Currently viewing the tag: "Retail"
Add Los Angeles to the list of cities looking to resurrect their former streetcars. The Red Line (pictured above operating on SF’s Muni) is seen as a pivotal part of LA’s multi billion dollar plan to resurrect the Broadway Theater District. The “Bring Back Broadway Initiative” aims to rebuild a downtown corridor once bustling with entertainment, nightlife, and shops.

Bringing Back Broadway will create a plan for a vibrant Broadway district that provides entertainment, eclectic cultural amenities and diverse retail options for Downtown residents and visitors to one of Los Angeles’ most remarkable historic areas, while serving as a central focus for revived downtown streetcar transportation.

An innovative aspect of this project is the involved financial participation of private investements along the corridor. Immediately parallels with Miami’s Flagler Street come to mind. A corridor once filled with life, shops, and bustling with activity, we can learn from Los Angeles by creating public/private partnerships to redevelop this critical downtown corridor.
Much more fundraising is left to be done if the ambitious effort is to be realized, and of paramount importance is getting all property owners involved in their share of the rehab. Standing outside the Los Angeles after the presentation, Michael Delijani pointed to the $1 million in yearly assessments collected by the Historic Downtown BID as a sign that owners would do their part. He told how improved cleaning and trash collection have already bettered the Broadway streetscape.

The map below depicts the once far reaching tracks of the former Pacific Electric lines in Los Angeles:

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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With the attention garnered on the appalling state of our downtown by Macy’s Florida CEO Julie Greiner last week, it appears that rehabbing downtown (with that, many of our street wanderers) is the hot conversation topic these days. Downtown is deplorable. We all know it; we’ve stated it countless times. The question is does anyone know what should be done?

Sometimes I get the feeling the Herald understands the problems which face our city, other times not. An article posted Saturday June 9, sought to address the issue, but instead began to paint a picture of how parking was the main reason why our downtown was in such a state of disarray.

“Parking is scarce and expensive, and by many accounts, vulnerable to vandals.”

Scarce and expensive parking also confounds turnaround efforts, limiting the appeal to upscale businesses. ”Parking is a headache,” said Carlos Narvaez, who works at the Radio Shack outlet on Flagler Street. “They broke into my car twice.”

Decentralization of our city’s urban core brought upon by sprawl has lead to the demise of our (and nearly every city in the U.S.) downtown, a problem which was in part induced by our addiction to the automobile. Suburbanites fail to realize that abundant, cheap (free), and traffic free parking are not sustainable in any urban core and efforts to increase any of these would only make matters worse along the sidewalks. The article fails to note in its quest for parking solutions, that the city recently completed a streetscaping project which added valuable on street parking throughout the Flagler corridor.

The more we isolate ourselves in our own “protective” vehicular cocoons, the worse the situation will become along the already desolate streets of downtown. A proven and successful method to combat downtown crime is to improve our street use, pedestrian activity, and with that public spaces/transportation. Radio shack and all downtown employees (especially lower wage workers) should reap the financial benefits that Metrorail and Metromover offer users compared to daily vehicular use.

Things get worse when the only mention of transit includes an armed robbery incident:

Nancy Blount, a family law attorney who was walking down Flagler near the Miami-Dade County Courthouse, recalled being ”robbed at gunpoint four or five years ago” when she took Metrorail.

It was obviously a life changing experience for Nancy, she couldn’t even remember the year…It’s beside the point and contributed nothing to the quality of this article other than to reiterate a negative stance against public transit in the minds of the readers.

