Currently viewing the tag: "Coconut Grove"
  • CITT will reconsider whether to vote for new Metrorail cars (Miami Today News)
  • Anti-Miami 21 Commissioner Regalado announces candidacy for Mayor (Miami Sunpost)
  • Metrorail controversy over “ghost posts” (Miami Herald)
  • Cyclist win the right to sue FDOT for failing to implement bike lanes (Bike Blog)

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From the Miami Today:

EYES ON THE STREET: Small black kiosks are popping up around Coconut Grove as part of a City of Miami pilot initiative to have more “eyes on the street,” Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said. He proposed the idea in May, calling for increased enforcement officer presence. The booths are to serve as bases for police officers “most of the time,” he said, and sometimes for code-enforcement officers. During special events, they could also serve as information booths for visitors, he said. The city hopes to complete the booths before the Coconut Grove Arts Festival, which begins Feb. 16. “If this (pilot) works, we’re going to bring it up Biscayne Boulevard around the performing arts center,” as well as to the Upper East side and possibly Little Havana, Mr. Sarnoff said.

The CGG has a different view:

They look like prison guard stations or even worse, Gulag booths. Do they need to be black and do tourists really need an info booth? The Grove is three streets long. The best thing is to let the tourists wander around and go into stores and ask around for things. It will bring more business to stores this way and it makes it a friendlier place than to have a cold black info booth.

We here at Transit Miami like this new approach to keeping our streets safer. The booths will create a place for tourists to seek advice while keeping a vigilant eye on our higher pedestrian areas. They promote safety and tourism while encouraging people to walk about our most urban neighborhoods. I think we could use a few of these along Flagler, Brickell, and Little Havana. Your thoughts?

Leave a comment and let us know what you think on our poll in the left sidebar…

If you’ve ever traveled through the Grove (emphasis on Center Grove for this piece), you’ve probably noticed the ubiquitous gates and walls that fortress off most homes and buildings in the neighborhood. Perhaps many of these residents believe that gates and walls provide a feeling of safety and sense of security to protect them from the “inherent criminal element” of the urban neighborhood. Others might claim that it’s privacy they desire, and that suburban dream can only be realized with walls and gates in a place designed like the Center Grove. Regardless of the intent, these walls and gates symbolize the growing socioeconomic polarization of Miami as well as the decline of the street as a functional element of the public realm.

In effect, all of the individual gated and walled parts equate to a de facto gated neighborhood, a fortress-like mentality that aims to separate from poorer, less fortunate parts of the community. The message is clear: outsiders (i.e. West Grove residents) are not welcome here. Should we be surprised? Not really. Many outspoken Grove residents are still disillusioned about being a City of Miami neighborhood and not some quaint, autonomous slice of paradise. Regarding urban design, they wish they lived in an exclusive suburb, yet want the amenities afforded by a lively urban community. Therefore, they choose to wall themselves from the greater society they don’t want to be apart of, and rally for easy access (e.g. secure driveways and easily available business district parking) to the places they frequent. Call it “cherry-picking urbanism”.

Anyone who travels down SW 32nd Ave/McDonald Ave (probably by car, given that sidewalks are non-existent) is moving down one the most unambiguous demarcations of poverty and wealth in any major American city. However, instead of the entire Grove community choosing to deal with these socioeconomic imbalances, the wealthier Center Grove has largely chosen to barricade itself from the West Grove’s problems. One gets the feeling that Center Grove residents are just waiting for well-off, private regarding urban pioneers to venture across McDonald Ave, gentrifying the West Grove parcel-by-parcel, block-by-block until it merges with its equally well-fortified South Grove neighbor.

The point is, the infamous gates and walls that have sprouted up like weeds in recent decades are cancerous to civic life and public spaces, as is evident by the astonishing segregation of these two neighborhoods despite their close proximity. We can and should do a better job building inclusive neighborhoods that are critical for democracy, social progress, and high quality civic life. It’s a delusion to think these easily traversable gates and walls provide any legitimate means of security. Thus, instead of barricading ourselves and turning away from the West Grove, it’s opening up to the street and being inclusive that gives the best opportunity for the whole community to be a safer, more democratic place.

