The decisive role of the highways in determining the fate of Overtown a half century ago is not lost upon City of Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones.
The southern part of Ms. Spence-Jones’ District #5 (marked in pink the map below) covers Overtown, and she’s clearly had a history lesson or two on the role of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) in her historic, predominantly black, socio-economically disadvantaged, yet eager-to-reemerge district.
As we’ve extensively noted over the past few days, Resolution #13-00581 (as originally written) would have transferred control of Brickell Avenue from FDOT to the City of Miami.
Referring to Brickell as the “Park Avenue of Miami”, Sarnoff made a compelling case for the resolution, further emphasizing the potential for better speed control and safety provisions on the financial business district’s most critical artery. He continued:
Now we have the opportunity to own Brickell. This is a very, very big piece for the City of Miami — to take ownership and control of its own Park Avenue. And I just don’t want this opportunity to slip.
On these points, TransitMiami couldn’t agree more with Sarnoff.
Critical to understand, though, is that (as originally written) Resolution #13-00581 would have required the City of Miami to give up control of a handful of important streets in the Historic Overtown / Downtown Miami District. In fact, FDOT was actually trying to take more roadway length than it was actually relinquishing.
Fortunately, FDOT’s desperate grab for Overtown’s historic streets met with a ferocious defense from Commissioner Spence-Jones, demonstrating her thorough understanding of FDOT’s highway history in Overtown.
Read closely — this one’s a classic!
Unfortunately, FDOT gets an ‘F’ for our community in Overtown.
They have been responsible for not only destroying a very prevalent African-American community, but also displacing many of them, many of the people that live there. [...]
I am very uncomfortable with giving up any anything in Overtown — in anyway — until they handle what they promised they’d handle. There’s things that FDOT has said that they’re going to do [...]. They say one thing, and then it’s a totally different thing.
They haven’t done anything that they committed to do. So, you know, for me to give up something or allow them to take one thing over the other and not have them live up to their responsibility to the residents of Overtown — I have an issue and a concern with it.
So all I asked was for [City of Miami Assistant Manager Alice Bravo] and [City of Miami Manager Johnny Martinez] to set-up a meeting with FDOT and let’s go through all these items that the residents of Overtown have asked for that they have not complied with. [...]
It’s amazing that in the midst of getting [Resolution #13-00581] negotiated, my district [District #5] was considered in it without even having a discussion with me . . . because I would have told you then, that anything that FDOT is doing in Overtown — we got issues! [...]
And then, not only that; beyond that: They promised that they would not take anybody’s property. The next thing I know, they’re taking people’s property!
Then I’m hearing again — without us even having a conversation — you know, the properties that we’re building in Overtown, or trying to create in Overtown . . . now they want to take that side of 14th Street and 3rd Avenue from the businesses that we just put money into . . . so — I got issues with FDOT!
It don’t have anything to do with Brickell [...]. [...]
So all I’m asking is that I would like to have a meeting with FDOT to make sure that our issues get resolved. [...]
If you’re talking about giving them something in OT — Yes! The District 5 Commissioner has a big issue and big problem with it. I’m not saying you can’t get [the transfer of Brickell to the City of Miami done ...]
But Overtown — when it comes to I-95, roadways, highways, anything that sounds like that; it’s a problem for us in Overtown.
It destroyed a community. [...]
TransitMiami has one word for Comissioner Spence-Jones: Righteous!
Resolution #13-00581 was ultimately passed (3 commissioners in favor; 0 opposed) at the most recent Commission meeting on June 13. Fortunately, though, the Resolution was amended to exclude at least parts of the streets in the Overtown / Historic Downtown Miami District. TransitMiami will follow-up with more details soon.
As for now, though, just try to bask in a bit of the glory of Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones’ passionate words in defense of her district and the people of Overtown, and our community at-large. Kudos to you, Commissioner Spence-Jones!
The City of Miami will be voting today on Resolution #13-00581.
This resolution would formalize the transfer of Brickell Avenue — arguably the most economically important thoroughfare in Miami — from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to the City of Miami, from the State to the City.
Under whose jurisdiction do Miami’s downtown streets belong?
Your voice matters! Cast your vote!
At last week’s 2013 Transportation Summit, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 6 Secretary, Mr. Gus Pego, was in attendance.
This was my first encounter with Mr. Pego in person and, despite the criticism we tend to launch at his district, he seemed like a really nice guy.
He was extremely diplomatic during the Summit. He didn’t seem to get defensive when audience members highlighted the contradictory and misguided actions of his agency. Generally, it appeared as if he has developed rather thick skin to cope with the criticisms launched at his agency (many of which have admittedly come from TransitMiami).