How can we combat the Miami mentality if even our news stories are showing bias towards ineffective ways of thought? I believe the Herald should take it upon itself to not only inform readers of the problems downtown but should also offer well reasoned and educated solutions to the problems we face, instead of the typical half truths offered by everyday citizens…

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I continued my walking tour around the Citi Center and Wachovia towers and along the Intercontinental Hotel as I headed into Bayfront Park. I must begin by saying that Bayfront Park has incredible potential. It’s a beautiful public place which for the past decades has sadly been neglected. Efforts to promote the park as something other than a park, has led it to become cramped and paved over with too much cement. The attraction should be its’ natural beauty and the seaside serenity offered by Biscayne Bay. The park is direly underused, but as you’ll see, it also has incredible design flaws which detract from the experience of visiting an urban park. The picture below depicts what I’m talking about, just look at the width of the sidewalk. The walkways in the park are better suited handle a couple of 18 wheelers side-by-side than a few people strolling around. It was just after noon when I walked through here and there was a nice breeze coming in from the bay, however, the heat radiating upwards from the cement was nearly unbearable.

In an apparent attempt to provide yet another use for the park, the city is constructing a children’s play area to accommodate some of the families moving into the downtown condos. I like the idea, most parks have places for kids to play but I am worried that the park has already become too cluttered.

Looking back south along a slightly less wide path, we see from a different angle the proposed downtown station for commuter ferry service.

I noticed something unusual. There were people in the park, mainly concentrated along the shore, but most of them were sitting in the grass or leaning up against the coconut palms. I was wondering why there wasn’t any suitable seating in the park when I came across the vast concrete bench apparently designed to fry anyone in the park who wanted sit. Nearly all the available seating in the park was in direct sunlight. The few shade trees in the park all had someone sitting below them on the grass…

Looking back into downtown along Flagler St., we see 50 Biscayne topping off to the right. Once again notice the broad sidewalks.

There is a big green fence swallowing up half the park and blue one obstructing another quarter of it. The green fence is part of what I assume is Miami’s newest tourist attraction in Bayfront Park: Miami Skylift. This contraption will lift visitors 500 ft into the air, providing the first observation-like platform in Miami. I first encountered this object when I visited Berlin. Rising outside my Hotel window in Potsdammer Platz was one of the first of these floating observation decks.

The second major obstruction, surrounded by a large blue fence is that of the Sunset Cinemas, also known as Movies by the Bay. Movies by the Bay is an intriguing idea concocted by the Hertig Family of New Jersey which shows movies in an open air theater every night. Unfortunately, as the Riptide recently reported, the cinema is struggling to attract enough visitors. If it wasn’t for the huge blue fence, I’d be a little more receptive to the idea, but it leaves me wondering why the cinema couldn’t open up shop in the unused open air amphitheater just across the park.

The other recent attraction to Bayfront Park is the Miami Trapeze course.

Heading into the CBD along Flagler, I decided to check out the streetscape project and vibrancy of the emerging retail district. A café owner is attempting to create a sidewalk café type atmosphere:

They just don’t build them like this anymore. This is the Alfred I. DuPont Building (Marsh & Saxelby, 1938) at 169 Flagler St. It is an example of Depression Moderne architecture, using a restrained Art Deco style. The lobby is allegedly one of the most spectacular in Miami, featuring bronze bas-relief elevator doors.

The Olympia Theater (Gusman Center for the Performing Arts) built in 1925, was designed by John Eberson and was the first air-conditioned building in Miami. The beautiful theater inside features 246 twinkling stars in the ceiling, 12 foot long chandeliers, and a beautiful wood paneled lobby. The Theater is also home to the downtown tourism office, where I stopped by and obtained a self-guided walking tour and much of the background information on these buildings.

The Historic Walgreens, now home to La Epoca Department store, was built in 1936 by Zimmerman, Saxe & MacBride, Ehmann. Designed in a streamline modern style, this building was home to Walgreens for over 50 years; it featured a popular cafeteria and was only the third Walgreen open outside of Chicago at the time. In a typical American fashion, Walgreens abandoned the location for the cookie cutter like store a couple blocks along Flagler. Lame. La Epoca is a jewel in Miami’s urban core. The original department store was founded in 1885 in Havana, Cuba. It was seized by the Castro administration in 1960, leaving then owner Diego Alonso no choice but to start over in Miami. The Miami store opened in 1965 and was located next to the aforementioned Alfred I Dupont Building until 2005, when the store relocated to the former Walgreens store.

