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The Miami River

Map of the Miami River Area
The Miami River Area

The Miami River and its surrounding neighborhoods have become magnets for all kinds of energy and activity over the last couple of years. Private sector developments along the River are at an all time high, and are expected to grow significantly in the years to come. Florida’s State Legislature created the Miami River Commission in 1998 and is the official clearinghouse for all public policy and projects related to the Miami River. The Commission has become an important ally to the City in optimizing the extraordinary resources – historic, cultural, economic, environmental and recreational – of this unique waterway. The Department of Economic Development serves as the liaison to the Miami River Commission.

A 1999 report funded by the Miami River Commission revealed that the Miami River is Florida’s fourth largest port in terms of dollar volume of trade, and handles about $4 billion in cargo on an annual basis, with shipments to 29 nations and territories of the Caribbean basin. River businesses participating in that study generated about $216 million in revenues and contributed nearly $20 million in local property taxes.  The study also showed that marine-related industries now provide 1,200 jobs to local residents, amounting to a payroll of approximately $35 million. With this level of activity running through the heart of the city, Miami stays closely involved with the on-going initiatives that affect all aspects of life along the River. Current efforts are detailed below.

Miami River Infill Plan

The City of Miami joined forces with Miami-Dade County and the Miami River Commission to take a comprehensive look at conditions along the River and create a unifying land use vision for the Miami River and its neighborhoods. With funds from the Miami River Commission, the Florida Department of Community Affairs, the County and the Empowerment Zone Trust, the Miami River Urban Infill Plan is intended to serve as a strategic blueprint, a broad planning guide and an action plan, to steer land use and growth along this important regional waterway.  The River Commission has approved the plan, and it now awaits review by City and County.

River Corridor Economic Study

Among the recommendations set out in the River Urban Infill Plan, a comparative economic study and market analysis of the various commercial sectors and land use is seen as a critical element to completing the road map to the future along the River. This study, funded and led by the City, will emphasize the marine industry and will devise specific recommendations, strategies and tools to boost redevelopment and investment. This study, together with the River Urban Infill Plan, will form the basis for the creation of economic incentives and other appropriate measures to support growth along the River.

Extensions of the Miami River Walk & the River Greenways Plan

In another arena, the City Commission adopted, in principle, the Miami River Greenways Plan in May 2001. This effort was spearheaded by the Trust for Public Land and the Miami River Commission, and builds upon a City’s program that was begun in the 1970’s to develop a system of promenades along the River and Biscayne Bay. The Miami River Greenways system is a series of pedestrian and bicycle paths linking parks, neighborhoods and activity centers along both sides of the River. Since the City’s approval, the plan has now moved into preliminary design phases, with consultants preparing schematic drawings of the greenway route from I-95 west to 12th Avenue. 

Even before the Greenways plan was funded, the City had worked with river stakeholders and the Trust to continue the construction of river walk segments that began with the James L. Knight Center. In fact, since 1995, the City has been designated to receive several grants from the State and County totaling over $4,150,000 to build River Walk segments near Jose Marti Park, Lummus Park and the Flagler Street Bridge. Engineering and design for these projects are in progress or will be coming on line shortly. We now have a pending application for an additional $1,000,000, matched by Knight Foundation through the Trust for Public Land, for a bike path component in East Little Havana.

"Lummus Landing” (Riverside Redevelopment Project)

“Lummus Landing” is another project that combines quality of life improvements in the form of a river walk, public plazas and boat slips, with the economic potential to create additional commercial activity of the River. Located on River Drive, across the street from Lummus Park (where the Pioneers Club used to sit), the City is currently overlooking the construction activities that are under way. Backed by an economic study of the Riverside district that was finished in 2000, the City eventually plans to seek a private entrepreneur to develop marine-related retail establishments, a restaurant, or possibly a fish market to serve the Riverside neighborhood.

River Dredging

Perhaps the biggest project on the River is the federal, state and locally funded Miami River Dredging project. It is certainly the most expensive at $80 million, according to the estimate devised by the lead agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. With Miami-Dade County as the local sponsor, the City is a full financial partner in this project, contributing up to 25% of the non-federal share, with assistance from the Florida Inland Navigation District. This project is expected to pull about 500,000 cubic yards of sediment from the River’s navigational channel. The City and County are also looking into the potential of asking the Corps to dredge areas outside the federally designated channel, from bank-to-bank and tributaries. The State of Florida has issued a conceptual water quality permit and the Project Cooperation Agreement between the County and the Corps in being finalized in Washington.  

The Army Corps of Engineers has approached this major dredging project with a great deal of flexibility in the areas of funding, process and technology. With so much going on along the Miami River, even just from the City’s perspective, this waterway is extremely important to our community, the region and the state.

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