Currently viewing the tag: "Urban Growth"

Whoever said, “the more things change, the more they stay the same” probably had the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners in mind. As if the recent real estate market crash was not enough of a wakeup call for our elected leaders, commissioners recently voted to expand the Urban Development Boundary – the line that separates agricultural and environmentally sensitive land from urbanized areas – for a 9.9 acre commercial development that adds to the existing stock of vacant and undeveloped land in Miami-Dade County. Apparently, some county commissioners didn’t get the memo that their love for suburban sprawl over the past decade led to the real estate market tanking, and to the bloated county government that they now seek to reign-in.

The transportation connection: UDB expansions are being closely coordinated with an upcoming massive highway expansion along the western border of the county being proposed by MDX. The pink box in the middle titled 'Ferro' is the subject of this latest application. Thanks to Genius of Despair for the image.

They must have overlooked the 2010 EPA report, “Growing for a Sustainable Future” that described an inventory of 16,140 acres of undeveloped land within the boundary. That amounts to 6% of the land within the urbanized area of Miami-Dade County – currently vacant. With so much land within the boundary unused why are commissioners adding more land to existing capacity? Is it that they want to further depress land values and our economic recovery?  Some cite the need for jobs – oh jobs! The latest excuse for any project to be shoved down our collective throats is the promise of jobs. Want jobs? Here’s a stadium. Jobs you say? How about a humongous resort casino?

But, when it comes to the UDB amnesia sets in about the 16,140 acres of empty land within the UDB waiting for development.  Let’s put this in perspective– 16,140 acres is approximately 25 square miles. The island of Manhattan – from Battery City Park to 218 street – is only 22.96 square miles. I would say that we have more than enough development capacity to last the next 100 years and beyond without having to touch the UDB – and that’s just with our undeveloped land. Take into account underdeveloped land and we should never expand the UDB again.

Critics argue that the line was never meant to be a solid boundary – but a flexible delineation between the reach of county services and the agricultural and environmental lands beyond. There may be 16,000 acres of undeveloped land in the city– but what about the residents of this suburban neighborhood? Don’t they deserve access to strip malls and warehouses and outparcels within close proximity? What if they need closer services? This particular property is already surrounded by developed residential land – what is 9 more acres of commercial land? Attorney for the project Miguel Diaz de la Portilla said, “You’re not talking about some land that’s out in the middle of nowhere. It’s contiguous with the UDB.” Of course this argument ignores an undeveloped 40 acre tract designated for commercial development, currently within the UDB, as well as the existing Hammocks mall, both within ½ mile of this site and with enough commercial capacity to serve the surrounding community for the next 30 years.

Commissioners might argue that they shouldn’t dictate where development happens. If a willing developer wants to build a Publix on what is currently farmland – so be it. Except they overlook the fact that in expanding the extent of county services, they put us all on the hook to provide those new areas with infrastructure, police, and life safety services. That single story Publix surrounded by a parking lot uses the same services as the 8-story mixed-use building in the urban core – only it provides a fraction of the tax base forcing commissioners to make a choice between two evils: reduce services for the rest of the county, or raise tax rates.

Last week County Commissioner Xavier Suarez wrote a column for the Huffington Post that critiqued Mayor Gimenez’ latest county budget saying that “absolutely nothing changed in the way the county does business.” The same day that column was published he voted to expand the UDB for an application that has been repeatedly criticized as unnecessary, and for which the County’s own professional planning department recommended denial because of the reasons noted above. Our leaders cannot simultaneously seek to reduce the bloated bureaucracy of county government and at the same time expand the extent of the county services. If Suarez and other commissioners want to break the business as usual attitude in county hall they should start with the UDB.  The application has to come back to the commission for a final vote in the spring – let’s hope commissioners come to their senses and hold the line – indefinitely.

 

This week visitors from the EPA Smart Growth office joined the UDB/Hold the line fray as self described ‘outside observers’. They were invited by the County commission, and boy do they have their work cut out for them.

Thursday’s workshop was a mini battle royale, with the developer/attorney camp led by sprawl advocate Jeffrey Bercow pitted against the smart growth crowd. The speakers from the EPA began their talk by saying that they didn’t come with any preconceived notions, but the fact that they represent a ‘smart growth’ office means that they should begin by making it clear that they support smart growth policies, containing growth within a growth boundary and supporting infill. They made no such claims, only to ask us what we wanted from our UDB. For the record the UDB should: encourage infill, encourage agriculture, provide a buffer between development and the everglades, and discourage sprawl.