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National:

  • The Houston MTA has voted to use LRT on all of its upcoming 5 rapid transit routes.
  • How do you resolve a budget deficit of $29 Million? You spend $102 Million to build a streetcar of course! This method is being pitched by Cincinnati’s City Manager, who argues that the added benefit the streetcar will bring will more quickly pull the city out of economic recession.
  • Seattle voters will soon be heading to the polls to vote on a massive transportation bill which will simultaneously expand LRT service and widen highways…
Local:
  • Alesh provides a run down of how to use Public Transit. Plenty of good points, particularly: the environment, exercise, reading time, and money. The only thing I’d add to the list is social interaction…
  • Earth to these people…Lowering the parking rates at the Sonesta will CAUSE MORE PROBLEMS… If anything, parking meter rates should increase to discourage people within walking distance of the grove from driving around in search for a parking spot. If you need help on how to get around without a car, see Alesh’s post above…
  • Michael Lewis provides us with some much needed insight on the former fountain in Bayfront Park once dedicated to Claude Pepper…
  • Rail apparently isn’t a viable option to connect to the port… We still disagree

This past Tuesday, the county presented its 90% completion for the proposed 27th Avenue makeover project. There has been little deviation from the 30% rendering, which calls for the following improvements:

  • Addition of bike lanes
  • Addition of on-street parking
  • Removal of most private, on-site parking
  • Addition of tree-planted median (and more shade trees for sidewalks)
  • Addition of oval-shaped traffic circle at the intersection of Day, Tigertail, and 27th

While earlier renderings more often centered around parking controversy, the newest lightning rod is the traffic circle. Several citizens and business owners still don’t believe the traffic circle will work.

”You have to remember people don’t like change, and this is something that’s foreign to them,” - Delfin Molins, a spokesman for the Miami-Dade County Public Works Department.

It’s true - many Groveites are terrified of change. However, I’d be surprised if most are not fully supporting this project by the time the final draft is unveiled. I really think this project is quite progressive for Miami/South Florida standards in the way it focuses more on improving the pedestrian realm than making the street a traffic sewer.

As for the concern about the traffic circle, I’m pretty confident it will be beneficial to Center Grove residents and visitors alike. As long as it’s engineered by the specs public works has planned, it should do a pretty good job mitigating congestion on 27th and Tigertail while not compromising easy pedestrian crossings. The shape and design of this “circle” should ensure that cars cannot speed through it. People shouldn’t worry about it becoming a wild “free-for-all”, because it is not designed to be a large rotary similar to the Cocoplum Circle at Le Jeune and Sunset in Coral Gables. Miami drives can be dumb…and crazy, but even they can handle a traffic circle this simple. Plus, Day Ave should not experience an appreciable increase in thru-traffic as long as it changes to one-way eastbound.

My biggest disappointment with this project, however, is that the intersection of 27th Ave and US-1 is being ignored. The sidewalk and bike lane improvements are great, but this intersection is one of the most hostile in all of Miami for pedestrians and cyclists. Without design upgrades to improve safety and aesthetics at this intersection, the Grove Metrorail station remains effectively alienated from the wonderful 27th Avenue improvements. It’s a classic example of Miami’s seemingly inextricable fragmentation - especially when it comes to transit and land-use planning.

The Herald has gotten involved…check it out.

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The Coconut Grove Billboard saga seems to have turned a new page with the latest advertisement recently posted on the corner of US-1 and 27th Ave. We took the liberty of creating the factual billboard shown above, in hopes that our message will get through to the next decision making committee. The actual billboard, shown below, misleads people once again into believing that the Grove is a sidewalk café oasis, a relaxation paradise of sorts, devoid of all the “hassles” of urban living. Aside from Greenstreet, Senor Frogs, and a couple of chains, this of quite a stretch. After all, we must not forget that it is the typical coconut grove resident mentality which prevents the area from reaching its true potential as a unique neighborhood characterized by lush tropical foliage, a rich history, and high quality sustainable urban living. Bottom line, Grand Ave is no Avinguda de Gaudi. Meanwhile, an arrow which is pointed 90 degrees in the wrong direction, alerts passerby’s of “whiners” up ahead:

A cheap shot from Tom Falco of the Coconut Grove Grapevine insinuates that we’re the “whiners” up ahead. For the Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce to assert that the downtown is full of whiners is downright absurd. It’s actually comical that our area NIMBY’s have decided to complain about other people complaining…

“I know one purpose of the Metrorail was to have development around to allow people to use mass transit, but Metrorail really doesn’t go where people want to go,” Tom Falco, a blogger for CoconutGroveGrapevine.com, wrote in an e-mail to the SunPost. “The development will do nothing but add traffic and congestion to the area.”

That silly Metrorail line, the obvious way to incite people to use it is build as little as possible around the stations? Hmm.

What really irks us about this billboard and especially its predecessor is the way it takes advantage of a neighborhood within the same municipality. The cannibalization that the Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce has committed with these billboards continues to dissect and fragment the City of Miami. A commenter on the CCG remarked:

“Very good marketing. It has led to comment, which is the goal of advertising.”

The billboard has met its objective, it has led us to comment and take notice of the fallacies portrayed through it, but it also begs the question: what is the objective of the CG Chamber of Commerce when so often residents mobilize against prospective urban commerce?

In closing, we should mention that we have no problem with Coconut Grove, or any other neighborhood for that matter, marketing itself with a positive message. We’re all for that, and in fact, TransitMiami was designed as our platform to promote a more livable, sustainable Miami - all neighborhoods included. However, it will always be counterproductive and simply inappropriate for a neighborhood to market itself at the expense of another when the two share the same municipal boundaries. This is especially true, given that the City of Miami is already competing against 34 other municipalities in the same county.

Last week, the Miami City Commission voted 4-1 to send the proposed mixed-use Coconut Grove Metrorail Station project back to have its standards reevaluated.

According to the Herald’s article, the project’s developer Carlos Rua has admitted his frustration with Grove NIMBYs, whom he has been trying to negotiate with for more than a year over building standards and specifications.

Now I know I have lambasted this project in the past for the incredible oversupply of parking being proposed, but as time goes by and this project continues to linger, I find myself disheartened by the lack of progress. I’m tired of looking at the large vacant parcel adjacent to the station as it sits fenced off waiting for the project’s groundbreaking. It’s really sad when you are forced to choose between bad urban design and vacant land, especially on such an important block.

I find it interesting, though, that of all the Grove NIMBY complaints, I haven’t heard any objections over the elephantine parking allotments that will surely contribute disproportionately to increased traffic congestion in the area.

Today I was going to speak about Bicycle Boulevards - specifically how they can benefit Miami (or any city) and how they might be implemented. However, the guys from StreetFilms have already made a great video explaining the Bicycle Boulevard and its benefits.

As for Miami, I think Bicycle Boulevards are a very necessary component of the larger pedestrian/bicycle-oriented system that would make our city(ies) more livable.

Right off the top of my head, three good potential Bicycle Boulevards in Miami could be:

-SW 6th St between SW 4th Ave & SW 27th Ave
-Tigertail Ave between Sw17 Ave & Mary St
-N Federal Hwy/NE 4th Ct between NE 36th St and NE 79th St

SW 6th Street is the classic example of wasted street potential at the expense of maximizing automobile traffic flow. Despite on-street parking on both sides, this street is too wide for a one-way. Combined with traffic synchronization that allows the driver to speed through almost 20 blocks without a red light, traffic calming is definitely in order. However, SW 6th happens to run right through the heart of Little Havana, one of the densest neighborhoods in all of the SE United States and perhaps Miami’s most organic neighborhood. Due in large part to the density of this corridor, it has a fairly high number of pedestrians and cyclists in proportion to most other residential areas of the Greater Miami area. With the necessary traffic calming and addition of bicycle-oriented measures/infrastructure, I think this street has great potential for a Bicycle Boulevard.

