Dear Mayor Trantalis, Vice Mayor Glassman, Mr McKinzie, Mr Sorensen, Ms Moraitis, and Mr Lagerbloom:
I have been following conversations and events related to plans for the so-called “Former One-Stop Shop Site” over the years and have some concerns about the current plans for this valuable public site.
In 2015, Flagler Village residents mounted a campaign #OurNextPark to dedicate the 3.5 acre parcel, assessed at over $10m (per the County Property Appraiser), as a public park. This campaign was mounted around the time a real estate consultant, CBRE, released a report recommending the site for redevelopment. The site has a long history, and was the site of our city hall until the current municipal facility was erected at 100 N Andrews. In the 1950s prominent local architects collaborated on design proposals for the mid-century city hall, now demolished.
The site also features a rare Dracaena cinnabari tree in remarkable condition as well as several mature native trees. The site was included in the creation of Flagler Village, spurred on by the “Eastward Ho!” movement as part of a district especially designed to encourage a mix of urban housing. The vision for the area was substantiated by two planning studies funded by the city: A New Vision fo Flagler Heights/Progressoby the noted architect Christopher Alexander and Toward and Urban Village in Flagler Heights, by Charles Euchner (formerly of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University). I worked closely with both Alexander and Euchner, connecting them with residents and property owners – including the late Peter Feldman- and holding neighborhood walks, attending meetings and assisting the city in organizing community forums. Both plans presented frameworks that include parks as an immediate priority as community focal points and centers that anchor the community’s vision for a walkable vibrant public realm.
With wide community support for these plans the DDA requested an implementation plan, developed by Dr Ned Murray (now with the Perez Metropolitan Center at FIU) and me. The Call to Action was a Targeted Improvement Plan that tackled many challenges, again working with the community and defining the public commitments and investments needed to support the private sector redevelopment of the area. The Call to Action reaffirmed the result of the public participatory process to create an eclectic tapestry of mixed uses and architectural preferences sewn together by a network of paths, sidewalks and neighborhood parks.
The level of community engagement is critical. Especially now as the number of residents in the new neighborhood has grown. That growth rests on the promise and prospect of realizing the vision. The success of any plan hinges on the political will to take decisive action.
Flagler Village needs more than the pocket park on NE 3rd Avenue named after Peter Feldman. It also needs the city to make good on its commitments to the public process and improvements to infrastructure as outlined and supported by so many plans developed during the past 3 decades.
An entertainment night-club venue is not a park.
More importantly, after so many years of reiterating the public desire for a park what is needed for you – as current elected leaders – to follow through with that vision? So far discussions have not been transparent about the details of the public-private partnership contemplated by our municipal government. Does the community have a say in the matter? The community has not only made their intentions clear, time and again but have invested in the area based on the vision. That vision – only partially realized and largely at private expense – has yet to see the city’s commitment acted upon.
When will details emerge about the public process for reviewing the disposition of this public land?
While I live nearby, I have been following the development of Flagler Heights for almost 40 years and over those 40 years the lack of transparency has never been more evident than it is today. I urge you to listen to the voice of the community, supported by several decades of public process.
As it stands, the proposal for “Revolution Live” serves no public purpose.
Anthony J. Abbate AIA, LEED AP