Several speakers made excellent points on the smart growth side, while only one speaker came out in favor of sprawl and for moving the line, Jeffrey Bercow (and friend Truly Burton who gave her time for his powerpoint presentation). His points were mostly about how we need sprawl. He cited economic reasons (without flexibility in moving the line housing prices will rise), while also saying that most people don’t want to live in dense, skyscrapers (his narrow definition of infill). I pointed out that that was a result of obsolete, auto-centric zoning codes that prohibit walkable, intermediate building types – not a lack of demand on the side of the market. (A point reiterated by this recent study by Todd Litman about the demand for smart growth housing.)

My biggest suggestion to our friends from the EPA deals with the amount of available land within the line. Available supply within the UDB should be calculated taking into account capacity along ALL corridors, not just within 1/4 mile of rail transit stops. This is the only way of taking into account the real infill capacity within the line, and would extend the horizon of available infill land within the UDB well past the time frame required by the Planning Department.

I could go into Bercow’s presentation, but without the visuals you won’t see how ridiculous it actually was. One point he made that I can’t let slip by was to make the case for sprawl by arguing that jobs centers were too far away, requiring further expansion of the line. Uhhh, what? Yeah, he actually said that. Wonders never cease. He (and Truly) also complained of NIMBY problems when trying to support infill development (definitely a problem), while failing to mention how they are both against the most important infill project in the country: Miami 21. Seems like the only thing they really believe in is whatever their clients pay them to believe in.

Transit Miami friend, and manager of urban planning for the DDA Javier Betancourt said it best in his June 2009 letter to the Miami Herald.

By focusing our collective efforts on revitalizing and expanding existing communities through infill development, we will make better use of our land supply, reduce congestion and preserve our region’s valuable natural resources. At the same time, we will realize a number of economic and urban planning benefits, including better connectivity between businesses and the labor force, more efficient use of our existing infrastructure and across-the-board increases in property values.

Functional Streets

There are certain critical factors which create a functional street.  This street, exemplifies what the urban center of a small town should resemble.  Let’s get interactive and discuss some of the qualities which make this such a functional urban space.

Also, Can anyone name the town?

It’s not often that our local politics gets featured in National news media (unless of course it has something to do with Cuba or an international custody battle), but Time Magazine featured an article this week on the UDB fight.

“One of the Lowe’s project’s biggest backers on the commission is Jose “Pepe” Diaz, who is under federal investigation for allegedly receiving gifts from developers whose plans he’d voted for. (He denies any wrongdoing.) Another, Natacha Seijas, who at one commission meeting voiced her dislike of manatees, one of Florida’s most beloved and endangered sea mammals, faced a recall vote in 2006 (which she defeated) due to public complaints that she also was too cozy with developers.”

Wow. ‘Nuff said…You can’t buy publicity like this. Maybe now when the Mayor vetoes this decision, some of the other commissioners will come to their senses and realize that this is a bad idea. The UDB line does not need to move for a long long time. We need to take advantage of the infrastructure that we already have rather than expand. Its very simple math: the more people living in one area the less it costs on a per person basis to provide public services. The same roads and sewers service sprawl neighborhoods at a density of 4 units per acre as they do at 200 units per acre. In a very direct way, our tax dollars go to subsidize neighborhoods whose tax base doesn’t break even.

Ana Menendez wrote a column today about this. She takes the argument a step further and describes the other hidden costs of living in a McMansion out in the sticks. The social costs of living in disconnected suburbs and the environmental costs of paving over the Everglades are never figured into the calculus of expansion.

Even the shortsighted politicians of the area should sympathize with this argument: it doesn’t make financial sense to develop this land. The further west you go, the lower real estate prices are per square foot. This is a trend you see in every major city across the country. Suburbs do not hold their value and end up costing municipalities more because their tax base doesn’t grow.

