12/28/06

Miami's Multiple Personality Disorder


I saw this today on sale at Publix. Can someone tell me when Dolphin Stadium was moved out of Miami and into South Florida? I’m sick of this identity crisis we have in the Greater Miami area. South Florida is such a cheesy term. Why is it that we have to lump together all the local municipalities for the sake of inclusion (Ex: Super Bowl Merchandise, Local News, etc.) but, when it comes down to actual government everyone wants to be independent (Village of (Insert Stupid Town Center-like name here))???

12/27/06

Let's Drive to Government Center!

Ryan is back once again to talk about government center. I'm actually headed downtown soon myself and will check out what he's talking about firsthand. I'll be back later today to cover the Miami Orange Bowl renovations, Miami River Dredging, and Density...

The other day I happened to be on the Government Center Metrorail Station platform when I noticed I was almost completely surrounded by parking. Good thing I had my camera with me - check out all the parking and keep in mind this is the supposed to be one of the densest parts of city as well as one of its’ most prominent public spaces. This is definitely not something you want to have anywhere in the city, especially abutting the downtown transit hub. This ruinous land use has the following effects:


• Fractures urban continuity in densest part of city; alienates the station from the rest of the city’s urban framework
• Takes the place of valuable real estate
• Induces demand for more driving in Miami’s downtown core; gives the impression that transit is an afterthought in this community, thus stigmatizing transit as the not-so-sexy stepchild to private automobile travel, even in the densest part of the city’s urban core
• Serves as a morbid public space in an otherwise strategic location



This puts into perspective the lunacy of adding more parking adjacent to Government Center Station. Doing so would effectively surround Miami’s primary downtown station on at least three sides by parking, as well as displacing the downtown bus terminal (which needs a public space makeover itself - not displacement.)

In my next post, I’ll illustrate and describe a good example of what Miami transit stations should aspire for regarding integration of quality public spaces - especially at Government Center Station.


12/26/06

Snowed in at Denver

Here is a letter I received from Miami businessman Frank Rollason to the Miami Herald regarding his recent experience snowed in at Denver's Airport. Looks like Tancredo shouldn't throw stones...

Letter to the Miami Herald Editor:

After just spending three miserable days and two nights in the Denver International Airport, I would suggest that Congressman Tom Tancredo spend a little time at home visiting his own “reservation” to see what “Third World” is really like. First, we have an airline domiciled in Denver (United/TED) which flew us into the Denver Airport from Miami knowing full well that the airport was being shut down because of the blizzard; they should have alerted those in Miami whose final destination was not Denver so that other arrangements could be made. In our case, the stop in Denver was for a connecting flight to Honolulu for a 10-day holiday cruise which we did not make. We spent two nights in the airport with virtually no assistance from the airline and absolutely no assistance from the Airport Administration. The outside temperature was well below freezing and the air conditioning on the inside was kept very cold pouring out very cold air starting about 4:00am each day. They also kept all the bright ceiling lights on and the TV blasting all through the night - sort of like being in jail, I would imagine. An extra goodie was the every half hour announcement on the PA system that the airport was closed because of the blizzard. I guess this was for the benefit of the Denver residents who are too stupid not to move out of this frozen tundra state to say like a tropical oasis like Miami. On the first day, we were able to get a very light blanket from the plane as well as a little pillow and those were our provisions for the first night. The food court did stay open and that was great. Many of their employees were stranded, too, and they had to flop on the floor the same as the travelers which tells me their management does not care too much about their employees. In addition, as hundreds of people were sleeping on the floor at the gates and several thousand more in the main terminal, we were pretty much on our own to figure out what to do. No one came to visit during the evening hours from the airline or the airport. On the second night, the airport provided some folding cots for those who were elderly or handicapped - a good thing. These cots take a lot of storage room. What they should consider is stocking up on the slim foam workout mats which could be stacked by the hundreds in relatively small spaces for such an occurrence; I would think if the Airport Administrator spent one night on the concrete or commercial carpet over concrete floor, he or she would recognize the problem. I know, in Miami, we have made provisions for people stranded in both the airport and the sea port, so I would say that Miami is not Third World in this respect and I would not consider Denver Third World, either. Instead, Denver is Bush League which is not even up to the level of Third World! So, Congressman Tancredo, I suggest you remove your head from your posterior and see what you can get done in your own state when problems arise; after all, who would ever expect a blizzard in Denver or people being stranded at the airport? It’s like Miami not being prepared for a Hurricane - we are and Denver is not and that just about sums it up. By the way, please don’t anyone invite me to Denver - the weather sucks and the people in charge of things are not too bright!

