Permitting and Process Improvement
1. RFI 2019-278 Business, Zoning and Permitting Portal
With the assistance of the IT Project Management division, the department conducted extensive negotiations with the top-ranked proposer of the RFI, California-based Open Counter. Upon conclusion of contract negotiation last month, the department’s funding for the project was eliminated as part of the City’s budget balancing strategy. Nevertheless, following several vendor meetings with the City departments that will be impacted by the permitting technology, we are confident in the customer service-based solutions proposed by Open Counter’s software. The department hopes to resume project implementation in the next fiscal year, pending budgetary approval.
2. Business Tax Receipt/ Certificate of Use Bifurcation
In response to feedback from the business community about the complexity of our BTR process and its adverse impact on doing business in Miami Beach, the City has completed another milestone in its efforts to remove unnecessary red tape inhibiting our customer base. To simplify the BTR process and expedite business transactions, the City has adopted Code changes that bifurcate the BTR from the Certificate of Use (CU), thereby distinguishing a BTR as an occupational tax for doing business, and the CU as a zoning permit pertaining to the appropriateness of the applicant’s use of physical space. On May 13, the City Commission adopted the ordinance on second reading. This LDR reform should be help simplify the process of opening a business in Miami Beach. Staff will begin outreach to educate permit applicants of the new bifurcated process.
Target Revitalization Areas and Business Improvement Districts (BIDs)
1. Washington Avenue
Pursuant to Resolution No. 2018-30629, dated December 12, 2018, the Administration contracted with architectural firm Zyscovich, Inc., top-ranked proposer of RFQ 2018-327-KB, for a Washington Avenue Conceptual Design Plan. Subsequently, on July 31, 2019, pursuant to Resolution No. 2019-30914, the Commission authorized negotiations with Zyscovich, Inc., top-ranked proposer of RFQ 2019-234-ND, for a Land Use, Mobility, and Economic Development Study of the Entertainment District. The City has been in negotiations regarding the scope and breadth of the firm’s services, in light of the repurposing of the department’s funding last month to balance the City’s budget. The department will explore the feasibility of expediting use of G.O. Bond funds earmarked for Washington Avenue, in order to make progress on the streetscape redesign.
2. Ocean Drive
On February 12, 2020, the City Commission adopted Resolution No. 2020-31168, calling for a special election to be held from June 1 to August 31, to determine whether affected property owners approve the creation of the proposed South Beach Business Improvement District. On April 22, per the request of the proponents of BID creation, the City Commission adopted Resolution No. 2020-31236, temporarily postponing the election until the threats associated with the COVID-19 pandemic subside. As always, the department will be working closely with MXE business establishments in the coming months and the parties will reassess scheduling for the election once deemed appropriate.
3. 41st Street
In February, the City entered a professional services agreement with engineering firm AECOM to develop a land use, transportation and mobility, and economic development plan for the corridor. Through April, AECOM has met with the committee and City staff to prioritize certain project themes, such as safety and security, quality of life, green infrastructure, bicycle and pedestrian access, and public transit. AECOM must still complete gap analysis of the master project list, complete stakeholder meetings, and refine project details.
On March 1, the City held the inaugural date of the 41st Street Marketplace, a 90-day pilot kosher street market curated by Miami Beach-based The Market Company, Inc., producer of the famed Lincoln Road Green Market. Located at 41st Street and Pinetree Drive on Sunday mornings, the market proved popular with neighborhood locals, before street markets were suspended citywide in March. Developed pursuant to request of the Mayor’s 41st Street Committee, the department and committee will discuss similar cultural programming in the future.
4. North Beach
On January 15, the City Commission directed the Administration to conduct additional community outreach about the benefits of a North Beach CRA. Through the remainder of January and February, the department attended various North Beach community events, held office hours at the Building department annex, and conducted a well-attended community meeting at the North Beach Youth Center. Additional public events in March were canceled due to logistical constraints imposed by the pandemic. The Administration will seek that the County consider formation of a CRA containing the boundaries originally proposed in Resolution No. 2019-30892 dated July 17, 2019.
