Many of our readers have suggested that Flagler Street in Downtown Miami should be converted into a pedestrian mall. There are many arguments for and against such a move. During the 70’s and 80’s many cities in the United States tried to convert a portion of their central business district to a pedestrian only mall. Unfortunately, most of these projects failed for different reasons. One of the biggest reasons, I believe, is that Americans were leaving the city in droves to seek the suburban American dream. Although many cities had good intentions and vision, their timing could not have possibly been any worse. A perfect storm for pedestrian mall failure had already been set in motion by the suburbanization of America.

Today we find the suburbanization trend reversing itself.  People are now choosing to live a more urban lifestyle, tired of long commutes and expensive gas, urbanization is now creating conditions to potentially develop successful pedestrian malls.

Last year I created a Flagler Street Transit Mall presentation for an Urban Revitalization Strategies class. My proposal was to develop a transit mall similar to the 16th Street Mall in Denver.  The proposed Flagler Street Transit Mall would only allow buses to drive up and down Flagler Street with 5 minute intervals between buses. All other motor vehicles would be prohibited from using Flagler Street with the exception of delivery and emergency vehicles. All current on street parking would be removed and the sidewalks would be widened.

A good first step would be to temporary close Flagler Street to motor vehicles during a one week period before Christmas. This short experiment would give the Miami DDA, local businesses, and residents a feel for what could become of historic Downtown Miami.

Do you think Flagler Street could use some sort of pedestrianized mall or do you think it’s just fine as is?  Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments section.

11 Responses to Envisioning a Flagler Street Mall

  1. luke says:

    I think a pedestrianized Flagler Street would be really great. I feel like the congestion of cars there is unnecessary since they’re going so slow, but they also take up valuable space that could be used to plant hundreds of trees, fountains, benches, etc. They make it hotter on the street with all the gas emissions, it’s gross.


  2. Frap says:

    I like this idea, in general downtown areas should be for bikes/peds, and not auto-oriented. You can have lots and garages on the outskirts, this would also encourage greater use of metro-mover.


  3. Mike Moskos says:

    Well, I can’t say Flagler is the best street for this simply because I don’t know the street all that well. It really all depends on how many live within walking distance, what kind of retail is already there, etc. But, my initial reaction is “of course it is a good idea, look at Lincoln Road.” Of course, what makes Lincoln Road is the large number of residents/tourists within walking distance, the restaurants, the dog walking, bike riding and the lush trees to cool the road. I’d add the funky architecture/fountains in the street, but I don’t think the architecture/fountains drive it now (though they certainly made it work initially). You look at Lincoln Road and you realize the City set out to make something special; not just some stripped down urban renewal project to “save the downtown”.

    Every time I’ve seen this in other cities, the pedestrian malls are all anemic looking and devoid of people. The landscaping is the most anemic part. Cool the street, giving it a park atmosphere and everyone will escape the buildings to get a feel of nature.


  4. Chris says:

    I’m all for it! But I live on Flagler and the vision of having something like that so close by is probably a little biased. But then again that is why I moved closer to the urban core of the city.


  5. Miamian says:

    Hmmm- i’m usually against these ped mall ideas as fake streets like Sunset Mall has a “street”, but you added something that I think Flagler and downtown needs. TRANSIT! Development has stayed close to the water and while Biscayne is really nice nothing draws people into the city. bayfront park tried a balloon to lure people to the end to no avail, Bike Miami Days has shown that Flagler could be a pretty cool place for cafes, etc like Lincoln Road, but adding transit does several things for the street. 1. It ensures an easy way for people to get from the water and Bayside into the city ending at the Library (2 under utilized areas). 2. transit ensures the entire area is not overrun by sidewalk cafes leaving no space for bikes, skateboards and the like (problem with Lincoln Road). 3. I envision San Francisco cable car from the water to the main square. Could Zyscovich’s DDA idea to bring a trolley around the bayfront fountain actually into the park and loop around to a newly organized bus depot and library/govt center get tourists to come into the city?

    This idea has merit and the other traffic patterns support this as well. S and N 1st Streets are opposite one-way pairs leading traffic to circulate around this spine. In this case you’ve convicnced me, but to see something simular with transit buses that failed; go to Downtown Tampa and see how not to do it! It must have destinations at the ends.


  6. Neil says:

    “Do you think Flagler Street could use some sort of pedestrianized mall or do you think it’s just fine as is?”

    I’m surprised nobody answered that Flagler Street needs more lanes for a faster flow of traffic. LOL


  7. M says:

    It is a good idea in theory, but not sure it would work on Flagler. I used to live on Flagler and SE 2nd. The area is DEAD* at night because no one lives there. People do not walk in this city. Other transit options would need to be available to get people to and from Brickell and the other attractions you list as assets (Arscht Center, AA Arena, etc). Once those options are in place, you will need to change the mindset of people to get them used to the idea of riding MetroMover around downtown or a city bus. I think someone above commented that we need attractions at both ends. That’s very true. There is nothing on the west end that is particularly amazing, especially when the museums move to Museum Park.

    In my opinion, you will need more residential buildings along Flagler and more stores, restaurants, or major attractions to actually get people to go there. When that happens, I say rip up the pavement, put in some vegetation and a streetcar and it will succeed. Until, then it will just be empty and full of crime.

    *When I used the word DEAD above, I was being both figurative and literal. The year I lived on Flagler I saw 2 murders. It is a totally sketchy ghost town after 7pm, which is why I like the idea of doing something with the street to make it better. I just hope it can work.


  8. Silver says:

    I think it’s worth a try. But the testing a week before Christmas seems a little biased/skewed.
    M, if the area is dead at night, would it make a difference if the road were closed to cars?
    Seems like it would be a workable plan but you would need a couple of risk takers to try to run business there in the beginning.
    But hey, whoever would’ve thought that all those places in the Design District would make it? Talk about a Dead area!
    Not totally convinced the buses are necessary though. Will people really not walk one block over to 1st street (NE or SE). And will people really take buses to get there? Locals will walk the block to bus stop and non-locals are gonna drive over and park at garages at ends.


  9. Rog in Miami Gardens says:

    I think it would work. I’ve found that many Floridians have the “if you build it, we will come” attitude. We tend to be skeptical at first, but if there is buzz about it, people will come eventually. Of course, there will be huge fights, as I really don’t see Bayside shop keepers and merchants willing to compete with another large mall-like facility so close by. Secondly, I’m not big on single-use spaces. There must be some mixed-use development for ALL income and socio-economic levels, not just wealthy foreigners and offspring of well-connected families. We’ve got to move away from this notion that only wealthy people want to live in lively Downtown areas. It’s not true.


  10. Mike Moskos says:

    New York City wants to create a pedestrian mall too:


  11. Kesley says:

    I think that would be a great idea! Miami Beach has Lincoln Road, Downtown needs something too. Downtown needs to remain competitve against the Beach!


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