Frank Rollason

12/21/06

The Miami-Dade County Planning Department Conundrum

While the commissioners bicker like a group of school girls over an impending public vote to boost the power of the mayor, the ineptitude of their previous decisions is shining brighter than ever this holiday season.

After severely fumbling with cost over-runs and years of delays at the Carnival Center, the County is still rushing to put together a plan to create parking for the new center (you know, before the land becomes expensive…whoops...) Even I, the biggest advocate of public transit, believe that the center should have contained a small percentage of parking spaces, preferably underground, similar to the American Airlines Arena (or Lincoln Center, or the Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A., or any other city with logical people in charge.) Now, it seems like we’re looking to add enough parking for every visitor in array of equally hideous parking garages surrounding the venue. I am befuddled that an unsightly parking garage is favored alongside the Carnival Center rather than some illuminated billboards, but that’s beside the point. So what’s one of the County’s solutions to get some parking? They plan on trading the downtown bus terminal for another “more suitable” piece of land. That’s right, sacrificing our already less than stellar public transit for more space to park your vehicle. Who is making these decisions? How is this remotely in our best interests? Read the article, I got lost somewhere in the 1,600, 700, or 1,000 parking space number garages any of which will have some spaces available for PAC use.

“If the northside deal goes through, Mr. Carlton said, the bus terminal would be moved to the MetroMover's western station.”

Out of sight, out of mind…

Oh, and I forgot to mention, the county is so inept that one of the “solutions” for the cost over-runs over on the airport’s north terminal involves canceling the project. I can see the signs: “Welcome to MIA, please pardon our dust as we never complete anything we begin.” I hate to ask, but, then how much longer will we be paying for that train we’re “exercising” in Japan which was supposed to travel throughout the terminal?

Perhaps we would be able to afford some of these cost over-runs if we weren't paying 50% of the tuition costs of an untold number of County employees annually ($2.6 Million Last Year.) Apparently, we're funding the educations of Acupuncturists, Doctors, Lawyers, etc., even students abroad! Anyone majoring in Urban Planning or Economics? No, that would be too practical...

Macy’s One Day Sale: 22 E. Flagler St. Retail Building



As if renaming the legendary downtown department store to “Macy’s” wasn’t bad enough, now Federated Department Stores is also considering closing the downtown store which opened originally in 1912.

The move, from an economic standpoint, is the nuttiest idea I’ve heard come out Miami’s frenzied development boom. As people finally move into the downtown core, after decades of neglect and decay, the chain is looking to move elsewhere, away from the people. The Macy’s store, the recently opened La Epoca and American Apparel stores, are the basic backbone of worthy retailers in the downtown core (yes, I’m aware there is a Marshalls and Ross as well.) Rather than fiddling with plans to build big box retail with enough parking to house every car in the hood, our city should be rigorously acting to revitalize the Flagler corridor with something other than half-planned streetscapes and two-way streets! Flagler Street could and should be the most prominent pedestrian corridor within the downtown core, home to a variety of street-level retail and sidewalk cafes with offices and residences above. The street should be bustling with life and activity at all hours and should be an inviting district for all sorts of business seeing that it is the geographical spine and largest east-west boulevard in the city. The headline reads Macy’s is leaving, I see much deeper problems nestled within…

12/20/06

Metro-De-Rail


I was idling in traffic earlier today, heading south on US-1 when I noticed something had gone amiss. The first thing that tipped me off was that a crowd had gathered at the South Miami metrorail station platform, waiting for a train heading northbound. As I inched south, crawling through traffic on my way to the snapper creek expressway, I happened to see three news helicopters swirling near the intersection of US-1 (pictured above) and Kendall Dr. Metrorail derailment suddenly came to mind, listening intently to the WLRN traffic report, which mentioned nothing of the mess.

It turns out my gut instinct was indeed correct. A metrorail train carrying about 50 passengers derailed as it departed the dadeland south station heading northbound. No serious damages or injuries were reported. This is the first time a metrorail train has derailed.

Click here for video...

