ULI Advises Miami Beach to Think Big on Improving Resilience

A ULI Advisory Services panel convened to advise the city of Miami Beach on improving urban resilience is illustrative of the assistance provided by the Institute to communities seeking to adapt to as well as mitigate the impacts of climate change such as flooding, frequent severe storms, and rising seas. The recommendations from the panel, initially convened to evaluate the city’s stormwater management plan, emphasized the need for the city to adopt a broad, long-range strategy that factors in regulatory changes to encourage more climate-resilient building design and development, as well as livability and economic issues.

Principles recommended by the panel—and subsequently adopted by the city—to guide implementation of an expanded resilience strategy include the following:

– Maintain a sense of urgency as the strategy evolves to build support for investments in climate adaptation infrastructure;

– Be ready to adapt the strategy to new technologies, data, and economic and physical realities;

– Ensure transparency regarding the strategy through clear communications with residents and other stakeholders;

– Respect the city’s ecological endowment;

– Recognize opportunities to advance quality-of-life and economic development goals that benefit all residents;

– Preserve cultural identity through creative placemaking that also boosts resilience; and

– Position the city as an innovative leader in adaptation and mitigation efforts.

Based on the principles, the panel made more than 80 detailed recommendations, including the following high-level steps by the city to continue its progress on a resilience strategy:

– Improve the flexibility and robustness of the current stormwater management system;

– Enable more informed decision-making and risk management through enhanced modeling;

– Implement “blue” and “green” infrastructure (using natural resources for stormwater management and water treatment) to advance a more integrated approach to living with water;

– Create toolkits for the private sector and highlight opportunities for “living-with-water” projects at the building level;

– Consider a level-of-service concept that gauges flooding disruption in terms of likely flood frequency, depth, and duration; and

– Improve communications and education regarding engineering and infrastructure solutions.

  • “The city got an outside perspective from experts at the Urban Land Institute, and on its recommendation hired a consulting firm to revamp the city’s sea-rise plans with an eye toward more nature-based infrastructure.”

    Miami Herald, September 2019

The panel was sponsored by the city of Miami Beach. Its report with detailed recommendations was published in August 2018, galvanizing city staff support for a broad resilience strategy and serving as an important resource to the city manager, chief resilience officer, and their teams. The city established a taskforce to implement the panelists’ recommendations that include staff from a cross section of departments reporting to the city manager. In fall 2019, the city’s deputy chief resilience officer Amy Knowles shared that 48 of the recommendations are complete or underway, and an additional 24 are slated for future consideration.

Leading ULI member Joyce Coffee, founder and president of Chicago-based Climate Resilience Consulting, chaired the panel. “Around the world, the allure of coastal living and tourism is high, yet coastal cities face disproportionate risks to climate change hazards,” Coffee said. “Miami Beach – with three miles of coast for their seven square miles of land – could have been the definition of a city on the wane in a climate changed era. Instead, the city has taken courageous steps to be at the forefront of solutions that protect property and improve quality of life over time. If the city increases the significant investments that have been made, and focuses on improving overall resilience, it’s likely that Miami Beach will be at an advantage over other coastal destinations.”

The panel’s report informed the development of the Resilient Greater Miami and the Beaches Resilience Strategy, which was implemented in 2019. The recommendations also led to a panel convened at the request of the City of Miami and the Downtown Development Authority for assistance on developing a plan to improve the resilience of the city’s waterfront and mitigate the effects of sea level rise.

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