Mr. Pego’s demeanor reminded me of a political figure: an approachable, laid-back kind of guy who would be entertaining to have a beer with, but probably not one with whom you’d want to get into anything even slightly resembling a discussion of philosophy.
Nonetheless, you have to give the man credit. His job cannot possibly be easy.
I was among the (surprisingly few) private citizens who questioned Mr. Pego on the role FDOT plays here in Miami.
I asked him specifically about the proposed swap between FDOT and the City of Miami for some downtown Miami streets.
The core of my question was simple: “Why does FDOT want our streets?”
His answer was deceptively reassuring to me; it went something along the lines of:
- Typically when there’s a transfer of road jurisdiction, the municipality [in this case the City of Miami] will try to offset the costs of taking over control and maintenance.
- To offset the costs of controlling and maintaining new streets, the municipality will typically forfeit control of other streets.
- The municipality will typically request that FDOT assume responsibility of these other streets to avoid the extra financial burden.
All right . . . so . . . the City can’t carry the supposedly heavy costs of running its own streets, so it goes to FDOT asking for help. FDOT generously helps them out by taking new streets off their hands. Hmm . . .
It seemed to make sense (for about 11 seconds). But something still didn’t sit right with me. FDOT seemed way too gung-ho about the whole thing.
The last part of Pego’s response was the real doozy:
- If the City of Miami determines that they wish to keep jurisdiction of those streets [as opposed to exchanging them for jurisdiction over Brickell Avenue], then FDOT would be fine with that.
At that point, I thought to myself: Man, this guy’s not the transportation megalomaniac those weirdos over at TransitMiami often try to make him out to be. He’s just a good, straight-talking guy. That’s all. . . .
Ah, but then I found FDOT’s official position on the proposed swap. Then I realized that us summit attendees had been duped. Those words were spoken just to appease those in the crowd who applauded the question.
The truth of the matter is that FDOT does indeed want our streets.
The [Florida Department of Transportation] has recently completed a countywide analysis of potential roadway transfers [...]. The proposed roadway transfers should prove to be beneficial for the City and the State. We look forward to working with the City of Miami in a mutually beneficial relationship to effect these transfers.
Or, here’s the formal City of Miami piece of legislation in the form of a resolution. It also demonstrates how FDOT isn’t the selfless hero Mr. Pego wanted to portray it as:
Whereas, the [Florida Department of Transportation] has determined that it would be beneficial to the State of Florida to assume jurisdictional responsibility for [all the roads listed in the table below].
So . . . FDOT is not, in fact, coming nobly to the City of Miami’s financial rescue as Mr. Pego would like to have us think. Quite the contrary, FDOT is in it for it’s own good, not the well-being of the community.
We can be sure that FDOT does indeed want our streets. The real question persists, though: Why?
They’ve studied our streets, and they’ve targeted the ones they want most. They have plans for them.
What those plans are, I do not know. Mr. Pego, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter . . .
This article was edited for content on 6/13/13 from it’s original format.
Tomorrow, on Thursday, June 13, the City of Miami City Commission will consider Resolution #13-00581.
This resolution would formalize the transfer of virtually all of downtown Miami’s Brickell Avenue from the jurisdiction of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to the jurisdiction of the City of Miami.
Think about that: Brickell Avenue. It’s the core of our financial business district and a burgeoning residential and commercial area.
One wonders why FDOT ever had control of one of our city’s most important thoroughfares in the first place.
It’s great news. Our city’s streets belong in the hands of our own local municipalities. They don’t belong in the hands of techno-bureaucrats up in Tallahassee, nor in any other one of FDOT’s just-as-detached satellite offices.
While far from perfect, our local public officials and planners are more sensitive to the day-to-day realities on our streets; they are more aware of land-use dynamics and current and pending real estate developments; they are more conscious of existing long-range and master planning documents (including plans for special districts, public transit corridors, bicycles and greenways, waterfronts, ecologically-sensitive areas, etc.); they typically have deeper, more productive working relationships with other locally-based jurisdictions; they better understand the on-the-ground interplay of bicycle, pedestrian, and motor traffic; they are more sincerely invested in the well-being of the local community of which they themselves are a part; and, most importantly, our local planners and politicians are comparatively far more accessible and accountable to us, the people to whom the streets belong.
So all is well in the Magic City, right? FDOT is beginning to realize that its role in 21st century Miami is growing smaller and smaller and we’re more than capable of running our own streets.
