FREE & OPEN TO THE PUBLIC: A PUBLIC MEETING
Historic Preservation / Sea-Level Rise: A Collaboration Document
Conceived, facilitated and compiled by Tiffany Troxler, PhD, Director of the FIU Sea Level Solutions Center and by John Stuart, AIA, Executive Director of the Miami Beach Urban Studios.
Overview and Summary
The impetus for these SLR/Historic Preservation dialogues grew out of a desire to utilize FIU’s presence on Miami Beach as neutral territory to facilitate the respectful sharing of ideas and opinions around the subject matter. We started this volunteer process by briefing the Planning Department and the City of Miami Beach Commissioners on the project and gaining their support. To the greatest extent possible, we hoped to facilitate a knowledge sharing and learning process to help the City’s citizens and leadership discuss—and evaluate—issues and potential solutions related to sea-level rise and historic preservation.
This document was created through the input of vested homeowners, residents, historic preservationists, business owners and developers who are interested in the future of the City of Miami Beach (and who were available when we scheduled the 5PM sessions). The notes below were collected during five intimate and thoughtful “Dialogues” scheduled between March 14, 2017 and May 15, 2017 in the Miami Beach Urban Studios located at 420 Lincoln Road. The participants, of which there were just over twenty including the hosts, were given an opportunity to review and correct the notes before they were included below. None of the invited participants sat on city land use boards, worked for the City of Miami Beach or served as elected officials.
The document has been divided in seven focus areas, many of which overlap with one another. These are: historic buildings, preservation strategies, planning/zoning/funding, new construction, current projects in Miami Beach, flood water management, and parking/housing/insurance. Each focus area includes a brief summary followed by notes of the discussions transcribed during the events. In many cases the notes have attempted to retain the original train of thought and grammar. The document closes with final thoughts toward possible solutions including areas of possible convergence.
In summary, the facilitators found great promise in the convergence of a great number of ideas around historic preservation and sea-level rise. There was general acknowledgement of the need for data-driven conversations and results. As to be expected, there remained many questions surrounding both broad priorities and specific resiliency strategies. What should incentives look like and who should receive them? How do we evaluate the term “contributing” when applied to an historic building? What does it entail to modify historic buildings for resiliency without losing the precious relationship between past and present? How can we leverage the need for new investments for sea-level rise adaptation to grow Miami Beach stronger with higher quality of life for residents and business owners, preserving its uniqueness and with a flourishing tourist economy? To answer these and many more questions, we hope to see more respectful dialogues grounded in facts following in the near future.
These dialogues were conceived of and designed to encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations in a “neutral” university space about topics that seem to contain inherent conflicts. They were intended to expand the minds of those interested in the topic and set the stage for larger public dialogues to be more aware of data and more information, where needed. There was no expectation that these dialogues would result in “solutions” since parties whose interests might diverge were not in the rooms together. As mentioned above, there were a few areas where it appeared that “solutions” may be close at hand.
Areas of possible convergence included:
- There is an assumption that historic districts in Miami Beach are key to the unique character of the city and to its appeal to tourists, businesses and residents alike.
- The engagement of both the private and public sectors is critical to funding resilient solutions for historic neighborhoods.
- City leadership has an important role in building trust so that decisions that are made are clearly made using all possible environmental, financial, social and historical data.
- There is no single silver-bullet solution. Solutions should probably be bundled together as a portfolio to include multiple components. These could relate simultaneously, for example, to changes in infrastructure, building fabric, financial models, and to how we perceive of the historic fabric.
- Modifications to historic buildings (or the creation of new buildings) that enhance resiliency would require changes to the FAR and zoning. How much, where, and when would take further study.
- New construction developed to resilient standards in historic neighborhoods may also necessitate reconsiderations of FAR and lot coverage.
- Modifications to building codes, FAR, and planning standards should be incremental, with regularly timed reviews for revisions based upon latest data.