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Ever get that feeling that your elected official is completely out of touch with your district, your city, or even our everyday surroundings? I do, and I have some irrefutable evidence to support my claims. I’ve had a hunch for sometime that our commissioners are the type of people who drive to work daily from sprawl-land in their cushy vehicles to government center. As we all know from their objections against the downtown Marlins’ Stadium venue, they have the reserved privilege of parking on a nearby surface parking lot (I honestly wouldn’t see that as privilege but more of a hassle.) I get the feeling they don’t ride metrorail much (even though the “central station” is right at their doorstep) and don’t wander out for lunch, at least not on foot. An article in last week’s Miami Today confirmed my suspicions; a rare moment in Miami history occurred when Commissioner Joe Sanchez went for a walkThrough downtown Alone… Ha, ha! Just Kidding about the last one, this was an all out publicity blitz

“It was very important for us to go out, talk to merchants, find out what’s going on downtown,” said Miami Commissioner Joe Sanchez, chairman of the DDA. “When you’re up on the 29th floor, you don’t see what’s happening in the streets. You don’t see the cracks in the sidewalks, you don’t see the lights out on a streetlight.”

You also can’t see much if your eyes are closed, but I thought that too was common sense… I’m sorry, but is anyone else taken aback by the fact that commissioners likely haven’t walked around our downtown (barring special occasions such as these,) taken a ride in anything other than a private car, or heck, been at least somewhat conscious of the decay that has blighted the CBD, Parkwest, and Overtown neighborhoods for the better part of the last few decades? Taking a stroll along Flagler seems to me like the best place to start before making any decisions to spend our $10 Million on “streetscape enhancements” or voting to make the thoroughfare more pedestrian friendly by switching it to a two-way street…

While he and authority officials were quick to note Flagler Street’s potted and hanging plants and the uniformed maintenance crew pressure-cleaning the sidewalk [Strategically Placed, I presume], Mr. Sanchez did not hesitate to gesture to graffiti, unleveled sewer covers and stagnant water in the streets.

What’s he going to do, ignore it? Given the media circumstances I’m surprised he didn’t call over Sherwin Williams…

“These are the things we don’t see from an office or a board meeting,” he said. “People want beautification, people want cleanup. That’s what the people deserve.”

To attract more upscale retailers, vital in elevating the status of downtown, “we need to look perfect,” he said. “We need to look sharp.” Marketing is also crucial, he said. “The DDA needs to help get these tenants. Let’s romance it. Bring out all the guns. When they come, seven other merchants come.” Improving the landmark Macy’s store would be a start, Mr. Alonso said. “I think we need to persuade Macy’s to invest $10 million to $20 million and refurbish their store.”

We need to look like any other city outside of the “developing world?” Macy’s has played a great hand thus far, we know they’re bluffing but we still need to come to the realization that a large sum of money needs to be invested in this area. The downtown retail industry should be giving ole Simon a run for its money. The city has the ultimate “lifestyle center” at its fingertips; hey, it could actually emulate real life elsewhere by becoming an actual city center. Who knows? Bob has some thoughts…

Also in the works are plans to improve area transportation. Because bus service on Flagler Street was eliminated when it became two-way, the county will offer a new shuttle bus on Flagler Street beginning May 21 that will connect to Metrorail, the Port of Miami and Bayside, said Bob Pearsall, manager of service planning for Miami-Dade County Transit.
That kind of convenience along with cleanliness and safety will revitalize downtown, Mr. Sanchez said.

You remember that plan to make the area more pedestrian friendly and was endorsed by the same people who later complain about downtown congestion? Well had they known that the conversion to a two-way facility would actually inhibit traffic flow and make congestion worse I think the vote would have come out a little bit different- In any case, I’m not complaining…

“The whole downtown experience, the whole success for downtown, is people need to feel safe, keep coming back,” he said. “They need to have a pleasant experience.”

Pure genius. And all this time we were thinking that allowing homeless individuals to run amuck with our downtown was the right way to go…What were we thinking?

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Anyone interested in learning about Miami 21, especially residents living in the East Quadrant, should attend the open house this weekend being put on by planning consultant firm DPZ. The open house is meant to discuss and provide details about recently updated documents of the Miami 21 code.

The open house will be held from 8:00am to noon this Saturday, March 24th, at Archbishop Curley Notre Dame High School located at 4949 NE 2nd Avenue.

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  • Mayor Michael Bloomberg of NYC was in Miami yesterday to experience our Bus Rapid Transit system. Our is nothing like what NYC is looking to build, with dedicated ROW’s and ridiculous fragmentation from local development, but I hope Mayor Bloomber was able to see what can be accomplished alongside expansive roadways which don’t exist in NYC. In any case, I see this as something kind of momentous for MDT and yet none of our news outlets covered the story…
  • No surprises here: Miami came in ranked at 98th for the Nation’s 100 most walkable cities. As CNN likes point out: Madison — 1,300 miles north of Sunny Miami came in first place. “Number of beaches versus frozen lakes apparently was not a factor. Crime rate, unfortunately for Miami, was.” Those Time Warner Companies are really out to do us in, aren’t they?
  • The FDOT has received three proposals to construct the Tunnel which would link watson Island/I-395 with the Port of Miami. The $1.2 Billion project is essential for improving the truck traffic connection between our highways and the port, not to mention should also make our downtown a more pleasant place to walk around. Without the tunnel, our port will choke on its own success, making the movement of goods in and out the biggest port in the state virtually impossible…
  • Oh, whoops we’re you trying to ride Tr-rail to get to work in a timely manner? CSX plans to disrupt Tri-rail for the next month. It’s things like this that makes people think that transit can’t work down here.
  • Miami City Commissioners voted to endorse the Marlins’ stadium plan within the city. Like their inept fellow commissioners in the County, they too decided to endorse the Orange Bowl Venue instead. I guess protecting out surface lots in downtown really is a priority for everyone around here, otherwise there is no logical reason to not place this this in downtown. “Criticisms of the downtown site have included its relatively small size…” but, nonetheless it fits, so, how is this a valid argument again?
  • MVB reports on Miami 21. Apparently the new building codes will be unveiled on March 24th.
  • GreenerMiami is working on Eathfest: WaterFest Gone Green…
  • BOB Reports on Rail Volution coming to Miami next Fall…

