the park and surrounding area…This is unacceptable. Our public parks and open spaces are an asset in themselves. They provide a grand service to everyone and they belong to everyone in the Community…While I no longer live in the Community, I still visit frequently and have many friends and family in the area. I implore you to find another way to make money and create jobs in North Miami Beach. Please do not sacrifice your beautiful jewel, Greynolds Park, to do it.”
Wait! I know! I found “another way to make money and create jobs!” We don’t need no stinkin’ development. Let’s just open a couple dozen more Asian “massage” parlors instead. At the annual business tax rate of $177.05 per establishment, we stand to increase our revenue by a whopping $4,249.20 per year! Just think of all the “jobs” that will create, too! Of course, then we’ll need to attract some VD clinics to the ‘hood. That should definitely boost our economy.
We won’t even have to change our logo. Simply replace “Now More Beautiful” for “Now More BJs.”
On an uplifting note, no orchids were harmed in the writing of this column.
“Spreading the Wealth”