I started my trip as usual at the UM metrorail station. The station severely needs a pedestrian overpass to connect it with the already disjointed surroundings. Notice, any attempt to connect the station with its eastern surroundings will at best connect pedestrians with any of the many available parking lots of the strip shopping centers.

I arrived at the Brickell station in full view of some “urban design malpractice,” to quote Ryan’s previous post on the subject. The following pictures were taken either from the Metrorail platform or from the train just as we entered the station (I’m disappointed that Beethoven’s 5th No longer plays when the train arrives, what gives?) The first picture depicts the new Infinity at Brickell high-rise with its’ hideous massive blank wall left exposed facing the west. The next two pictures are of buildings adjacent to the metrorail platform. Notice the wide entrance to the parking garage in the first building (Brickell Station Villas designed by Alberto Otero) on the west side fronting the station. The third picture below depicts another new condo with an absurdly huge parking structure below making up more than half the size of the building. These designs are sad and pathetic considering their proximity to mass transit. A parking garage entrance shouldn’t front the station and their designs should be required to consider pedestrian activity. I don’t blame the architects or developers; this is clearly a regulatory issue and the result of a commission who approves nearly anything which comes before them…

The last time I passed by the Brickell metrorail station (nearly 8 months ago) the brickell metromover escalator was out of service. I was dismayed to see that this was obviously still the case. Great job Bradley!

I got off the mover by Mary Brickell Village, the disastrously planned retail center in the heart of Brickell which has been under construction for a few years now. I was dismayed however to see that this station’s escalator was too out of commission (that’s 0/2 for all of you keeping score.) Great job Bradley!

Pictured below is the site of the Brickell Financial Centre, which as I mentioned earlier was slated to officially break ground on Thursday. Despite the continued demolition of the mid-rise previously located on the site, an area with project plans and descriptions was set up on the former back parking lot.

When I arrived at the 5th street station, just beside the new Brickell on the River Condominium, I looked down to find two separate paths leading from the Station to the river-walk. One was apparently the “commoners” path while the one on the right side of the wrought iron fence was for the residents of the condo. Fenced in or gated condominiums severely detract from their urban surroundings and should not be allowed to rise in such central and prominent locations of our city. These tend to isolate residents from the surroundings, complicating building access for pedestrians and disconnecting them from the closely located transit and public river-walk…

Looking back inland, the beautiful rear end of 500 Brickell kept staring at me, asking why the developer had left such a plain wall facing the metromover station. A short walk around the building later demonstrated that the front end had been properly designed, with balconies and plenty of glass, it’s a shame the back side couldn’t have been granted the same architectural considerations.

Although the whole downtown has been morphed into a full scale construction zone, I was surprised to see adequate consideration taken for the area sidewalks. Although I appeared to be the only person walking around, the construction worker turned crossing guard was kind enough to halt passing street activity for me to cross.

From the Brickell Avenue Bridge looking west I saw further signs of a very disjointed river-walk taking shape. The newly completed Brickell on the River was sectioned off from the neighboring Riverview Complex which is apparently the docking point for some Miami PD boats (this is probably done as a local measure of (in)security…)

The CBD as we knew it has finally witnessed the removal of the last surface parking eyesores as the Metropolitan Miami Complex rises. In the foreground we see piles being driven for the most important tower rising in the CBD since the Bank of America Tower was completed in the 80’s, MET 2. MET 2 is our newest office skyscraper which will feature 600,000 square feet of office space in one tower and Miami’s first Marriot Marquis in an adjacent tower. Most importantly, MET 2 will dwarf the abysmally lackluster height and design of MET 1 (Center, under construction,) with a glass facade and parabolic glass shape similar to the Esprito Santo Bank tower on Brickell.

Pedestrian activity already disturbed along the river area due to the EPIC and MET construction is permanently obstructed by the pilings of the metromover.

One Miami can essentially be credited with being the project which started the latest vertical boom in Downtown Miami. Constructed by the Related Group of Florida and designed by local architect Arquitectonica (like most Related Group projects,) these twin 45 and 44 story towers were the first to test the downtown residential condo market in several decades. The real estate revival launched by this development since has been phenomenal. I was highly unimpressed by the entrance to the towers which obviously caters to vehicular movements while pedestrian access is relegated to a thin walkway alongside the tower entrance.

