Currently viewing the category: "Biscayne Boulevard"

Imagine walking out of the Metromover station at Biscayne and East Flagler Street and stepping out onto a linear park that runs under the elevated tracks, and continues north between the travel lanes of Biscayne Boulevard. Parking lots replaced with park space where people are sitting, having coffee, or even doing their morning yoga routine.

Welcome to Bayfront Parkway! - the latest Tactical Urbanist intervention brought to you by The Street Plans Collaborative, in partnership with C3TS.

Great cities have great parks. What is left of our great downtown waterfront park (after take out the excessive number of buildings cluttering the landscape -read Museums, Bayside….etc) is underutilized by local residents; separated from area residents and businesses by FDOT’s 8 lane highway  design for Bisycane Boulevard. What should be an easy five minute walk for folks living across the street is distored by excessively wide travel lanes, speeding motorists, and a few crosswalks to get to the park. What Bisycayne Boulevard needs is a road diet that reallocates car space, both in the form of travel lanes converted to on-street parking  and parking lots converted to park space. This will not only provide a natural expansion of Bayfront Park - at a time of shrinking park budgets and ever growing needs for park space, it will also help traffic calm the street and bridge the distance between the park and the growing population of residents and businesses along Biscayne from I395 to SE 1 Street.

For five days Miamians will be able to get to experience what this space would be like if it were permanently converted into a park. From Tuesday February 29 to Sunday March 4, we will take over the parking lot between Flagler and NE 1 Street, and convert it into a grass covered park with moveable seating, food trucks, exercise equipment and more. There will be street  performances throughout the five days, from spoken word to jazz shows, sponsored by Miami-Dade College. Our goal is simple - to activate this space as much as possible with the everyday activities of a typical park.

 Please join us for your lunch hour, or stop by after work. We want to show you how great it will be  - Bayfront Parkway!

Visit the project website at: http://bayfrontparkway.com/index.php for more information.

(If you have an activity that you want to use the space for - or want to know more about how you can be a part of it - contact Transit Miami.)

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A friend of Transit Miami passed this gem of a quote on to us by FDOT District 6 Secretary Gus Pego. This is what he had to say earlier today at the MPO meeting (Metropolitan Planning Organization).

“Just as you wouldn’t go to a supermarket for brain surgery, you’ve got to trust that the engineers know what they are doing”

-With regard to the value of installing the flashing crosswalks instead of implementing real traffic calming measures in the MiMo District on Biscayne Boulevard.

You can personally send your reply via email to Mr. Pego: gus.pego@dot.state.fl.us

Please watch the below interview with an actual FDOT engineer.

 

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View Northward from Bayfront Park, 1930

View South, Biscayne Boulevard and Bayfront Park, c.1920

View South, Biscayne Boulevard and Bayfront Park, c.1920

 

 

 

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The FDOT continues to turn a blind eye to all the crashes that we have documented in the Upper Eastside on Biscayne Boulevard over the past year. The below scene must have occurred in the past 24 hours or so on Biscayne Boulevard and 48th Street. Another day and another light pole on Biscayne comes crashing down as the FDOT does nothing to make Biscayne Boulevard safer for those of use that walk, bike, shop, use transit or drive on this street. When will the FDOT actually acknowledge that there is a fundamental design problem with the way Biscayne Boulevard was constructed and actually do something about it? With at least 9 accidents in the past year the evidence is very clear.  Are they waiting for some to die before they fix Biscayne? The design speed needs to be commensurate with the 35 mph speed limit. Currently the design speed is about 45 mph.

9th light pole this year; 2nd in four days

Debris field spreads out about 75 feet from point of impact. Speeding is clearly a problem.

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The FDOT needs to stop playing with people’s lives. I have lived in the MiMo neighborhood for about a year and I am aware of at least 8 crashes involving motor vehicles taking out light poles/bus shelters/store fronts. I have documented most of them here.

Adding insult to injury our local elected officials, City Commissioner Sarnoff and County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson along with the FDOT, have done nothing to address the design speed on Biscayne Boulevard. The design speed on this street throughout the Upper East Side is about 45 mph.  Although the speed limit is 35 mph it has become glaringly obvious that we have a speeding problem along this COMMERCIAL and RESIDENTIAL neighborhood.

A bus stop on a narrow sidewalk with cars flying by at 45+mph is a recipe for disaster.

Aside from a 1 day enforcement crackdown about a month ago on Biscayne and 45th  Street, our elected officials aren’t doing nearly enough to make Biscayne Boulevard safer for those of us that are walking, biking, or waiting for a bus.  Enforcement is not the solution. We need to design our roadways in order to achieve the speed we desire people to drive. In the case of Biscayne Boulevard the design speed should not exceed 35 mph.  The FDOT (and our elected officials) must stop practicing wishful thinking and begin designing roads that discourage speeding that don’t require enforcement. Properly designed streets enforce themselves. Biscayne Boulevard is essentially a highway that cuts through commercial and residential neighborhoods; there are also several schools in this area. I cannot think of a good reason for a 45 mph design speed. You can find recommendations to make Biscayne Boulevard more pedestrian and business friendly here.