I'm Sluggin It

Rick of SOTP fame led me to this informative page on the concept of “slugging.” Slugging is basically carpooling, enjoying the benefits of using the HOV lanes, with one minor exception: your passengers are complete strangers. The site claims that slugging began over 30 years ago, during the oil embargo of the 1970’s. It’s amazing how quickly we turn to easy alternatives once economics come into play. In any case, slugging puts HOV lanes into good use, requiring that vehicles traveling in the lanes have a minimum of 3 occupants, the DC area laws were written and enforced to move the greatest amount of people. Slug-Lines provides a wealth of information on slugging, including; pick-up/drop-off locations, etiquette (amazing list of rules can be found here), slug groups, and a message board. Once again, it is evident that Miami is way behind the times. Lately, I’ve heard too many complaints about HOV and how inefficient the “wasted lane” is or better yet: “solutions” on how to turn our HOV lanes in to pay as you go lanes. The HOV can be one of our best tools to combat the gridlock on our major highways daily because it is not only easy to implement but will actually reduce vehicles (and our unnatural dependency on them.) You can scream and shout about riding with strangers, the cost of building a rail system, or the ridiculous traffic, but, you can’t knock a concept that won’t cost taxpayers a cent unless you’ve actually tried it…

12/19/06

Myth Busted: Density is an evil prospect of greedy developers that ruins Neighborhoods

Ryan, a good friend of mine and regular contributor to Transit Miami, has finally returned to tackle one of the greatest fears of many Miami neighborhoods: Density. This inherent fear towards density (particularly in those communities along US-1) has led many of these municipalities to lower the maximum allowable density, further solidifying sprawl and preventing city centers from ever evolving properly. Decreased density along US-1 in particular will lead to further growth west of the UDB as well as further underutilization of the maximum potential of metrorail. We need to embrace density key areas, while preserving the identity of our communities in other parts of the city...

I must say, I am so tired of listening to people in Miami-Dade County talk about density as if it is the devil reincarnated. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people are concerned that density in or around their neighborhood will somehow lower their quality of life, perhaps by increasing traffic, “overcrowding”, or blocked views. Or, many others fear density because they are afraid of the lifestyle changes that are associated with density (i.e. a less car-dependent lifestyle, less suburban lifestyle, etc.). Perhaps more unfortunately, I think many of the “keep density downtown” advocates are either xenophobic, delusional, or both, sincerely wishing they didn’t live in a major, diverse city like Miami. Never fear - with this post I’ll be briefly pointing out why as citizens of Miami, we should embrace quality density as a friend, not an enemy.

First of all, density is necessary to combat our affordable housing crisis. How is this the case, you ask? Well, density allows developers to allocate a share of units in new buildings/townhouses to people and families lying within middle class and working class income brackets. A form of this policy is already being used by the County, which provides a density bonus to developers who allocate a portion of their units for affordable housing. Regrettably, the potential of such policy thus far has not yielded the intended results, and it appears that a mandate allocating a given percent of EVERY new multi-unit residential building to affordable housing would be the best way to attack the affordable housing crisis and create more socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods (an opportunity squandered recently by the County.) It is up to us citizens to put the pressure on planners and officials to enforce the density bonuses and develop better affordable housing policy instead of continuing to allow most new developments to be of the luxury nature. Believe me; this policy has been very successful in cities throughout North America, Europe, and Australia.

Additionally, by creating more compact communities, density is the precursor to upgrading mass transit. Possibly the most popular scapegoat for local anti-transit advocates around is that “Miami is too spread out for transit to ever work well here” (also another myth.) Regardless, more compact communities will increase the feasibility of transit in many areas, which would eventually lead to enhanced mobility and even increased property values.

Density is also one of the answers to global warming and our oil crises. Miami's car-dependent culture is definitely not sustainable in the long term. NASA scientist, and perhaps the most renowned researcher on global warming in the world, James Hansen, has proclaimed that “man has just 10 years to reduce greenhouse gases before global warming reaches a tipping point and becomes unstoppable...." Here’s a stat; with only 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. consumes 26% of global energy. When you consider that of the 20 million barrels of oil used per day in America, 40% is used by passenger vehicles, we have a problem. Frankly, we are way behind when it comes to instituting the necessary land use changes and sound urban planning practices that result in lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Much of Europe and Japan are light years ahead when it comes to building sustainable cities, which definitely puts us at a competitive disadvantage. Moreover, oil production has peaked, meaning from now on production will begin to decline while prices will steadily rise. When it comes to economic competitiveness, this reality puts auto-centric cities, states, and countries at a marked disadvantage. The reality is, if we don’t begin to acclimate ourselves to lifestyles that don’t revolve around cars, we’ll be faced with very abrupt, painful changes in the next few decades. Also, when we begin to consider where much of the remaining oil reserves are located (Middle East, Venezuela, etc.), we need to ask ourselves, do we really want to be held economically hostage to unstable countries that don’t particularly care for us?

