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Bimini Basin concept plans unveiled

By Staff | Mar 20, 2015

Marinas, greenspace, boardwalks, entertainment districts, commercial districts, residential districts, arts and cultural centers and museums. Those are just a few of the elements of the Bimini Basin project visionary plan being designed by graduate students and faculty at the University of South Florida School of Architecture and Community Design.

Adjunct professor Taryn Sabia brought to Tuesday’s unveiling her 13 students who worked in three teams gathering ideas in designing three distinct plans named Canal Works, Threading the Needle and Bridging the Gap. All enthusiastically interacted with hundreds of residents, business owners and city leaders who attended to share their thoughts, ideas and concerns at the Volunteer Fireman’s Terrace Hall.

The Canal Works plan features an observation tower located in Bimini Basin. It breaks down the plan into Bimini Heights, a multifamily residential core, Rose District, a key commercial strip, and the Matlacha District, a live-work-play element.

Threading the Needle identifies an entertainment district (The Knot), a residential and business district (The Hook), and an arts and cultural district (The Eye).

Bridging the Gap called its commercial core The Parkway. It included a residential feature, an interior marina located north of the parkway and an entertainment hub. Other features contained live-work potential and arts and cultural centers with a museum.

All three plans were heavy into parks, greenspace, pedestrian walkways and multilevel structures to house the various elements.

“I like the youthful minds doing things like this,” said Cape resident Millard Freeman. “There are three distinct concepts and I like parts of all three, but one thing I don’t like is they have not done a traffic study or traffic pattern study yet. Be there to see how much traffic there is at different hours and during season. It was worth seeing, and find out it’s not city funding, but private investment.”

After Tuesday’s unveiling, the teams took the ideas and feedback received back to Tampa to modify their presentations for another more formal presentation here on April 16, perhaps before City Council.

“It was good to sit down with the community and share ideas,” said project grad student Zach Yarnell. “These ideas were driven by that charrette meeting (Jan. 29), it all came from that day.”

“I’m anxious to get back and start filtering in new ideas,” said project student Sanchelle Lee.

City Councilmember John Carioscia was impressed by what he saw.

“I think it exceeds our expectations,” he said. “It’s broken down enough that you can see it taking shape. I look forward to April when they make more refinements.”

Cape resident Pete Wilkinson, who owns a deli near Bimini Basin, saw several aspects of the plans that he likes.

“I’ve been working with the Council For Progress with Joe Mazurkiewicz on this for awhile,” Wilkinson said. “I like the entertainment idea and would like to see that expanded to include possibly a theater, like Barbara B. Mann.”

Connecting Bimini Canal with the basis was addressed by either a drawbridge or a flyover type structure. The drawback for a flyover is it would isolate those businesses and other elements along that stretch of the parkway to motorists.

Sabia and her team were hired by the city through a consulting contract last fall to come up with feasible ideas and a plan making the Bimini Basin area a destination for tourists and residents.

“I think the students are on the right track,” said Sabia. “They took a broad look at the attributes the city has to offer and generated thoughtful ideas for development that emphasizes the characteristics of the community.

“I’m impressed with the number of residents who came out to be involved and get engaged in this project,” Sabia added. “After our next presentation, the city likely will select key components from each of the projects, for instance, those that are a better fit for the city.”

City Economic Development Director Dana Brunett preferred certain aspects from each plan.

“They are all very interesting concepts,” Brunett said. “It gets you thinking and that’s what they want. It opens things up, like the parklands and an internal marina to get boats out of the basin. I like the observation tower from one plan and the parks aspect designed to draw you in from another plan. It really gets the juices flowing about what it could be, but it will take private development to pull it off.”

Sabia said the first phase of the project could get started as soon as this year. A projection poster on display listed project phases continuing through 2050.

“So much comes into play with that,” said Sabia. “It comes down to what the city chooses to do and the money available. There are economic forces to consider and private investments. It could take 50 years, or it could take 15. It all depends on how developers see the area, how many people and jobs it draws, a lot of factors.”

Sabia said plan elements are aimed at attracting high level jobs, like marine biologists and researchers, not just retail jobs.

“We’re all emotionally invested in it now,” said project student Emily Thomas.