The state transportation juggernaut is starting to return our city streets to the local government authorities because it’s reached the undeniable conclusion that local municipalities and counties can run their own streets better than some gigantic, geographically-disconnected government bureaucracy . . . right?
In exchange for relinquishing Brickell Avenue to the City (where it belongs), FDOT wants something — quite a lot, actually — in return. Specifically, FDOT wants several streets running through the Downtown Miami Historic District (see the table below).
In total, FDOT is trying to take 2.4 center lane miles from the City of Miami in exchange for about 1.9 center lane miles.
(A “center lane mile” is the length of the actual road, from point A to point B. A standard “lane mile” takes into account the number of lanes on that same stretch from point A to point B.)
FDOT wants to take = 2.40 miles
FDOT wants to give = 1.92 miles
Thus, not only is FDOT pursuing streets it really has no right to and should have no interest in to begin with, but it’s actually trying to take more street length from the City than it is offering!
The City Commission will be voting on this around 2:00pm on Thursday, June 13.
Mr. Mayor and City Commissioners: Take what belongs to the people of the City of Miami. Bring Brickell Avenue under our local jurisdiction.
But do not, under any circumstances, forfeit those streets in the Historic Downtown District to the State.
FDOT should give = 1.92 miles
City of Miami should give = 0.00 miles
The real question is: Why does FDOT want control of our local streets to begin with?
Miami is undergoing one of the most magnificent metamorphoses in its history.
One of the impetuses of this transformation is the Florida East Coast Industries’ (FECI) corridor project called All Aboard Florida. The project will link Miami and Southeast Florida to Orlando and Central Florida.
It’s a very big deal.
The fine folks at All Aboard Florida have been kind enough to share with TransitMiami a good aerial view of its 9-acre holdings in the west-central part of our downtown, that drab, de facto government-institutional land-use district in serious need of some transit-oriented development.
We’re hoping the development of the downtown train station — the tentatively named “Miami Grand Central Station” — might just do the trick for this lifeless, barren sea-of-asphalt section of downtown.
All Aboard Florida passed through its first evaluation gauntlet by receiving a formal “Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI)” from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). According to our contacts over at All Aboard, the project is “still in the environmental process for the entire corridor”.
Things are a-changin’!
On that note, a few weeks back, we here at TransitMiami encouraged you to support the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s effort to have a multi-use trail added to the planned railway. While the official window for public commentary has closed, we’d still like to hear your thoughts!
Cast your vote in the poll below!
Looks like we finally have a developer in the 305 that understands the importance of mobility options for urban dwellers. Newgard Development Group will soon begin construction of Centro in downtown Miami and they are marketing the building to potential buyers as a project that provides transportation choices for future residents. Not only will Centro be located in the heart of downtown, just blocks away from premium transit, but the developer has partnered with car2go to provide a car-share service at the building’s doorstep. In addition, Centro will have a bike share program for its residents as well.
Harvey Hernandez, Chairman and Managing Director, of the Newgard Development Group is clearly thinking out of the box and understands the importance of offering transportation options to urbanites. Last week I sat down with Mr. Hernandez to discuss his new project. Below is the interview I did with him for Miami Urbanist.
Newgard Development Group Chairman and Managing Director Harvey Hernandez sat down with me to discuss his two Miami projects that are currently under development in Brickell and Downtown. BrickellHouse is under construction and Centro will break ground later this year in the heart of Downtown Miami. The partners of Newgard Development Group have spent 15 years in the South Florida real estate market. Founded by Harvey Hernandez, Newgard’s management team brings 40 years of combined experience in development, design and construction. Newgard’s approach to development includes innovative luxury buildings in desirable, centrally located neighborhoods, pedestrian-oriented lifestyles with cutting-edge amenities.
Miami Urbanist: Miami and Orlando will soon be connected by rail thanks to All Aboard Florida. Hopefully, commuter rail will soon follow. What opportunities do you see for transit-oriented development in South Florida?
Harvey Hernandez: We see great opportunity here. One of the main reasons we chose the Centro site was its proximity to transit. We believe in density and that having premium transit within walking distance is an attractive alternative to the car. Our consumers don’t necessarily own two cars; many are able to live comfortably with one or no car. In fact we have teamed up with car2go and they will have a designated Parkspot hub on the ground floor of our building.
Miami Urbanist: What are the strongest characteristics of the Centro site?
Harvey Hernandez: It’s in the middle of everything! It’s close to Brickell and within walking distance of mass transit. Whole Foods and Brickell CityCentre will soon open a couple of blocks from Centro.
Miami Urbanist: Please explain the parking situation at Centro, there seems to be a few misconceptions about parking.
