Monthly Archives: June 2007

Voice from the Streets

Jackie has a couple of things to say to you. These are his opinions, not mine:

For one, he feels harassed by the police. He was sitting on a milk carton the other day and was accused of having stolen it. He can’t stand in front of shops regardless of what the owners say because the cops say so.

Secondly, he would like you to help the homeless directly and not give money to Camillus House which he says does very little for people like him. As an example he told me that he slept there the other day and his shoes were stolen. Did they replace them? According to him, no.

Image: Jackie’s replacement shoes

He is sustained by people like me who give him a dollar here and there and the occasional sleeping bag. He’s given odd jobs by people like the flower guy in front of the Seybold Building and local shop owners. He sleeps in different places every night for safety’s sake and would appreciate some help from you if you see him on the streets.

Image: Jackie’s belongings

Image: Afternoon nap. Shoes hidden from potential thieves.

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Miami 21 Light on Preservation in the CBD

During my evaluation of restoration potential in the CBD, I was surprised to see that the Miami 21 draft code (Article 3.9) doesn’t elaborate on the City’s historic preservation guidelines. Instead it simply cross references Chapter 23 of the City Code, which addresses preservation and has a set of 8 criteria for designation and a limited set of restrictions and guidelines for adaptive reuse, demolition, landscaping in its 18 pages.

The CBD interior, which with minor exceptions is considered Transect Zone 6 (T6: Urban Core – described in Article 5.6 of the draft code), as indicated in Part I of my Under Utilization in the CBD study, has a large section of it that originates from the early twentieth century.

The CBD interior zoning being designated T6 is not surprising and it means that densification is to be fostered in the area described and inclusive of these antiquated structures. Miami 21 provides a comprehensive basis for smart urban planning in Miami, but it has not adequately addressed the historic preservation issue. This is contrary to the first sentence of the draft code’s Preamble, which states

“Miami 21 code establishes standards and procedures for new development or redevelopment in the part of the City designated for use of the Miami 21 code.”

Addressing redevelopment is one of the purposes of the code, but little emphasis on preservation within the code’s articles seems a bit contradictory to me.

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MacroMarkets Home Price Indexes

MacroMarkets offers some of the most sophisticated housing market indexes in the world. The numbers are based on rather complex formulations.
From their site:

“In May 2006, in partnership with MacroMarkets, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) successfully launched Housing Futures and Options for U.S. residential real estate. This landmark development created the first exchange-traded financial products for directly investing in and hedging U.S. housing.”

The five-year Miami-Dade Home Price Index (based on U.S. Census Bureau MSAs):

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News Brief

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Miami’s Leader in Urban Planning

I have praised the Zyscovich firm for their imaginative and functional designs here before, but I failed to mention that they are involved in a number of the most important urban master planning projects and studies in the region. If even half of what they are planning becomes a reality, Zyscovich’s role as Miami’s most important urban planning firm will be cemented for a long time to come.

Miami Master Plans:

79th Street Corridor Redevelopment Master Plan

Image (above): Rendering if the 79th street master plan

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Downtown Miami Jewelry District Master Plan

Image: Jewelry District Master plan

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Midtown Miami Master Plan

Image: Midtown Miami Plan

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Omni Redevelopment Plan

Image: Zyscovich’s Vision of future density in the Omni/M&E

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The Miami Beach Convention Center District Master Plan

Image: Envisioning 17th street

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Urban Study for The Florida East Coast (FEC) Railroad Corridor

Image: FEC Corridor Study

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Zyscovich’s Broward Planning Initiatives

Image: Rendering of Young Circle Master Plan, Hollywood, FL

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Arquitectonica Chips in:

Although Zyscovich is at the forefront of Miami’s urban planning, Arquitectonica has their very own Downtown Miami Urban District Master Plan, which includes their vision for the use of the City-owned Parcel B–east of the American Airlines Arena

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Under-Utilization in the CBD (PART I)

Continued from the introduction.

The Central Business District of a metropolis is expected to have an abundance of modern high rises. In Miami, only the basic requisites of that are satisfied. The impressive high rises are mostly concentrated along Biscayne Boulevard, near the bay, and intermittently within the Central Business District’s interior. For the most part, the CBD of Miami is a compilation of early twentieth century-built, mostly under-utilized, structures–few of them with restoration potential. However, the CBD Interior is gradually being surrounded by new construction on all sides except west. Restorations are already taking place in the heart of the interior, and new developments have penetrated deeper than ever into it. The status quo is going to change, but how will it with so many under utilized structures in the way?

Image: 225 S.E. 2nd Street (built in 1945)

Understanding Under-Utilization

An under-utilized building is always held relative to its surroundings. It is described as such because the area around it is progressing in value and functionality. To have under utilized buildings implies something positive of the neighborhood. In the case of the CBD, the hundreds of millions being spent on construction along Biscayne Blvd. is positive. The CBD interior is held relative to it.

Chronological Development Map

As mentioned in the introductory post, I developed a chronological development map to visually indicate the age of Downtown’s structures. Miami-Dade County’s public property database was used as the basis for the structure-age data. The government data was missing, at times, and those properties were left uncolored. Other uncolored areas of the map include vacant parcels and parking lots which are not factored in.