Tigertail Avenue, officially holding “Scenic Transportation Corridor” status with the City of Miami, also has great potential as a Bicycle Boulevard. One thing is for sure: it is a lot more scenic by bike or by foot than it is by automobile. Unfortunately, Tigertail currently has no bike infrastructure of any kind, and several portions of the Avenue are even without sidewalks. Moreover, during rush hours Tigertail is turned into a bypass for thru-traffic avoiding US-1 or Bayshore Drive. It wouldn’t take much to make this into a Bicycle Boulevard, though. I don’t have official statistics, but from personal experience I would estimate that Coconut Grove has the greatest number of cyclists per capita in all of Greater Miami. I’m sure residents living along the Tigertail corridor would love to have fewer cars rumbling by their homes and making this historic street hostile to cyclists and pedestrians.

I think N. Federal Highway/NE 4th Ct has good potential as a Bicycle Boulevard for several reasons. First, it runs between NE 2nd Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard, and should not be reserved as another N/S arterial. Secondly, it would integrate very well with the Streetcar, allowing people to efficiently get from downtown to almost the City Line without ever driving. Hopefully, planners would incorporate bicycle infrastructure into proposed make-over projects for 79th Street - even having the vision to connect it over the causeway to North Beach. Also, the NE 4th Ct section is already in pretty good shape physically, having narrower streets, slower speed limits, and shade trees. However, the N. Federal Highway segment from NE 36th Street to NE 55th Street definitely needs a makeover. Designating it a Bicycle Boulevard affords the perfect opportunity for planners to remodel this currently insipid, hostile road into a high quality urban street that is the backbone for several emerging neighborhoods.

In closing, I must note that a very necessary component of these Bicycle Boulevards would be their integration with a larger system of Bicycle infrastructure. We don’t want to have these Boulevards originating and/or terminating in hostile places for cyclists. This is why it is critical for planners to develop a comprehensive Bicycle Master Plan for the City and County that recognizes cycling as a legitimate transportation alternative, not just a recreational pursuit.


This billboard was recently erected at the corner of SW 27th Avenue and US-1 by the northern boundary of the Grove. What a bunch of garbage - it appears this sign is implying that true urban living (e.g. Brickell, Downtown) is inherently stressful, while the less urban nature of the Grove is some desirable suburban oasis that is stress-free. What is even dumber is that the Grove and Brickell/Downtown are all neighborhoods within the City of Miami; therefore, this billboard illustrates that Miami actually has it’s own neighborhoods competing against each other as if they were separate cities.

Perhaps this is emblematic of the hyper-fragmentation within Miami-Dade County, or perhaps it is a latent message via the Grove’s NIMBY force that longs for a neighborhood that more closely resembles a “sleepy little village” then a unique urban environment characterized by lush, tropical foliage, a rich history, and strategic location. Regardless, it’s definitely not the kind of message the City should embrace, especially given the current efforts to make Miami physically and operationally a denser, more traditional urban environment. Nor should it embrace it because one of it’s most popular neighborhoods is taking a shot at the City’s urban core, including its CBD and Financial District. Ironically, it is actually the denser environment that leads to less stress. This makes walking and taking transit much more feasible and friendly, which almost always means a less stressful environment than auto-dependent ones which happen to characterize much of the Grove.

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I’m convinced that bicycles will play a major role in Miami’s transportation future. Why? Because biking can act as a major facilitator bridging the gap between driving and walking, especially within moderate proximities to transit. Biking is much faster than walking, but non-motorized. However, I have not seen the vision to make this happen yet.
On my way to Coconut Grove station recently, I noticed a flyer promoting a forum for county residents to come comment on a proposed enhancement project to the southern tier of the “M-Path”. I immediately thought this was a horrible idea, and regret that my frenetic schedule did not allow me to attend this forum. This is the kind of project that should be pursued only after you have a thriving, comprehensive mass transit system, city-wide latticework of bike lanes/greenways, and an outstanding pedestrian realm. Not only do I believe this project lacks vision, but it is redundant. Instead of encouraging people to ride bikes under the metro’s only rapid transit line, emphasis should be on connecting neighborhoods and thoroughfares to transit stations.

