In our city’s hands, multi-use developer-driven development is failing. It is isolating the downtown from the average resident. Making the downtown less livable. And making our Mayor and City Council less relevant to many.
Multi-use projects are meant to add a public use to residential and office buildings. By requiring some retail or restaurant space, in theory, the public shares in the building’s benefits. But there is no control over the type of retail, or requirement that the space actually has to be occupied. Instead, the concept is used to justify the tsunami of concrete filling the land and sky. And when they fail, they are simply ignored.
Making the city livable
To make a city livable, residents need a variety of accessible and affordable goods and services. But experience has shown that multi-use projects actually result in their loss. These get replaced by fewer and more expensive or less useful alternatives. These do not provide the basics of a livable neighborhood.
Consider East Palmetto Park Road. Most of the action is at the low-rise sections on the north side. Some of which, by the way, will be bulldozed to make room for Aletto Square. There’s not so much action, if any, in the large buildings on the street. What retail that exists in Palmetto Promenade is made almost invisible by the design of the building. Retail in the 200 East condominium has been non-existent since built. Elsewhere, the only retail in Via Mizner is a lone bank branch. It’s hasn’t proven easy to get useful retail. What is occupied is largely real estate, law offices, and banks.
In fact, all of the major projects in the pipeline do not contribute to the livability of downtown.
Aletto Square will raze at least five small stores. And it’s construction threatens two more. These will be replaced by one retail store and potentially four restaurants. The proposed Mizner Plaza Hotel on NE 2ndStreet will erase an entire row of very popular and affordable stores and restaurants, as well as the post office. As advertised, it will be replaced with shops such as Louboutin, Cartier, Ferragano, Bulgari, and other similarly priced retailers. The Mandarin Oriental (if it ever gets built) will feature similar stores. None of this planned construction will replace the very functional shops that exist now.
Walkability and mobility are indeed crucial to a city. But they are in the hands of an unchecked and pro-development City Council. Siren songs that are leading the city to a dangerous place. An uninviting place where residents have no place to walk to, no reason to walk.
Puppets of Developers
Unfortunately, if social media is a true indication, our Mayor and City Council are no longer relevant to the broad base of residents. They are viewed as puppets of developers who care more about visitors than residents. It’s easy to see how people get that impression.
It is time to demand that candidates not just listen to residents, as they are fond of saying. It is time politicians actually honor their desires. The rules of multi-use development need to demand more from developers. And we need to demand more from our elected officials.