Commissioner Sarnoff has offered to pay for a $70,000 fence surrounding Belle Meade from the Quality of Life funds which will do nothing to improve the quality of life for anyone on the Upper East Side.  I’d rather see the $70,000 used to make Biscayne Boulevard safer for those of us that walk and do business on the Boulevard. Pedestrian and business friendliness go hand-in-hand.

Please send Commissioner Sarnoff an email and ask him what he plans to do about this very serious issue.  You could also send an email to County Commissioner Edmonson.

This situation is out of control and no one is being held accountable. The 8 documented crashes could have very easily involved 8 lost lives.

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Miami Today News is reporting that the FDOT’s two-year $16 million renovation effort of Biscayne Boulevard is coming to an end. The FDOT resurfaced the road, installed new drainage, and built new sidewalks and improved lighting and signage from NE 16 Street to NE 36th Street.

Enrique Tomayo, Senior Project Engineer for Tomayo Engineering had this to say about the reduced lane widths, wider green space between sidewalk and bigger sidewalks:

“That makes the corridor more pedestrian-friendly.”

What a joke. Other then the sidewalks I could not think of a more pedestrian-unfriendly design then the current design that FDOT selected.

This afternoon I rode my bicycle from NE 22nd Street up to NE 36th Street. In this 14-block stretch of roadway there are only 5 crosswalks. If the FDOT really wanted to make this high-density, commercial corridor pedestrian-friendly, they would have added a crosswalk at every intersection. A pedestrian should not have to walk four blocks just to get across the street.  If the FDOT actually expects pedestrians to walk four blocks just to cross the street they are living in la la land.

This entire project is an embarrassment. If the FDOT were truly concerned about economic development, pedestrians and cyclists they would have added on street parallel parking as well.  Not only do businesses on Biscayne Boulevard need accessible parking for their customers, but parallel parking also helps to calm traffic. When you calm traffic, you make the roadway more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.

It is clear that the FDOT has one mission- To move cars as quickly as possible without regard to the needs of businesses, pedestrians and bicyclists.

I think we should rename Biscayne Boulevard to Biscayne Highway. This road is looking less like a Boulevard and more like a Highway. Take a look for yourselves…

Biscayne Boulevard or Biscayne Highway? There is nothing pedestrian-friendly about this roadway.

When will the FDOT learn to properly build a roadway that is safe for everyone? This project hasn’t even been completed and we already have to fix it. The same shitty roadway design was produced in the MiMo District.  When the MiMo BID Executive Committee meet with the FDOT they were told they would have to wait another 20 years to re-stripe Biscayne Bouleveard because that is when the project is up for review again. How many people will be injured or die and how many businesses will suffer during that time due to poor roadway design? Absolutely pathetic. Everyone is at the mercy of the FDOT and there is nothing we can do.  Very sad.

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Dear Commissioner Sarnoff,

As a resident of Belle Meade I am opposed to the use of $70,000 from the Quality of Life funds to erect a fence surrounding my community. I wholeheartedly believe that the use of these funds is a waste of money that will not make Belle Meade any safer. I think these funds could be used more effectively to address “Quality of Life” issues that affect the ENTIRE Upper East Side community and not just Belle Meade.

I propose that these funds should be used for an Upper East Side charrette. An intensive 7-10 day charrette that brings the community together to address our concerns and collectively plan for the future of the Upper East Side will do more to improve the quality of life for ALL residents then a fence excluding my neighbors from outside my Belle Meade community from entering Belle Meade.

The SINGLE most important thing that we should do as a community is encourage redevelopment in the area with more density.  The more density we have, the more active our streets become and thus our community becomes safer. I have spoken to developers and they have informed me that the current 35′ designation along Biscayne Boulevard discourages them from investing and bringing the needed density to this commercial corridor.  This is just one of the items that should be discussed during an Upper East Side charrette.

The SECOND most important thing that we could do as a community is design and engineer a streetscape that is business and pedestrian friendly. To achieve this we must:

  • Add parallel parking
  • Reduce travel lanes to calm traffic and discourage speeding
  • Add crosswalks at every intersection

The MiMo BID has met with the FDOT on several occasions, and the FDOT has confirmed that the ideas proposed in a recent MiMo Streetscape Vision Plan produced by Chuck Bohl and Jaime Correa from the University of Miami are feasible.

Retailers need accessible parallel parking in order to thrive.  Reducing the travel lanes and adding parking will naturally reduce the design speed of Biscayne Boulevard to the 35 mph it should be.  As it stands now the current design speed is 45 mph. The MiMo Historic District is a commercial corridor, not a highway. Ten miles-per-hour would make an enormous impact in terms of economic development and pedestrian friendliness.