Another very important issue I want to bring up is the link between compact inner city development and urban fringe development. Growth estimates in Miami-Dade County (currently eighth most populous county in America) project an increase of approximately 600,000 people by 2025, totaling over 3,000,000 residents. The reality is there is no slowing down the population growth in the Greater Miami area, which leaves us with two choices: embrace density and compact communities within the urban growth boundary to help accommodate population growth, or continue sprawling development along the urban fringe, further threatening the Everglades, agricultural land, and the entire metropolitan region’s water supply.

Density even makes our neighborhoods safer. Compact, mixed-use communities put more eyes on our streets. Consequently, this will generally make our streets safer as criminals need be much bolder to commit crimes in a public space where people are watching. It’s a lot scarier walking down poorly lit, deserted streets flanked by parking and building setbacks than it is walking down well-traveled sidewalks on well designed streets.

Density even has a positive impact on public health. Compact communities, as a compliment of density, promote more physical activity within the community, which has the effect of combating obesity and lessening stress. Dense, mixed-use communities in which amenities are typically within walking or biking distance could lead to a dramatic decrease in necessary car trips per person, which could save you a lot of money, too. On a related note, according to renowned community activist Robert Putnam in his seminal book on social capital, Bowling Alone, “every 10 minutes of commute time equates to 10% less participation in the local community”, thus exhibiting the deleterious effect low-density, car-dependent development has on social capital.

In leaving, I should mention that it is important that we advocate for quality density, which is often overlooked because of absolutist fights between developers and NIMBYs. Good urban design is the key to a communities and cities realizing the full potential of density. Subsequent posts will focus on some simple areas of urban design to look for when examining the effect a building will have on its surroundings.

12/18/06

Miami State of Mind

I'm back from New York and had a great time experiencing the beautiful architecture and cultural sites without the hassle of driving/parking to get everywhere or anywhere. Walking and using the public transit was absolutely fantastic (as always) and continued to reinforce in my mind what Miami should ultimately be working to become. I wasn't planning on writing anything so soon, until I opened today's herald and saw a letter that seems to sum up everything I've learned about Miamians thus far. It's amazing that public transit is seen here as a detriment to the progress we could be making inching along in our vehicles, rather than the solution to many of our societal problems. In any case, I'd like to take time today to salute Roderick Moffett, for personifying the Miami mentality which has and will continue to degrade our way of life...
Did you ever wonder why so many looney politicians are named Joe?

Joe Stalin, Joe McCarthy, Joe Gersten, Joe Carollo and now Joe Martinez?

His proposed CSX commuter train will run at ground level and cross 25 of the 27 East-West traffic arteries from Miami International Airport to the Metrozoo, all at speeds of 60 miles per hour. These leviathans will run every eight minutes during rush hour, every 15 minutes during other times and are planned to attract only a handful of riders. All vehicle traffic will be brought to a halt over and over at the very worst times.

Joe Martinez's idea that the way to speed up commuter traffic is to stop it every eight minutes to let an empty train go by is not thinking outside the box. It is thinking inside the looney bin!

RODERICK MOFFETT


12/15/06

Managed growth, we should control our destiny

Here is a letter I received from Joe Corradino, of the Pinecrest Village council. Pardon the formatting errors, internet use time is limited...Enjoy...
A decade ago Pinecrest incorporated as a municipality. As a result the Village was required, by the State of Florida to develop a Comprehensive Plan, and subsequent Land Development Regulations. The Comprehensive Plan sets forth the Goals, Objectives, and Policies that the Village lives by. The Land Development Regulations and Zoning Code are the legal implementation of the plan. One of the most important results of our incorporation was that control over zoning and land use was vested in the Village. In the coming months and years we will need to reach out to our neighbors to maintain that control, and implement positive change in our area of the County.

Since 1996, we have come to live in one of the fastest growing, most desirable regions, and cities in the nation. Some estimate more than 30,000 people each year move in to South Dade County. Today we share the US-1 Corridor with over ½ million people living in South Miami, Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, Homestead, Florida City, and Miami Dade County. All of which impact Pinecrest. The issues we face are diverse and stretch well beyond our boundaries. They are regional in nature. Skyrocketing property values have limited the ability of young middle class families to move in, and the ability of senior citizens to downsize, so that our community may continue its normal, healthy growth cycles. Hurricanes and their results have further burdened tax payers. The tremendous regional growth coupled with separated residential and commercial land use patterns have created highly congested roadways. We often lack critical supporting infrastructure. The environment, relative to water quality and quantity may be degrading, and we have limited land on which to expand. Additionally our economy has shifted and has become largely dependant on this growth.

