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Miami’s Green Spaces Are Prime Assets for Public-Private Partnerships

Albert E. Dotson, Jr.

On March 29, 2015, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, of which Bilzin Sumberg is a member, hosted an event that discussed infrastructure plans that would increase Miami’s walkability and bikeability. In addition to increasing modes of mobility, the plans that were discussed would also allow Miami to recapitalize its unused green spaces as assets that can revitalize Miami’s urban core and provide workable solutions to the growing need for transportation options. Social Infrastructure public private partnerships (“PPP” or “P3″) should not be overlooked by eager investors or municipalities in Miami as viable options for monetizing underutilized assets and solving problems that hamper smart growth.

The speakers at the event were Ryan Gravel who discussed Atlanta’s Beltline, Meg Daly who discussed Miami’s proposed Underline, Bernard Zyscovich who discussed Plan Z and Rickenbacker Park, and Victor Dover who discussed Wheels Miami. The Underline, previously dubbed GreenLink, is fully funded for its master planning and would create a linear park and urban trail beneath the Metrorail train path. Renderings that were created by Architecture students at the University of Miami provide for the possibility of amenity kiosks, gardens, lighting and renovations of walkways and bicycle paths. The Underline would potentially connect to Rickenbacker Park and other pedestrian and bicycle paths. The idea is similar to New York City’s High Line, which is comprised of an elevated linear park that was built on historic, unused railway tracks.

The High Line was funded by donations that were raised through its non-profit, a commitment from the New York City government and contributions of money and property from neighboring and local businesses. It is owned by New York City and maintained and operated by the non-profit. A P3 could be a viable option for the construction, maintenance, and operation of repurposed unused and green spaces in Miami that are along transit and modal corridors, given that such projects are too costly for municipalities to develop on their own.

Through a P3, private businesses can be offered the opportunity to participate in the activation of spaces that, because of their proximity to mass transit, could drive mixed-use development and create transit hubs. These repurposed spaces would bring additional attractions to tourists and residents by providing amenities that would make these paths not only commuting corridors but also recreational corridors. The redevelopment of these spaces would work hand in hand with connecting resources and a string of assets as well as boosting ridership of the Metrorail, All Aboard Florida, and the future Baylink, adding to the bankability of these projects. Plans like the Underline and Rickenbacker Park could support transit options and allow Miami to create a system and network of multimodal transportation.

Projects like the Underline could meld infrastructure development and a way of life in a manner that will generate real estate development and transit-oriented development in an area where there is great need for change and for a market that is brimming with demand. Such development is of the kind that was envisioned when Miami created the development and zoning regulations of the “Fixed-Guideway Rapid Transit System – Development Zone in efforts to boost joint development along the transit corridor and capitalize on untapped revenue sources.

The development of New York City’s Highline is estimated to have generated upwards of $2 billion of investment and real estate value in the area around it. Atlanta’s Beltline is estimated to have generated a  300% (3:1) return on investment in its first seven years. Additionally, adding neighborhood assets such as repurposed green spaces helps attract creative talent and alleviates brain drain. Integrating infrastructure development and mobility networks is essential to smart growth in Miami. As P3 attorneys, we believe the potential economic, development, and investment opportunities of Miami’s underutilized government-owned spaces have yet to be fully explored. As Miami-Dade County seeks to expand its use of P3s for infrastructure and transit projects, and social infrastructure such as a criminal justice complex and a water P3, P3s should also be considered as a means to develop exciting projects that offer a new way to use existing assets.

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It's somewhat hard to fathom how Albert E. Dotson Jr., has time to practice law. As an attorney he handles government procurement and real estate development at Bilzin Sumberg. But community involvement is the area where he has really made his mark in Miami.
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