A good example for realizing such a system can be found within the 27th Avenue beautification project, which should be finalized in the next couple months. I find this to be one of the most encouraging, visionary projects in a long time in Miami. The concept is simple: implement bike lanes on 27th Avenue, between US-1 and South Bayshore Drive, giving bicyclists a dedicated right-of-way from the bay to the Metrorail. Of course the improvements in the pedestrian realm are also much needed and will certainly enhance the corridor from that aspect; however, the biking infrastructure will make the prospect of riding transit much greater for those living near 27th Avenue and >0.5 miles to a transit station.

With the bike lanes, cyclists could get from Tigertail Ave to US-1 in five or six minutes riding at a leisurely 10MPH pace. From near the Bird Ave intersection it could be even quicker. With additional bicycle parking at Coconut Grove station (and of course, at all stations), someone living in the South Central Grove could be on the platform waiting for the train in just 7-10 minutes, consistently, without ever having to worry about traffic, parking, or gas. Moreover, during rush hour trains run about every six minutes and the ride from Grove station to Government Center is less than 10 minutes (only 6 minutes to Brickell.)

This model should be adapted for the following streets, at a minimum:

  • SW/NW 27th Avenue
  • SW 37th Avenue
  • SW 57th Avenue
  • SW 72nd Street
  • SW 88th Street
  • SW 67th Avenue
  • SW/NW 12th Avenue
  • NW 20th Street
  • NW 79th Street
  • Coral Way
  • If a plan like this was to be implemented, thousands more citizens would have easy, fast access to Metrorail stations. With ample bicycle parking available at each station, riders would have the option of bringing the bike aboard and using it after they reach their destination, or they could park it for free and not have to worry about lugging it around the office.

    This also has the potential to significantly reduce congestion on these thoroughfares, especially during rush hours . Under the current system, massive park-n’-ride lots are designed to encourage people who want to use Metrorail, but cannot easily (or quickly) get there by walking, to drive to stations. Then, they are faced with $4.00 parking fees. Biking to the stations instead would eliminate these issues.

    Furthermore, if Mayor Diaz really wanted a world-class Green Policy, he would embrace this plan by requiring all new commercial buildings in the CBD and Brickell to provide bicycle parking and locker rooms with showers so riders could clean up before work if necessary. Toronto has amended its zoning laws to require that new large-scale developments provide storage and showering facilities for bikers. Given the excessive parking requirements currently mandated by the City, I don’t think it would be too much to ask to provide these bike-friendly facilities - at least if you really care about sustainable transportation and traffic reduction.

    Lastly, providing the bike infrastructure has inherent benefits even without everyone using it to connect to transit. Biking presents a fast, efficient, dirt cheap transportation alternative to the automobile. If you use 10MPH as an average biking speed, one could go from Downtown Coral Gables to Downtown Miami in just 20 minutes; it would take just seven minutes to travel one mile. This is significant, given that nearly two-thirds of trips under one mile are taken by the automobile.

    This is part II in a series on biking in Miami. Part III will look more specifically at some potential routes…

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    CGG has issues with a new pedestrian crosswalk installed along one of the most dangerous parts of Bayshore Drive. I drove past it this weekend and couldn’t pull out my camera quickly enough to snap a picture but luckily they had a picture posted. I bike through the area often and it sometimes seems like I’m walking alongside the track of the Indy 300. The enhancements enable pedestrians to press a button which sets off a number of strobe lights to warn oncoming cars. I think its a great idea, seeing that Florida is the capital of pedestrian deaths and the path links the waterfront parks with a number of prominent hotels. If this is what has to be done to encourage people to walk around without risking life and limb, I’m all for it. Sooner or later, Miami drivers will become conscious of those “pesky” pedestrians and hopefully we’ll see a substantial decrease in pedestrian deaths…