Harvey Hernandez: Zoning allows us to provide parking offsite; therefore we don’t have to build parking. The parking garage is within 100 yards of Centro. We have entered into an agreement with the Miami Parking Authority to provide parking. We also provide 24-hour valet service and there is always the car2go hub at our doorstep.
Miami Urbanist: Has the parking situation discouraged people from buying at Centro?
Harvey Hernandez: We don’t see it at all. The buyers are coming from all segments of the market; whether they are young professionals, retirees, or 2nd home consumers they have one thing in common—less reliance on the car. All of our buyers want the urban living experience—they want to walk to restaurants, bars, the arts and other amenities. Many of our buyers are coming from suburbia; they don’t want to deal with long drives and the cost associated with maintaining a car.
Miami Urbanist: There is also a bike share component to Centro, would you please elaborate on this?
Continue reading »
Written by Peter Smith
Two summers ago, I attended a presentation on mobility at the Department of Transportation’s new headquarters in Navy Yard. My then-boss, Mariia Zimmerman, was speaking on our nation’s preparedness to deal with an aging population in an auto-centric culture, and she gave a startling statistic: eighty-five percent of Baby Boomers live in communities where the car is the only viable means of transportation – walking included – and when asked how they intend to complete activities of daily living – grocery shopping, doctors appointments, church services – when they’re no longer able to drive, nearly all of them chose a single response: my children will drive me. That. Is. Insane. It’s also really poor planning, but first and foremost it’s insane.
I was reminded of this mind-blowing stat this week when my parents moved from my childhood home in one of Baltimore’s shoulder-to-shoulder brick row neighborhoods to a mid-century planned community. Their new home is in the Village of Cross Keys, the first planned community ever built by James Rouse, the man who coined the term “urban renewal.” Past the community’s guard tower, the tree-lined residential streets, named for great Baltimore planners like Edward Bouton and Frederick Law Olmstead, abut shops and restaurants. There’s a swimming pool, tennis courts, and a hotel. It’s just outside of downtown, but feels like a small hamlet. It sounds like a great place to retire, and indeed, it is marketed as an ideal community for active retirees.
The Village of Cross Keys, for all its amenities though, is not without its shortcomings. For instance, it lacks a grocery store… and a pharmacy… and a church and synagogue… and a school. Cross Keys has also been sold as a great place to raise a family, which is even more bewildering. The closest bus stop is outside the community’s fence over a half-mile from the residential heart along roads that sometimes have sidewalks, but sometimes don’t. In short, its boutique shops and chic cafes may make it a great place for retirees to waste lazy afternoons, but they don’t necessarily make it a great place to grow old, or even a great place to just live.
As a society, we’re becoming increasingly aware, thanks to the efforts of the First Lady and others to tackle childhood obesity, of the challenges that our nation’s children face from un-walkable communities; less than five percent of American children now live in a community where they can walk or bike to school. We’re far less conscious, however, of the challenges presented to the older generations, those who will in time be unable to drive and will therefore more than anyone else benefit from walkable, not to mention inter-generational, neighborhoods.
Miami has its share of America’s aging population as well as its share of un-walkable communities. I set out to discover just how big the problem is that Miami will face; how many older Miamians live in communities that will increasingly fail to meet their needs as they grow older? To do this, I looked at population data from Miami-Dade’s 77 inhabited zip codes and stood it up against each zip code’s ratings from WalkScore.
A quick caveat – WalkScore is not a perfect measure of walkability by any means, but validation studies confirm that it’s pretty much as good a measurement as anyone has ever devised. If anything, many of its shortcomings, such as its failure to consider lack of sidewalks or hostile road environments, would mean scores in places like Miami are likely higher than they should be, but as you’ll see, Miami’s scores aren’t very high as it is.
WalkScore assigns a score to any address in the United States and elsewhere that is representative of the area’s walkability. It measures walkability by proximity to amenities, such as groceries, restaurants, parks, schools, etc. The final score falls along a scale of 0-100, which corresponds to the following five walkability categories:
- Walker’s Paradise (90-100): Daily errands do not require a car.
- Very Walkable (70-89): Most errands can be accomplished on foot.
- Somewhat Walkable (50-69): Some amenities are within walking distance.
- Car-Dependent (25-49): A few amenities are within walking distance.
- Car-Dependent (0-24): All errands require a car.
