Category Archives: The Big Picture

Miami’s Hispanic Demography as Seen from Bird Road

Bird Road isn’t emblematic of Miami like Brickell Avenue, Ocean Drive, and Biscayne Boulevard. Completely absent of glitz and glamour, it’s a stalwart of the middle class—quintessential Miami. To understand the City’s Hispanic composition, one need only consider it. Let’s examine a three mile stretch of “La Cuarenta” (as it is known in Spanish)—from SW 67th Avenue to 102nd Avenue—and see what Latin America’s got cooking in this sub-tropical metropolis:

South America

Argentina and Uruguay

Argentinians, self proclaimed experts of everything, are actually masters of steak and pizza. Their desserts, too, are delectable. At Grazianos, next to Bird Bowl, glory comes off the grill. Rest assured, though, they have competition. Uruguayans have their own haunt, Doña Paulina, 10 blocks away.  Continue reading

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Filed under BoB Articles, Culture, The Big Picture

Signs of Urban Life: Retail Oulook (Uptown’s Pros – M&E)

Image 1: An under utilized retail structure with blue awnings on NE 24th street and Biscayne Boulevard is shown in the foreground with new developments surrounding it.

Continued from Signs of Urban Life: Development Outlook (Uptown’s Woes)

Uptown is the largest of the three primary urban core segments (CBD and Brickell Village being the other two). It contains four unique sub-segments:

  1. Media and Entertainment District
  2. Edgewater
  3. Wynwood Arts District
  4. Midtown Miami & vicinity

Map: Uptown and its four subsegments are shown above. The Media and Entertainment District is shown in blue, the Midtown Miami vicinity is shown in yellow, Edgewater in green, and Wynwood in red.

The Media and Entertainment District

This post will concentrate on the first of these subsegments. The Media and Entertainment District, known to some as the Omni District, which surrounds the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, is located just north of the I-395 and Parkwest. Along with the PAC, the Miami Herald and Omni buildings are located within the M&E. The M&E’s character is very much non-existent. Surrounding the PAC is a considerable amount of vacant land and derelict buildings. However, there are several interesting patterns that may indicate the retailization of the area.

Image 2: View of the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts from Biscayne Boulevard

The M&E’s Layout

Looking at the map of Uptown, you’ll notice that the M&E, as defined by the DDA, juts to the north along Biscayne Boulevard. This extension is where Cite, City 24, Uptown Lofts, and Biscayne Plaza are located. These developments are vital because as mixed use projects they contribute retail space at the street level. Cite and Biscayne Plaza are good examples of how the filled retail space will enhance lifestyle options and pedestrian activity along Biscayne Boulevard.

There are still many underutilized structures that contribute nothing to the fold. Many of them are For Sale. In fact, Uptown has a greater concentration of derelict structures for sale than the CBD and Brickell Village to the south. There are implications that follow suit:

  • The area remains undeveloped
  • Many announced projects have either been scrapped or stalled
  • In terms of acquisitions, the area is conducive to extensive redevelopment

Image 3: The same structure with the blue awnings from image 1 is shown here from street level. The right side is facing south toward City 24 and the M&E and the left side is facing north away from the M&E. While the streetscape is under construction in preparation for new ground level retail on the south side, the north side remains under utilized.

In these ground level retail spaces, we’re witnessing a wide variety of businesses spring up: wellness facilities, restaurants and cafes, banks, all sorts of stores. Aside from residential units being occupied, the advent of these new businesses to the area is the most important aspect of creating a truly urban environment.

Image 4: Banner ads for restaurant in Biscayne Plaza

Ground Level Retail

Currently, only Cite and Biscayne Plaza have fostered this kind of street level retail activity. Uptown Lofts and City 24 will add more ground level retail to the M&E. Staples, interestingly enough, is constructing a store in the heart of the M&E and it’s not attached to any existing or planned project. This is indicative of a pattern that may continue along Biscayne Boulevard as under-utilized buildings get replaced with retail. Biscayne Boulevard serves as an ideal artery to spread this kind of activity along Uptown.