One Miami’s contribution to the public river-walk however, was highly impressive and one of the high points of my walk. The area was beautiful, providing ample seating along the tranquil north shore of the Miami River and overlooking Brickell Key. The One Miami river-walk contained various works of art, including a sculpture by Jose Bedia among others. Big Brother was noticeably present as was adequate lighting and access for One Miami residents. Hopefully Epic and the other buildings rising along the river will continue the precedent already established by One Miami.

Part one of my tour concludes with a view of the unfinished One Miami River-Walk leading into Bayfront Park. The dock on the right is the proposed station for any future ferry commuter boats traveling between the CBD and Aventura/South Dade. Part two of my walk will continue through Bayfront Park as I tackle the changes currently transforming what should be our most prominent urban park…

12 Responses to Miami, See it like Anything but a Native; Brickell and Riverwalk

  1. madeindade says:

    I didn’t read through the whole post just yet but two comments… the Infinity has a blank wall because the west side is built adjoining its property line, therefore no windows as they may be blocked by future development on the Mellon Bank property – as for 500 Brickell the blank wall is there because there is a phase 2 with a third tower sometime in the future.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Nice job with that downtown tour.
    From what I know, the UM pedestrian overpass is somewhere along the pipeline of projects planned, but as usual for non vehicular related projects, it’s relegated to a few years along the way.

    As far as parking structures, as hideous as they are, we can’t escape to the reality that Miami is automobile dependent, so no matter how close people live to transit, it is still very impractical to live without a car in Miami due to its decentralization. If new buildings had less parking, I’m sure some people would be deterred from buying condos in those new buidlings. What can be done is make them far more aesthetically appealing. Vehicular traffic from non resident could be discouraged by increasing parking costs and improving parking facilities close to transit facilities that connect to downtown.
    What I do agree with is the fact that pedestrian facilities and connectivity should be given a higher priority in Brickell/Downtown. Those pompous vehicular entrances with fountains, lights and building logos are OK in suburbia should be limited in the CBD, and creating more places for pedestrian use and people gathering.

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  3. Anon#2 says:

    Thank you Gabriel for that tour of downtown. I must say that I agree with your analysis wholeheartedly.

    I’ve lived in Miami for 17 years (and still visit every few months) but since August of ’06 I have been living in Arlington, VA. I feel that Arlington (or its high-density “urban villages”, at least) is a model for a pedestrian-friendly, transit-oriented, intelligently-planned city.

    Notably, while there has been a condo boom in Arlington over the past few years, the vast majority of the newly-built condos fit in perfectly with the pedestrian-oriented nature of the city. Notably, these condos have street-level pedestrian entrances, without gate arms, fences, and other features that are so common in Miami condos. Garage entrances are usually located in the rear and off to the side, and I have yet to see a condominium with a towering garage structure like the ones built in Miami over the past few years. (I do understand that underground garages are impossible in Miami, but the garages in Arlington still do not extend eight levels underground!) I must say that One Miami, with its public-access riverwalk, is the only condo even vaguely resembling those in Northern VA.

    Miami’s emphasis on extreme luxury and isolation from one’s surroundings deserves the blame for these fortresses atop ten-story parking garages. I really cannot foresee having a pedestrian-oriented city when the pedestrians are doomed to navigate among towering blank garage walls.

    As much as I love Miami for its beauty and its weather, I must say that I am relieved to be spending the majority of my time in the DC area. In Miami, I live by the Julia Tuttle, and the quality of life since the real estate boom has deteriorated considerably. Miami is not enjoyable anymore. It seems that we have progressed from a spread out, auto-oriented city to a spread out, auto-oriented city with pockets of extreme density. Transit has not been upgraded concurrently with the condo boom. So we’re left with our Manhattan of the South but with no transit to compensate for the density; and whatever plans the city may have will not come into existence for many years. What will the quality of life in the city be when the condos are all settled, and the transit expansion is far from being complete?

    Employing city planning techniques that impede automotive traffic before having a viable transit system only exacerbate the situation.

    Pardon the length of my rant, but these concerns have been bothering me for quite a while. I still love Miami, but the sharp decline in the quality of life has made it difficult to tolerate. I applaud your efforts to bring transit-oriented ideas to our city and I certainly hope that it will change for the better, and soon.

    Anon#2

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  4. Anonymous says:

    > I really cannot foresee having a pedestrian-oriented city when the
    > pedestrians are doomed to navigate among towering blank garage walls.

    Well, actually, the first floors next to the sidewalk are usually storefronts or offices in most new buildings. Often, someone walking along the sidewalk is under an awning and can’t see the garage above anyway.

