Category Archives: Parks

(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.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Brickell Village, Parks

Baywalk Blues

Pedestrian Access Denied

At what point is the Baywalk project going to move forward? Plans were submitted to the City in 2004. What has happened since then? Not much. Contrary to what some might think, this is no fantasy project and shouldn’t be a distant prospect. A Bay Walk is a common aspect of coastal cities throughout the world–large and small, obscure and renown. It represents a fundamental connection between city life and the bay. Biscayne Bay, being one of the defining natural characteristics of the city, is at the core of Miami’s identity, yet Miamians are largely blocked from walking its shores.

Image: Photograph I took of the waterfront promenade at La Coruna, Spain

The plans for Miami’s Baywalk are astounding. It would link together three major waterfront Parks, the Miami River, Bayside Marketplace, American Airlines Arena, and proposed Science and Art Museums. This would make for one of the most distinctive waterfront promenades in the U.S., yet the City has made no encouraging progress since the PPS report was submitted in 2004.

Image: Section of the waterfront promenade in Oporto, Portugal. The bike path is the green segment of the promenade. This picture was taken during the early afternoon in the middle of the week. After work and school, the promenade swarms with pedestrian activity.

Are There Too Many Barriers?

In between the Miami River and Margaret Pace Park, there are few major development impediments. Bayfront Park and the Bayside Marketplace represent a clear line of development. The Bayside Marketplace, although hampered during promenade construction, would likely benefit greatly from projected pedestrian increases later. Overall, from the Miami River up to Margaret Pace Park there are three primary development barriers/challenges:

  1. Port Boulevard
  2. FEC Slip
  3. MacArthur Causeway

Some would argue that I left out the Miami Women’s Club but I don’t consider that a construction challenge since the space along the bay is ample and unimpeded. That’s a matter of deal brokering.

Getting back to the three primary challenges:

1. Port Boulevard

Image: Port Boulevard as seen from Google Maps

This street blocks access from the Bayside Marketplace into Parcel B next to the American Airlines Arena section of the promenade:

  • Build across it to the west – A Baywalk becomes a mere sidewalk if it veers away from the bay. This would also involve a crosswalk or inconvenient elevated walkway. Making people stop to wait for car traffic, or go up and down a ramp or stairs hampers pedestrian continuity.
  • Build around it to the east – This would involve creating a walkway that goes under the existing overpass in between the land and the causeway support columns. This would require dredging and the creation of a protruded seawall/walkway. Doing so would keep the pedestrian flow continuous and level along the bay. At night, it would also offer an impressive view of the Port Causeway’s columns illuminated in blue.

2. The FEC Slip

Image: The FEC Slip/Inlet as seen from Google Maps

Although some might disagree, the FEC Slip is not a huge problem. I think that it presents two main options:

Build around it – Going around the inlet really isn’t a terrible prospect. It maintains the Baywalk and merely temporarily joins the Biscayne Boulevard (east) sidewalk with the Baywalk to get around the FEC Slip. This represents an unnecessarily longer route for the pedestrian or bike rider but solves the problem.

Pedestrian bridge – Already part of the preliminary plans, this would create a more direct route for promenade users, keep the Baywalk separate from the Biscayne Boulevard (east) sidewalk, and add a unique aesthetic and functional element to the promenade. It’s more expensive than option one but also more attractive and practical for pedestrians.

3. The MacArthur Causeway

Build around it to the east – Really this is the only option and it’s the same as the Port Boulevard scenario except in this case building an elevated walkway is a preposterous alternative. In this case the east extension would have a stunning night view of the MacArthur Causeway’s columns illuminated in purple light. In the event that the I-395 be depressed (“open ditch”) and repositioned, as current FDOT plans call for, then a pedestrian bridge would have to be built.

Images: Waterline night views of Port Boulevard and the MacArthur Causeway

Inaction is Intolerable

I’m not going to get into the issue of Parcel B use because it represents an opportunity for the advancement and promotion of the Baywalk. Really, even if my most dreaded plan of a soccer field is adopted, it wouldn’t hamper the numerous advantages of having a Baywalk. Also, the plans for the Baywalk have to be compatible with the Museum Park plans but shouldn’t have to wait for the park’s development to move forward. The segment of the walkway south of the FEC Slip can be worked on in anticipation of Museum Park construction.