Image 5: People mover elevated transit line with the Marriott and Radisson in the background

Connectivity

Importantly, although most of Uptown remains disconnected from the public transit rail system, the M&E is not. There are two stations servicing the M&E (Omni and School Board stations). This allows for connectivity with the other two Core segments to the south.

Hotel Hub

The Media and Entertainment District also boasts the only major hotel chains (Doubletree, Marriot, Hilton [formerly Radisson]) in all of Uptown making the neighborhood tourist friendly. The nearest hotels are in the Financial District to the south. Here again, this is good news for retailers. Although there isn’t much reason for hotel occupants to walk the streets of the M&E just yet, the presence of these hotels adds more value to the neighborhood.

Citi Square

There is more to the M&E, however, than meets the eye. Sure, the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts is hard to ignore, but it’s what you don’t see that’s most telling. Pedro Martin’s Terra Group has plans for the land surrounding the Herald. The plans required the rezoning of the parcels to accommodate Mr. Martin’s vision of two 64 story towers and a major destination-retail component called Citi Square (641,104 sq. ft. of retail space). Since the original buzz generated by the announcement of the potential land acquisition and vision for land-use, there hasn’t been much said about the project, but the deal between the McClatchy Company and Citi SquareGroup LLC. (Pedro Martin) appears to be a work in progress.

Image 6: View of the Omni from across the PAC

The Omni Center

The Omni is another critical longterm component. New York-based Argent Ventures’ $1 billion plans for the 1 million sq. ft. property span up to 15 years in four phases and include 6 large scale towers as well as 350,200 sq. ft. of retail space. A plan that spans 10-15 years is not at the mercy of existing market conditions but is susceptible to the uncertainty of time. Thoroughfares will be incorporated into the mega-project making it a city-within-city of sorts. Marc Sarnoff considers it a second Midtown. Argent recently closed on a $200+ million dollar loan to begin work on its plans.

Image 7: Filling Station lofts under construction

The M&E’s West Side Residential

The side of the M&E west of NE 2nd Avenue is rather desolate, but there are two residential developments that provide a glimpse of how the M&E’s interior may unravel: Filling Station Lofts and Parc Lofts. The latter is completed and the former is under contruction. Both are well designed mid-rise loft developments that stretch the notion of urban pioneering to the limit. Surrounding the two projects are plans for the Bayview Market, a destination retail facility, and MAX Tower, an innovative mixed use project designed to lure media and art-oriented tenants. Neither of the two have disturbed the ground yet, but add potential to the area.

Wrapping it Up

The presence of the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, incoming street level retail, incoming occupants, presence of major hotels, large-scale long-term plans for Citi Square and the Omni, connectivity to the People Mover transit system, and its designation as a Media and Entertainment District make this urban neighborhood a very interesting prospect for retailers.

To be continued with installments dedicated to Edgewater, Midtown, and Wynwood…

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Filed under Biz Buzz, BoB Articles, Commercial Developments, Emerging Neighborhoods, The Big Picture, Uptown: Edgewater, Uptown: Media & Entertainment (PAC) District, Uptown: Midtown Miami, Uptown: Wynwood Arts District

Skyline Gap a Reminder of Miami’s Possibilities

Image: The empty gap between Parkwest’s towers on the right and the Financial District to the left (Firefox users right click to view larger image).

In 2005, the Parkwest side was flat. Today, four towers are jutting into the sky. Most skyscraper enthusiasts have been envisioning this “Parkwest Wall” since the towers were announced, but now that they are a reality, there is a pronounced gap between Everglades on the Bay and Marina Blue.

Rendering: The Biscayne Wall as it would appear with Paramount Park and 600 Biscayne in the mix.