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I attended the Cocoanut Grove Village Council meeting at City Hall last night, and was pleasantly surprised by the county’s renderings for the beautification of SW 27th Avenue in the Grove. Although it is only in the 30% completion phase, it appears to be moving in a positive direction. Unfortunately, I do not currently have pictures of the proposal, but I’ll share a few of the major tenets of the project:

  1. Sidewalks: It appears that after years of embarrassing pedestrian-infrastructure, the county is planning on implementing sidewalks on both sides of 27th avenue in a uniform manner along the entire stretch of road south of US-1. It’s sad that I have to even mention sidewalks, given that they are as fundamental a part of a city as any piece of infrastructure, but in Miami this is never a given. I am a little disappointed that the new sidewalks are only proposed to be six feet wide; I would like to see 10-12 feet sidewalks throughout the avenue.
  2. Bike Lanes: Groveites, as well as any Miamian who frequents the neighborhood, should be very happy to learn that bike lanes are proposed for both sides of 27th Avenue south of US-1. This will be one of the first avenues anywhere in Miami or Miami Beach to get real bike lanes, which is quite a mystery given the fantastic riding conditions year-round. Now bicyclists who ride transit will have dedicated lanes to get to and from Grove Station and the neighborhood’s business district.
  3. Traffic Circle: One of the most contentious aspects of the plan is the proposed traffic circle at 27th, Tigertail, and Day Ave. The county is proposing an irregularly shaped traffic circle for this intersection, which would allow for the removal of traffic lights. Predictably, Day Avenue residents were concerned that traffic would increase significantly on their street. However, the county is planning on changing Day Avenue from one-way westbound to one-way eastbound, meaning one cannot enter Day Avenue from the 27th Avenue traffic circle. This will be ensured by a continuous portion of curb that will jut out just enough to make the turning angle onto Day Ave from the the circle impossible without going over the curb. I like this idea, because it will force cars to slow down considerably at this awkward and dangerous intersection. It will eliminate the need to wait for red lights to cross, as well as also making pedestrian crossings shorter.
  4. On-Street Parking: It looks like 27th Avenue will finally get on-street parking. The county plans on implementing 90 on-street spaces along this segment of the avenue, which would look similar to the set-up on Grand Avenue. The plan would have called for more on-street parking, but it wasn’t possible due to the ridiculously large number of driveways on the avenue. These on-street spaces are of the “cut-out” variety, meaning no current capacity will be taken by parking as the spaces are “carved” out of the sidewalk.
  5. Right-of-Way-Acquisition: Perhaps my favorite part of the plan was the proposed elimination of many parking swales (or parking lagoons) that line the avenue on both sides. These swales equate to such bad urban design for so many reasons, hence my appreciation for their removal. For one, they are just ugly to look at. A high quality pedestrian environment is certainly not define by any space flanked by automobiles. Also, these spots are small, so often times cars are parked on segments of the sidewalk, forcing pedestrians to slalom the cars (sometimes requiring movement into the road) to traverse the swales. Also, this provides way too many free parking spaces along what should be a transit-oriented thoroughfare. As long as an abundance of free parking is available throughout the city, especially in close proximity to transit stations, induced automobile demand will remain high and transit ridership will not realize its ultimate potential. Moreover, these swales are just dangerous. They often require backing into the road, or other maneuvering within the swale that breaches the sidewalk. Lastly, these swales have always been located within the county’s right-of-way, and therefore people were parking for free within illegal zones. Therefore, the county is only retaking what is already theirs.
Those are the major portions of the project that were discussed at the meeting. Other factors such as landscaping and shade/sidewalk trees will certainly be implemented, but the specifics are still under consideration. So in conclusion, this project exceeded my expectations for the avenue. I’ll continued to post any updates on this project as I learn of them.

Tonight at 7:00 pm Miami-Dade County engineers will be presenting the most recent designs for the SW 27th Avenue improvement project to the Cocoanut Grove Village Council at City Hall. SW 27th Avenue should be one of Miami’s best streets, but it currently is in a sorry state. Come out and see whether or not the county has planned for a high quality urban avenue that will serve as a notable “Gateway to the Grove”, or if the avenue is doomed to an average future primarily catering to automobiles.

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The above photograph came from the airplane mounted camera of local photographer James Good. Although certainly not one of his most creative pictures, this picture gives us an excellent aerial view of the realignment of Biscayne Boulevard along Bicentennial (Museum) Park. The beautiful design in the median with new wider sidewalks on either side, will allow the new residents of the condos emerging behind to easily access the Carnival Center and all destinations along the Boulevard easily by foot. The initial conceptual drawings included images of sidewalk cafes, tree canopies, and streetcars running along the new more pedestrian friendly corridor. Of particular interest is the small building in the bottom center; a water treatment pumping facility which emits a foul odor and isn’t planned to move elsewhere anytime soon…

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