"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" -- Albert Einstein
I feel like a mosquito in a nudist colony when looking at Walmart's proposed plans to build in Midtown Miami, not sure where to bite first.
This article seeks to provide the reader a timeline of events.
In October of 2011 DDR Corp. who owns and manages Midtown Miami mall announced that they had agreement to sell the South Block to Walmart.
Soon thereafter, I penned a column for the Miami Herald opining that Walmart would be a bad fit for Midtown Miami -- but if designed properly, they could build without public input. Since then, Walmart has obtained no less than three public meetings, two public meetings at City Hall, two public hearings at City Hall, three to five sets of plans reviewed by no less than one dozen city staffers over the course of 18 months.
In June of 2012, Walmart applied -- alongside the City Manager's office -- unsuccessfully to Miami's Planning and Zoning Appeals Board to alter the fundamental nature of the Midtown district's rules, and was denied in a 9-0 vote.
In September 2012 the City of Miami received a complete set of plans from Walmart with an application fee, this application contained a single structure and did not meet the special district code.
January of 2013 saw a revised plan submitted, was never reviewed by Miami's Zoning Department and contained two buildings in one application.
During February 2013 Walmart appeared twice in front of Miami's UDRB and at the second meeting requested a final up or down vote, resulting in a unanimous 6-0 vote to deny the application for failure to meet Midtown district standards.
In light of the clear Intent Statements in Midtown's design standards by district master planner Bernard Zyscovich's personal comments in 2012's PZAB meeting, I'm of the opinion that no project in Midtown can obtain the City Planning director's override of a UDRB decision.
Below are just a few of the numerous major flaws in Walmart's submission, each of which on it's own right merit denial.
- Walmart's design asks for five loading zones, where three are absolutely required by code.
- Walmart's plan calls for more automotive density than the area is designed to handle with 574 free parking spaces above a massive 184,000 square foot big box
- Missing upper level setbacks
- NE 31st Street's three driving lanes rather than the prescribed two lanes and two on street parking lanes
- Number of trees on NE 31st Street reduced from 41 to 17
- Active use liner requirements replaced with service areas
- Service area garage screening requirements
- Façade treatments
- Width of entry for service
- Height of second level loading loading berth
At this juncture, the Miami City Planning Director Francisco Garcia has numerous reasons to issue denial, but curiously maintains that approval based on Staffer Carmen Sanchez's acceptable review is forthcoming..
Walmart's plan has not complied since conception, nor at any time of submission -- because it is basically the same request, only repeated, and repeated again.