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THE MIAMI HERALD

Work on Miami 21, the city's ambitious effort to overhaul its zoning code and generate neighborhood-friendly development, begins in earnest Saturday.




Miami 21, an ambitious effort to create a new blueprint for growth and development, will begin in earnest Saturday -- and will take aim at the white-hot center of the city's high-rise condo boom.

City consultants and administrators will conduct the first public working sessions for the project, which promises to deliver an overhaul of the zoning code and a new economic development plan, at Miami Dade College's Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami.

The nearly all-day workshop will focus on Miami's eastern quadrant, areas generally east of Interstate 95, including Brickell Avenue north of 15th Road, downtown Miami and Overtown, Wynwood, Little Haiti and the bayfront neighborhoods along Biscayne Boulevard.

Consultants and city officials hope to glean a wish list from residents so they can begin translating some grand concepts -- neighborhood preservation, pedestrian-friendly streets and welcoming parks and open spaces -- into detailed plans and ordinances.

''It's intended to give the public an opportunity really to talk to us, the consultants and the city, about their concerns and desires,'' said Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, the lead city consultant and dean of the University of Miami's architecture school.

The eventual goal, she said, is "a clear new vision of the city as it grows.''

Residents and landowners and developers, often at loggerheads over the scale of new development, hope to get a glimpse of what the plans and the new code might consist of amid considerable skepticism on both sides.

Some neighborhood activists fear Miami 21 is meant to ease the way to more big development, and complain public participation has been limited so far.

''The neighborhoods were left out of the formulation of the goals for Miami 21,'' activist Steve Hagen, a member of Miami Neighborhoods United, told city commissioners Thursday during a presentation on Miami's shortage of park space.

Some developers' representatives, meanwhile, are adopting a wait-and-see attitude, citing the lack of specifics to date. One prominent zoning lawyer said she hopes Miami 21 will correct what she said is vagueness in the zoning code.

''If we had more certainty in the process and a quicker process, I think everyone would be happy,'' said Lucia Dougherty, a lawyer who has represented many major developers. "I don't have a problem with changing the laws so long as everyone knows what the rules are.''

Plater-Zyberk said she believes Saturday's sessions could begin to allay some of those worries.

''I hope after working with us Saturday, people will see there will be many opportunities for interaction,'' she said.

The city hopes to make meaty discussions possible Saturday by keeping working groups relatively small.

After introductions from planners and Mayor Manny Diaz, the workshop will divide into three simultaneous 45-minute breakout sessions focused on economic development, transportation, and a combination of zoning and parks. Each session will be held three times to allow attendees to cover all the topics.

Work on the eastern quadrant zoning rewrite is to be finished by December. Other quadrants will follow every six months, with the entire project to be concluded in two years.

   
   
 
   
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