May 23, 2018
Florida’s Miami Beach has been called “ground zero for sea-level rise,” and municipal officials and residents alike often wonder whether the city will survive the dire effects of climate change. In April, a team of ULI members on an Advisory Services panel traveled to Miami Beach to advise the city on its preparations for sea-level rise and to brainstorm about what could be done better. The group concluded that the city has made an admirable start, including investment in a $500 million program for stormwater management, but a more comprehensive and holistic approach needs to be taken.
While the city of Miami Beach is one of the world’s most vulnerable cities facing sea-level rise and coastal erosion, the city is also uniquely positioned to combat its effects.
“Miami Beach has a history of implementing game-changing regulations to combat extreme weather. After the great hurricane that rocked Miami in 1926, Miami Beach responded with the nation’s first building codes. These were later adopted by 5,000 cities across the country,” says Walter Meyer, a panelist and the founding principal of Local Office Landscape Architecture in New York. Later, the destruction caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 prompted the city to create and enforce “wind resilience” codes that were later adopted into the International Building Code.
Now, the city is charting a course to combat sea-level rise, and the efforts are, quite literally, on the world stage: Miami Beach’s response to sea-level rise and coastal erosion could become a benchmark for global cities vulnerable to these very issues.
Since 2013, the city has taken drastic steps to protect its investments from the impending effects of climate change. Miami Beach is approximately 15 percent into a ten-year, $600 million multiyear stormwater management program that addresses both land use and development code and infrastructure updates. This resilience plan, dubbed “Miami Beach Rising Above” by city officials, includes improving drainage systems; elevating roads; installing pumps to replace aging stormwater pipes; replacing much of the city’s water, wastewater, and utilities systems; and updating regulations to reflect increased elevation requirements, seawall barriers, and more.
With the support of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Initiative, ULI was invited to assess the city’s current strategy. At a three-day Advisory Services panel, member experts from around the globe convened to assess the current framework while developing and suggesting other efforts to further bolster their existing strategy.
The Advisory Services panel, chaired by Joyce Coffee, the founder and president of Chicago-based Climate Resilience Consulting, welcomed experts from across the globe. Panelists included Juanita Hardy, senior visiting fellow for creative placemaking for ULI in Washington, D.C.; Jeff Hebert, vice president for adaptation and resilience at the Water Institute (and former New Orleans chief resilience officer); Phillip Kash, a principal at HR&A in D.C.; Greg Lowe, global head of resilience and sustainability at Aon in London; Walter Meyer, founding principal of Local Office Landscape Architecture in New York City; Christian Nyerup Nielsen, global service line leader, climate adaptation and flood management at Ramboll in Copenhagen; Mark Osler, associate vice president, coastal science and engineering at Michael Baker International; and Greg West, president and CEO of developer ZOM in Miami and the chair of ULI Southeast Florida/Caribbean.