It’s hard to believe that the Marlins’ stadium saga could get even more bizarre (well, maybe not that hard to believe). Now Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has come out opposing the Orange Bowl site, saying that a downtown site is the team’s sole focus and the only viable location for a new stadium in South Florida. From the Herald’s article on Saturday:
  • Loria: A downtown setting “would be much more beneficial to the franchise and fans…it’s very easy to get to…we must get it done”.
  • Team President David Sampson: “Our sole focus is completing a deal downtown.”
Wow. First of all, I’m a little curious as to why it took so long for Loria to come out publicly in support of the downtown site, especially given the adamant tone of his language. Secondly, if he felt this way all along, which is how it sounds, then this likely means the county commission has not only gone against good urban planning, history, and common sense in pushing for the Orange Bowl site, but they’ve also been pushing a site the team owner is not even interested in.

Predictably, the county commission reacted to Loria’s and Sampson’s statements with concern. Commission Chairman, Bruno Barreiro, stated “We’re just trying to get money from the state…we can’t get distracted by the site issue.” Oh, really? Well, if I had a vote on whether or not to allocate state funds to the construction of a new baseball stadium, I would certainly be more inclined to vote yea if I knew specifically where the building site was located, especially if it was in downtown Miami. But don’t take it from me. State Representative David Rivera, who ultimately controls the flow of legislation for House Speaker Marco Rubio, said “There might be a lack on consensus to build at the Orange Bowl.” Rivera then offered his support for a downtown stadium.

The really disconcerting piece form the article actually came from a commissioner who is now in support of the downtown site. “Commissioner Carlos Gimenez…was one of the strongest proponents of the Orange Bowl site (last month). Now, after studying transportation issues, he says it’s no longer his first option. ‘For me, I think baseball would work better in an urban, downtown site, he said’.” Holy cow! So apparently we have commissioners advocating for a Marlins’ stadium at the Orange Bowl without even studying the project’s transportation issues! That is just unacceptable. It’s pretty tough to debate the merits of a downtown Miami site versus an Orange Bowl site for a new stadium without studying, comprehending, or even considering transportation issues, for that matter. If the Herald piece is accurate, we have county commissioners making major decisions and guiding policy without even examining some of the most important, relevant details. At least he had it in him to change his mind. We’re still waiting for the rest of the commission to stop going against the grain (and logic, and history, and urban planning, and best practice, etc.).

I took some time out of my weekend to give a Miami Native a first-time tour of Vizcaya. I often find that many Miamians have never ventured into Vizcaya, so I always volunteer to visit Miami’s most beautiful estate and give them my own personal tour. I was also interested in capturing some photographs of the view from the estate which soon may forever be altered if the City of Miami approves 300 Grove Bay residences, a project by The Related group, slated for a section of land just south of Mercy Hospital.
Personally, I’d have to agree that the buildings are out of context with their surroundings, but then again so are Mercy Hospital and the Grove Isle trio of towers. The traffic impact has likely been grossly miscalculated seeing that this is the equivalent of placing a skyscraper in suburbia, the only reasonable link between it and the surroundings will be vehicular. As for the visual impact, I think Vizcaya’s views will be pretty much unhampered. Mercy Hospital is currently visible from the grounds, as are the buildings on Brickell and Key Biscayne and yet they don’t seem to adversely impact the tranquility of the Gardens.
Since the last time I wrote on the Mercy Project, I still haven’t been able to come up with an valid enough stance either in favor or against the project. I lean against the project mainly because it continues the decentralization of skyscrapers that is so prevalent in Miami. Ultimately, I believe the towers would be better suited elsewhere, either north in the Brickell area or south in the Coconut Grove Business district, rather than in the Mercy site where they will forever be relegated as suburban towers only accessible by vehicles and disjointed from the bustling hubs to the north and south…

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While plans move forward to expand I-595 in Broward, Palm Beach and Martin County commissioners are working on a plan to bring east-west Tri-rail service along the beeline expressway. The commissioners hope to one day use the existing CSX rail tracks to link research and biomedical facilities in the works in both counties. Unlike their Broward counterparts, these commissioners see the financial advantage of not widening roads and instead using our money wisely:

“Koons estimated that widening the road to accommodate development could cost $1 billion…”

“Many of those developments are running into traffic concerns because parts of SR 710 are getting congested. Future development could be prohibited if the highway isn’t widened. Using commuter rail could reduce the need for widening, Koons said, and help solve affordable housing problems.

