By Christopher J. Russo, Former City Manager
(Thursday, June 3, 2021) – Our most important capital projects have, for the most part, remained on track even though we scaled down some and delayed others due to the coronavirus pandemic. As we head into the summer season, I want to share some updates on our most prominent projects with you.
Golden Shores Street Lighting and Utility Undergrounding Project
Underground conduits and the bases for new decorative streetlights are currently being installed throughout the Golden Shores neighborhood. The work is taking place from north to south, with conduits completed on North Bay Road and the majority of side streets.
We anticipate finalizing the plans for the Golden Shores Utility Undergrounding and going out to bid this summer. This project will remove all overhead wires that are above ground, many of which are in home’s rear yards. Not only will this result in a much safer and reliable power system, but the neighborhood will see a general aesthetic improvement.
Collins Avenue Undergrounding
Now in Phase 2, Florida Power & Light (FPL) is in the process of energizing the electrical circuits from 163 Street to 175 Terrace. Once FPL has removed the remaining overhead wires in Phase 2, we will continue with the decorative street lighting. Approximately 142 streetlights are installed and operational, with about 20 more projected to be installed, dependent on the progress of FPL.
Central Island Stormwater Project
Sunny Isles Beach’s Central Island consists of the area north of 174 Street to 183 Street. Over the years, this area has seen some intense flooding during particularly strong storms, and our several attempts at accelerating the removal of stormwater have not resolved the problem. We plan to install stormwater pumps, utilizing existing outfalls, which should eliminate flooding in this area. The City has engaged the same engineering firm that successfully completed the stormwater project on 174 Street approximately five years ago. We anticipate the planning, bidding, and commencement of this project before the end of this calendar year.
Beach Renourishment Has Begun!
From the north to the very south end of the City, our entire beach is getting more sand this year. This is a federally funded project, managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and executed in coordination with the State and County. Please note that the Ellen Wynne beach access and parking lot will be closed for staging during the majority of the project. The renourishment project should be completed by the end of 2021.
Future Home of the Building Department
The Building Department will be relocated to the former Tony Roma’s restaurant site on the south side of the Government Center this year, pending final approval of the plans by the City Commission. Owned by the City, the site will be refurbished and allow us to develop permanent safer distancing and office procedures. We have learned much from the COVID-19 pandemic about social distancing, increasing precautions and security measures, and this relocation will offer just that for our Building Department and patrons.
Traffic and Pedestrian Safety
The City of Sunny Isles Beach, along with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), continue to address traffic and pedestrian safety throughout the city. FDOT recently installed flashing lights, a radar speed sign on westbound Sunny Isles Boulevard, and pavement speed limit markers on each eastbound lane on Sunny Isles Boulevard, just west of the pedestrian signal light. Our Police Department initiated a substantial zero-tolerance program, and also purchased six solar-powered, FDOT-approved radar speed signs to remind drivers of the speed limit and warn them of their own speed. They will be deployed at strategic locations throughout the City. One future safety measure we asked FDOT to consider is the installation of rumble strips coming off the bridge eastbound on Sunny Isles Boulevard to alert and slow down inattentive drivers.
Government Center Pedestrian Bridge
The design plans for the Government Center Pedestrian Bridge have been submitted to FDOT, and financial support is tentatively approved for the upcoming budget year and awaiting final approval. We expect to advertise the bid for construction in the upcoming months so that work may commence in late 2021.
174 Street Pedestrian Bridge
We are in the review process for a professional engineering and architecture services consultant for the new pedestrian bridge at 174 Street and Collins Avenue. We anticipate the design will be finalized and approved by mid-2022.
The construction of the new Gateway Center at Gateway Park is complete with only a few final punch list items underway. Once open, the Gateway Center will be a state-of-the-art facility home to a 3,600 square foot ballroom, 1,500 square foot fitness room, social alley, catering kitchen and visitor center. The Center will offer a curated selection of programs and events, and be available for high-end rental opportunities. We expect the Center to be ready for a world class grand opening in the upcoming months.
After a year of hardship, we are finally getting back to some semblance of normal. I am optimistic about our current and upcoming projects, and the quality-of-life solutions that their completion will offer.