We need to worry about density and intensity in the parts of town that are served by transit. We need to develop our urban centers, and the mass transit necessary to support them, and we need to stop building so far west and south that we kill any chance we have of having a successful transit system. At a certain point, which we might have already passed, we become so far behind the ball and the city gets so big, that good projects get caught up in NIMBYism and political baggage (read: Baylink and the Orange Line).

Coincidentally, I found myself this weekend at my brother-in-law’s house off of 8th street and 152nd avenue. As I sat in the backyard, which fronts the Everglades, I realized that between the back of his house and the begging of Everglades National Park was only about 20 blocks. Eventually, by default, there will be no where else to expand to. We will have backed ourselves into a corner that no amount of good planning can undo.

The University of Miami is making a crucial investment in Miami’s Health District, expanding current facilities as it looks towards building a 1.4 million square foot life sciences research park. The new research center, pictured above, is a crucial part of Miami’s continued economic growth and diversity. The facility will serve as a catalyst for the Bioscience community while creating a wide variety of well paying jobs. This is certainly the type of growth our city needs.

“Life science companies such as Schering-Plough, Boston Scientific, Beckman Coulter, Cordis, Noven Pharmaceuticals and others contribute to the biotech economy in the county, said Beacon Council President and CEO Frank Nero. About 17,000 people are employed by more than 1,400 life sciences companies in the county, which contributes about $2.3 billion in total annual revenue, according to the Beacon Council.”

Private investment will flock around the Miami research facilities creating a local hub for biological, pharmaceutical, and chemical research. Our community now needs to take the necessary steps to integrate our up and coming facilities with the surroundings; by providing adequate rail connections to the surrounding neighborhoods with the Miami streetcar, easy access to the FAU Scripps research facility in Palm Beach, and creating affordable and accessible housing. Braman can moan all he wants about spending taxpayer money on infrastructural upgrades, but without these crucial forms of transit, the Health district and much of Miami will never reach their full potential.

Um is also planning on restoring one of Miami’s oldest structures, Halissee Hall, to its former grandeur. Originally constructed in 1914 by John Sewell a Miami pioneer and former mayor, the house will be home to the School of Medicine’s Faculty Club and will host receptions, conferences and lectures.

“Sandwiched between Highland Park and the Golf Links is a massive stone building, the residence of John Sewell, shoe salesman and the third mayor of Miami. Started on July 20, 1913 it was situated on the highest elevation in the City of Miami. Sewell called his home Halissee Hall [locator], “Halissee” being the Seminole word for “New moon.” In his book, Miami Memoirs, Sewell writes that Halissee Hall was built with “boulder rock grubbed up on the hill” with which he built “the best home in Florida, not the most expensive, but the best home, with eighteen-inch walls of solid stone and cement, three stories high, with a half-acre of floor space.” The original entrance to Halissee Hall, two pillars, can be seen just south of the 836 Expressway near NW 10th Avenue.”

UM could learn from MIT, who over the past decades purchased the land immediately surrounding the campus and constructed offices building to lease back to private companies. Industry soon moved into the area to harvest the brainpower of the faculty and utilize the resources of the student body.

“At a length of nearly 19 km, the Canada Line will be an automated rapid transit rail service connecting Downtown Vancouver with central Richmond and the Vancouver International Airport — linking growing residential, business, health care, educational and other centres in the region — and adding transit capacity equivalent to 10 major road lanes. The Canada Line will connect with existing rapid transit lines at Waterfront Station and major east-west transit services, creating an enhanced transit network to serve the region in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The line is expected to carry 100,000 passengers per day at launch and 142,000 passengers by 2021. Travel times southbound from downtown Vancouver will be 25 minutes to Richmond Centre and 26 minutes to the airport terminus. Northbound, trains will leave Richmond City Centre and YVR every six minutes heading to Vancouver. The departures will be coordinated to allow for a train every three minutes on the main line in Vancouver.”

Alrighty folks, I think I’ve started to crack the Miami-Dade County Commission’s playbook for planning and it’s not pretty; looks like the Dolphin’s offense, running in 20 different directions and effectively getting us nowhere. The best choreographed transportation network couldn’t support the kind of cross county movement commuters will likely be doing once 600,000 square foot office compounds are completed on the western fringes of the county (keep in mind the recently approved Kendall project is one of many, others are “planned” further north along the turnpike around Doral.) It appears that our makeshift planners on the commission (in addition to believing that bridges over avenues in sprawl ridden neighborhoods will alleviate traffic congestion) are deciding to essentially sandwich residential development between two opposite commercial “hubs”, one vertical and on the coast, the other sprawled out and mosquito ridden over former wetlands in the west.

