Miami Beach residents fight for the future of the North Shore Library

Miami Beach residents hope to be heard before the city decides the future of the North Shore Library and its parking lots to the east.

The Miami Beach City Commission postponed a vote to open the library on Collins Avenue and adjacent lots for development this past September 17. Developers have eyed the waterfront property as far back as 2007, shows the city records.

Several vocal residents have objected to transferring public land to private development since the possibility was first raised.

The city argues the current library is outdated and proposes to relocate it to the 72nd Street recreation complex. Local residents counter that this complex has yet to be built and question the feasibility of the project. They also counter that in the previous agreement, residents never approved the sale of the library land.

In 2018, voters approved a $53.8 million dollar bond to improve parks and recreational facilities and build the complex on 72nd Street, with money allotted for a parking garage, a library, and a competition swimming pool, among other facilities.

The city now plans to build an Olympic-sized pool on the roof of this complex across from the North Beach Bandshell. Several engineers, consulted by the residents, say that this has never been done, and it will be a hazard due to its weight.

Others warned that before breaking ground in the chosen location for the recreation complex, the city will need to move all the underground sewer connections for Miami Beach, Surfside and Bal Harbour.

The current library site is broken into five parcels of land, two occupied by the library and its adjacent parking, three occupied by the waterfront parking lots in the rear.

All five lots on the library site are currently public land and are unable to be sold without a referendum.

Two of the options presented would have allowed for the circumvention of a public vote, only requiring the planning board and city commission’s approval for development to go forward.

Commissioner David Richardson presented a resolution that would have designated the waterfront lots as permanent city property. Two of the proposed options would have allowed for development involving all five lots on the site.

Commissioner Mark Samuelian voted against the resolution, emphasizing the importance of public land and the people’s say in deciding what would be done with it, mentioning that during a past discussion regarding the land they had agreed to public debate on the issue.

Commissioner Michael Gongora concurred, calling Richardson’s motion on the waterfront lots “putting the cart before the horse,” and adding that passing the resolution on the waterfront lots before the public had a say would give the impression of a decision already being reached on the development of the fronting lots.

Commissioner Micky Steinberg and Commissioner Steven Meiner also voted against, wanting to hear from the public before agreeing on it, while Mayor Dan Gelber and Commissioner Ricky Arriola voted with Commissioner Richardson in favor of the motion.

The decision on opening the lots for development will be postponed until a public charrette is held, though no date was given at the meeting. The lots adjacent to the library site are included in the Ocean Terrace development, which continues to expand despite past legislation restrictions.

The Historic Preservation Board, responsible for making sure developments in the county match the architectural style of the surrounding area, approved the latest plans for further expansion with a new hotel tower, despite public outcry against the proposed designs.

Jose Alonso is currently majoring in digital journalism at Florida International University. Aside from journalism, he enjoys creative writing, literature, and history.