“You can afford more housing if you have to spend less on transit,” he said.”

Nice to know someone sees it…

Vienna is a grand city, far more grandiose than most European Capitals due to its’ rich history with the Babenburg and then the Hapsburg family dynasties. Just walking around, the city exudes wealth, through its opulent architecture, gold-leafed trimming, and excessive sculpture. The Hapsburgs were rather generous with the citizens they presided over, as far as royalty goes, anyhow. Toward the end of their reign, they opened several parks for public use, constructed two massive museums, and dotted the city with various other cultural institutions. Seeing that Miami has recently concluded the construction of our opera house and is set to begin construction on two bayside museums, I believe we can and should look for the guidance of cities such as Vienna when establishing our new cultural havens. Noting that Miami completely lacks the history and wealth of the Austrian Capital, I think there are some interesting aspects which will broaden our horizons before we plan and design…

There isn’t much I can say about the Carnival Center, seeing that it is already built. I’ve walked through the area a couple of times and although the plaza and structure are pleasant, the surroundings are rather inhospitable; hopefully with some time the area might mature a little. The Vienna Opera House is situated at the end of the premier pedestrian thoroughfare in Vienna, which links it and the ring, with the center of Vienna and the Hofburg Imperial Palace. When walking by the Vienna State Opera House for the final time on our last night, I noticed an interesting element which caught my eye:

See it? I hope you do. Someone had the sense to retrofit the structure (built in the 1860’s) with parking. Genius. This brought about a small bout of laughter, as you would imagine, when I conjured images of the Carnival Center debacle I would be returning to the very next day. The interesting thing I later noted is that this was perhaps the only parking garage I saw anywhere near the city center. We seem to have done the opposite…

When approaching the Museums Quarter (Museumsquartier) I couldn’t help but think of endless possibilities for Bicentennial Park. Now, I know I am not an architecture critic, nor do I try to be, but the idea of a classical structure dotting our shoreline as either of the two Museum Park buildings bodes very well for me. I said it once to an art student, whose look should have silenced my architecture thoughts for eternity, but I actually think a modern Art structure juxtapositioned with a classical Museum of Science would add a great deal of depth to Miami’s architecture.

Back to my point. Standing between these hulking museums was impressive. I mean, here I was standing in awe of a couple of landlocked museums, just hoping that our new museums with the beautiful bay and beach backdrop could be just even one fifth as stimulating. Is it too much to ask for? We have the opportunity to showcase our architectural cultural talent to the world, quite literally, seeing that these museums will serve as the focal point of nearly every cruise passenger which departs from our harbor. And think, Miami, not Miami Beach, could perhaps for once be hailed for its beautiful waterfront architecture, luring boarding cruise passengers to extend their stay. We severely dropped the ball with the MCM, opting instead for a geometric display of retardation on Watson Island. Between the two museums stood a massive statue dedicated to Maria Theresia, it’s a rarity in Miami to find any recollection of our local history, let alone national history. Perhaps a statue of FDR would be fitting, considering he was nearly assassinated in nearby Bayfront Park…Just a thought…

Throughout all of my travels, I have always taken the time to compare the city I am visiting with my home town. I often think that Miami would be a much better city if we would just stop, think, and look around before coming up with decisions which will forever alter our urban landscape. We’ve had plenty of opportunities pass us by with failed or improperly managed projects: Metrorail, Miami Arena, Miami Marine Stadium, Miami Seaquarium, Orange Bowl, MIA, CCPA, etc. Plenty of chances to make our city just as marvelous to visit as say Paris, Chicago, or even ViennaWe’re number one right now in hotel occupancy and hotel rates nationally, but imagine how much more we can do to attract visitors to sites other than our shore…