As a result of these issues, it is being suggested through a coming study that an entity other that Pinecrest control the land uses and densities in Pinecrest. As such, we face serious challenges over the next several years. To protect our rights, we must not only be concerned with our local government and how it functions internally, but we should coordinate with our surrounding municipal neighbors and stakeholders groups in order to understand and address the economic, transportation, land use and environmental consequences that come as a product of living in an extremely desirable location. By displaying the leadership and vision to study, understand, and react to these issues in a holistic and coordinated manner, we have the opportunity of protecting our interests, limiting the unintended consequences of poor planning decisions, and maintaining the right to control our land use and zoning. As part of a symbiotic, sub-regional group of cities in South Dade, our best opportunity for success is to work together to examine and address these issues in a rational manner, so that we can manage our growth consistent to our comprehensive plans and visions. By working to together to develop coordinated responses that not only are reflective of what is in the best interests of Pinecrest, but our neighbors and region as a whole, will assure that we protect our assets and maintain our high quality of life well into the future.

Joe Corradino

Pinecrest Village Council

Seat 4

12/13/06

Metrocarding...


Well, I’m off again for my annual winter break trip up to NYC. I won’t be leaving you all empty handed though, seeing as I should have some ample time to write some new articles, but, just in case I have a couple of guest articles prepared to share with you as well. I attended today’s first Coastal Communities workshop on Miami Beach. I’ll share the results and my thoughts on the whole project with you all soon…

If there is a single thing I’d like MDTA to learn from MTA in NYC, it’s the Metrocard pictured above. The MTA metrocard is quite possibly the best tool MDTA could adapt to facilitate the use of public transit, more streamlined, and somewhat technologically advanced. The Metrocard allows riders to purchase fares using either paper currency or credit cards and provides an array of purchasing options including: single fares, full day, weekend, 7-day, and month long passes. It’s such an easy concept but yet we’re still fumbling around with machines which serve no better purpose than to iron our dollars bills…

12/12/06

The Shops at Wasted Space


Alas, with the demise of the Bakery Center in South Miami over a decade ago, the then proposed Shops at Sunset Place were to serve as the urban catalyst for the city South Miami. Now, eight years after Sunset Place opened, we have been able to see the less than stellar transformation the neighborhood has experienced along with the generally lackluster performance of the new mall.


The Shops at Sunset Place was designed as a mall in transition. The sprawling suburban mall concept was just beginning to fade away from the American landscape while the “lifestyle center” concept had yet to fully take off. Having witnessed the failure of the Bakery Center, Simon Malls was careful to not retrace the same steps, but by the same token, was reluctant to fully pioneer a new urban and real “lifestyle center.” Unlike its predecessor, Sunset Place was designed to be an open-aired Mediterranean community, incorporating former mall aspects like big boxed anchor tenants with street-level restaurants, faux cityscapes, and even a few residential units. The center was originally envisioned to be an entertainment center, but the quick failure of some of the theme restaurants and IMAX Theater, quickly changed intended target use. Since its inception, the mall has struggled to maintain a strong and lasting business base. This can perhaps be attributed to its awkward design, as I said earlier, as a mall in transition: too few apartments, too big of a parking garage for an urban center, but too small for a mall, near isolation from the surrounding urban area, and a terrible incorporation into the South Miami neighborhood and nearby public transit.

The Shops at Wasted Space Sunset Place has served as a catalyst for South Miami: bringing the worst urban planning ideas to an area that was once brimming with potential. The area will soon become the biggest conglomeration of public parking facilities I’ve ever witnessed. I walk through this area nearly everyday, somehow avoiding every Benz and Beemer which comes careening through the area in search of parking and jarringly unconscious of any pedestrian laws which might exist. Despite the area’s proximity to public transit, I have never seen such obstinate disregard for incorporating the metrorail with the urban area.


