Item Coversheet



TO: Finance and Citywide Projects Committee Members

Jimmy L. Morales, City Manager

DATE: October 26, 2018




This item was referred to the Finance and Citywide Projects Committee at the April 11, 2018 City Commission meeting. 


At the April 20, 2018 Finance and Citywide Projects Committee, the Committee discussed the issue of ground floor storefront vacancies throughout many of the major commercial corridors in Miami Beach. There was discussion on ways to create registries to track vacant properties along with possible incentives to help landlords lease out their properties. 


Cataloging Vacancies:The Committee directed City Staff to create a catalog of the number and location of vacancies among major corridors - North Beach 63rd-70th, 41st Street, Washington Avenue, Ocean Drive, and Lincoln Road. Additionally, they requested that Staff look into creative ways and ideas to address such vacancies and increase vibrancy throughout our commercial districts. 


Vacancy Tax: Florida State Statue does not provide legislative authority to impose taxes on property owners with vacant storefronts. Therefore, the City cannot impose a vacancy tax on empty storefronts without the approval from State legislature.  Staff has researched other possible solutions to encourage better management of vacant storefront windows, and has included several options in the Analysis herein.


Vacancy Survey: City staff completed a ground floor storefront survey within five commercial corridors (41st Street, Lincoln Road, Washington Avenue, Ocean Drive, and the North End 63rd to 70th).


Ongoing Research: Staff began further reviewing and researching background information for each of the vacant storefronts, with the specific intent to identify the reason for extended vacancy and to identify any barriers that might be alleviated at the City level. This study includes cross-referencing each address with the City's BTR registry along with vetting each address through property appraiser and Sunbiz to determine ownership. We also reviewed all permits that are currently active with the Building Department. The City is currently doing further research in the types of businesses existing and that have vacated and the size of the vacant spaces to do further research possible means of activating the spaces and corridors.


Community Feedback:

The current conditions of the street do not attract new and emerging businesses (Washington Avenue, 41st Street)

  • Creative marketing and branding of our City needs to be a priority to increase and promote businesses (North Beach, Washington Avenue)
  • People are leaving for the mainland, they can receive a better value (more space for less) with less traffic (City-wide)
  • Poor lighting and lack of parking are a barrier (North Beach)
  • Miami Beach used to be the dominating municipality for entertainment, the competition has grown throughout the County 
  • Capital improvements in the pipeline will be able to address many of the issues the streets are facing sidewalk enhancements, increased lighting, bike lanes (41st Street, Lincoln, Washington)
  • Independent stores are competing in the world of Amazon, they are struggling to maintain the rent with loss of demand (Lincoln Road)
  • Starting a business and converting a property from one industry to the next (retail to restaurant) is financially burdensome, especially for small startups (City-wide)

On July 27, 2018 FCWPC directed staff to further explore the internal processes and barriers to business start-up.

Small Business Task Force: The Administration is working in partnership with the Small Business Task Force to identify City measures that would help streamline the business start-up process (including Business Tax Receipt, Sidewalk Cafe Permitting, and other City regulatory requirements). To better identify the current challenges faced by small businesses opening, expanding or relocating in Miami Beach, a Small Business Survey has been developed and will be distributed at the end of August as a way to inform the Task Force. The survey is currently open until mid-November. It was sent electronically by the City as well as distribution by the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce.


The results of the survey will be analyzed and reviewed by the Task Force and further presented to this Committee. This will allow the administration to determine which internal process(es) presents a barrier to the business start-up process.


In addition, staff is exploring other creative alternatives for better supporting our small business community in addressing storefront vacancies including curated storefronts, encouraging small-scale manufacturing; Pink Zones, revising the City Code regarding storefront window coverings and updating the design, anchor tenant incentive programs and  grand opening assistance programs.



The Administration is working on a robust list of best practices, ideas, initiatives, policies and programs that could stimulate business activity and assist with the storefront vacancy issue including working with Communications with a messaging program on storefront vacancies and how the wrapping is to be installed and utilized; support attracting additional economic development unit professionals to assist with strategic planning assistance; and stimulating feedback from the Taskforce and the MB Chamber of Commerce in FCWPC October meeting.


The Administration is also exploring the creation of a Business  Ombudsperson, who would be a single point of contact for the business community to the City of Miami Beach and charged with responding and supporting the interests of the business community  and addressing questions, suggestions, complaints, and special projects such as explaining government rules and regulations, helping entrepreneurs identify funding to launch/grow a business, connecting entrepreneurs to free resources ranging from businesses courses to legal services, and getting businesses on pre-qualified lists.


In the next few months, the Administration will focus on:

  1. Storefront Coverings:
    • Bring back a draft ordinance to the Committee with recommended changes regarding storefront coverings
    • Administration to update  the existing window covering design to make it more appealing and reflective of the entire City or provide three window covering design options that  express the unique spirit of South Beach, Mid-Beach and North Beach; and provide for clear text of owner/realtor information;
    • Updated and/or new window covering design will be presented to FCWPC for recommendation to City Commission.
    • Identifying funding and creative designs and instructions for owners/realtors.


Staff, through the 41st Street Committee, is working with students from the Design and Architecture Senior High to design storefront covers that reflect the unity of the City of Miami Beach as well as continue to conduct outreach and work with the BID's and business associations to develop programs to help increase downtown vibrancy and business retention, including updating this Committee on the Small Business Survey results and Small Business Task Force recommendation. Should any of the above recommendations be adopted or pursued, funding would need to be identified to support these programs.

The Administration will continue to work with FCWPC to update the storefront ordinance and further identify and solicit potential activations that could stimulate owner, broker, resident, tenant and community engagement.

Exhibit AMemo
Exhibit BMemo