Currently viewing the tag: "City Square"

This building should never be built. Miami 21 needs to be implemented, and Miami needs to start finding money to build light rail. Cities should not be built around garages and parking lots, they should be built around sustainable downtown regions, and responsible planning.

- Julian Kasdin, on a proposed 20 story parking garage and billboards .

City Square Renderings: Proposed Parking Garage with Screened Towers for Downtown Miami

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If you are like some of us here at TM, then you have probably had your eye on a couple of very strategic vacant parcels in downtown Miami. Located between Southwest 8th Street and Southwest 7th Street, and bisected by South Miami Avenue, the two sites have sat fallow while high-rise condominiums sprouted like mushrooms. According to a recent Miami Today article the land was previously owned by Brickell CitiCentre, LLC (cute spelling, huh?), a developer with plans to build $2.2 billion worth of high-rise buildings, including the tallest building in downtown Miami. The sharp market downtown nixed those plans quickly, causing the BCC to sell the land to an undisclosed party, who paid an undisclosed price and who has undisclosed plans. So what will they think of next?!

The two parcels, comprising 5.65 acres, are outlined in orange.

Parcel 2, looking northeast

While high-rise, mixed-use development is surely warranted in downtown Miami, TM would like to disclose an alternate plan recommendation. Keep in mind we do not know what the new developer has planned, but we doubt it is a well-designed, well-programmed, well-framed usable urban square on at least one of the sites. Such a square could be simple in its layout, but flexible in its use-a farmer’s market, civic events, concerts, play structures, dog park and a nice water feature to help us all cool off. Such a program would be a nice place to start and invite people of all types to linger with family, eat lunch with colleagues, make-out with a loved one, skateboard with angsty friends, beg rich people for money and the myriad of other things people do in an almost messy, but truly successful public space.

Such a square would be well-connected to the existing bus lines and MetroMover, providing easy access to those living outside of downtown. It would also provide a much needed open space destination in the heart of our downtown, an area that has become increasingly privatized by individual condominium developers who provide all amenities internally. Such vertical cul-de-sacs surely allow great luxury for residents, but impoverish the public realm. A real shame, if you ask me. Miami deserves better. All great cities have a great park and a great civic square.

Whatever the next developer proposes, the City should consider the possibility of a public/private partnership. Such a deal could allow increased development capacity on the buildable site, a tax-break or other public incentives in exchange for one of the sites being turned over to the City for the development of civic space, like a square.

This would not only add tremendous value to those already existing nearby condos, but directly enrich the adjacent development parcel. If you have seen real estate prices next to other such sites in cities like Chicago, San Francisco or New York City, then you know the captured value is well-worth the land concession.

Unfortunately, with so much money exchanging hands, this is very unlikely to happen. I imagine the City of Miami could have at one point bought this land, reserving some for development and some for civic space. But they didn’t. And we understand we may be Johnny-come lately here, but later this week Gabriel will show us some good examples from other cities.

If you know of other great sites in the Miami for a square of similar type of public space, let’s hear about them!

This next segment is the beginning of a new series here on Transit Miami where we will look at certain actions or policies that will invariably counteract true urban progress.

This might be the ultimate mistake in zoning history; constructing a ½ billion-dollar opera/ballet house and later allowing a Wal-Mart to settle in next door.  On the way to the ballet, you can pick up some cheap shit foreign made goods, contribute to the massive trade deficit, and support the public financial burden caused by an employer who perennially underpays employees.  A Wal-Mart in the urban core continues the suburbanization mentality of building we have seen here in Miami – that is, tall, dense structures only accessible by car.  In a sense: Urban from far, but far from urban.

Now, it is not just the zoning that is the issue; imagine spending another billion dollars to rid the downtown of the majority of port-bound truck traffic, only to allow a retailer that will generate hundreds of weekly truck trips to nestle in that very same downtown core.  Seems a bit counterproductive, if you ask me, but then again this is Miami, why should we be surprised?

From the beginning, we were not against a mixed-use retail center rising alongside the performing arts center.  We viewed the complex, coupled with the PAC, as a formidable component to a thriving media-arts district, filled with nightlife, restaurants, hotels, and well, worthy destinations, not big-box retail.  A Wal-Mart anywhere in the downtown region automatically negates that key phrase every Miami politician loves to toss around wildly.  You know the one, it goes a little something like: “This _____ will put Miami on the map, this going to a real “world-class” _____.”  I guess you can fill in the blanks with Wal-Mart if there is such thing as a “world-class” Wal-Mart, perhaps third world class…

Commissioner Marc Sarnoff recently said it best:

“I thought the idea for that neighborhood was to create a walking neighborhood and not a big box for the Beach,”

Frankly, we envisioned something similar to Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz, nothing revolutionary, just a proper mixed-use development complete with theaters (imax too), restaurants, hotels, and corporate businesses (DB HQ, Price Waterhouse offices, Sony, etc.)  From wikipedia:

…The rebuilt Potsdamer Platz now attracts around 70,000 visitors a day, rising to 100,000 at weekends, and some critics have been surprised by the success of the new quarter. Fears that the streets would be dead after 6pm have proven false. At almost any time of the day, the place is alive with people. It is a particularly popular attraction for visitors: the “Arkaden” shopping mall contains around 150 shops and restaurants on three levels, the lowest (basement) level being a food floor; there are also four major hotels, and Europe’s largest casino (the “Spielbank Berlin”)…

Note: in this last image the two large buildings on the bottom right is the home of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.  The situational resemblance is uncanny.

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