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The plan to add 252 midrise units for the 2200-2292 Wilton Drive property is not “Wilma on the Drive!”

This redevelopment plan has not been conceived based on what is best for our city. It is not Wilton Manors-centric planning. It will not allow our unique neighborhood to thrive.  

We are a unique community with a distinct character. Our neighbors have been under the most political and cultural intolerance to threaten our freedom since the ’50 Lavender Scare. Arts, education, and freedom of expression have been penalized and swept away with the vociferous approval of State Legislators and a despotic governor. Innovative urban planning to foster community-focused development is critical to preserve Wilton Manors’ heritage. This plan does not.  

Eight-story high-rise? 252 units? Seriously? Recently Wilton Drive was reduced to two lanes. The effect has been to give the Drive neighborhood a small-town feel. Will an eight-story building in the middle of our entertainment and service hub create impossible traffic congestion?  

Thirty-month construction plan (let’s call three years, three years, folks – delays caused by weather, etc., etc.) The lounges, restaurants, services organizations, and retail stores along the Drive may be challenged with another specter of decreased revenue as yet another possible threat to our small businesses settles over our community. In addition, the neighborhoods behind and adjacent to Alibi Plaza could be negatively impacted by this proposed stress on the infrastructure and aesthetically detrimental presence of an eight-story high-rise.  

Skinny parking spaces to provide more spaces? Given how intricate and delicately balanced social and economic ecosystems are within a community, city leaders must take extra care when introducing supposedly innovative ideas such as this. An aging population, folks with mobility issues, and families with children will struggle with smaller parking spaces.  

This project brings into question the entire planning process for the development of Wilton Manors. Our city needs our commissioners to facilitate a more transparent citizen-centric plan for a smart city that will foster community-focused development. How to solve the parking issue? How do we deal with aging structures and infrastructure? How do we encourage sound social and economic growth to strengthen our community and enable it to thrive? Is there only one way to develop that property? How does this proposal fit into an overall plan for city renewal?  

Our city’s development needs call into question the process, leadership roles, and stakeholders’ needs. We need to avail ourselves of the “industry’s best.” What are the top-quality urban developers saying about the best way to ensure life is better in our community? (Check out Nick Williamson’s TEDx Talk on YouTube, “It’s Time for Citizens to Take Back Urban Planning.”)  

Our community leaders must place people first. Our community development must begin with a consideration of the needs and behavior of our Wilton Manors neighbors and our interactions with our surrounding material environments and each other. City leaders, local authorities, management companies, and developers must be committed to co-created development plans engaging local residents rather than simply ‘consultation’ after projects have been already constructed (“Here’s what’s proposed. Any comments?”). These stakeholders must ensure they have a solid, smart city  communication strategy with a genuinely engaging presence on social media and an outreach to those without access to technology.

With these ideas in mind, city leaders can innovate Wilton Manors’ planning to empower residents to actively shape our unique neighborhoods and preserve our city’s uniqueness through co-created development plans that work for the community, not just for developers’ wallets.

- Thomas Paul Severino, Wilton Manors, Florida