Many community stakeholders know and believe that in order to reduce crime we need more density and a business and pedestrian friendly streetscape design. Building a porous $70,000 fence will not achieve the desired reduction in crime.  With $70,000 ALL the neighborhoods from the Upper East Side could come together in a charrette and work towards a safer and more prosperous community. I believe this is a far better use of the Quality of Life funds that are meant to improve the quality of life for the ENTIRE Upper East Community and not just Belle Meade.

Respectfully,

Felipe Azenha

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This morning I sat down with Tony Cho, President and Founder, of Metro I Properties to chat about his on going projects in Wynwood and the Design District. His company is a full-service real estate brokerage and investment firm that focuses on infill redevelopment of the urban core.  Metro 1 focuses on properties east of I-95 from downtown Miami to NE 54 Street.  What about the MiMo District in the Upper East Side, I asked? Tony Cho’s response:

I believe an anti-development climate exists in the Upper East Side, which makes it difficult for businesses and economic development and continues to further depress real estate values. I think the MiMo BID can help, but ultimately development will bring investment and density and more businesses to the area.

I live on the Upper East Side and I must admit  that the truth hurts. The T3 (2 Stories) designation is stifling redevelopment. I have to agree with Tony and say that 35′  T3  lobby has effectively suppressed property values in the area and will not make our neighborhood any safer because it does not encourage density. The few developments that are in the process of being permitted are all 1-story buildings that DO NOT add enough pedestrians to Biscayne Boulevard. Why are these developers choosing to build only one story? My guess is that it is not economically worthwhile to build a second floor or developers may choose to sell their density bonuses. If the Upper East Side Biscayne Boulevard corridor were to be designated T5 (5 stories) I think we would see developers building 5 stories and not choosing to build less or sell their density bonuses.

We need density, not bad density (10 stories), but GOOD density (5 stories). The 35-foot height limit restricts density in our neighborhood, removing an important motive for developers to invest in the area. On the other hand T5 zoning is attractive to developers, and with Miami 21′s pedestrian friendly zoning, it will bring a good scale of density and development to the area.  T5 zoning allows developers to build structures like the Balans Café building on Biscayne Boulevard and NE 68th Street.  This building is not out of scale and is sensitive to the surrounding single-family homes.

Balans Cafe. Building on Biscayne Boulevard taller than 35'.

This building is an example of good density; retail on the bottom floor with residents living on the floors above. This type of development provides for a symbiotic relationship between businesses and residents. It also helps reduce auto-dependency.

Wake up Upper East Side! If you want your property values to rise and you want your neighborhood to become safer you should support higher intensity infill development.  On the other hand, if you want the neighborhood to stay the same (crime, drugs, prostitution) then let’s keep the 35-foot height limit and not encourage development in the area.  No fence or wall will keep you safe as long as Biscayne Boulevard remains a cesspool of crime, drugs and prostitution.  In order to change the reality of Biscayne Boulevard we need people living and doing business (not turning tricks) on Biscayne Boulevard.  We need to support mixed-use development and the only way this can be done is if the height limit on Biscayne is increased to actually allow five stories.

Not all development is bad, nor are all developers evil. There are plenty of good developers with good intentions in Miami. As a community we need to support more intense development if we want our property values to rise and reduce crime. There is plenty of research out there to support that walkable neighborhoods have higher property values and are safer; the more eyes on the street the less crime. We shouldn’t allow the voice of the few who lobbied for 35′ height limit to further allow our neighborhood to fall into decay.

Please send Commissioner Mark Sarnoff an email and let him know that you support pedestrianizing Biscayne Boulevard in the Upper East Side. Also, please ask him to apply pressure on FDOT to re-stripe Biscayne Boulevard. Biscayne Boulevard needs to be business and pedestrian friendly.  It’s all about economic development. We need density, a street people can actually cross, and parallel parking so businesses can thrive.

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The following letter was sent to Gus Pego,  District 6 Secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation, from Scott Timm, outgoing Executive Director of the MiMo Business Improvement Committee. Scott and other MiMo stakeholders like Barabara Gimenez and Nancy Liebman have been vocal proponents of improving pedestrian conditions on Biscayne Boulevard, recognizing the connection between successful commercial frontage, and vibrant pedestrian culture.

Mr. Pego,

As you know, the MiMo Business Improvement Committee (BIC) has been advocating modifications to the current design of Biscayne Boulevard, especially the section between 61st and 77th Streets. I understand that at the time the project was being presented to the community, there were competing interests and requests that resulted in the current design. And I certainly understand that budgets are tight, and would not advocate needlessly spending taxpayer dollars.