Ideally, any individual, especially older Americans would be able to walk to at least the most basic necessities, but as it turns out, for many that’s not the case. There are 463,940 people in Miami-Dade County who are age 60 or older and a full one-third of them live in areas where almost nothing is accessible without a car. Here’s a pie chart with the county-wide breakdown:
One of the first things that you probably noted was that the percentage of older Miamians living in areas categorized as a “Walker’s Paradise” is zero. That’s because there is no zip code in Dade County that tops the required score threshold of 90; the highest is a respectable 85, achieved by zip codes in Coconut Grove and Little Havana. Once you get over the shock, or not, that Miami is no Walker’s Paradise, you’ll see that about 70 percent of the county’s older residents live in areas where approximately half or more of basic needs cannot be accomplished on foot.
The median WalkScore for older Miamians is 57, which is solidly in the lower-middle share of the Somewhat Walkable category. To give a sense of what a “somewhat walkable” community is like, consider zip code 33186, which includes the area where the Florida Turnpike intersects with Kendall Avenue and has a WalkScore rating of 60. It’s home to just shy of 10,000 Miamians age 60 and older. From a typical house inside the sub-development just off the Turnpike at Kendall Avenue, it’s over a mile roundtrip for groceries, and a mile-and-a-half for a cup of coffee or a trip to the park. The closest bus stop is a half-mile away. For an older person in the hot Miami sun, distances like those can be pretty isolating.
Now, consider that 52.4% of Miamians age 60 and over live in areas that are even less walkable than that. Indeed, nearly 40,000 older Miamians live in communities with a WalkScore of five or less. That’s a small city’s worth of people who cannot travel to any meaningful destination without a car and for whom the inability to drive would mean the inability to remain even minimally self-sufficient.
Anyone has who has lived with an aging relative can relate that perhaps the hardest part of getting old is coming to terms with the loss of independence and self-sufficiency. It’s also no secret that maintaining that independence and self-sufficiency can be the key to maintaining happiness and mental health long into old age. For the Baby Boomers in particular, for whom freedom and independence are central to the generation’s identity, addressing the mobility challenges presented by Miami’s built environment is critical. When answering surveys, Boomers may be amenable to the idea that they will relinquish all freedom of mobility to their children, but the reality will likely mirror other generations’ reluctance to forego independence.
Baby Boomers represent the largest generational cohort in the United States and they comprise twenty percent of Miami-Dade residents. Thanks to advances in health science, Boomers are expected to live longer than any other generation in human history so far, but current predictions are that they won’t necessarily be any healthier into old age than preceding generations.
Older people, for both health and financial reasons, are far less likely to be able to drive. And even if they can legally drive, we may wish to encourage another means of transportation. A study out of Carnegie Mellon and AAA found that drivers age 75 to 84 had similar driving safety records as teenagers with a year or less of driving experience. Once an individual reaches 85 years, his or her vehicular fatality rates jumps to nearly four times that of teenagers.
Now, consider how many Americans will reach those ages. According to projections by the U.S. Social Security Administration, the life expectancy of a man who turns 65 today is 83 years old; for a woman, her life expentancy is 85. And those are just the averages, so roughly half of people will live even longer. One out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past 90 years, and one in ten will see 95 years and beyond. What all this amounts to is that the number of Americans, in both raw numbers and as a percentage of the total population, who are unable to drive because of their age will likely grow over the coming decades.
Demographic tides travel slowly through history. If you look closely, you can see them coming from far and away, and if you plan accordingly, you can subvert their sometimes catastrophic legacies. We can see now with clarity that Miami, like much of America, is on the edge of a quality of life pitfall. Absent descisive, purposeful action, a greater share of Miamians will face isolation and dependence than at any other moment in our city’s history.
Whether we solve this issue by making all communities more walkable or by making walkable communities more affordable and accessible is for discussion, but what is unavoidable is the track that we’ve placed ourselves on. It’s a track to a problem that requires solutions that amount to more than developing “lifestyle communities” that define walkable as “100 feet from a Talbot’s, but 1.5 miles from a Publix.” Solutions must encourage neighborhoods where Miamians can live their lives by car if they choose, but continue to live their lives on foot when driving is no longer possible. Otherwise, be prepared to free up some time every Saturday to take Abuela to the foot doctor.
Wednesday, May 29 — 6:00pm
Avenue D Jazz and Blues Lounge
8 S. Miami Avenue
[Avenue D is another relatively new downtown bar/lounge representing bar owners' understanding of TOD better than politicians. By far the best way to get there is via the Metromover. Just get off at the Miami Avenue station using the northwest stairway. Avenue D is immediately below the station.]
A panel of of transportation planners and advocates will be on-hand to moderate and stimulate the discussion, including Kelly Cooper, Strategic Planner at the Miami-Dade County Office of the Citizen’s Independent Transportation Trust (CITT), the primary entity organizing the Summit. At least one official Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA) should be present too.