It’s interesting to see such a dramatic commercial development juxtaposition occur within such a confined region. While the equivalent of 3 600,000 square foot, LEED certified office skyscrapers (Met 2, 600 Brickell, and 1450 Brickell) rise in our transit accessible downtown core, our commissioners believe it is sound planning to offset them with at least 1 sprawling complex.


West Kendall Baptist Hospital plans…

What irks me most is the marketing ploy to promote the Kendall complex as a commercial center. Central to who exactly when it’s located on Kendall and 167th is beyond me, but I’m assuming that pretty soon the commute from Naples will be quicker than from within some other parts of the county.

Martinez fought for the plan — arguing that developer David Brown promised to build a long-sought road connecting Kendall Drive to a nearby residential complex. It was a job, Martinez said, that the county couldn’t complete.

Sorenson took exception: “Should we make policy decisions based on what developers are going to do for us? Seems to me we ought to be making the policy.”

Forget what is in the best interests of Citizens let’s fight for developer’s rights to exploit our land, water, and natural resources to make a quick buck!

West Kendall Center will likely resemble this aerial from a complex in Birmingham. You can spot the telltale signs of sprawl easily. 1) Squat, warehouse-like buildings covering near acres of land each. 2) Enough surrounding surface parking to accommodate the one day of the year where parking might become an issue. 3) Like a tree, all branches of the sprawl connect to one main arterial road, forcing all visitors to the “mixed use” development to enter and exit through this one opening. 4) A highway nearby (bottom right) to accommodate the hordes of vehicles coming off from the already clogged arterials roads. 5) Trees are confined to medians not sidewalks because the sidewalks (if they exist) won’t be used anyway.

Obviously, Lowes is a good fit for the Sprawl environment with its massive horizontal structure and acres of parking…

The Lowe’s vote commanded the most attention. Twice since 2003 representatives of the home improvement giant have tried to convince commissioners to let them build outside the UDB; both times they were denied.

Tuesday they cracked through — even as dozens of people lined up to speak against the plan to build on 52 acres at Southwest Eighth Street and 137th Avenue.

Said Julie Hill: “Further sprawl will exacerbate climate change in South Florida.”

Added John Wade: “We should have a water recycling program working before there’s any attempt to move the UDB.”

But Humberto Sanchez, who lives about 25 blocks from the proposed Lowe’s site, told the story of a recent shopping venture to buy light bulbs. “It took me an incredible amount of time to buy light bulbs at Home Depot.”

Oh Boohoo…

Interesting side note: you would not believe how difficult it is to find pictures of Sprawl and suburban office complexes despite how common they are in the American Landscape. Just further proof that we keep building places that aren’t photographic, let alone even livable. Finding a decent picture of a Lowes parking lot was just as difficult because as common as they are, who the heck would want to photograph one?

MVB’s Thoughts

Uh Oh, apparently there is a UDB vote today

”If we’re starting to get serious about water, climate and environmental issues, the most important thing we can do is prevent urban sprawl,” [Katy Sorenson] said.

The debate will surely pit opponents to further development in Florida’s most populous county against business interests that say the projects are needed.

One applicant wants to build a Lowe’s retail store near Southwest 138th Avenue and Eighth Street; another plans to create office and industrial space in an area in Doral near Beacon Lakes; two others aim to convert agricultural patches off Kendall Drive near Southwest 167th Avenue to business and office space.

These projects are needed? How you justify business and office space along the western fringes of civilization when you have a CBD that mainly looks like the picture below is beyond me. Commissioner Sorenson is right, we simply cannot continue to grow west and expect to become a sustainable, ecologically conscientious community, but then again, why should we expect the business interests coming up with these projects to give a damn in the first place? The Commission needs to force the greedy developers trying to push the line further west to reinvest their efforts in our blighted neighborhoods…Just look at all the empty lots sitting within our allegedly dense urban environment…

But then again, who are we trying to kid when the ideology of the commission is:

But Martinez, the county commissioner who oversees a large portion of Kendall, believes some of the applicants have an upside. Though the Lowe’s would be built just outside his district, he said the company has promised to build a bridge over Southwest 139th Avenue that will actually “alleviate traffic.”