Now, rising in the heart of the area are two developments which will continue the neighborhood’s transformation from urban center to urban disaster. The map above shows the existing public parking garage structures in the area (Red circles.) The first catastrophic development, highlighted by the yellow circle is the upcoming Plaza San Remo (Where's the Plaza?) with over 100,000+ square feet of office space and a 65,000 square foot Whole Foods Market. The complex, which is being advertised as: “A first-class Medical & Professional Condominium where South Miami, Coral Gables, and Pinecrest Meet” is rising just east of the most uninviting pedestrian façade of Sunset Place. The inhospitable surroundings of the blank walls of Sunset Place, Wendy’s drive-thru, and near chaotic activity along Red Rd. will almost guarantee that this complex will only be accessible by vehicle, so don’t let the pretty red awnings fool you, they aren’t there for anything other than looks. Most disturbing though, Plaza San Remo will contain: “Generous covered parking for owners and visitors - five spaces per 1,000 feet.” A lot of good those 825 spaces will do the area when the local streets area already at or near capacity and the building is less than a quarter-mile from the nearest transit station…


Highlighted by the blue circle on the map and about one tenth of a mile away from the transit station is the upcoming catastrophic restaurant/public parking garage facility. The 435 parking spot garage will sit above 36,000 square feet of restaurants including a Carrabas, Outback Steakhouse, and a “sport themed” restaurant according to city documents (Note the public concerns: "He felt that key points about safety in the garage were addressed such as proper turning radiuses for cars...") Give me a break! What about the fact that the area can't handle another 435 patrons cars or that a parking garage isn't exactly part of the urban design South Miami should be looking for for the city center, all the public cares about is whether they will be able to drive their Hummer or Navigator through without getting a scratch...It looks like the only wait for a table for two will be on the two lanes of 73rd St

The Green lines on the map indicate streets which contain on-street parallel parking spaces. The orange circles highlight the local existing surface parking lot facilities. Aside from parking and food themed retail, the urban center is lacking any sort of residential identity. The city and County have completely neglected the fact that transit was originally intended to be incorporated into the urban center, a fact which will soon be realized as the South Miami streets become choked by the very traffic they were originally intended to attract…

12/11/06

Capital at Brickell


What could possibly be considered the most important architectural contribution to Miami’s skyline in the latest high-rise boom, has finally begun construction. The Capital at Brickell towers will rise to 53 and 57 stories at 1421 S. Miami avenue. The mixed-use buildings will contain residences, office space, and ground level retail which should interact well with the existing street activity in the area. Most importantly, both towers will be capped by a beautiful spire which resembles that of the Chrysler Building

12/8/06

Broken News

I’m back in town and am very glad to be here especially with all the activity going on over the next few days. I plan on stopping by some Art Basel activities this weekend among other things. I will also be attending some community workshops, particularly the Coastal Community workshops; I’ll fill you all in with the times/locations so that you too can attend.

For some reason the local news has decided to work together to write the worst articles on the urban situation in Miami. These are the top three:

  • This article, upon reading it left me with only one reaction: Duh!
  • Miami is trying to attract the 2% of the population with 50% of the wealth. Give me a break, developers are catering to a successful market, you can’t blame them for wanting to profit. It’s our fault that our city code doesn’t account for a type of development that would actually be beneficial to our area, not the developers. Now, given our dearth for land we should continue condo growth in an intelligent manor which will add density to key parts of our city…
  • Um, you’ve got to be kidding me: Study warns that Florida must curb growth or be overwhelmed by sprawl, gridlock. First off it took a “study” to realize this? Second, of course we need to monitor our growth, but, better yet maybe need to build properly across the state. Even smaller cities in this state are using 200% more land that what is necessary for the population growths they are experiencing. With an incoming governor who has already stated: “Floridians Love their cars” what kind of growth can we expect over the next upcoming years? It’s not going to suddenly change, that’s for sure. The state MPO’s don’t have a goal for our cities, the FDOT has no clue what its doing, there’s no plan to link the state with some sort of reliable rail system, our leadership has no clue of how to solve the problem, we have major funding issues, etc…

"We are trying to get some development now because we are in dire need of homes and jobs," Sasser said. "We absolutely need growth out here just to survive."

We don’t need to stop growth; we just need to stop sprawling out in every direction with homes on half acre lots surrounded by gold courses and strip shopping centers…

12/6/06

Mercy Aerial


Earlier today, Adam wrote:

I'd really like to see some aerial views with the proposed buildings in relation to the existing hospital and neighborhood. My feeling from riding my bike through that neighborhood is that it is pretty institutional-feeling already. It's hard for me to see the bid difference between 15-20-and-35 story buildings. Anything over 5 or 6 stories is on a whole separate scale. Other than traffic/transit concerns, the skyrises might not be too out of place next the giant hospital.