Each color on the map represents the decade in which the highlighted structure was built. Here is the chronological map and color code legend:

  • Light blue -On or before 1919
  • Dark blue -1920’s
  • Light green -1930’s
  • Dark green -1940’s
  • Light yellow -1950’s
  • Dark yellow-1960’s
  • Orange -1970’s
  • Red -1980’s
  • Purple -1990’s

I had to cover a lot of temporal ground so don’t get caught up in all the color meanings just yet. Let’s focus on two two eras: pre-1920’s (light blue) and the 1920’s (dark blue). Now look at the map (above), which is zoomed into the heart of the Central Business District.

Image : 777 International Mall (built in 1947)

A Historic CBD

The map shows that a vast swath of the CBD was built prior to 1930. If you add the 1930’s (light green) and 1940’s (dark green) then you get a real understanding of just how old the buildings in the CBD are. This stands in stark contrast to the rampant new construction along Biscayne Boulevard. While the Biscayne Boulevard area is being built from the ground up, the interior was mostly built between the 1920’s and 1940’s. There is little in the way of a threshold. The disparity between the building-eras is as vast as wealth and poverty in Downtown.

The Composition and Uses of Under Utilization

It has been established that the CBD, whether officially designated or not, is a veritable historic district, yet the level of under-utilization has not been assessed. Let’s take a closer look at a couple of these buildings:

Image: 140 N. Miami Avenue (built 1925)

Image: 127 N.E. 1st Avenue (built in 1923)

Both properties were built in the 1920’s. Neither of them have any desirable architectural aspects worthy of restoration, yet both fulfill the livelihoods of the business owners and employees that operate from within them. So, is it fair to characterize them as under-utilized? Yes. A building will always have a use. Having one does not exempt it from under-utilization. In this case, both buildings are poorly maintained and do not contribute to enhancing property value in the periphery.

Let’s take a look at a building that really captures the essence of under-utilization in the CBD:

Image: 98 S.E. 1st Street (built in 1981)

This structure is an absolute waste of space. I found a corridor that ran along its interior. Take a look inside:

Image: Corridor leading to the courtyard

As you can see, the shops are closed. Although it’s not easy to see in this image, all of the hanging plants are dead and the maroon and gold drapes create a haunting atmosphere. At the end of the narrow corridor is an eerily colorful courtyard. The lot size is 39,063 square feet. We’re talking an absolute waste of space. Just about anything would better utilize this space than its current state.

The three examples I’ve shown are exemplary of the majority of structures within the CBD. Not exactly the sleek high rises we like to equate a CBD with. These structures maintain all sorts of small business. In them you can find colorful fabric, jewelry, luggage, electronics, shoes, and just about any random object you can imagine. Their presence gives downtown a bazaar-like feel.

Image: Don’t let the tacky colorful facade fool you. This building (76 E. Flagler Street) was built in 1928

These types of under-utilized structures represent the majority composition of the CBD interior. This stands in stark contrast to the Brickell and uptown areas where buildings were built comparatively recently. Miami, at heart, is old. Which begs the question:

What about Restoration?

As much as these under-utilized structures are a part of the City, they are equally, much of what holds it back. Many of them are vandalized, abandoned, poorly maintained, falling apart, and filthy. They are a direct compromise to the urbanism momentum gained during the boom. How many of these structures actually stand a chance to remain in Miami’s rapidly changing urban environment? What buildings have restoration potential? Fortunately, as we explore the restoration potential of these structures, there are some pleasant surprises in store.

(to be continued)

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Info Bits

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It’s What’s on the Inside that Counts

  

Urbanites tend to have less space to work with than their suburban counterparts. Therefore maximizing the use of space with high quality and detailed furnishings is a high priority. For some good interior space ideas check out Developer’s Line in Downtown (131 S.E. 1st Street).

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Watch Your Step

That is a wide piss stain. I’m not in the habit of looking for and photographing such things, but I’ve been hopping over this sucker for years. That little nook at the Jewelry Center on N.E.1st Street and 1st Avenue is a favored bathroom among the homeless. They pee there every night and leave a putrid stench behind for the morning pedestrians. You’ve been warned.

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Under Utilization in the CBD (INTRO)

Image: Under utilized buildings near the BOA tower are highlighted.

The Purpose

Boom or Bust focuses much of its efforts on tracking the new construction that has consumed Miami. But, what about the older, neglected, and under-utilized properties in the Central Business District? No one seems to care about them unless they’re being demolished to accommodate a new tower or revamped in grand style, yet knowing the level and forms of under-utilization is vital in helping to understand the development challenges facing Downtown. This week’s aim is to demystify under-utilization in the urban core by answering these fundamental questions:

  • What constitutes an under utilized building?
  • What current uses are derelict buildings lending themselves to?
  • What are the use alternatives?
  • What is the effect of under-utilization in the CBD?
  • What role do these buildings play in shaping the social and economic environment of the CBD?
  • What is the current proportion between vacant land, new construction, and under utilized properties?
  • What are the under-utilized structure age patterns?
  • How many of them have restoration potential?

These are just some of the questions that are to be addressed this week as we delve into the nitty gritty of the matter. I have developed a color coded chronological development map to assist in the study.

Image: Portion of the Chronological Development Map. The color codes will be explained in the 2nd installment.

The chronological map, which will be explained later, will be used to illustrate when certain areas of the CBD were built out. In the end, the Central Business District’s historic nature, restoration potential, and level and effects of under utilization will be addressed and tied into surrounding new construction trends and Miami 21 zoning.

(To be Continued)

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