But the current design of Biscayne Boulevard is a disaster, and it is only a matter of time before someone is killed or seriously injured along this stretch. Your office says that more enforcement is the solution to the problem. Do parents with small children rely on enforcement only to protect their youngsters from danger, say from toxic chemicals under the sink? No, they add easy-to-install cabinet locks to make the environment safer, so that 24/7 enforcement is NOT required. Why insist we spend millions of taxpayer dollars on ongoing enforcement solutions when the roadway could be designed once to enforce safe speeds and conditions?

This item recently posted to the TransitMiami blog illustrates the all-too-common problem - speeding cars flying off the road and smashing streetlight poles and bus shelters. This has been a ongoing occurrence in this neighborhood, and yet all of our meetings with your staff end with the apology that “there’s nothing we can do.”

We think there is something you can do. The MiMo BIC has proposed a re-striping scenario to restore parallel parking to Biscayne Boulevard, creating safer sidewalks for pedestrians and safer speeds for motorists. We’re told that FDOT can do nothing until Biscayne Boulevard is identified as a priority, specifically in the City of Miami’s Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan (MCNP).

Interestingly enough, we are in the MCNP. Policy TR-1.4.5 defines the “Urban Street” as “a pedestrian and vehicular way whose primary function is to serve adjoining residential neighborhoods and the businesses that serve them.” The policy identifies some city roadways as prime examples of Urban Streets, and Biscayne Boulevard is the first one listed. Quoting further from the MNCP: “Principles that will guide the design process will include, as appropriate: lower design speeds and control of traffic volumes utilizing traffic calming devices including but not limited to modification of lane widths consistent with lower design speeds; wide sidewalks; medians; roundabouts; landscaping; attractive lighting; creative and informative signage; on-street parking; and other design features and amenities as appropriate.”

All we want is a neighborhood that is safe for motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists. A neighborhood that will encourage pedestrian activity as a way to revitalize the local businesses. A neighborhood where the historic roadway serves as a point of pride. Unfortunately, the current design of Biscayne Boulevard is flawed, and for the sake of safety - if not esthetics -  it needs to be repaired before someone else is injured or killed.

I would also encourage you to become a regular reader of the TransitMiami blog. There you will learn about problem spots throughout Miami-Dade County where pedestrians and cyclists are forced to fight for their lives; spots that could be made safe with simple roadway design changes.

For personal and family reasons, I am leaving my position at the MiMo BIC, to return north. But know that the BIC, and scores of local residents, business owners, and property owners, will continue to advocate for safer streets and sensible design. We hope that FDOT will partner with us in that journey.

Thank you,

Scott Timm, Executive Director of the MiMo Business Improvement Committee

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In two separate instances this week two large light poles were hit along Biscayne Boulevard in the Upper East Side.  One of the accidents is located on Biscayne Boulevard and 60th Street; the other was on Biscayne and 55th Street.

Biscayne Boulevard and NE 60th Street. This light pole has been here for at least 1 week.

Two light poles in 1 week have been hit on Biscayne Boulevard. There is clearly an issue with the design speed.

The design speed of Biscayne Boulevard throughout the Upper East Side is about 45 mph.  Although the speed limit is 35 mph, it has become glaringly obvious that we have a speeding problem along this COMMERCIAL Boulevard.  I have lived in this neighborhood for a little less than a year and I am aware of at least 7 accidents that have involved motor vehicles taking out light poles/bus shelters/store fronts. I have documented most of them here.

Before someone mentions enforcement as the solution, please allow me to preemptively say that we need to design our roadways in order to achieve the speed we desire people to drive. In the case of Biscayne Boulevard, the design speed should not exceed 35 mph.  The FDOT must stop practicing wishful thinking and begin designing roadways that discourage speeding and do not require enforcement. Properly designed streets enforce themselves. Biscayne Boulevard is essentially a highway that cuts through commercial and residential neighborhoods; there are also several schools in this area. There is no good reason for a 45 mph design speed.

Adding insult to injury it has taken more then a week for our government to take action and pick up the light pole. Why is that? Since there is yellow tape surrounding the damaged light pole, government must be aware that there was an accident. Where’s the workflow?  Do the police not inform the County Public Works Department, the FDOT and the city of Miami that this pole needs to be picked up from the sidewalk? Last time a light pole was knocked down it took nearly two weeks to remove the debris.  What a joke.

How many more accidents need to occur before the FDOT acknowledges that the design speed of Biscayne Boulevard is too high? Maybe they are waiting for a few more deaths before they do something about Biscayne Boulevard.

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Two business owners along Biscayne Boulevard have told me this week that their businesses have suffered considerably with the ongoing construction along Biscayne Boulevard between NE 16th -36th Street. One owner told me his business is down about 40% and the other indicated he is down about 50%.  Ouch.

I think it’s fair to assume that businesses will suffer during any construction project of this scale, but the FDOT should try to minimize the impact by providing easy access for pedestrians to the businesses along this corridor. This is certainly not happening here.