Alleviate traffic? Thanks Martinez! we weren’t aware of your experience in traffic engineering, do you care to elaborate how sprawl will reduce congestion throughout the county?

Via CM

In a post I published last week on the transit options available to the Kendall residents, our message may have been presented unclearly and biased towards the CSX rail option. I’d like to clarify this position and reiterate the true stance of Transit Miami on this hotly contested issue.

The CSX corridor was never meant to serve as a replacement to the Kendall Metrorail, LRT, or BRT, but rather operate in conjunction with the east-west option. The belief stems from our knowledge of the low upstart cost of the CSX rail, along with the increased benefit citizens in the Southern part of the Kendall region would experience, an area currently overlooked by all presented alternatives.

Now, we don’t fully support plans to bring transit to the Kendall Dr. corridor unless some drastic measures are taken to ensure that the area adjacent to the corridor is reestablished and rebuilt in a more accessible manner. Revitalizing the strip shopping centers, vast swaths of parking lots, Malls, and dwellings along the corridor will all be keys to its’ success and should not be overlooked in the planning stages. We would not want the transit system to be considered, approved, or funded unless preemptive measures are taken to ensure that Kendall Dr. itself will be transformed into a true urban area that is more hospitable to transit oriented needs.

Similar measures should be set into place for the CSX corridor at key intersections and stations, creating accessible nodes or urban life. The CSX corridor should be limited to a southern terminus at Metrozoo to prevent “justification” of UDB expansion. UDB line movement will be critical to the success or failure of all transit oriented redevelopment in the Kendall region.

We support the use of the CSX corridor to serve as a complimentary system with a rapid transit system along Kendall drive as long as effective measures are put into place which would transform the suburban landscapes into transit oriented communities.

I was going to retype them all out myself, but Alesh had a handy spreadsheet available…

The latest rounds of Miami 21 meetings begin tomorrow:

Date Location Address Time Net Area
Aug 2 Simpson Park 55 SW 17th Road 6pm Coral Way
Aug 7 West End Park 250 SW 60th Ave. 6:30pm Flagami
Aug 9 Police Benevolent Assc. 2300 NW 14th St. 6pm Allapattah
Aug 15 Curtis Park 1901 NW 24th Ave. 6pm Allapattah
Aug 16 Belafonte Tacolcy Center 6161 NW 9th Ave. 6pm Model City
Aug 20 St. Michael 2987 West Flagler St. 6pm West Flagler
Aug 21 Disabilities Center 4560 NW 4th Terr. 6pm Flagami
Aug 23 Orange Bowl 1501 NW 3rd St. 6pm Little Havana
Aug 27 Citrus Grove Elementary 2121 NW 5th St. 6pm Little Havana
Aug 28 Frankie S. Rolle Center 3750 S. Dixie Hwy 6pm SW Coconut Grove
Aug 29 Hadley Park 1350 NW 50th St. 6pm Model City
Aug 30 Shenandoah Park 1800 SW 21st Ave. 6pm Coral Way
Sep 4 Coral Way Elementary 1950 SW 13th Ave. 6pm Coral Way
Sep 5 LaSalle High School 3601 S. Miami Ave. 6pm NE Coconut Grove

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And the unprecedented growth continues…

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One of our dedicated readers, Carolyn, informed me of an interesting lecture coming up in Miami:
The U.S. Green Building Council South Florida Chapter and University of Miami School of Architecture present:

MARCH 21
MIAMI STREET CAR UPDATE
7 pm. Refreshments at 6:30 pm, Jorge M. Perez Architecture Center Stanley and Jewell Glasgow Lecture Hall, Dickinson Drive, University of Miami, Coral Gables Campus. and open to the public.