One can also expect to hear commentary from Marta Viciedo, primary organizer of the successful Purple Line | U + Transit pop-up transit station which recently attracted a lot of attention to our community’s public transportation lacuna. A representative from the Move Miami-Dade transportation reform initiative, a project of TransitMiami alumnus Tony Garcia should also be present.
Last Wednesday morning over 250 people gathered for a ULI sponsored panel discussion about development opportunities along the FEC in Ft. Lauderdale. For years the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority has been trying to bring commuter rail service along the FEC corridor from Palm Beach County to Downtown Miami. Shamefully, not a single elected official from Miami Dade County attended this event; nor did any officials from Miami Dade Transit or the Miami Dade County Metropolitan Planning Organization .
I’m not sure in what bubble world our Miami Dade elected officials live in, but this is not acceptable. Events like this should be well attended by Miami politicians as well as by Miami Dade Transit and MPO officials. It seems like our South Florida neighbors in Broward County and Palm Beach County “get it”; there was solid representation by elected officials from Broward and Palm Beach County.
It’s time for Miami to start taking a more regional approach to public transit with our neighbors in Palm Beach County and Broward County. This “go-it-alone” strategy doesn’t cut it. In fact, it’s embarrassing.
The following post comes to us from TransitMiami reader Emily Eisennhauer. Emily is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Global & Sociocultural Studies at Florida International University. She is working on her dissertation titled “The Construction of Socio-Ecological Vulnerability to Climate Change in South Florida”, which is examining how governance networks and residents are thinking about Miami’s future under the threat of climate change, particularly sea level rise. Emily writes her own self-titled blog on the sociology of sustainability and climate change in Southeast Florida, where the following was originally posted.
We received this letter last week which was addressed to City Commissioner Sarnoff, County Commissioner Barreiro and FDOT District 6 Secretary Gus Pego. You can also send an email to them by clicking here.
Dear Commissioners Sarnoff and Barreiro and Mr. Pego,
I am writing to you this morning regarding a matter that is very troubling to me and one that I hope you will consider as part of your agenda: PEDESTRIANS IN THE URBAN CORE. As you are well aware, Miami is trying to become an urban city where people live, work and play– like Chicago or New York. In so doing, it needs to be an urban center that is thoughtfully planned so people can walk safely any time of the day or night. We should be able to walk our dogs, go to the market, or take a stroll to dinner. When you live in an urban core, like Brickell, where my family lives, you cannot be expected to take your car out for every little errand or just to go a few blocks. However, being that walking in the Brickell area is so difficult and dangerous to navigate, I feel like I must do so–compounding the traffic problem and the pedestrian problem. I am sure you agree that we need to make our urban center a place where all can feel safe to walk the streets. However, this is not the case at this point in time. Since I moved to Brickell I have been dismayed at the lack of attention and care given to pedestrians by drivers, construction workers, and city planners.
Walking from Brickell to Downtown. The other day I was walking to downtown from Brickell where we live. A group of us crossed the bridge, then were challenged to cross the street using two cross walks where cars dart at you around the curve where Brickell becomes Biscayne. We need better signals for pedestrians there. A cross walk is not enough; we need bright lights that signal when a pedestrian needs to cross (like is found in front of the FRESH MARKET in Coconut Grove on S Bayshore Drive). Even though we have the walk signal, cars still feel they can turn right on red without stopping. I have observed people run across that cross walk because cars were coming at them so quickly. Then as you continue to walk on 2nd ave and (a) there is no side walk because of construction of the Whole Foods–we actually had to walk on the street between downtown distributor and SE 2nd Street, and (b) there is no cross walk at the intersection of 2nd ave and SE 2nd Street!!! You literally run for it so you don’t get hit by a car. Enough is enough! This is one example of many. I invite you to walk along Brickell Ave and see how challenging it is to walk in a straight line (like you do in NY or Chicago) and feel safe, without having to navigate barricades and other obstacles in what is really an obstacle course.Transitmiami.com has done a wonderful job of highlighting what they called the Brickell “deathwalk” : http://www.transitmiami.com/
With the taxes we pay to live in the Brickell area, we must have the pedestrian walkways we deserve and have paid for–ones that you would want your grandmother or children to walk down. We need representatives like you to stand up for us and think creatively about ways we can emulate cities like Chicago, where I previously lived and always felt safe as a pedestrian. As the Brickell area becomes more populated with CitiCenter and other developments, this will become more and more of a moral imperative. People are getting hurt and people’s lives are at stake here. As citizens and taxpayers, we should be able to walk the streets–elderly, children, groups, etc– without fear of tripping on obstacles or being hit by a car. This is a very serious matter or moral proportions that deserves your immediate attention.I will be forwarding this email to Felipe Azenha of Transit Miami.com and will also bring up the issue at the board meeting of Icon Brickell.I appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to hearing about the ways you can alleviate this dangerous problem.