These pictures speak for themselves…

Where do you want us to cross? Through the construction zone?

 

Should I take a running start to jump the plastic netting? Getting to a business should not be a physical challenge.

This is quickly becoming a classic FDOT disclaimer. Pedetrians need detours too; not just cars.

Must be fun walking through here if you are elderly, disabled, or a parent with a stroller.

It’s very clear that the FDOT doesn’t give a rats ass about pedestrians.

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I have done my fair share of traveling around the world, and one thing I have noticed about great cities is the use of wide and beautiful boulevards, pedestrian malls, and public spaces.  Unfortunately though, while Downtown Miami would like to claim world class status, the public realm is far behind the reality on the ground.

Downtown Miami is currently awash in Heat mania, but no matter how many Lebron’s, Bosh’s, or Wade’s Miami brings down, the reality is right there on the ground. Dangerous streets, few public spaces, autocentric design, missing crosswalks, yawning parking lots, and the list goes on. Unfortunately Miami likes to dwell in its own hype a bit too much.

Biscayne Boulevard, the front porch of Miami, is a giant parking lot.  With speeding vehicles on 4 lane streets in each direction, an ocean of surface lots, and enough concrete to fill a river.  With Flagler Street, what should be the equivalent to Lincoln Road on this side of Biscayne Bay, officials have been too shy to close the street and create a real attraction worthy of the beautiful South Florida weather.  Instead, they have relegated it to a clogged and polluted street, not worthy of the historic character it’s architecture and name carries. As Morris Lapidus, the brains behind Lincoln Road once said: “A car never bought anything” – and boy was he right.

In Brickell, the story is much the same.  Brickell Avenue and its massive intersections are uncomfortable and dangerous, a far cry from the world class status officials always describe it as. It is quite ridiculous (and embarrassing) that crosswalks are 3 or 4 blocks apart and one has to see business professionals jaywalking and trudging through bushes along medians in the dense and urban Banking District of Miami.  Luckily though, Brickell Avenue is getting a little love after much activism.

My travels have shown me that great cities are built from the public realm up – not by millionaire basketball players and the wealthy fans that visit them. It’s amazing how much weight the city has given to the Miami Heat. One day these players will be gone, and what will we have? The same dangerous, ugly, and unwalkable streets we had before.  Great cities are built to benefit the generations to come – not to dwell in the hype of the temporary present, but to look into the future.

In Barcelona, you have Las Ramblas, a spectacular pedestrian boulevard comparable to Biscayne Blvd or Brickell Ave in size.  In Rome, the Coliseum was closed off to vehicular traffic and transformed into a magnificent public space many decades ago.  The story is much the same throughout most of the great cities of Europe, Asia, and South America.  From Istanbul to Tokyo or Columbia to Mexico, the facts are on the ground – beautiful and majestic public thoroughfares and spaces are important components of any world class city.  Great cities create a great quality of life, and this attracts talented people, culture, arts, businesses, and tourists.

Even Miami Beach has shown greater sensibility to the positive impacts of pedestrianization (as I would like to call it).  Lincoln Road is arguably one of the most successful pedestrian malls in the United States (sales per square foot).  If this isn’t a sign of what should happen in downtown Miami, I do not know what is.  Ocean Drive as well is a spectacular mixture of architecture, humanity, and nature.  A marvelous place to people watch.

Mexico City, a “third world” city, has shown an amazing ability to integrate wonderful public spaces, promenades, and pedestrians malls into the chaotic city of 25 million people.

Paseo de La Reforma, a street not unlike Biscayne Boulevard and Brickell Avenue in terms of density and traffic, boasts a wonderful promenade along the median covered with beautiful flowers and foliage.   It also has something that most major cities have and downtown Miami lacks, many (and consistent) crosswalks.

 

Paseo de La Reforma in Mexico City

Paseo de La Reforma in Mexico City

Crosswalk on Paseo de La Reforma in Mexico City

Crosswalk on Paseo de La Reforma in Mexico City

Horacio Street in Mexico is another beautiful example, located in the densely populated neighborhood of Polanco.  The street boasts a wide and beautiful median, with occasional fountains, parks, flower stands, and roundabouts.  Amazingly, their are no traffic lights on Horacio Street and during my time here, I have felt perfectly safe.   Why?  Because the speed limit is no more than 15 miles an hour, creating a calm and pleasant environment along the entire street for both cars and pedestrians.  In many ways  Horacio is more than a street, rather, it is a long linear park covering more than three dozen blocks.

Horacio Street in Mexico City

Horacio Street in Mexico City

Horacio Street in Mexico

Horacio Street in Mexico

Even in the “Centro” of Mexico, which is the chaotic and historic downtown, officials have begun making improvements towards the pedestrian realm that other great cities have made.  Francisco I Madero St, which leads into the Zocalo (the second largest public square in the world), is currently being converted into a pedestrian mall.  Other neighborhoods throughout the city have also transformed various streets into pedestrian malls and today they are FULL of people enjoying the city.