Mary Conway, P.E., Chief of Operations, City of Miami

In recent years, the City of Miami has seen an unprecedented wave of urban infill and redevelopment in a compressed downtown core area, and in adjacent neighborhoods. Miami Streetcar Project has emerged as one essential component of a transportation network that will entice Miami motorists out of their cars, into convenient mass transit, and onto city (and County) streets. Miami Streetcar Project is a direct response to the challenge to provide improved mobility options for users of the transportation network throughout the downtown core. This presentation provides an update on the Miami Streetcar Project, and an overview of the roles that streetcar systems play in shaping cities, by fostering pedestrian-friendly urban environments, and re-invigorated downtowns across the United States. This affordable mode of mass transit is emerging as an increasingly popular application, because of its cost-effective and time-efficient construction, its financial affordability, and its ready adaptability to active pedestrian-focused environments. City of Miami has responded to the local mobility challenge by pursuing multi-agency partnerships and innovative project delivery methods to build the single transit investment that could make a profound difference in re-shaping downtown Miami, in record time.

Mary H. Conway, P.E., currently serves as the Chief of Operations for the City of Miami and is a prominent Civil Engineer and Project Manager with more than 18 years of experience in the industry. studied briefly at Harvard University and the United States Naval Academy before earning a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Miami. was the recipient of the “Most Outstanding Civil Engineering Graduate” award from University of Miami as well as a member of Tau Beta Pi and Chi Epsilon, engineering honor societies. Prior to joining the City, Mary worked with the Florida Department of Transportation for over 10 years, where she oversaw major transportation projects in Miami-Dade County as well Broward to Indian River Counties. She also worked with FPL as a service planner and Beiswenger, Hoch and Associates as a production and project manager. served as Director for the City of Miami Capital Improvements and Transportation (CIT) Department for approximately two years. Mary’s hard work and results were recognized and she was promoted to Chief of Operations and is now responsible for overseeing the following Departments: Parks and Recreation, Solid Waste, General Services Administration (GSA), Public Works and CIT. Mary has also continued her involvement with CIT,responsible for overseeing the planning, coordination,implementation and monitoring of all construction related capital projects and transportation projects in the City of Miami. projects include street infrastructure and flood mitigation; park improvements; public facilities including fire stations, police and other city buildings; marinas; the Orange Bowl; and a state of the art urban streetcar transit circulator project. City’s current Capital Improvement and Multi-year plan encompasses over 1100 projects valued at over $675,000,000 through the year 2010 and will certainly increase as Miami continues to grow. experience, professionalism, dedication and drive have earned her the respect of her peers in the City, with other government agencies and within the engineering community at large.

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Alright, I couldn’t allow such a monumental city resolution to pass by unnoticed any longer. The city commissioners of Hialeah should be commended (yeah, I never thought I’d say that either) for their recent decision to reurbanize and re-zone five key districts, incorporating denser mixed-use development while keeping in line with better urban design principles. The plan calls for the establishment of five key business districts which would require mixed-use buildings (commercial on the ground floor with residential above) in higher density format and up to 7 stories in height. I have not been able to dig up any more information on the plan to find out if greenspace, parking, transit, sidewalks, building heights, etc. will be incorporated into the plan. The city website (mainly in Spanish) hasn’t been updated since September 2006 and the Herald article digressed to cover some of the more amusing aspects of politics in Hialeah:

Business owner Robert Morell called for Spanish-speaking residents to learn English — and was booed by the crowd.

”I am a little bit appalled because if you travel to any other city it looks like they’re going into the future. Some of us still want to live in the past,” Morell said. “I speak Spanish, even though my whole family is American. I don’t understand why everyone else doesn’t learn the [English] language.”

Tomas Martinez, a regular at council meetings, where he addresses members in Spanish, approached Morell as he left the podium and an argument ensued.

As the men stared each other down, Robaina and City Council President Esteban ”Steve” Bovo threatened ejection from the meeting or arrest for anyone causing a major disturbance.

Ignoring Morell’s suggestion, resident Randy Carter said he would address the council in Spanish.

”I am going to speak in Spanish because when you do your political campaigns you do them in Spanish,” Carter told council members in Spanish.

Members of the audience laughed and applauded.

Despite the fact that this plan is perhaps the best thing that could happen to the zonal mess of Hialeah (this city must have invented spot zoning and strip malls while completely ignoring any sane citywide development plan,) many residents attended the meeting last week to protest the decision:

Some residents said they feared being displaced from their trailer homes or that historic landmarks would be dwarfed by seven-story buildings.