The First National Bank of Miami building still standing today was built in 1922 and was designed by Mowbray & Uffinger. When the market crashed in the 1920’s after the Florida land boom, Fist National Bank was the only bank in Miami that did not fail. The building is currently being restored and converted into the Flagler First Condominium project.

The Downtown Burdines store (sorry Macy’s, I don’t care for the name games) was originally built in 1912; however it was remodeled in 1936 in the streamline art deco style. This store is the anchor of the downtown retail industry. The city is working closely with the store to clean up the surrounding area after Macy’s threatened to leave.

The last couple of pictures below depict some of the urban decay and grit which still covers much of this area. I am glad to note that some new stores have started to move into the area including an upscale optical store as well as some chain shoe stores. The downtown American Apparel, located North of Flagler however recently closed. Revitalizing this area and creating a vibrant shopping district in the urban core needs to become a top priority for our city. With thousands of condos coming into the area, we need to have an area with easily accessible pedestrian oriented shops and cafes…

Stick around for part three, where I was apprehended by a US Marshall for being normal…

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I got some of the latest shots of the proposed retail center slated to rise on 5th street and Alton Rd. on Miami beach, just across from the up and coming Vitri Lofts. The retail center will feature some of the principles I am always advocating for the buildings rising in the design district and other parts of Miami. If just some of these concepts were required on all of the buildings in Miami, I guarantee we would have a far better pedestrian friendly atmosphere and a much easier time implementing public transit infrastructure and use. For example, a bus station will be integrated into the project, bringing the beach’s many transit users right into the front doors of the complex:Covered sidewalks and tree landscaping are an integral part of creating and maintaining vibrant pedestrian activity, particularly in Miami due to the heat and frequent summer showers. 5th and Alton will feature cover porticoes, palms, and public artwork, similar to that of many of the buildings on Miami Beach:Some of you think we’re against vehicles, which simply isn’t true. We’re against planning for vehicles as the priority of any project. Buildings should be designed to primarily interact with people rather than cars. 5th and Alton will likely feature enough parking for most of its visitors, but the parking garage won’t be the focal point of the structure and neither will its’ unsightly entrance. The entrance is relegated to a back street, Lenox Ave, where the traffic impact will be minimal and the pedestrian and transit entrances will remain uninhibited:
Update: Fifth and Alton is being developed by the Berkowitz group in conjunction with the Potamkin Family. The project is slated to be 170,000 square feet and will contain a Staples, Best Buy, and Publix among others. The City of Miami Beach will be purchasing parking spaces from the retail center for public use at a cost of $9.5 Million. The Berkowitz group created the Dadeland Station mall in Kendall as well as the Kendall Village Shopping complex in west Kendall, which both also featured large Romero Britto sculptures…

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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As if renaming the legendary downtown department store to “Macy’s” wasn’t bad enough, now Federated Department Stores is also considering closing the downtown store which opened originally in 1912.

The move, from an economic standpoint, is the nuttiest idea I’ve heard come out Miami’s frenzied development boom. As people finally move into the downtown core, after decades of neglect and decay, the chain is looking to move elsewhere, away from the people. The Macy’s store, the recently opened La Epoca and American Apparel stores, are the basic backbone of worthy retailers in the downtown core (yes, I’m aware there is a Marshalls and Ross as well.) Rather than fiddling with plans to build big box retail with enough parking to house every car in the hood, our city should be rigorously acting to revitalize the Flagler corridor with something other than half-planned streetscapes and two-way streets! Flagler Street could and should be the most prominent pedestrian corridor within the downtown core, home to a variety of street-level retail and sidewalk cafes with offices and residences above. The street should be bustling with life and activity at all hours and should be an inviting district for all sorts of business seeing that it is the geographical spine and largest east-west boulevard in the city. The headline reads Macy’s is leaving, I see much deeper problems nestled within…

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