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    I took some time out of my weekend to give a Miami Native a first-time tour of Vizcaya. I often find that many Miamians have never ventured into Vizcaya, so I always volunteer to visit Miami’s most beautiful estate and give them my own personal tour. I was also interested in capturing some photographs of the view from the estate which soon may forever be altered if the City of Miami approves 300 Grove Bay residences, a project by The Related group, slated for a section of land just south of Mercy Hospital.
    Personally, I’d have to agree that the buildings are out of context with their surroundings, but then again so are Mercy Hospital and the Grove Isle trio of towers. The traffic impact has likely been grossly miscalculated seeing that this is the equivalent of placing a skyscraper in suburbia, the only reasonable link between it and the surroundings will be vehicular. As for the visual impact, I think Vizcaya’s views will be pretty much unhampered. Mercy Hospital is currently visible from the grounds, as are the buildings on Brickell and Key Biscayne and yet they don’t seem to adversely impact the tranquility of the Gardens.
    Since the last time I wrote on the Mercy Project, I still haven’t been able to come up with an valid enough stance either in favor or against the project. I lean against the project mainly because it continues the decentralization of skyscrapers that is so prevalent in Miami. Ultimately, I believe the towers would be better suited elsewhere, either north in the Brickell area or south in the Coconut Grove Business district, rather than in the Mercy site where they will forever be relegated as suburban towers only accessible by vehicles and disjointed from the bustling hubs to the north and south…

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    On my way to Milam’s on 32nd and Bird Ave this afternoon I almost got hit by a car after freezing in the road upon first site of this new building. Known as “Groveloft” at 3062 Bird Ave., this building adds absolutely nothing to the area’s pedestrian realm. The architect had a good opportunity, even with an oversupply of parking required, to add some quality density to the Grove and enhance the pedestrian realm along Bird Ave. Instead, they opted for a totally auto-centric design. This building is completely designed to be integrated with automobiles and not human beings:
    • The entrance to the parking garage is large, hideous, and the focal point of the building’s principal frontage on Bird Ave, a primary street. The arrows are tacky and the gate is ugly as all get out.
    • There are not any pedestrian entrances from Bird Ave., which is a primary street in Miami. Typical of most buildings in the Grove, this building does all it can to separate itself from public space with its fortress-like ground floor.
    • Instead of planting shade trees, which would have enhanced the pedestrian realm on Bird Ave. and aligned closely with the lush character of the Grove, the developers opted for dinky little palm trees on the edge of the street that serve more as eye candy for passing drivers than for functional green space on the sidewalk corridor. The larger tree in the back right of the photo that could have better accomplished this is instead barricaded from the public behind yet another gate.
    This building is certainly not unique in Miami. Many more just like it are emerging each month throughout the City, and each one of them squanders an opportunity to enhance Miami’s pedestrian realm, which would encourage more people to walk and serve as the precursor to increased transit ridership. This is the kind of design that should be eliminated with the implementation of Miami 21 - which couldn’t come soon enough.

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    Somehow in all the posting Gabe and I have done over the past week, we failed to mention the recent developments regarding the Coconut Grove Transit Village project.

    This last Wednesday, the Planning Advisory Board voted unanimously to recommend the City Commission not approve county-drafted zoning standards for the project. According to Chairwoman Arva Parks Moore, the standards for the project site were too general in that they did not include maximum limits for square footage or a minimum for residential units. Certainly the Grove NIMBYs were elated by the PAB’s vote, given their fervent contention that the two proposed mixed-use buildings were either way out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood at 19 stories, or missing key standards. While I am all in favor of high density development on this site, as well as adjacent to all metrorail stations, upon closer examination this project will be a disaster if built according to current specifications.

    And no, I’m not referring to the height of these buildings - I’m referring to the massive amount of proposed parking. This project, proposed adjacent to a metrorail station and billed as a Transit Oriented Development infill project, is set to have a 611 space garage, 500 space garage, and 201 surface spaces. That’s over 1,300 parking spaces! Throw in the 204 surface spaces in the Grove Station’s park n’ ride lot, and you have over 1,500 parking spaces adjacent to a metrorail station that is two stops from downtown. Logistically, this is almost unfathomable. How can we expect anyone to ride transit in Miami when we keep building so car-oriented? Not only does this oversupply of parking induce travel to this location by automobiles and bastardize transit, it significantly increases the cost of the project and eliminates thousands of square feet that could have been used to build more affordable housing units.

    It’s simple - as long as these kinds of projects keep getting built, especially next to transit stations, the likelihood Miami realizes its potential to become more sustainable, more pedestrian-oriented, and more transit-oriented is slim.

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