View the prize-wining installation of the 2012 DawnTown design/build competition at HistoryMiami.
Thursday, March 21, 2013 @ 6:30pm
101 West Flagler Street
For the past five years, DawnTown’s annual design ideas competition has attracted designers from around the world to present new and creative possibilities for Miami. This year’s winning design, Up-Downtown, is an international collaboration between Jacob Brillhart (Miami, Fl, USA) and Manuel Clavel-Rojo (Murcia, Spain).
Up-Downtown interactively presents the rapid rise of downtown Miami over an extended period of time.
HistoryMiami Members: Free
RSVP by March 18: 305 375 5356 | RSVP@historymiami.org
A busy holiday weekend reminds me that Miami is trying to be a “real” city – but is it yet? I’m sure we all wish it could be as easy as a Pinocchio fairytale of making a wooden puppet into a “real” boy with just the touch of a wand. But in reality, our city needs a whole lot more than just some magic stick. We host all these weekend events – Coconut Grove Arts Festival, Miami Boat Show, and other President’s Day weekend activities – to showcase our Magic City to our visitors. And yet what we end up with are packed busses with long headways; clogged highways; and other congestions making our city, well, far from magical to our visitors.
Its not the events, its the experience. Despite a little rain on Friday and Saturday, this weekend’s events were a success – attracting people from all over the state and country. But how was their time actually in our city? Special events are a reason to come to the city, but the experience is what attracts people back. We need to offer reliable transportation options so they can really experience all of Miami.
Its not the funding amount, its the investment. We all know times are rough, and money is tight. But yet its obvious that we are still focusing our funds into tired highway transportation that literally gets us no where. Of course we don’t have the funds to plop NYC subway system on Miami – but we can start our smart investments incrementally.
Its not the mode, its the freedom of choice. Transportation, transit, transport, or whatever you want to call it is a broad category – as are the choices it should provide. The priority shouldn’t be on one particular mode of transportation, rather a priority to provide a wide variety of options. Its about the freedom of choosing bus, rail, bike, car, walk, skate, etc to get around.
Not that we need to put up a false front for our brave visitors on special weekends, nor care more for our tourism than our own livability – because we already know these are facts that we have been discussing for years. Its about revisiting our city from another viewpoint. Just think how many visitors we could transport between Miami Beach and downtown if Baylink existed; or the improved bus experience if we had shorter headways at least on event weekends; or the number of DecoBike rentals if the M-Path was cohesive; or the successful storefronts and valuable real estate if the streets were more pedestrian-friendly.
Is Miami ready to be a “real” city and cradle a wide-mix of diverse groups. If so, lets see the real investment in multiple transportation options – or where is that fairy with the magic wand when you need her?
Value Engineering. What does the term mean to you?
Think about it. Let’s decompose the term before seeking out a formal definition. To us, the concept of value engineering when applied to transportation projects, includes the pursuit of cost-effective methods to achieve a desired end result. It includes a suite of tools that would enable project managers to work with engineers and architects to lower the overall cost of the project without sacrificing a particular end goal. In more obscure words, the FDOT defines value engineering as:
“…the systematic application of function-oriented techniques by a multi-disciplined team to analyze and improve the value of a product, facility, system, or service.”
So, if we were to tell you that FDOT was actively seeking to value engineer the structure that will soon replace I-395, how would you feel? Let’s take a look back at the designs presented last year before we dive into our argument on why we shouldn’t cut corners on such a critical piece of infrastructure.
For the unacquainted, over the past several years FDOT initiated the process to replace the 1.5 mile structure that links SR 836 east of I-95 to the MacArthur Causeway. As the main artery between MIA, the Port of Miami, and South Beach, millions of visitors traverse this scenic stretch annually on the way to a cruise or the beaches. The byproduct of 1960’s urban renewal, I-395 ripped apart neighborhoods and displaced thousands from historic Overtown, today the structure continues to thwart efforts to unite our major public institutions including: The Arsht Center, Art and Science Museums (both currently under construction), and the AA Arena. As such, FDOT’s plans for I-395 will play a critical role in Miami’s ability to reshape the urban core and reunite Downtown, Parkwest, Omni, and Overtown districts.