Four developments are planned within the gap. The Empire World Towers, Paramount Park, 600 Biscayne Building, and MDC Wolfson Campus building, would convert the area from a gap to the focal point of the skyline.

Rendering: The Oppenheim-designed MDC Wolfson building as it would look with 600 Biscayne and Paramount Park to the immediate north

Currently, there is no activity to speak of regarding any of these developments, but the plans are in place. It’s just another reminder of what could be. If the gap is filled with existing plans, Miami’s skyline, will for the first time appear seamless (no major gaps) from the MacArthur Causeway vantage point–that is until Island Gardens partially blocks the view.

Rendering: Empire World Towers

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Filed under BoB Articles, CBD: Financial District, CBD: Jewelry District, CBD: Overtown, CBD: Parkwest, The Big Picture

Rethinking Brickell’s Interior (west side)

Image: (from left to right) Infinity, Axis, and Vue on South Miami Avenue

Envisioning Brickell During the Boom

Since the inception of the surge in construction activity that later became known as the boom, I have envisioned how the skyline would transform. As activity picked up, so many projects were being announced that I found it increasingly challenging to remember them all off the top of my head. Still, I would look at the skyline and consider the height and design of those projects that were anticipated to fill in the sky. Now that the boom has dissipated, it has become clear that many projects that were announced may never come to exist. Several examples of this can be readily found on South Miami Avenue. Let’s see what I mean on a map:

Map:

  1. Brickell CitiCentre
  2. Premiere Towers
  3. Beacon (it’s not officially scrapped, so let’s call it dormant)
  4. Brickell Flatiron
  5. Pointe at Brickell
  • A total of eight towers in five separate projects



Image: The site of Flatiron up for sale

Rethinking the Vision After the Boom

The section of South Miami Avenue between 12th and 7th street is filled with examples of what could have been. Even Mary Brickell Village, which is beginning to fill with tenants, had a tower component planned that has not, and may never, come to fruition. It’s not clear what has happened. The area has excellent access to rail, is relatively stable, runs parallel to Brickell Avenue, is near the bay and Miami River, and has a robust restaurant scene. For all intensive purposes, it’s excellently situated. However, one project after another was scrapped.

Image: The site for Pointe at Brickell up for sale

Brickell Village’s interior (west side) has and is still seeing major construction activity with Avenue, Axis, Brickell Station Lofts, Infinity, Capital at Brickell, 1450 Brickell, BOR I and II, Brickell Financial Center, 500 Brickell, Latitude I and II, Neo Vertika, One Broadway, and Vue. The area is a success story despite the presence of so many scrapped projects. Proposals and approvals don’t mean anything until the ground is disturbed and the cranes and workers take the project vertical. Today, reality has set in, and there is a much clearer understanding of how Brickell Village is transforming. The future remains impressive

Image: The site of Premiere Towers up for sale

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Filed under BoB Articles, Brickell Village, Commercial Developments, Residential Developments, Scrapped, The Big Picture

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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Filed under BoB Articles, CBD: Financial District, CBD: Jewelry District, Gentrification, The Big Picture

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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Filed under BoB Articles, CBD: Financial District, CBD: Jewelry District, Gentrification, Maps and Illustrations, The Big Picture

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

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

Miami Real Estate Market Contradictions

Forbes recently listed Miami as America’s second most over priced real estate market. Now CNBC lists Miami as number 4 in its top five metro areas in (property value) appreciation.

CNBC analysis goes on to report:

“But there continue to be puzzling stories in the national mix that appear to defy employment and land supply. Take, for example, Miami. Florida is leading the housing bust, with existing single-family home sales in March down 28% statewide from a year ago. Prices statewide are down 4%, but not so in Miami…While single-family home prices in the city are flat, condo prices are up 18% over last year, despite the fact that the Miami skyline is still teeming with cranes.”