COVID-19 Pandemic Response
Since the beginning of the public health and economic crisis, the department has played an active role in the City’s emergency response. The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the daily responsibilities of the Economic Development team, a department consisting of four employees, whose previous director relocated from Miami Beach at the end of February.
1. Outreach and Assistance
Soon after the onslaught of economic impacts from the pandemic, the department revamped its Business Portal website, www.MBbiz.com, to educate businesses and the workforce about available economic assistance and resources. Since March, the department has regularly updated the website to reflect the latest information about resources like financial aid programs and unemployment benefits. The department teamed with Communications to prepare a daily e-Newsletter entitled “Updates & Resources for Businesses Impacted by COVID-19.” As of today, there are 2,530 recipients of this daily email blast. (To enroll, we invite you to visit the Engagement Toolbox on the City’s website and subscribe to the “Miami Beach Business News” newsletter.)
The department has conducted extensive public outreach since the start of the crisis and will continue its public facing role as nonessential businesses resume operations. The department will focus on helping our business community approach reopening safely and successfully, through such initiatives as the sidewalk café permit expansion and the MB Standard certification program. On May 15, Economic Development debuted a webinar series entitled “Coming Out of the Dark: Shedding Some Light on Reopening.” The first installment, featuring Mayor Gelber and local business leaders discussing Phase 1A of Reopening, had 2,500 views on Facebook and more participants on Zoom.
2. Resource Center
On March 30th, the City Manager launched the Resource Center as a public point of contact for the public to obtain information and guidance. In its first 6 weeks, the team of repurposed City employees has engaged with over 840 constituents regarding various types of economic programs, including unemployment benefits, housing assistance, food programs, and financial aid. Approximately 51% of these contacts have been related to unemployment assistance. In addition to responding to claims, the Resource team has been proactively reaching out to the 5,000 businesses in our BTR registry to gauge their recovery efforts and provide information about available resources. The public is encouraged to contact the Resource Center for help at 305-604-CITY or ResourceCenter@miamibeachfl.gov.
3. Business Industry Working Group
Initially during the shutdown, the department led daily telephone briefings between the administration, and local business leaders and industry groups, such as the Miami Beach Chamber, GMCVB, GMBHA, Ocean Drive Association, Beacon Council, and our three Business Improvement Districts. Although the calls are now conducted twice a week, they allow for regular dialogue between the City and the business community, and provide the Administration with valuable input from the business community on private sector considerations in our emergency planning and response. The regular briefings have provided important feedback for the City to formulate and improve its response efforts. This type of public and private collaboration will be crucial to our resilient comeback.
4. Small Business Grant Program
Economic Development has partnered with the Housing department to allocate $200,000 of the City’s Community Development Block Grant-Corona Virus (CDBG-CV) funding for creation of a Small Business Grant program. Eligible Miami Beach small businesses may apply for reimbursement of qualified expenses of up to $10,000, as long as the business retains or creates, over a period of 12 months, one employee that resides in a Miami Beach household earning less than 80% area media income (AMI). The new program allows the City to leverage traditional community development grants pursuant to the Cares Act for economic disaster relief. The City will soon begin accepting applications and interested businesses may obtain info at the City’s Business Portal website, www.MBbiz.com.
CBRE Real Estate Advisory and Transactional Services
Pursuant to an existing professional services agreement dated October 24, 2017, CBRE, Inc. provides the City with strategic real estate services including market research and data, preparation of marketing materials, and redevelopment advisory services, for example, analysis of P3 development projects and a proposed bid for Class A office space.
Just prior to the pandemic, CBRE completed a “Business on the Beach” annual economic report, included here as Attachment 1. The real estate market will continue evolving significantly in the coming months and will differ considerably from the time when the data in the report was compiled. Nevertheless, CBRE produced a valuable work product that the department would like to share with the committee. The market statistics are pre-COVID, however, much of the content highlights the benefits of the City of Miami Beach: demographics, investment of international capital, quality of life, and business friendly environment, to name a few. Regardless of current market conditions, these attributes remain and will be critical to the City’s economic recovery.