Monthly Archives: May 2011

Status Check: Port Tunnel Project

Project components

Work on connecting the Port of Miami with a tunnel and widening the MacArthur continues on schedule. Set to cost $607 million to build, and the first tunnel of its kind in Miami-Dade, it will essentially provide direct access to those needing to enter the Port without having to clog up traffic on Biscayne Blvd.

For more information, read this.

The mechanism created specifically to build the tunnel.

Once completed, the tunnel entrance is expected to look like this:

Rendering of the completed Port tunnel

It currently looks like this:

Tunnel construction site May 30th, 2011

Widening of the causeway

When I wrote about this in 2007, the Palm, Star, and Hibiscus Island Homeowners Association posted my article on their home page–probably due to the potential impact on their island communities. Back then, as now, they are, with discerning eyes, keen to watch closely.

Think there’s room in the budget to make the MacArthur Cause look more interesting in the day? Probably not.

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Midtown Miami, Revisited

Sugarcane Raw Bar and Grill

Back in September of 2007, I wrote a development outlook for Midtown Miami. In it, I said:

“In anticipating the type of commercial activity that may take place around Midtown, the Sunset Place comparison becomes useful. Currently, Midtown doesn’t really offer dining options. The Design District does a better job at filling the void, but Midtown remains depressingly behind in this respect. It’s a simple formula: where there is big box retail and new residential towers, we can expect restaurants, lounges, wine bars, and cafes to follow suit. (Sept. 25, 2007)”

Mercadito

In January of last year, a “resident” wrote (in comment #34 of the post):

“After an initial boom thing look a lot slower. Circuit City’s departure left a big hole behind that is unsightly and being filled on and off by fly-by-night operations selling Christmas decorations, Halloween supplies etc. If the place was so attractive and booming I am sure high visibility retailers would be fighting over it. Whole foods once rumored to want to erect operations there has apparently scrapped them as well. The number of winos, drunks, drug addicts and panhandlers seems to be exploding. Maybe if we get lucky the whole thing will fly someday but for now, aside from a few small mom and pop cheese & wine places nothing much is happening. (Resident, March 15, 2010)”

Sustain

Today, much of the south sector retail space remains vacant but, as expected, in the last two years, lounges and restaurants have begun to fill in the more centralized spaces–helping to make Midtown a viable nighttime destination. Previously, this aspect had not materialized. This recent viability will go far in boosting Midtown’s prospect for success

Cerveceria 100 Montaditos (Spain-based)

Almost four years ago, I began my last Midtown development outlook by saying,

“Midtown Miami is, in many ways, the most obvious symbol of Miami’s rapid urban transformation.”

Today, it might be representative of Miami’s long crawl back. We’ll have to take a closer look to find out.

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Museum Park (Finally) Disturbing the Ground

Museum Park construction from MacArthur Causeway

For years we’ve been waiting for ground to be disturbed on Bicentennial Park to make way for Museum Park. It finally has, and along with the acquisition of the neighboring Herald land by Genting, will act as a catalyst for development in the Parkwest and Arts and Entertainment District, as the DDA likes to call the area.

Museum Park model by Cooper, Robertson,& Partners

With the Port tunnel project, which I wrote about in 2007, this whole area will be loud with construction activity for years to come. How sweet it is to wake up in the morning and hear the sound of progress.

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Wynwood Urban Art at a Glance

Wynwood

Wynwood is a striking place. In the day, there isn’t much activity, retail, or otherwise. At night, at least on the Second Saturday of every month, the neighborhood transforms. Galleries, often marked by psychedelic building murals, open their doors to a world of art.

Wynwood on Second Saturday nights

The activity of Second Saturday, while taking at place mostly at night, brings a deep art movement to light. Thousands of people converge, from all walks of life, to enjoy art, music, drinks, food, often from an army of lunch trucks, and take it all in. But, it’s only one day out of the month. The absence of a viable daytime economy bogs the area down. Once a month, it’s brilliant, at the pinnacle of Miami’s night scene, a glimpse of its progressive urban future:

Via – apmotionlab

Now, let’s take a daytime glimpse at its urban art.