If you read the Forbes list you saw two of its targets on the downside of the CNBC list (San Diego and D.C.), but Miami, a Forbes target, is on the upside of the CNBC list. The articles are both looking at property value appreciation in the same city but drawing two very different conclusions.

The Forbes conclusion is that the prices in the Miami market are too high to sustain further growth. Forbes formed their conclusion by looking at the median household income of Miami-Dade county but ignoring the city’s appeal to domestic and foreign buyers.

The CNBC report looks at the property value increases as positive and the reality on the ground as highly active. The conclusion is that Miami’s real estate market, particularly the condo sector, is defying the odds and continuing to increase in value.

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Filed under Economy, The Big Picture

Tracking Miami’s Emerging Urban Neighborhoods

I view Miami as I do a person. Young. Ambitious. Audacious. Energetic. Miami is many things but its very nature is dependent upon four factors: its neighborhoods, establishments, people and their way around and in-between the first two. Government doesn’t lend a city its traits but serves to properly facilitate its functions, so it’ll therefore be marginalized in this article, at first, for the sake of simplicity.

I am as concerned with the traits of a city as I would be a person. In identifying a city’s traits, it is natural to first look at its neighborhoods. These neighborhoods compose the social and architectural framework that fosters the development of urban character. What is Paris but its rich mosaic of unique and historic neighborhoods? The same can be said of NYC, San Francisco, London, Tokyo, and just about every other great city on Earth. A city’s urban neighborhoods should reflect the various personalities of the city. A sort of representation of each and every city dweller: rich and poor, festive and private, pious and perverted.

Before I endeavor to uncover the traits of Miami’s emerging urban neighborhoods, it is important to mention the first source of information: the Downtown Development Authority. The DDA’s districts and areas of interest are Brickell Village, Central Business District, Parkwest, and Media and Entertainment District.

The DDA map used here has 145 projects pinpointed. The blue lines and dots represent the metro rail, people mover, and various stations. At first glance, it’s easy to see the boom’s effect via the assortment of colorful dots, which represent individual projects and their status. The dots are mostly confined to the coast as if the boom were a colossal wave that hit the waterline first but has yet to fully reach farther inland. It is also easy to see how disconnected the area north of the I395 is from the CBD and Brickell to the south. The existing north/south rail line, depicted in a black angled line with marks, provides an ideal track for the expansion of the people mover or addition of a streetcar line. Considering the massive level of construction in that area, seeing it disconnected to the mass transit web to the immediate south is terrible.

The DDA’s districts and areas of influence are delineated in a way that I’m not entirely content with:

For one, Brickell Village’s west boundary stops at S.W. 1st Avenue, well short of the obvious boundary of I-95, four blocks farther west. There are 10 projects pinpointed on the map that are, according to its boundaries, not part of Brickell.

  • Map: Brickell Village

Secondly, there is no distinction for the areas along the Miami River. Both sides of the river are either the CBD (north) or Brickell (south). The River is seeing major development along both sides of its shores and is gradually forming its own urban character, yet the DDA doesn’t seem to recognize this. For both the CBD and Brickell, the Miami River area represents a certain uniqueness that merits distinction.

  • Map: Media and Entertainment District

Third, the area designated the Media and Entertainment District, which is currently more adequately represented in Parkwest, occupies a large area north of the I-395, but excludes an area roughly six times its size: Uptown; for lack of a better name.

Uptown is the entire area confined by the 1-95 on the west, Biscayne Bay on the East, the I-395 to the south, and the I-195 to the north.

I understand that it is not designated the M&E, but considering that the majority of the major projects north of the I-395 are outside of the designated M&E, doesn’t that excluded area merit some type of distinction? Sorry. Areas of influence doesn’t quite cut it for me.

  • Map: Edgewater and Midtown Miami (Uptown)

Fourth, the Design District is completely excluded . Why? Who knows? All I know is that it seems that that Dacra’s (Craig Robins) activities in the Design District will not affect or be affected by Downtown. Naturally, that is outright wrong and the DD’s exclusion from the DDA’s map and areas of influence is inexplicable.