    You have to take Gabriel’s garage gripes with a grain of salt… a developer could spend a small fortune building a condo with 10 story garage that’s completely underground, opens only into the rear alley, and he’ll STILL complain because it allows wealthy residents to hedge their bets and enjoy 4 parking spaces apiece. ;-)

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  5. Manola Blablablanik says:

    Gabriel, great post!

    I have a question — seems like the One Miami river walk is open to the public … but how does one know about it with that huge building blocking the view? It seems like the public is not encouraged to enjoy the river in these spots with all the buildings literally swallowing the view of the sky and the bay.

    Anyway, it does look beautiful. I’ll have to check it out!

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  6. Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal says:

    Made-
    Thanks for the info, they still look ugly in the meantime…

    Anon #1-
    Yeah, the UM overpass is in the pipeline, it just happens to be a very deep pipe. Saying that Miami is automobile dependent is a cop out. Miami Beach isn’t auto dependent. Cities become auto Dependant only if we allow them to. We really should start to limit the number of parking spaces and place greater emphasis on better urban design which will incorporate pedestrian, biking, and transit alternatives…

    Anon #2-
    Thanks! Just to clarify however, underground structures are a very real possibility in Miami. In fact its easier to build down in Miami than London, but, it isn’t necessary since the ground never freezes in Miami. Quality of life in Miami will continue to deteriorate while our city continues to approve suburban buildings in the urban core- that is buildings without effective street interaction…Continue ranting, Its much appreciated…

    Anon #3-
    Like a grain of salt? No not at all. You completely missed my point. I’m not calling for underground parking as the only solution. I’m calling for better urban design on all levels. Parking garage entrances shouldn’t front major streets. Parking should be so abundant in the urban core. Buildings should be constructed with pedestrian access. Its that simple. I wouldn’t complain if some reasonable urban planning intelligence was used…

    Manola-
    It is open to the public, don’t let the rent-a-cop tell you otherwise. The building doesn’t block the river-walk, Its adjacent. It is a little imposing I must say, but still rather tranquil. Check it out one day and let me know what you think…

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  7. Anonymous says:

    One Miami has a car-friendly entrance because, like it or not, the overwhelming majority of its residents are going to be coming and going by car. You can lead a horse to water, but (in America, at least) you can’t beat him into submission and force him to drink it just because you think he ought to. Plus, the large driveway increases the building’s setback from the riverwalk and enables more people to see it.

    Right now, proximity to a Metrorail station is a minor selling point. Fifteen years ago, it was generally a drawback (due to train noise). Over the next 20 years, it will gradually become increasingly important. Someday, Miami will be like Washington DC, and proximity to a Metrorail station will be the difference between a $3,600/month apartment and a comparable $1,800/month apartment (I have friends who pay insane amounts of money to live at Pentagon City, because it means they can walk to the mall, cross the street to Best Buy, and take the Metro to work and go from foyer to office without ever setting foot outdoors because there’s a climate-controlled tunnel at both ends connecting the building to the subway.

    Give it time. Chill. Let buyers enjoy their new condos with abundant parking, and take comfort in the fact that eventually, some of those abundant parking spaces might actually go unused. In the meantime, be glad developers are building buildings and getting people move downtown today. Accept the fact that downtown condo-dwellers will walk to the neighborhood Starbucks, pizza parlor, or donut shop, enjoy their (expensive) pedestrian-friendly surroundings, and once or twice a week… drive a mile or two north to hit the new Super Wal Mart that’s going to someday be at 79th and Biscayne and buy a pallet of Charmin big enough to wipe an entire army brigade clean for 3 months and fill the condo’s freight elevator… for half the cost per roll that they’d have to pay for 4 rolls at the corner store. Take secret delight in the knowledge that the extra bedroom that adds $1,200/month to their mortgage is filled from floor to ceiling with toilet paper, cans of diet Coke, a hundred-gallon vat of Crisco that’s slowly going rancid, 200 pounds of kitty litter, and several crates of contact lens supplies, toothpaste, and 3-oz Dixie bathroom cups (approx. 11,300 at last count, give or take a few hundred).

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  8. Michael Emilio + Miami Real Estate says:

    Great pics!

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  9. Raymond Mitri says:

    I do not agree, “Underground garages are impossible in Miami” Of course it exist and they are reality in Miami. I am a consultant for underground parking. Many people share your views simply because they do not know that there are companies who were building for tens of year’s underwater underground parking all over the world. For more information, you e-mail me to rm@idecus.com

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