Any one up for loose a interpretation?

Everywhere you go there’s a mural’s odd figures and expressions capturing your attention.

Hardcore Art and Contemporary Spaces (bottom right corner)

Home to over 50 galleries, Wynwood probably has even more wall murals. This is the hub of an art movement that, anchored by Art Basel or not, is singular and growing–the murals project Wynwood’s vibe:

By Andrew Spear

To be continued…

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(Park) Poor Brickell

The Infrastructuralist has a good article on the most notable urban parks in the world. It is a list of the vast green lungs on which great cities breathe–something our emerging City is starved of. There is no great urban park in Miami. There are bay-front lawns that are scantily used, poorly stewarded, and do little to bring the urban fold together. What Miami has, and is largely overlooked, is a lot of vacant urban land. Being that vacant land is a prerequisite for park space, these parcels, in and of themselves, while not much, together, represent true urban park potential.

Aerial view of vacant parcels in the Brickell Interior--reserved for the development of Brickell CitiCenter

Miami, unless it’s willing to imminent domain land on a 1960’s Overtown-devastating scale, cannot have an uber-large urban park the likes of what the Infrastructuralist mentions, and must instead seize smaller parcels and convert them to park use, a’ la Savannah (with its squares). This, if not done, will result in an urban environment devoid of green space to chill out, converse, converge, and depart from the daily grind.

Parks, aside from, among many other things, being meeting points and a boost to peripheral land values, can showcase local art. There is no better example than Gaudi’s famed Parc Guell in Barcelona. Commissions to create fountains and public art installations can give a much needed boost to local artists and do well to reflect Miami’s artistic depth, but this is not meaningfully discussed.

Aerial view of vacant land at the confluence of S. MIami Avenue and SE 1st Ave.

The parcel of land that shown in the image above was once going to be the site of a building known as the Flatiron–an allusion to its namesake in NYC. This project, like so many others, was scrapped, and what remains is a vacant lot used, at times, as a parking lot. If you put on your rose tinted urban glasses, you might see a park with a grand fountain surrounded by buildings. A canvas for local art. A fountain representative of our City’s soul, it’s place in the world, anything but another building. Let the City be a living room, a gathering place, a showcase for the people, and not just a narrow stomping ground for impatient pedestrians, a concrete and glass labyrinth.

Admittedly, Brickell has its share of parks. Let’s see: Simpson Park, which, in its fenced-in state, is not exactly welcoming; Southside Park, which is on the fringes of urbanism; and if you want to count the Miami Circle, the City’s very own, ancient who knows what the hell, then you have one more. Affluent Brickell is park poor and that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime, ever.

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Herald Land Sale Saga Over

Siffin's cancelled plans

With the acquisition of the Miami Herald property by Genting Malaysia, a several year old land sale saga is over. It began with Pedro Martin’s plans for CitiSquare, and when that fell through, Mark Siffin emerged with his own controversial plan, and when that fell through, it resulted in a lawsuit. Just when it was beginning to look like the whole back and forth was never going to end, Sacramento-based McClatchy is touting a new (and final) deal with Genting.

Coincidently, Genting, isn’t the only Asia-based conglomerate betting big on Miami. Swire, purportedly moving forward with its plans for Brickell Citi Center, which I have reservations about,  represents the other major private mixed-use project moving forward in Miami. Swire, mostly known for it’s activities on Brickell Key, has made forays into the mainland market before–most notably with Jade.

After a historic bust, it is doubtful that this news represents the advent of a recovery, much less a boom, but it is a reminder that Miami’s urban development remains premature and it potential for growth is BIG. These 14 acres of prime bay front property represent a potential spark of new development for Miami. Presumably, the lawsuit has been dropped, and hopefully, so will the jaws of passers-by when Genting changes the face of the City.

Post Script: God forbid Genting build anything as calamitous as this.

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