I find it amusing that the largely Cuban audience (who typically spends time lamenting over how great a city Havana was) would try to defeat a plan which could potentially bring some of Old Havana’s urban planning charm (by charm I clearly mean the old Spanish, walkable, non-autocentric, dense, ground floor commercial with residences above, covered walkways, etc.) to the city of Hialeah… Like the photo above/below, minus the decay of the past sixty years…

Some of you may have read about the recent debacle caused by the FDOT and Biscayne Boulevard preservationists over the removal of nearly all of the Royal Palms along the streetscape. Here’s the abridged version of the recent events:
  • FDOT planned to remove most of the palms on Biscayne Boulevard to replace them with shade trees such as Oaks, in order to enhance the pedestrian experience along the boulevard and to improve “safety” along the corridor in a new ROW acquisition.
  • The FDOT plan was met by stiff activist resistance, opposing the removal of any trees and opposing the plans by the FDOT.
  • To date, 135 palms have been removed, approximately 2/3 of the palms along the corridor which were planted over 80 years ago to commemorate the Veterans of all Wars.
  • Trees continued to fall, as recently as February 6.
  • On February 7th, the FDOT agreed to stop further destruction of the Royal palms, claiming that the trees removed the day before were either sick or part of the ROW acquisition.
  • Today, after the lobbying of Commissioner Sarnoff and Mary Conway, the FDOT has finally agreed to end the destruction. The Biscayne Boulevard corridor will now feature much more foliage than had been previously planned, including more Royal Palms and various other shade trees.

It’s difficult to swallow the “pedestrian enhancement” bull the FDOT is throwing at us when the trees are being removed to further enhance the traffic flow along the corridor. As the herald article noted, Miami’s tree canopy is an abysmal 10% (compared to 30-40% in other denser, pedestrian-minded cities) and yet, the solution to improve our tree canopy dysfunction involved the removal of existing trees. I guess we’re trying to maintain it at 10%, rather than improve upon it.

The bigger picture I’d like to point out is while one local agency works to make our streets more pedestrian friendly, our city commission is out approving a monstrous structure with 1,700 parking spaces in the immediate area. Note above: the pedestrian friendly streets of yesteryear featured not only pedestrian friendly foliage but streetcars as well. The approval of 2222 Biscayne is a dark reminder of how far we still have to go to improve the urban culture of our city. Any structure on an existing or planned public transit route should feature far less parking than the city code currently calls for and certainly far less than the 1 space/250 square feet offered by this eyesore…

Count them. Not one, or two, but three independent studies call for increased density along the US-1 rapid transit corridor.

Recent Miami 21 studies, Miami-Dade Watershed Studies, and Coconut Grove planning studies all encourage increased density along US1 and near Metrorail stations.

I don’t know about you, but there is nothing better than some cold hard facts to combat the closed minded NIMBY thought process:

“Rush hour is already a nightmare; this will make things even worse,” said Kenneth Newman at a recent meeting between the developer and Grove Residents. “A lot of people are saying that it’s not going to work because rich people don’t ride the Metrorail…they have nice cars and they want to drive them,” says one Grove activist [Mr. Nimby] who wishes to remain nameless.

Wrong!

However, studies conducted by the transit department reveal a pattern that seems to have less to do with income level and more to do with urban design.

We needed a study to reach that conclusion after 20 years!? You could have looked at just about any other city in the world to see that we were doing things backwards.

Dadeland South and Dadeland North, the two southernmost Metrorail stations recorded the seconded highest weekly ridership averages of more than 6,500 boardings each. These two stations are not located in high poverty areas.

I wonder, perhaps, by how much the daily use of metrorail is going to increase once the units at Downtown Dadeland, Toscano, Colonnade, and Metropolis come fully onto the market. Let’s not forget about the upcoming Town Center project (lame name, I know) and final Datran building which are slated to include up to six additional office high-rises in and around the Dadeland area.

As Ryan showed below, the city is planning on investing millions of dollars to transform the area along 27th avenue from the metrorail station to the CBD of the grove. The plan includes better urban planning than what we’ve seen in most Miami neighborhoods and is a great way to integrate metrorail with the coconut grove district. Grove Residents are always citing parking/traffic concerns, but, if only they would get out of their cars then perhaps they’d begin to understand what a better place the grove could be…

All is silent over at CGG

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