New Pedestrian Mall on Francisco I Madero St in downtown Mexico

New Pedestrian Mall on Francisco I Madero St in downtown Mexico under construction.

 

If the City of Miami truly wants to make downtown Miami a destination, they need to get past the hype and the Miami Heat, and realize that great cities are created from great public spaces.  And not just one for that matter, but rather, an integrated network of connected public spaces and thoroughfares.

They could easily start by converting the parking lots on Biscayne Blvd into a pedestrian promenade worthy of the location it has.  Biscayne in downtown Miami as it stands now is a pedestrians worst nightmare.  Missing crosswalks, massive streets with speeding cars, 8-10 blocks of concrete lots, and more.  It truly is ridiculous when the entire (beatiful) waterfront of downtown Miami and its attractions are isolated from the city by 150+ feet of roadways and surface lots - one can count the crosswalks across the entire waterfront of downtown with one hand.

Parking could easily be replaced in one (yes one) parking garage (perhaps even underground). Street parking could also be used along the blocks, to buffer the traffic from the promenade, but also to make up some of the lost parking – thereby reducing the speed down Biscayne Blvd through design.  Imagine a linear park and slower traffic complementing the beautiful skyscrapers, parks, and attractions already there.  One could easily argue that this could become one the most beautiful places in the city.

In Brickell, the redesign of Brickell Avenue needs to take into account the drastic density increase over the last (and next) few years and create a more pleasant landscape for residents and tourists.  One crosswalk every three or four blocks is absolutely ridiculous, so is the current speed limit, and massive intersections.  Again, luckily (and after much activism) some of this is being taken into consideration during the current redesign of Brickell Avenue.  Nevertheless, enough is not being done.

Another great improvement would be the transformation of historic Flagler Street into a pedestrian mall.  With historic architecture, cheap rents, great public transportations, and a fabulous location, Flagler has the potential to become one of downtown’s most popular attractions.  I have often heard the argument that Flagler cannot be transformed because there are no alleys behind the buildings for the service trucks.  This is true rubbish.  Many pedestrian malls around the world allow service vehicles (and only service vehicles) to drive through at very slow speeds (5 mph).  Just because the occasional service vehicle needs to come in, it does not mean we should relegate Flagler to ugly and undeserving conditions it faces today.  Cross streets could also be used as staging ground for delivery trucks and such.

It is truly a shame that the City of Miami does not see the large tourist potential of downtown Miami.  Miami has unbelievable weather that makes a well designed outdoor space a “hot” commodity.  Miami Beach understood this many years ago, and now it is arguably one of the coolest urban environments in the Unites States.

The unbelievable development that occurred over the last few years is just the beginning of a transformation that will happen over the next few decades. With millions of tourists descending on Miami Beach every year, the City of Miami should take care to create the type of environment travelers have come to expect - it wouldn’t be hard to pull some of those tourists to this side of the bay.  In fact, some have already started crossing over, as is evident by the growing numbers of tourists on the streets of downtown and Brickell.  Nevertheless, more must be done if we expect the to come back in greater numbers.

The private realm has done its part in the last few years to bring masses to downtown Miami, the city and the state nevertheless, have done very little to adjust the streets and public spaces that must accompany the massive redevelopment of the last few years.

The City of Miami must take ownership over Biscayne Blvd and Brickell Avenue, and force the Florida Department of Transportation to listen to the needs of residents, businesses owners, and city officials.  I am tired of local and state officials “passing the buck”.  They must take Flagler Street and create an attraction from the most historic street in South Florida.  Brickell Ave, Biscayne Blvd, and surrounding streets must accommodate and integrate with the urban setting they inhabit.  The city must create a cohesive pedestrian environment throughout the entire downtown area and beyond.  The current fractioned landscape is a far cry from what is needed.

I will not accept the argument that the City of Miami is a world class city when the facts on the ground say something very different.  Don’t believe the hype!

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A pedestrian could have very easily been hit by this speeding car.

Just moments ago there was another accident in the MiMo Historic District.  This is at least the fifth accident in past 6 months that I have witnessed.  Biscayne Boulevard is an FDOT road. Although the posted speed limit is 35 mph the design speed of this roadway is closer to 45mph.  The design speed should not exceed the posted speed limit. FDOT should be doing much more to make Biscayne Boulevard more pedestrian friendly.  You can find our suggestions here:

I have documented all the accidents below:

http://www.transitmiami.com/fdot/motorcyclist-collides-with-pedestrian-on-biscayne-boulevard-in-mimo

http://www.transitmiami.com/fdot/bus-shelter-destroyed-in-mimo

http://www.transitmiami.com/fdot/pic-of-the-day-two-weeks-notice

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The Upper East Side neighborhood, loosely considered the area around the Biscayne Boulevard corridor from NE 50th Street to NE 85th Street, has tremendous potential for redevelopment. Unfortunately FDOT’s current streetscape design for Biscayne Boulevard is suffocating the neighborhood and stunting its growth.

