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NE 2nd Avenue in Buena Vista

NE 2nd Avenue in Buena Vista

The reindeer games continue between the County and City and as usual the taxpayer ends up getting cheated and we are all left with a really dangerous street, which apparently the County and City both find acceptable.

Here’s an email I received from Transit Miami friend Wendy Stephan.

Hi Felipe

I’m writing to you about a problem here in Buena Vista East/Design District.  I’ve attached a letter I sent below about the problem.  After residents sent about 100 letters, the City of Miami (particularly the Mayor’s office) was responsive, but our understanding is that the County is in charge of the project.  The latest twist is that the County says they handed the project off to the City at some point (?!).  It seems the project just stalled out halfway done.  I am sure you’ve noticed how dangerous NE 2nd Avenue is these days – potholes, angled light poles, and no street markings!!  This seems to be a good issue for your blog. Thanks.

Wendy

Here’s the email sent to city, county neighbors, etc., on June 10:

 

Dear Commissioner Edmonson,

I would like to add my voice to the chorus of District 3 residents and business owners concerned about the unsafe situation and lack of progress on the street improvements on NE 2nd Avenue in the Buena Vista/Design District area.  Because the street improvement project seems to be stalled with work halfway done — old lighting removed, street surface damaged, striping not visible — the situation that currently exists is very dangerous, and one young woman was killed crossing the street on a dark night in March.

This area has recently seen the wonderful development of several businesses, some owned by residents, that cater to our broader community.  These businesses have generated both car and pedestrian traffic along this corridor.  County buses pick up passengers along this road.  Students have been crossing this street daily on their way to DASH, Miami Arts Charter and Archbishop Curley Notre Dame schools.  We need the long-promised improvements to the street completed to improve safety, functionality and the appearance of this street.  The project, already funded and initiated, includes multiple safety features, including:· Adequate sidewalks
· Curbs
· Drainage
· Parking lanes
· Bike lanes
· Clear street striping
· Functional street lighting
· Maintenance for the large swale trees, additional trees/green where possible.

What happened to this project?  We demand answers and a clear timeline for its completion.  Residents and patrons of our businesses should not be placed at such high risk.  Thank you for your prompt response.

Wendy

What a disgrace.

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As our friend Verticus from MVB discussed in our recent post on the Miami streetcar, a monorail system would prove to be a slightly more efficient transit system than a streetcar- if you were comparing the modes strictly on that level. Looking at it strictly as a Transportation engineer, as Verticus has suggested, I can attest that any mode of transportation which travels along its own dedicated right-of-way will prove to be a more efficient form of moving passengers around. However, as I have come to realize throughout many years of studying and thought, looking at our environment strictly from a system optimization perspective, sacrifices an inclusion of other major contributing factors. I’ve outlined these factors below in a brief comparison between the Miami streetcar and any other form of transportation (such as Verticus’ Monorail concept) and analyzed them from the perspective of an urban planner and a transportation engineer.

Passenger Efficiency- As I stated above, this is the one major advantage a dedicated right-of-way will have over streetcar technology. However, even the efficiency of the system has its drawbacks when placed in the context of the urban environment we are studying: Miami’s Design District. Typically, passenger rail systems established on dedicated ROW’s feature stations located no less than a mile apart. The long distance between system stations makes these types of transit ideal for moving passengers from nearby townships and suburbs (or Sprawled areas where stations feature extensive parking,) rather than intracity connectivity. The purpose of the streetcar is to create an intricate web of urban transit and its closely placed stations (1/3 of a mile or so apart) permits more independent mobility on a fixed rail system (more on the benefits of this later.) Installing an advanced signalization system along the streetcar route ensures that the streetcars will always receive priority at intersections and will ensure the movement of the system along the route.

Street Interaction- The streetcar here has the clear advantage, located at the street level rather than a fixed guide way hovering above the city streets. I cannot stress enough how important tying in our transit systems to our streetscapes is when trying to establish vibrant urban neighborhoods. The streetcar invites street level activity on the sidewalk and ground level of adjoining buildings.