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It’s official; France’s bullet train, the V150, set a record yesterday for fastest speed ever by a rail train. How fast, you ask? Only 357.2 MPH! For some perspective, at that speed someone could go from Miami to Jacksonville in about an hour. Only the Japanese mag-lev trains have gone faster, but they utilize different technology with much less resistance. The fastest train the U.S. has put on the table…the Amtrak’s Acela Express, which tops out about 1/3 as fast as France’s bullet train.

Check out how fast this thing whips by the folks on the overpass.

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Alright, It’s about time we got back on Track with some Transit News:
  • Transit Miami is now regularly featured as part of the Planetizen Radar. To access the radar, there is a link in the blog technology section of the sidebar on the lower right hand side.
  • It some how slipped passed me, but our sly commissioners approved a plan to build 940 homes west of Florida City. The project aims to encroach on the Everglades further, induce further sprawl, and build useless homes which are completely nonfunctional to the working class of Miami. The project claims it will be building “work force housing” priced from $160,000 to $220,000 yet it will be situated far from business centers, public transit, public health and education infrastructure, and other necessary functions typically found near true affordable housing development. So far the only people this project has been affordable for are the developers, which likely purchased the land at reduced costs…Good luck with the daily traffic…
  • Jeffrey Bradley, a Transit Miami reader and supporter and member of the Alliance for Reliable Transport has started a new blog: Bus Stop. Bus Stop will cover “All things Transit on the Beach and Beyond.”
  • Next time your looking to take a cruise, skip out on the Royal Caribbean or Carnival and hop aboard a freighter. Yes you read correctly, apparently its a growing trend to ride along with Maersk and Sea Land Containers in near isolation…

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Ok, nothing to do with Transit, but here are some Florida (titletown) celebration shots for all my Gator Fans:Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

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It’s amazing that in the life span of this blog (1 year), I’ve had the opportunity to root my Gators on in three championship appearances. Tonight, my beloved Florida Gators Basketball team will once again devour the Ohio State Buckeyes. Last time the Basketball teams met, in December, we decimated them by 26 points…Odds are I’ll be out late tonight, but, I’ll be back at some point tomorrow…Go Gators!

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Before last Wednesday’s article in the Miami today, I was working on an article discussing the woes of the port of Miami container movement situation, which we’ll get to later. As many of you may know, a tunnel is in the works to connect the Port of Miami with I-395 via Watson Island, spanning the length of a mile beneath the Port’s main channel. The POM tunnel is a $1.2 Billion joint development project involving the FDOT, POM, MDX, Miami-Dade County and city of Miami. The project, in the works since the early 80’s, aims to remove some of the downtown congestion by directly connecting the port with the highway, no longer making it necessary for trucks and buses to traverse downtown streets. The idea isn’t half bad, considering the necessity which has evolved out of the downtown construction boom; however, I feel that we once again failed to properly evaluate all of our options, especially considering that it has been in the “works” for the better part of the past two, almost three decades. Take a few minutes and analyze the image below, found on the POM Tunnel project website and is presumably the same image our planners have been staring at for the past few years. There’s a striking port access option which, I fear, has been gravely overlooked:

Any guesses? I’ll be back with the second part of this article later today; the answer is certainly far simpler than the convoluted light barges up the Miami River option

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If you ever thought that crossing the street in Miami is impossible, don’t try this in India:

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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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Photo Source: Miami Herald via Green Peace, AP File 2006

Our global warming crisis continues to become more foreboding. Today the Herald reported findings from a recent study that predicts serious local climate change in South Florida’s future. According to the study, which is one of the first to predict local climate change stemming from global warming, by 2100 South Florida will likely have a novel climate that is warmer, drier, and unlike any other on Earth. Among the findings:

  • Mean temperatures in South Florida could rise by 5-7 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer/wet season (+ 3 ½ degrees in the winter/dry season)
  • High temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90’s can be expected during the summer/wet season
  • Much drier conditions: 3 ½ fewer inches of rainfall during the wet season (Note: Drier does not mean less humid)
  • Even if worldwide action reduces greenhouse gas emissions, 4-20 percent of the world’s land could experience novel climates
These findings have grave implications for South Florida. As I noted above, a “drier” climate does not mean a less humid climate. High temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90s coupled with high humidity would make it feel like 110-120 degrees based on heat indexes. Also to consider, the 5-7 degree rise is in mean temperature, which is the average temperature over a 24-hour period. For the last 30 years, Miami’s mean temperature has averaged about 83 degrees during the peak of the summer/wet season. If the predictions are true, then our average daily temperatures could be as high as 90 degrees! Imagine stifling days with highs of 95 and lows of 85. Factor in humidity, and even our nights would feel as warm as 100 degrees!

All of this does not even consider the potentially catastrophic effects of rising sea levels, increased frequency of major hurricanes, drought, and the decimation of the Everglades. It is now critical that we begin making major changes in the way we live and the way our cities function. Given the implications of climate change in South Florida, you would think that our region would be on the leading edge of sustainable urban planning. Sadly, as we all know, this is not currently the case. Yes, Mayor Diaz should be complemented for his green building proposal, Miami 21, and the Miami Streetcar initiative, but this barely scratches the surface of sustainability. We need a progressive, regional effort to significantly reduce our dependence on the automobile, boost alternative transportation modes, and design sustainable, pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods. We cannot wait any longer to act.

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I sent an email over the people from the Shops at Wasted Space (Sunset Place) to find out what would occupying the space once the Bodies exhibit concludes. I also decided to inquire if the mall was actively persuing any ideas to better connect it with metrorail by means of a pedestrian overpass. Here is the reply I received:
Mr. Lopez-Bernal

There is a tenant planned for the space that Bodies currently occupies, but that tenant’s name has not been announced. I have not been advised by Metrorail of any plans for a pedestrian overpass, but it does sound like a great idea.

Thank you for your inquiry.

Great initiative. Yes, let’s wait for the helpful folks over at MDT to come up with a plan to better link metrorail with its surroundings, maybe something will get done by 2050, we’ll see…

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On my way to Milam’s on 32nd and Bird Ave this afternoon I almost got hit by a car after freezing in the road upon first site of this new building. Known as “Groveloft” at 3062 Bird Ave., this building adds absolutely nothing to the area’s pedestrian realm. The architect had a good opportunity, even with an oversupply of parking required, to add some quality density to the Grove and enhance the pedestrian realm along Bird Ave. Instead, they opted for a totally auto-centric design. This building is completely designed to be integrated with automobiles and not human beings:
  • The entrance to the parking garage is large, hideous, and the focal point of the building’s principal frontage on Bird Ave, a primary street. The arrows are tacky and the gate is ugly as all get out.
  • There are not any pedestrian entrances from Bird Ave., which is a primary street in Miami. Typical of most buildings in the Grove, this building does all it can to separate itself from public space with its fortress-like ground floor.
  • Instead of planting shade trees, which would have enhanced the pedestrian realm on Bird Ave. and aligned closely with the lush character of the Grove, the developers opted for dinky little palm trees on the edge of the street that serve more as eye candy for passing drivers than for functional green space on the sidewalk corridor. The larger tree in the back right of the photo that could have better accomplished this is instead barricaded from the public behind yet another gate.
This building is certainly not unique in Miami. Many more just like it are emerging each month throughout the City, and each one of them squanders an opportunity to enhance Miami’s pedestrian realm, which would encourage more people to walk and serve as the precursor to increased transit ridership. This is the kind of design that should be eliminated with the implementation of Miami 21 – which couldn’t come soon enough.

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From the Flickr of JamesGood

Posting over the next three days will be sporadic…Stay tuned for discussions on Miami Park Space, I-95, and Stadium Issues…

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