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This next segment is the beginning of a new series here on Transit Miami where we will look at certain actions or policies that will invariably counteract true urban progress.

This might be the ultimate mistake in zoning history; constructing a ½ billion-dollar opera/ballet house and later allowing a Wal-Mart to settle in next door.  On the way to the ballet, you can pick up some cheap shit foreign made goods, contribute to the massive trade deficit, and support the public financial burden caused by an employer who perennially underpays employees.  A Wal-Mart in the urban core continues the suburbanization mentality of building we have seen here in Miami – that is, tall, dense structures only accessible by car.  In a sense: Urban from far, but far from urban.

Now, it is not just the zoning that is the issue; imagine spending another billion dollars to rid the downtown of the majority of port-bound truck traffic, only to allow a retailer that will generate hundreds of weekly truck trips to nestle in that very same downtown core.  Seems a bit counterproductive, if you ask me, but then again this is Miami, why should we be surprised?

From the beginning, we were not against a mixed-use retail center rising alongside the performing arts center.  We viewed the complex, coupled with the PAC, as a formidable component to a thriving media-arts district, filled with nightlife, restaurants, hotels, and well, worthy destinations, not big-box retail.  A Wal-Mart anywhere in the downtown region automatically negates that key phrase every Miami politician loves to toss around wildly.  You know the one, it goes a little something like: “This _____ will put Miami on the map, this going to a real “world-class” _____.”  I guess you can fill in the blanks with Wal-Mart if there is such thing as a “world-class” Wal-Mart, perhaps third world class…

Commissioner Marc Sarnoff recently said it best:

“I thought the idea for that neighborhood was to create a walking neighborhood and not a big box for the Beach,”

Frankly, we envisioned something similar to Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz, nothing revolutionary, just a proper mixed-use development complete with theaters (imax too), restaurants, hotels, and corporate businesses (DB HQ, Price Waterhouse offices, Sony, etc.)  From wikipedia:

…The rebuilt Potsdamer Platz now attracts around 70,000 visitors a day, rising to 100,000 at weekends, and some critics have been surprised by the success of the new quarter. Fears that the streets would be dead after 6pm have proven false. At almost any time of the day, the place is alive with people. It is a particularly popular attraction for visitors: the “Arkaden” shopping mall contains around 150 shops and restaurants on three levels, the lowest (basement) level being a food floor; there are also four major hotels, and Europe’s largest casino (the “Spielbank Berlin”)…

Note: in this last image the two large buildings on the bottom right is the home of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.  The situational resemblance is uncanny.

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