FDOT recently resurfaced Biscayne Boulevard, but they did a disastrous job. They essentially designed a highway through a historic commercial and residential neighborhood without considering the needs of the businesses and residents that call the area home. As long as Biscayne Boulevard remains unfriendly to businesses and pedestrians conditions in the Upper East Side will not improve. The redevelopment of the Upper East Side begins with Biscayne Boulevard. FDOT must understand that they play a central role in the economic redevelopment of this community. They cannot persist to enable the decline of communities through poor roadway design that is unfriendly to businesses and pedestrians. If FDOT continues to design roadways with the sole purpose of moving cars faster, communities will suffer and they will not prosper.

The first step to redeveloping the Upper East Side neighborhood is to redesign the Biscayne Boulevard streetscape.  Lucky for the FDOT, University of Miami Professors Chuck Bohl and Jaime Correa have provided the MiMo Business Improvement Committee with a Biscayne Boulevard Streetscape Vision plan. At the very core of redevelopment are the businesses; they need to be on solid footing to thrive. Accessible parallel parking is the cornerstone for businesses to flourish.  Without it businesses will continue to go bust and prospective retailers will continue to turn their back to the area.

Source: MiMo Business Improvement Committee- Design by Professor Chuck Bohl and Professor Jaime Correa- University of Miami

 

Once parallel parking is in place, a number of things will occur which will transform the neighborhood. Existing business will blossom and new businesses will relocate to the neighborhood.  Parallel parking will help to calm traffic as well; bringing the current 45 mph design speed closer in-line with the 35 mph speed limit. (The speed limit should be reduced to 30mph). Once the design speed is reduced to 35 mph, Biscayne Boulevard will become more pedestrian friendly. Additional crosswalks and bicycle sharrows would also be introduced, further calming traffic and enhancing the pedestrian realm.

As a result, there will be a domino effect in the neighborhood. More businesses will open and remain open. A sense of place will be created and residents and visitors will begin supporting local retailers because the area will be more pedestrian friendly. More importantly, crime will decline since there will be more “eyes on the street”.

Last but not least, the 35 foot building height limit needs to increase to 53ft. Without it, real estate developers will not invest in the area.  One of two things will occur if the 35 foot building height limit remains- 1) Empty lots will remain or 2) The area will be filled with Discount Auto Parts type buildings. Contrary to doomsday conspiracy theorists that believe increasing the building height will destroy the neighborhood, the 53 ft building height is not out of scale. If we want good development to come to the area, the neighborhood must support an increase of the building height. If you want crappy development, keep the 35 foot building height limit.

Source: MiMo Business Improvement Committee- Design by Professor Chuck Bohl and Professor Jaime Correa- University of Miami

Source: MiMo Business Improvement Committee- Design by Professor Chuck Bohl and Professor Jaime Correa- University of Miami

So how do we make this happen?  Well, we here at Transit Miami are trying to mobilize the Upper East Side HOAs.  Tonight we will have an informal meeting with several HOA representatives. The Upper East Side HOAs need to come together with the MiMo Business Improvement Committee and the MiMo Biscayne Association and agree that streetscape design is the most pressing issue for the neighborhood. If the community speaks with one voice we can apply enough pressure on Commissioner Sarnoff and shame the FDOT to make these necessary and relatively inexpensive changes to make the economic redevelopment of our community a reality.

The Upper East Side Neighborhood must plan for its future now and begin envisioning the future for this historic district. We need to consider a week long charette and bring all major community stakeholders to the table within the next year. Let’s make this happen neighbors!

FYI: Speeding is clearly an issue on Biscayne Boulevard in the Upper East Side neighborhood. I have documented three accidents in the past 4 months. There have been more, but I just have not had time to document all the accidents.

http://www.transitmiami.com/fdot/motorcyclist-collides-with-pedestrian-on-biscayne-boulevard-in-mimo

http://www.transitmiami.com/fdot/bus-shelter-destroyed-in-mimo

http://www.transitmiami.com/fdot/pic-of-the-day-two-weeks-notice

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The Miami-Dade County Public Works Department informed a group of Belle Meade residents that closing off public access to Belle Meade would not be allowed at a neighborhood meeting Tuesday night. In a letter addressed to Miami Commissioner Sarnoff,  County PWD Director Esther Calas had this to say:

The Manual of Uniform Standards for Design, Construction and Maintenance for Streets and Highways (Florida Greenbook), developed by the FDOT provides minimum standards for the design and maintenance of County and municipal roadway systems, including pedestrian facilities such as sidewalks.  Chapter 8 of the Greenbook provides that “ All new highways, except limited access highways, should be designed and constructed under the assumption they will be used by pedestrians.”