Economics- A rough comparison of recently completed modes of transit across the United States:

LRT/Streetcar:


Portland, Oregon- 4.6 mile loop- $12.4 million per mile
Tampa, Florida- 2.3 mile line- $13.7 million per mile
Charlotte, North Carolina- $31 million per mile
Denver, Colorado- $27.6 million per mile
Salt Lake City- $42.2 million per mile
National Average- Approx $40 million per mile

Monorail:

Las Vegas, Nevada- 4 mile line- $87 million per mile

Cost per passenger mile:

LRT:

San Diego- $0.17
Salt Lake City- $0.15
Dallas- $0.55
Portland- $0.29
Sacramento- $0.42
Denver- $0.40

Fixed automated guide way systems:

Jacksonville Skyway monorail $10.71
Detroit Peoplemover $5.80
Miami MetroMover $3.42

Plain and simple, the cost associated with acquiring the necessary land to create elevated stations and guide ways any dedicated ROW transit would require would make the project wholly financially infeasible. The clear advantage of the streetcar is that it will be built entirely on existing ROW’s and municipally owned land. For power source efficiency data, please click here.

Environmental Vitality- Hurricanes pose the obvious biggest threat to creating a permanent system of overhead wires to power a streetcar system. We have not yet identified a potential solution to this issue, however we know one exists given the ability of streetcars to survive the strongest winter winds and snow storms of Canada and Northern Europe.

Conclusion- What many people fail to realize is that the streetcar is a solution for the City of Miami’s transit needs. It provides a system of reliable urban transit which will make much of the city more accessible to all residents. The advantage of any fixed rail system over an advanced bus network is that rails bring about land use changes and buses do not. Establishing a fixed rail network allows the city of Miami to permanently alter parking requirements, building setbacks, and many of the other vital components which differentiate an urban setting from a suburban one. The streetcar isn’t designed as aide to the suburban Kendall, Homestead, or Pembroke Pines commuter, but rather the residents which will be infusing the downtown core. The streetcar provides the means for current and future city of Miami residents to easily enjoy urban mobility. Combined with the new regulations instilled in Miami 21, the Miami Streetcar will reduce the need for automobile use for those residents living within its’ sphere of pedestrian access.

For more information, please visit the City of Miami’s FAQ regarding the Miami Streetcar…

One of the best examples of how to create a vibrant, pedestrian accessible, and dense neighborhood is in Boston along the Back Bay. The dense row houses, some of which have been converted into mixed use structures (along Newbury street, Commonwealth Avenue, and Boylston) create a dense yet comfortable living environment. Public park space is amply provided along the Charles River Esplanade, Commonwealth Avenue, and the city’s central park (the Boston Common and Public Gardens) which anchors the eastern portion of this quaint neighborhood. Boston’s Back bay embodies many of the principles envisioned in Miami 21, including stepped structural height increases, reduced setbacks, on street parking, and canopy/park space requirements. Miami’s design district would be ideal for similar development and the Miami streetcar, like the green line which runs adjacent to the Back Bay, would only further bolster the livability of this neighborhood.

As Miami slowly emerges from the settling dust of this unprecedented building boom, one of it’s greatest assets, the quality of design, becomes more and more evident. The DESIGN DISTRICT, in what is now known as the Midtown area is poised to become the poster child of sorts, for what is possible when carefully planned and designed neighborhoods are given the chance to consider all aspects of dynamic urbanism.

True to its name, the design district is, step by step, illustrating what will become a global model for excellence in contemporary architecture. Led by Craig Robins and his development company DACRA, this vision seems to be in very good hands. Robins first led a resurgence of Ocean Drive, Lincoln Road and transformed Allison island into the unique urban enclave today known as Aqua at Allison island. Robins’ exciting choice to invite many different architects to design both single family homes as well as midrise condos seems to have been a precursor to his strategy for the Design District. With luminaries such as Hariri & Hariri, and local brilliant designers such as Alan Shulman and Alison Spear, it seemed a venture guaranteed success.

While the earlier achievements of DACRA played out on the fertile grounds of the absurdly underappreciated Miami Beach, in the early nineties, the task of reinventing the Design District still goes on now as the red hot real estate market has undeniably cooled. The tranformation has in truth been a long steady process. World class showrooms of furniture and interiors products have one by one re-located to the district. Recently some of the most significant purveyors of exceptional contemporary design, Luminaire, and Ligne Roset, have joined the longtime retail strongholds Kartell, Abitare and Fendi CASA.