Using Google Earth, I obtained an aerial view of the so-called peninsula where the buildings would rise. The article does a poor job differentiating that the entire Mercy Hospital complex is located on what could technically be considered a peninsula rather than the actual location of the buildings themselves. I believe that the three buildings would rise where the three blue dots are located, on the Southwestern part of the Mercy property. They would in fact be sandwiched between the central Mercy Hospital complex and the buildings on Grove Isle (Circled in red.) I highlighted in green the principal route that would be impacted by the traffic created by these buildings (South Bayshore Drive) and placed a yellow dot on the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens complex which abuts the Mercy Hospital land. The buildings would be located approximately 1.08 miles from the southernmost building along Brickell Avenue and 1.25 miles from the first tower in Coconut Grove, the SBS tower.

Mercy, Mercy Me



Mercy Hospital is pressing ahead with plans to sell a few acres of land to the Related Group in order to finance hospital improvements. The Grove residents are already mounting an opposition group (Gasp!) to fight the three 26-36 story residential buildings which would rise on site. The three towers will hold approximately 300 high end condominiums which as the developer points out, would likely be purchased by wealthy out-of-towners as second and third homes. As the Herald points out, the project has already won the preliminary support of the two nearest homeowners associations, begging the question if the developer successfully paid for the support of the groups. This leads me to an added question in my never ending attempt to understand how public input should be valued when considering neighborhood developments: How much should proximity to development weigh when analyzing the concerns of area residents?

I haven’t seen the plans or traffic impact analysis of the Mercy project yet and have therefore not taken a stance on the development. In any case, I do see them as out of place with the given surroundings but not entirely out of context when you consider the existing 3 tower Grove Isle project which would be immediately South of this development...

12/5/06

It's Not Easy Being Green


Tomorrow, one of the most advanced and ecologically friendly buildings will break ground in Miami; marking the beginning of construction on our first official LEED designated building. The 13 story, green glassed office building will rise alongside Douglas road, adjacent to the metrorail station. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings.

The rating level a project achieves is based on a points system which looks at six categories: sustainable sites; water efficiency; energy and atmosphere; materials and resources; indoor environmental quality; and innovation and design process.

I do have some reservations about this LEED designation. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do think that it is beneficial to the whole community to construct buildings which are extremely efficient and good for the environment considering that buildings account for 40% of our energy usage, but, shouldn’t the LEED certification take the way people will interact with the building into account? What I’m getting at is that a building that is adjacent to a mass transit station should not have a huge parking component built into the structure, period.

The green glass building will feature a unique L-shaped design allowing each office to have window space, while providing ample parking on the interior of each floor.

I mean, seeing that the average vehicle in the United States pumps out 19.4 Pounds of Carbon Dioxide per gallon of gas burned, shouldn’t the LEED certification take this into account when the building will include sufficient parking for every tenant despite the easy public transit access? I think LEED certification should be contingent on the fact that the building will also “green” the daily lives and habits of a building’s occupants…

12/4/06

Oh Miami 21, Miami 21. Wherefore art thou Miami 21?

Miami 21 is behind schedule which isn't much of a surprise to most of us here; however, it is actually understandable for a concept of this magnitude to have all sorts of delays considering how many different aspects of zoning laws will be affected...

''My concern is that the city may be giving us the run-around,'' said newly elected City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who attended Thursday's presentation at City Hall.

''I don't see the public having opportunity for input but when that occurs, I don't see their input reflected in changes to the code,'' he said.

I hate to break the news, but, you're technically part of that "city run-around" now. I wasn't aware that Miami's residents were certified professional engineers, architects, and urban planners, all teeming full of great ideas on how to suddenly fix Miami's decrepit urban infrastructure. Just because a suggestion is made by a constituent, why should a professional consulting group automatically include their ideas? Let's let the hired consultants do their job, otherwise, we could have left the urban planning to the average Joe resident and saved the city millions...Oh snap, I forgot, we've already tried that...

12/3/06

Miami Marine Stadium

   

    Miami Marine Stadium, the topic of a recent article by the Miami Herald profiling 3 forgotten athletic venues in the area...What do you think should be done with the Marine Stadium?

    Image from ImageMD's Flickr...

12/1/06

Transit Miami Growth


Though I haven't had a 10,000 hit day like Alesh recently had, Transit Miami visits and activity has been growing quite steadily for the past few months. November visitor numbers grew remarkably quick. Transit Miami has now been in existence for over 8 months. I look forward to the continued growth of the site and will continue doing my best to bring you the highest quality content and information as soon as possible. Thanks Everyone!