Chapter 15 of the Greenbook provides that if traffic diverters are being installed to redirect vehicular traffic, such as a street closure, as has been in the Belle Meade neighborhood, “Bicyclists and pedestrians should be provided access through traffic diverters.

The Greenbook provisions are consistent with the Miami-Dade County Comprehensive Master Plan (CDMP), which provides that pedestrian and vehicular networks should serve as connectors between neighborhoods, while the walling off of a neighborhood from arterial roadways should be avoided.  It further states that pedestrian circulation shall be provided between public places through connectivity of sidewalks and supplements by pedestrian paths.”

Furthermore, the Pedestrian Safety Guide and Contermeasure Selection System, published by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, states that if a street closure is implemented, it should always allow for the free movement of all pedestrians including wheelchair users and bicyclists. Moreover, emergency vehicles should be able to access barricaded streets.  Additionally, street closures must be implemented so as “not to adversely affect access to destination in the community by pedestrians and bicyclists.”

Therefore, based on the attached local, state, and federal provisions and as stated by our Assistant County Attorney’s email, the modification of the existing barricaded streets to include blocking pedestrian access along the sidewalks in the Belle Meade neighborhood cannot be allowed. However, as an option pedestrian free movement may be provided through the installation of concrete pipe bollards.”

Belle Meade residents where quick to point out that the communities of Miami Shores and Coral Gate had completely closed off road access to pedestrians and bicyclists. Mr. Gaspar Miranda, Assistant Director of the Miami-Dade County Public Works, told the audience that both communities had been advised that the street closures had to be removed, setting the stage for a showdown between local NIMBY’s who fought for the walled neighborhoods and County officials.  The Coral Gate wall in particular was only recently completed and was strongly supported by Mayor Tomas Regalado. How can City of Miami officials, from the Mayor to the public works department be so oblivious to County, State and Federal regulations?

In October Commissioner Sarnoff told Belle Meade residents that he would support the fencing of Belle Meade and he even offered to pay for it with public funds.  He instructed the Belle Meade HOA to gather a petition of support. In response, the Belle Meade HOA went door-to-door to get signatures and a surprising 78% of Belle Meade residents supported the fencing of Belle Meade.

Interestingly, the only residents that were asked to vote were neighbors to the east of NE 6th Avenue. Residents and businesses that to the west of NE 6th Avenue were never asked if they supported the fencing of Belle Meade. I’m guessing that if a petition were circulated to them, most would not support severing public access to Belle Meade.  While the County’s statements may make the closings a mute point, in order to make the process truly democratic all neighborhood stakeholders, including those to the west of NE 6th Avenue, should be allowed to voice their opinion.

It appears that the fencing of Belle Meade may not move forward, or at the very least there is a long road ahead for everyone involved. Our readers know that we here at Transit Miami do not support gated communities; they do more harm then good. Fences divide communities and remove “eyes from the street”, perhaps the greatest deterrent against crime. The less people walk the more dangerous an area becomes. Truly vibrant neighborhoods are those that are walkable and allow residents to interact with ALL their neighbors and local businesses by foot and bicycle. Everyone, including the elderly, the handicap and the carless, depend on easy access to businesses on Biscayne Boulevard.

As the neighborhood continues to improve and more businesses come to the Upper East Side the area will naturally become safer. As a resident of Miami for many years, I have witnessed incremental and steady improvements to the Upper East Side - which is one of the reasons I moved here. Yes, more needs to be done, but severing Belle Meade from its surroundings is not the answer.

An alternative strategy for residents and businesses to help advance redevelopment would be to engage local groups like the MiMo BID and the MiMo Biscayne Association. The MiMo Business Improvement Committee is a voice for the business community and with a broad base of support could become a strong advocate for the neighborhood. Similarly,  The MiMo Biscayne Association has been promoting the area successfully for some time - they understand the value of historic preservation and are another organization which businesses and residents should support.

You might be saying, “Thats great for the long term -but how do we improve safety now??” Here are a couple of easily implementable suggestions for making my beloved neighborhood a little safer.

1. Maintain the landscaping that exist along NE 6th Court - policing by Belle Meade residents and police officers would be more effective with clearer sight lines

2.Take action on the abandoned Vagabond Hotel (tearing it down is not an option)

3. Maintain a strong Citizens Crime Watch program

4. Increase the presence of City of Miami Police

Bollards, as suggested by the CPWD, would not allow cars to access the neighborhood.

The abandoned Vagabond Hotel is cesspool #1 on the Upper East Side for crime, drugs, homelessness and probably prostitution.

Check out the new Citizens' Crime Watch sign. Belle Meade neighbors mobilized after a daylight armed home invasion in October.

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