First phase of Lincoln Road makeover funded

Written by on April 2, 2024

A project is underway on Miami Beach to improve Lincoln Road’s 100, 200 and 300 block and first-phase funds are lined up.

"We started off with a plan for the 100 block, our first phase," said Peter Kanavos, a partner of the Ritz Carlton Sagamore group. "We’re working subsequently on trying to do the same to revitalize the 200 and the 300 blocks."

The process is in phases, said Mr. Kanavos. "The monies that we were able to get from the state are going to the first phase, in which we and the city are making equal contributions of $4 million and the state has kicked in about $4.85 million to put towards the reconstruction of the road…. We have something like 7,000 people a day that go back and forth from that beach entrance. It’s a little dilapidated, so we really want to clean that up and make it a beautiful place for people to enter the beach."

Although the project is well underway, the timeline depends on multiple factors.

"We’re going through an appeal period right now where one of the neighboring hotels has – I think they’re the only people in the whole city that have had objections, which are kind of unclear why, but they’ve been staging an appeal, and that will probably last until sometime this summer," said Mr. Kanavos. "They already failed with the special magistrate; the first stage of the appeal was this special magistrate. The city and us won that appeal and then I believe the next appeal will not be successful."

"If we are able to really get over that appeal period, construction of the road would probably start sometime in the first quarter of 2025," he said, "looking at perhaps 24 months to complete. That can slide. That’s all dependent on a number of factors."

The improvement was spawned by an analysis he made, said Mr. Kanavos, that showed census statistics that Miami Beach has lost considerable population since 1990. This is most evident in the city center, between Fifth and 23rd streets.

"That has really contributed to a lot of problems, because the eastern end of Lincoln Road, the 100 blocks and 300 blocks in particular – although the whole district – but those areas in particular, are showing the effects of a dwindling neighborhood. We have issues of dereliction, homelessness, crime and so forth," said Mr. Kanavos.

"What it told me was that we had to repopulate this area as a neighborhood and in order to do that, we have to start really cleaning things up," he said.

"So the contribution that we made was number one: we reduced the number of our hotel rooms in order to be able to put up a residential condominium, which is going to be part of the Ritz campus."

For a long time, the city has been living behind a façade of tourism, said Mr. Kanavos.

"That covers up a lot of the sins of a dwindling population," he said. "If we had been in any other city, without the kind of strong tourist market that we have, and we’d been losing this much population, it would be a disaster."

Tourism has covered up the issue, but tourists don’t behave like residents do, said Mr. Kanavos. They don’t worry about the crime or a neighborhood becoming seedy – that is, until it gets to the point in which they must go elsewhere to vacation.

"Residents, on the other hand, are engaged," Mr. Kanavos said. "They have their eyes on the street. If you take a look at South of Fifth, for instance, you look at the character of that neighborhood. It’s clean, it’s neat, it’s safe, because it’s got such a strong residential population. "The first impulse that we had to start this whole thing off was: how do we make this more habitable to bring residential back and that would entail not just building a condominium, but also we wanted to improve the whole quality of the streets," he said.

The beautification will improve different aspects.

Traffic patterns will be changed in order to make them safer, as currently there are unsafe points, said Mr. Kanavos. An entry monument will be included, inspired by the arts of famed area architect Morris Lapidus that he planned but was never able to effectuate.

"We want to put that entrance monument at the end of the street to mark the beginning of the beach path," said Mr. Kanavos. "Of course, it’s going to be relandscaped, and we have an art walk planned. We want to be putting public art on both sides of the street – to be determined what – probably, some form of statuary or other forms of art which are to be determined, but we have that plan. It’s really going to become a showcase. And that’s for the 100 block."

Subsequently, the plans to help the 200 and 300 blocks go through the same transformation are being worked on, said Mr. Kanavos, all part of an effort to turn an area that has been on the decline into a showcase of the city and attract new residents.

"It’s a necessary thing," said Mr. Kanavos. "It’s been kind of a neglected part of the city even though it’s totally iconic. I mean, when people come to Miami, that intersection between Lincoln and Collins, and Lincoln and Washington, that stretch there has always been one of the most notable parts of the city that people identify Miami Beach with, but in the last few decades it hasn’t seen the kind of attention that it really should get and now we’re trying to rectify that."

While working on the first phase, they are planning the second: the 200 and 300 block, said Mr. Kanavos. "In fact, we’ve actually already produced a conceptual plan and we’re at the point where we’re just about ready with the county and the city to effectuate the road closure; the ability to close the street off to vehicular traffic on the 200 and 300 block with the idea in mind making an extension of the pedestrian mall further to the west, Lincoln Road Mall."

The plan is aimed to restore a strong residential component, he said, that will also help businesses thrive due to consistent business residents will provide the stores along Lincoln Road that now battle a fluctuating economy due to dependence on tourism.

"The store owners often tell me that they’re not really getting the kind of tourists that spend a lot of money there," he said. "I guess you could say they’re underperforming; they’re surviving but underperforming. But we hope to really help the entire district economy by putting a permanent residential base in there that will be long-term residential – in other words, not subject to conversion to short-term rentals, Airbnb and things like that which we feel have really been harmful to the whole neighborhood structure of the central city."

The project has had tremendous community support, said Mr. Kanavos, with almost universal support "for what’s going on and a great deal of enthusiasm in the city because, in all honesty, we kick-started something that probably should have been done decades ago, but the city often finds itself without the financial wherewithal to do things. They have a lot of demands on their funds.

"By us coming in and putting up monies and also securing, taking the responsibility to secure other monies from the state and so forth," he added, "we’ve made it financially possible for the city to correct problems in a district that it’s desired to revitalize for some time now."

Plans will continue to progress in order to finish the job.

"We have committed to actually pay for all the planning costs right through construction on the 200 and 300 block," said Mr. Kanavos.

"The next steps that we’re working on are going to be to raise money and work … with the property owners in the city to develop a financial plan and other plans to revitalize the two blocks there," he said. "In essence, for the 200 and 300 blocks, we’re sort of acting as the go-between for our fellow property owners in the city, in order to make the 200 and 300 blocks happen the way we made the 100 block happen."