Time Credo Loves Miami, Revisited

After reading Stephen's comment with regards to my Time Credo Loves Miami article, I realized that perhaps I may have been painting a bit of a rosy portrait of my beloved city. My issues from the Time article come from the fact that Time failed to correctly differentiate between National, State, and Local issues which plague Miami. I could care less what Time Magazine thinks; I was inherently irked though that such a negative piece could make it into the magazine without focusing any attention on the positive changes which have recently come about in Miami. In any case I provided Stephen's statement below, before my own response (This is not intended as a personal attack on Stephen, but rather I used his contrasting opinion to certify my position against the article):

Stephen wrote:

Gabriel--I trust you may be overreacting to the criticism of Miami.
It is time to see things as they are and there are some very cogent issues in the TIME article that would be hard to deny right now:

"least affordable metropolitan area in the U.S.", "one of America's lowest household median incomes", "ethnic tensions", a dysfunctional school board and school system, lack of minimal public health services, "third worst poverty rate in the nation", "weak government oversight of development", disorderly urban development, not to mention the Miami-Dade Housing Authority's massive corruption, huge cost overruns and political manipulation at MIA, cost overruns at the Carnival Center, absolute lack of public transportation and traffic management, out of control property taxes and property insurance. I know of no other place called "paradise" that has these terrible indicators.

Certainly, this is not a third world country, but unfortunately, we do have some third world habits.

This is a great place to live too, if you have enough money to afford your taxes and insurance(or have lived here a long time and have a homestead exemption--a strong incentive against near arrivals), a good job or retirement income, are multilingual, enjoy the food, art, music, etc. Otherwise, the quality of the jobs and the salaries paid here are not up to national standards and many young professionals are well advised to move north as they are doing now.

All of these and many other issues have been raised in numerous studies of the region that are politicians are well advised to read. I assume that they have no ambition to change things as they are.

Stephen:
Not at all, I understand Miami has its share of problems and it is a shame that the majority of the problems you list can be attributed to the elected officials chosen to represent the citizens of the area. The development concerns span across the country, Miami is no better or worse designed than most of the cities across the country or even the state. Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Ft. Lauderdale, etc, are all experiencing the same terrible growth problems as Miami on an equal or even greater scale. The absolute lack of public transportation is a national issue; our entire country’s infrastructure is vehicular dependant due to decades of neglect on other means of transportation. We have very few alternatives and little emphasis is placed on alternative transportation. The racial segregation is no more prevalent in Miami than in any other major city. Sure the disparity between black and white neighborhoods may still exist but Miami is far better racially integrated across all races than most of the cities in the United States. The abundant homeless population is the result of a migration of homeless people to warmer climates (Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico have a very disproportionate amount of homeless people migrating into the cities, yet I’m sure funding for homeless issues is distributed equally nationally.) Our property taxes are by no means out of control, they actually decreased the millage rate in most cities recently and property values are at a premium because, well face it, the law of supply and demand controls the real estate market. Notice how the so called collapse of the real estate bubble has barely influenced prices in some of the most desired neighborhoods, like Miami Beach. Florida’s population keeps growing annually, so as long as the demand to live in the state is still prevalent, land costs will simply keep rising. Property insurance is spiraling out of control across the state, but, it is by no means the fault of Miami citizens and is a lame argument for the purposes of the Time Magazine article.

Are there problems in Miami, yes, I full heartedly agree with you, but, the Time Magazine article did a pretty poor job of summarizing the real issues we face in Miami placing much of the blame of national and state issues on the municipality. I started this website to address many of your concerns, I agree, Miami’s infrastructure is terrible, but, what do you expect when our state DOT is willing to spend billions to widen avenues in the western part of the county but won’t spend a cent on public transit? When our incoming governor sees nothing wrong with widening the UDB when the southern part of the state is already on the verge of an infrastructure and water crisis? What can be expected of a county commission which is paid a paltry sum for their public work? The education system is dreadful locally, but, our teachers are now faced with a terrible standardized test (F-Can’t) imposed by the state which does little to actually improve the fundamental education our kids our receiving. Now outgoing Governor Bush is also leaving us with the terrible plan of incorporating “majors” into high schools thereby forcing 8th graders (um, 13 year olds) to choose an area of intended study for the next four years of their lives. All these factors should be taken into account when you analyze the problems which affect Miami and may be extremely evident of some major deficiencies, but, it was incorrect of Time Magazine to solely place the blame for such issues on our municipality.