Many architecture and design firms transplanted themselves several years ago, at the very beginning of the changes, urban design pioneers, including Shulman and Oppenheim Architecture + Design, who are now slated to have no less than three major mixed use towers rise in the district. It was with the revolutionary plans for the Design District that Oppenheim stepped in an entirely new direction for the firm with the projects, CASA, CUBE and COR. While it remains to be seen, when and if we will these buildings rise. They will most certainly contribute to the area truly becoming a haven for savvy aesthetes.
As is the signature of DACRA development, several lesser known, yet stellar firms design firms have been asked to contribute to the final vision for this exciting neighborhood. Keenan/Riley have contributed design for several smaller buildings, including a hotel and a two story building for galleries to be fronting Biscayne Boulevard as the gateway into the Design District.

K/R

As is often referred to here at transitmiami.com, the smaller, pedestrian friendly edifices, are one of the most essential elements to creating a thriving neighborhood. Geared to walking and moving in and out of several retail establishments, at a scale that is conducive to just such activities, and as the visual representation of the neighborhood, the interesting architects Robins selected and the buildings designed for these parcels give great promise to the area. These come following in the footsteps of the much heralded Oak Plaza, one of the recent major steps in the districts future plan.
Miami has always had a unique tradition of both experimentation and excellence in design. A quality that many find as gratifying as the beautiful beaches and climate, and sets Miami apart from anywhere else in the U.S. Where else could be better for this legacy to continue than the Design District. From it’s earliest development to Art Deco. From Morris Lapidus’ influence with the Fountainebleu through the International Style and Miami Modernism and right up through the present with Arquitectonica and Oppenheim. While the building boom of towering condominiums may have reached its peak this actually makes way for the other work that needs to take place to make the great city a reality For small infill projects that will be the thread to hold the fabric of the new skyline together and create a livable city, a city used by its citizens, with the backdrop of a stunning skyline. Any number of designs such as this beautiful, forward thinking building by Columbia school of architecture instructor Craig Konyk, that invite, even insist on the interaction of people with there urban environment is the way to go.

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Here at Transit Miami, we’re always preaching about how important it is to increase Miami’s density while simultaneously reinforcing how critical it is for this density to follow quality urban design principles. Unfortunately, I’ve spent more time bashing new developments for being auto-oriented, fueling NIMBY rhetoric that “all development is bad and greedy”, and ultimately squandering a great opportunity to improve Miami’s urban facade.
However, I’m happy to inform you about “Oak Plaza”, a new development in the Design District. This development, which recently won the Congress for the New Urbanism’s 2007 Charter Award, is a perfect example of how quality density with pedestrian-first urban design can enhance our neighborhoods.

What makes it work? The buildings engage the pedestrian realm instead of hiding from it. The arcades not only add architectural flair, but they offer shaded walkways for pedestrians. The buildings are built right up to the sidewalk, which helps define urban space and enhance pedestrian accessibility. The sidewalk trees don’t appear to be much more than aesthetic at this point, but just as the neighborhood matures overtime, the trees should grow enough to add some shade in the future.

My favorite part of this development, however, is the creation of a public plaza. Public plazas, when designed right, can serve as great public gathering spaces and are the next best thing to parks. If you’ve ever been to Manhattan, you’ll notice that plazas are everywhere, and thousands and thousands of people use them each day, be it as a meeting place, for people-watching, or just as a nice spot to sit on a ledge and rest for a few minutes. William Whyte, a world-class urban observer and mentor for so many urban planners, does an excellent job showcasing public plazas in his book The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (the red book in our “recommended reading list”).

Thus, plazas present a great opportunity to provide Miami with more public meeting spaces, which it desperately needs. It’s very difficult to be a thriving urban destination without them. Oak Plaza’s architects even designed this particular plaza around 150 year old oak trees. Again, this shows that with good urban design we can have increased density without bulldozing over all of our trees. Khoury & Vogt, Cure & Penabad should be applauded for this design.

Note: The two main buildings at Oak Plaza will be called Y-3 and Ligne Roset.

Fortunately, we should see many more developments like this once Miami 21 passes. Oak Plaza embodies the type of design elements that Miami 21 will mandate. Hopefully those concerned with an increase in density in their neighborhood due to Miami 21 can see that Oak Plaza represents a great example to follow when critiquing future developments.

Erik Vogt, one of the project designers said it well when referring to Oak Plaza, “a critique of what Miami could have been and what it still could be”.

Beth Dunlop, Herald architectural critic says it even better:

“If every work of architecture had the intelligence, the artistry, the engagement and yes, the sense of enchantment of Oak Plaza, we’d be living in a really remarkable place”.

Photos courtesy of Congress for the New Urbanism

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