As part of the Florida Statewide Flooding Resilience Plan, Miami Beach is recommended to receive more than $28 million for two underfunded projects.
The First Street flood mitigation and sea level rise adaptation is to receive $20,110,259 and Fire Station 1 would get $8,413,860 for gradual completion of each.
The recommendations await the Legislature’s review and appropriation, said City Manager Alina T. Hudak in a statement.
The First Street neighborhood improvement project seeks to mitigate flooding caused by intense rain, high tides and sea level rise.
“It’s a significant project for the southern part of Miami Beach,” said Jose Gomez, city public works director. “It’s a project that we’ve been working on for several years and we can finally proceed now with the final design of the project.”
A new stormwater treatment system would replace the old infrastructure and mitigate flooding from sea level rise in the First Street area. Work would be done in five years, but the first steps are underway. The city has negotiated with contractor Jacobs Engineering and in November issued a noticed to proceed on the design.
“Prior to that,” said Mr. Gomez, “[we had] the stakeholders’ meetings and the community interaction over a few years to get consensus on the type of alternatives that we would be putting out there.”
In a letter to Mayor Dan Gelber and commissioners, Raul Aguila, at the time interim city manager, wrote that “over the course of four years, the city’s professional staff held 40 public engagement meetings, four in 2017, three in 2018, 17 in 2019, and 16 in 2020.”
Mr. Gomez said the $20 million grant, which will cover much of the $46.9 million project, is extremely important.
“We have an aggressive program for neighborhood improvement projects throughout the city,” he said. “We’ve got a district that provides priority for these neighborhood improvement projects. In addition to that, we’ve taken the steps to look at some interim solutions for those areas that we call hot spots.”
Work would elevate First Street between Alton Road and Washington Avenue, install a new stormwater treatment system and pump station and a new stormwater gravity collection system, and replace water and sewer mains along that street.
Fire Station 1 is budgeted at about $18.4 million, of which $8.4 million was at a shortfall, according to a city spokesperson. This state grant would close the gap and allow it to proceed with full funding.
“This is very important component of the process that we have in order to deliver the fire station,” said David Martinez, capital improvement projects director. “This project has been in the works for a few years. In 2016, we had a lot of activity for it and committees with the commission, but [it] pretty much died because of lack of funding.”
On Dec. 8, the city commission voted 6-1 to waive regulations to allow development of the station at 833 Sixth St., where the South Shore Community Center sits.
“Without this money,” Mr. Martinez said, “the city would be forced to seek other sources of funding during this budget year, also competing with other projects.”
Fire Station 1 is in the development stage. “We’re at a critical point in the future and the design and construction of a much-needed fire station,” said Ms. Hudak at the commission meeting. “[It is] probably one of the single most important public safety projects promised to our residents and to our voters in our general obligation bond.”
The architectural and engineering design contract, she explained, was approved in July 2019, allowing design to begin, and “we’re at 30% competition.”
“The current fire station at 1051 Jefferson Ave. has outlived its useful life as a fire station,” she said. “It is obsolete for the current and future needs of the department. It does not meet national fire association standards. It’s 2.5 below FEMA base level elevation. It has the highest vulnerability rating among all public safety facilities within the city of Miami Beach. And it has limited access for emergency vehicles.”
The grant, a city press release said, would allow construction of a category 5 hurricane-resilient station with an elevation floor of 16.25 national geodetic vertical datum (NGVD); and it would help fund an efficient design and place critical equipment and emergency systems 10 feet higher than at the old station. The money would help make the new station the most flood-protected city-owned facility.
Last week, the Historical Preservation Board voted to resume conversations about location of the fire station in January, “so no decisions have been made yet,” Mr. Martinez said.
“Once we move beyond the Historic Preservation Board,” he added, “we will be able to complete the design process and prepared construction documents so that we can bring them back to the commission to award the project for construction, which would be no earlier than the end of 2022.”
Fire Station 1 received $4 million in a city $439 million bond program with the first bond issuance in 2019, and it will receive the remaining $6 million when the second round of funds is issued in 2023, according to a city spokesperson. The state announced it will grant the project $1,815,330 in 2022 and $6,598,530 in 2023.
“If we had not funded that shortfall by the time we have it ready to bring it back to commission,” Mr. Martinez said, “we will not be able to afford the project and we will not move forward. It would all just be on paper.”
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