Every coastal city I visited on my recent trip to Spain and Portugal had a notable waterfront promenade. I understand that there are many other important capital improvement initiatives being worked on and planned, but it’s really frustrating to think that despite the limited barriers and ambitious plans in place, Miami has made little progress in connecting urban life to its glistening turquoise bay.

2 Comments

Filed under BoB Articles, Parks, Public Spaces

City of Miami Plans for Bay Walk

The Bay Walk promenade is one of those public space projects that is a sort of icing on the cake. It isn’t necessary for the vibrancy of the urban core, but it will improve Downtown’s image, link the Bay Walk to the Miami River Greenway, boost local business activity, increase the quality of life and provide more bay access to the public, as well as add another tourist destination.

There are several major residential high rises recently built and/or under construction that are within a very short walking distance from the proposed Bay Walk. Naturally, buyers in these complexes have a vested interest in the plan’s success. Through a property value standpoint, they are to benefit the most if it is built. The DDA’s report, produced by Projects in Public Places (PPS) and in part by Dover, Kohler, & Partners, does not include how the I-395 realignment would affect the Bay Walk plans nor does it include how the added park space generated by the demolition of the existing I-395 overpass would be factored in.

Design and Functionality:

There will be several paths that link the Bay Walk to nearby attractions and venues. These are critical to enhancing accessibility for pedestrians and the overall functionality of the promenade.

Dimensions:

Approximately 15 to 20 feet wide and 3 miles long

Image: Toronto waterfront path dimensions and landscaping

Bay Walk features:

  • Pedestrian-scaled downward-facing halogen lighting
  • Landscaping incorporating a tree line canopy as well as awnings for shade in some areas
  • Multi-national flags
  • “Over look area” or observation deck with benches, plantings, kiosk, and binoculars. This deck could be cantilevered over the water and serve as a location for public art and a stop for the water taxi.
  • Benches and seating at nodes, corners, intersections, facing scenic views, around destinations and facilities.
  • Features will be bundled as much as possible: i.e.: a bench will be near a trash can, under a tree, and light.
  • Paving material other than asphalt is recommended. i.e.: crushed stone, crushed shells, small pea gravel, or other particulate material that promotes drainage, allows wheelchairs and strollers to roll unimpeded, but gives a softer feel to the foot.
  • Fishing pier in front of the Herald, which would also serve as a water taxi stop (proposed).
  • At-grade pedestrian drawbridges or floating bridges to connect Bicentennial Park to the FEC slip and to Bayside

Multi-purpose walkways:

  • Two types of walkways; One for biking, jogging, roller blading, and skateboarding, and the other for strolling.
  • Each pathway will be separated by a Belgian block border.


Image: Brooklyn’s Promenade Park

Security:

  • Security patrols on golf cart and Police patrols on bikes
  • Security Call Boxes
  • Rules of conduct postings throughout

A panel of citizens stated that they would like for the Bay Walk to be:

  • Touristy
  • Theme-park-like
  • Tropical
  • Shady and leisurely
  • Low-Key
  • A place to spread out your picnic blanket
  • Of families and children playing
  • Colorful

The Use of Parcel B behind the American Airline Arena:

This excellently situated county-owned water front parcel is directly on the Bay Walk path. There are several propositions for its use.

  • Restaurants such as outdoor bar and grill (too limited)
  • An outdoor market, farmer’s market, or collector’s market (not a bad idea, but redundant; considering Bayside Marketplace is nearby)
  • Bait and tackle shop for nearby marinas (terrible!)
  • -Dancing Ballroom and Square (Eh…I’m not sold)
  • An open area for T.V. events (like a visiting Today Show)
  • Science Museum Wildlife facility (they already have Bicentennial)
  • -Recreational activities pavilion (rent kayaks, skates, paddle boats). This would work if -Biscayne Bay were a quiet lake
  • Aquarium (this idea has been circulating for some time but is not in PPS report)

Image: Paris Plage

Accessibility:

  • Space for temporary dockage of visiting boats and taxi service
  • Additional passenger rail access via Bicentenial station
  • Shuttle services from nearby transit stations to the Baywalk

Waterfront Promenade Models:

  • Paris, Plage
  • Toronto Waterfront
  • Battery Park, NYC
  • Promenade Park, Brooklyn
  • Venice Beach, CA
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Oxford, England
  • Riverfront Recapture, Hartford CT
  • Sydney, Australia

Key factors for success:

  • Pedestrian access
  • Sight lines
  • Upgrade Sea Walls
  • Comfort
  • Sociability
  • Linkage (to the Boulevard)
  • Defined edges
  • Destinations
  • Open spaces
  • Activities
  • Maintenance

Bay Walk Track:

  • One Miami
  • Hotel Intercontinental
  • Bayfront Park
  • East of (around) Bayside
  • Under Port Blvd.
  • FEC slip
  • Pacel B, behind the AAA
  • Bicentennial
  • I-395
  • Miami Herald
  • Sealine Marina
  • Miami Women’s Club
  • Pace Park


Image: Battery Park, NYC

Potential Sources of Project Funding:

  1. Federal
    • EDA Grants (to create access to Watson Island)
    • Greenacres funding
    • Tea 21 – ISTEA
  2. State Funds
    • FDOT planning grant
    • FLA waterways assistance
    • FRDAP
    • Inland navigation assistance
    • Trail grants
  3. Local Funding Sources
    • Adopt/name a piece of the bay front/Bay Walk
    • Adopt a bench (NAPCES)
    • Banners (Corporate sponsered)
    • BBRRCT $80,000 Bay Walk grant
    • City and County bond funds
    • Community foundations
    • CRA – $1 million to fund north end
    • Development impact fees
    • Florida family foundations and local philanthropists
    • Friends groups/membership organizations
    • General Obligations bond
    • Tourism Bond Tax
    • Miami Herald $180,000 walkway grant
    • Redirect $1.5 million for the overpass to the Bay Walk
    • Tourism Bed Tax
    • Venetian Causeway toll revenue

14 Comments

Filed under BoB Articles, Parks, The Big Picture, Transportation

Museum Park Plans Questioned

According to Riptide 2.0 (The Miami New Times blog), Museum Park plans (Miami Art Museum and Museum of Science and Planetarium)are getting complicated by diverging viewpoints. At Wednesday’s public meeting in the PAC, a group called Neighborhoods United claimed that the plan did not include enough open park space. This was reiterated by several people in the crowd, including a group called Citizens Against Everything Bad. Some concern was based in part on an initiative that was voted on by City residents in 1974 that would ensure green space at Bicentennial Park.

These folks are thinking about an initiative that took place 34 years ago. 34 years ago the level of massive construction in Miami would have been unimaginable. Much has changed since then and basing their arguments on a 1974 vote seems like an archaic way of going about dealing with the current state of development affairs and planning for the future. This is not to say that past initiatives should be disregarded, but 34 years is a long time. In looking at Copper Robertson’s plans, there seems to be plenty of green space incorporated.

It is not a matter of discrediting the legitimate concerns of Neighbors United, but frankly, what is more important, more open space or larger world class centers of culture and learning? Apparently, these folks feel that the actual structures need to be scaled down in order to accommodate more green space. This would come at a high cost: a decrease in space for exhibitions, fewer lessons to be taught to our children, less art to be admired, etc. The emphasis needs to be on fostering culture and knowledge not having more space to have picnics and walk dogs. Certainly the plan should be balanced but more important are the museums themselves not the green space outside.

The City of Miami has several under utilized urban parks that need funds to improve their use. It would be a good idea to put pressure on the City to use added tax revenues for a more effective public parks master plan than it is to stress more green space in the proposed Museum Park. Bringing up these issues is constructive, but one must factor in the compromises that would have to be made in order to accommodate their requests. In doing so, most will see that the cost of facility reduction outweighs the benefits of more green space.

2 Comments

Filed under BoB Articles, CBD: Financial District, CBD: Jewelry District, CBD: Overtown, CBD: Parkwest, Culture, News, Parks

Vantage Point: South Pointe Park

Leave a comment

Filed under Miami Beach: SoFi, Miami Beach: South Beach, Parks

The History of Miami’s First Park

I was astonished to run into this amazing article on the history of Miami’s first park: Bayfront Park. The origins of the park are found in 1896—around the same time of the city’s incorporation. Although the article is of interest for all Miamians, it is especially worth the read for those buying units across from the park.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Parks