By now, it should be clear that the DDA’s outlook is rather different from mine. Still, the DDA provides invaluable data, a useful array of visual aids, comprehensive reports, and a basis for urban neighborhood boundaries in a city that has never been known for its urbanism.

Miami’s emerging urban neighborhoods are not limited to the DDA’s districts and areas of influence. The Roads, the 3rd Avenue Corridor, Simpson Park Triangle, Wynwood Arts District, Design District, Edgewater, and Midtown are all left undistinguished. Overtown is, as one should expect by now, swept under the rug. In this case the rug is Parkwest.

  • Map: Parkwest

The DDA’s maps, reports, and my own field reports and research will be used to track neighborhood traits as they emerge. Whether artistic, loud, posh, trendy, cultured, snobbish, or edgy, neighborhoods traits are there to be identified. Understanding them will help one to make the right choice when purchasing a condo, opening a business, or even dining out. When there are nearly 200 major projects under construction in a tightly condensed area, all the neighborhoods within the area automatically have an identity crisis. It is a bizarre and fascinating urban development phenomenon worthy of the most serious study. (to be continued…)

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Filed under BoB Articles, The Big Picture

Is Miami World Class?

Does Miami fulfill world class criteria? What criteria would Miami have to meet? What source(s) does one rely on for information? All of these are intriguing questions that merit consideration.

Wikipedia has an interesting set of criteria for being considered a world class city, although it seems to come from the Globalization and World Cities Study Group. The criteria includes: City population, metropolitan population, percentage of foreign-born residents, expatriate cost of living, metro system ridership, passenger air traffic, number of billionaire residents, and gross metropolitan product.

On Wikipedia’s chart of global cities, Miami only appears in one of the criterion columns. It is number one on the “foreign-born” segment. Other U.S. cities included on the list are New York City (appearing in 6 of the 8 columns), Los Angeles (appearing in 4 columns), and Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia (appearing in 1 column each).

There are other factors such as skyline height averages and density. You’ll be pleased to know that Miami’s skyline ranks third in the U.S. behind NYC and Chicago (18th in the world) according to the 2006 Almanac of Architecture and Design. The presence of monuments tend to contribute to a city’s global and cultural status (Miami has none). Seaports are another important factor (Miami’s is the most busy cruise ship port in the world). Not surprisingly, major cultural and learning venues as well as major parks and public spaces (plazas) are factored in to the set of criteria. Thank heavens for the Museum Park plans and the newly completed PAC.

Wikipedia goes on to describe different classes of world class cities on a 12 point and letter scale (alpha, beta, gamma). NYC is the only U.S. city ranked Alpha with 12 points. Los Angeles and Chicago, also considered Alpha, have 10 points. San Francisco, considered Beta, ranks fourth with 9 points. The remaining U.S. cities are ranked Gamma: Boston, Houston, Dallas, and Washington D.C. each have 6 points. Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Miami end the U.S. list with 4 points each.

Miami lacks in public transportation, public spaces and parks, cultural and learning venues, as well as monuments. The Magic City does have a strong showing with its port, international airport, and foreign-born population. As it stands, America’s southernmost metropolis will increase its standing with Museum Park and the new Cesar Pelli-designed Performing Arts Center. The city’s population is increasing significantly as well. Miami International Airport will increase air traffic and traveler conveniences with a $5.2 billion expansion. Traffic flows are going to be less clogged due to billions in highway and road improvements.

The most encouraging sign of Miami’s growing preeminence is its booming skyline. Currently ranked in the world’s top 20 skylines and expected to climb even further up the list. There is no doubt that Miami is on the world class track. In fact, it is evident that the city fulfills the fundamental requirements for being considered world class at the present time. Inexplicably, there are many that doubt this claim. The Banana Republic stigma is not easily shaken off.

More Info from the Brookings Institute

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