Side note: Imagine what could become of the corner of N. Miami Avenue and 14th Street if the neighborhood were united with Downtown to the South or the Arsht Center to the east? The Citizens Bank Building (above), built during Miami’s boom years in 1925 could serve as a catalyst for growth in a neighborhood that has largely remained abandoned since urban renewal gutted Overtown.
In this context, the concept of value engineering contradicts the livable, “sense of place” we’re working to achieve in Downtown. As it currently stands, I-395 and all the other roadways that access our barrier islands are utilitarian structures, serving little purpose other than to move vehicles from one land mass to another.
The challenge with I-395 is that it must satisfy numerous conflicting needs. I-395 isn’t just a bridge (or tunnel, or boulevard). It should serve as an icon; a figurative representation of Miami’s status as the Gateway to the Americas. A new I-395 will, should once and for all, eliminate the physical barrier that has long divided Downtown Miami from the Omni and Performing Arts Districts, encouraging more active uses below while maintaining the flow of traffic above. Not an easy feat. While the DDA and City of Miami recognize the economic value in designing an iconic structure at this site, our experience tells us that FDOT is more likely to think in the terms of dollars and LOS rather than the contextual and neighborhood needs. Simply put, this isn’t an ordinary site where a no-frills structure will suffice.
Cities all across the nation are eliminating derelict highways that for the past 40-50 years have scarred, divided, and polluted neighborhoods. Boston’s big dig for example submerged a 2-mile stretch of I-93 that had cut off the North End and Waterfront neighborhoods from downtown and the rest of the city. The Rose Kennedy Greenway, a 1.5 mile public park now stretches its length. Where the highway tunnel ends, an iconic structure, the Leonard P. Zakim Memorial Bridge takes over, leading traffic over the Charles River to points north. Adjacent to the TD Garden (home of the Celtics & Bruins) the Zakim Bridge is now synonymous with the Boston Skyline. Other notable examples include:
- San Francisco’s Embarcardero Freeway
- Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct
- Hartford’s I-84 Viaduct
While no decision has been made on what final shape I-395’s replacement structure will take, our sources inform us that FDOT is beginning to explore more “cost effective” alternatives. We’ll keep eye on this project as it unfolds and will reach out to the City of Miami, DDA, and FDOT to ensure that Miami receives a replacement structure at this site worthy of its location in the heart of our burgeoning urban core. Moreover, we’ll remind FDOT that their third proposed objective for this project (3. Creating a visually appealing bridge) includes considering the aesthetics of the structure from all perspectives, especially the pedestrians and cyclists we’re trying to lure back into downtown streets.
A team of urban designers and architects, led by Miami based firm PlusUrbia*, were among the finalists for their design concept of ‘Port-Side’, Miami’s World Trade Center’s future commercial destination.
The team developed a concept coined “Port-Side Miami” to become the city’s new commercial district on the west end of the Port’s Dodge Island, which was designated by the “PortMiami 2035 master plan” to be developed into office space, retail, restaurants and a number of high-end hotels.
In an invitation-only RFQ for a master plan, the designers were given a set of parameters that dictated an intricate solution by means of phasing the project over time in order to minimize the effect on the port’s functions and to retain the existing buildings until the last phase. In addition, PlusUrbia’s team, following the RFQ’s guidelines, refrained to design specific buildings and maintained a generic/volumetric look to the design with the intention of later engaging other architects to provide the architecture.
Endowed with a privileged location, the site affords its buildings with outstanding views of Miami, Key Biscayne and South Beach. As such, Port-Side was designed to become a key upscale destination for residents and visitors alike, including retail, office and hotels that would provide round the clock activity as well as supporting one of the busiest cruise ship and cargo terminals in the US. The project aimed to transform Port Miami into an anchor for South Florida as well as setting a new standard for waterfront development.
The master plan’s building disposition was designed to emphasize its iconic nature while using downtown Miami’s scale and intensity as reference. Port-Side’s master plan is envisioned as an immediate extension of downtown while maintaining its identifiable urban island feel.
The proposal would become a destination by simply its physical attributes, engaging the water’s edge in a variety of ways (pedestrian and vehicular promenades, plazas and waterfront parks) supported by shops, boutiques, cafes and restaurants on the water.
The new district retrofits and extends existing infrastructure (Caribbean Way) as its pedestrian and bicycle access extending the City of Miami’s plans for its river-walk that connects the river to Bayside Marketplace, Bayfront Park and proposed future plans that may possibly include other means of public transportation.
*PlusUrbia Design in collaboration with GSHstudio, OskiStudio and studioLFA
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