Congratulations to the City of Miami Beach for installing new speed humps on Prairie Avenue. They look great and for the most part were installed correctly. They even took the bicycle lane into consideration when installing them! Speed humps are excellent traffic calming devices. I’m dreaming of speed humps in Miami.
There are certain critical factors which create a functional street. This street, exemplifies what the urban center of a small town should resemble. Let’s get interactive and discuss some of the qualities which make this such a functional urban space.
Also, Can anyone name the town?
For today’s Metro Monday, we once again direct you over to our friends at Streetsfilms to view an exceptional piece on Melbourne’s pedestrian facilities. It is simply amazing to see how quickly a city can change with the right policy, perhaps Miami 21 will serve as our saving grace.
There is an invaluable lesson here. In the early 90s, Melbourne was hardly a haven for pedestrian life until Jan Gehl was invited there to undertake a study and publish recommendations on street improvements and public space. Ten years after the survey’s findings, Melbourne was a remarkably different place thanks to sidewalk widenings, copious tree plantings, a burgeoning cafe culture, and various types of car restrictions on some streets. Public space and art abound. And all of this is an economic boom for business.
Miami 21 Update: On Thursday the City of Miami commission approved the continuation of the Miami 21 project with the mapping of the quadrants. Interestingly, the only mention of this in the Herald was a recent editorial two days before the actual vote by Daniella Levine… Perhaps this is a contributing factor for much of the confusion regarding Miami 21…
This is the kind of infill that Miami 21 would make possible, in turn creating denser communities in an unobtrusive manner. This also makes it easier to build affordable housing that makes for diverse socioeconomic communities.
She writes, “Its true zoning codes are difficult to write. And no one wants to minimize the important role that government plays in assessing the public’s needs and translating them into hopelessly complicated, impenetrable legal gobbledygook. But there has to be a better way.”
Now, as an urban planner and architect I agree that the language can be difficult at times, but the fact is that anyone with a high school education can figure it out (not to mention that all of the terms used are defined in the first chapter). Part of the problem is that we have to translate good urban design (which is a field that lends itself to drawing more than writing) into legal ‘gobbledygook’ so that land-use attorneys and developers don’t find loopholes in otherwise straightforward regulations.
Codes (Miami 21 or any other land use code) have to be written in language that is not simplistic, and that will hold up to scrutiny in court. Menendez quotes from the code:
Lots facing streets on more than one (1) side shall have designated Principal Frontage(s) and may have Secondary Frontage(s). Unless otherwise designated by a Special Area Plan, a Principal Frontage shall be that facing the street of higher pedestrian importance or intensity (i.e., traffic volume, number of lanes, etc.)Which is another way of saying that you define the front of a corner lot as the one that faces the busiest street, but you can’t say that in a legal document because if you did then you would have all sorts of follow-up questions like:
- How do you define which street is most important?
- What do you call the other less important front?
Unfortunately, I think that this criticism of Miami 21, along most others, is less about the code than about blaming it for things that are beyond its control.
-> “Miami 21 is the first urban application of a smart code in the US. It is an experiment that has never been tested.”
Actually, Miami 21 is not the first form based code to be applied to a major urban center, Philadelphia is in the process of passing a form based code, and I think we would all agree that as far as successful urbanism is concerned Miami pales in comparison. Form based codes have actually been around for a long time. Think of any good city (Chicago, New York, Philly, Boston) and their downtowns were developed with codes that were form based (as opposed to use based).
-> “Miami 21 is hated by architects and urban planners.”
Actually, having been written by urban planners and architects this one is not really true. The Herald loves to point out that architects dislike the plan, but really only a vocal minority of self-crowned celebrity architects dislike the code as a matter of ego than of substance. One architect in particular (whose name will remain anonymous except to say that it begins with Z and ends with h) says that the code infringes on his creativity by imposing height restrictions. Without going into some lengthy discussion on aesthetics and philosophy, lets just say that where this designer is concerned, creativity is overrated. Miami 21 holds faithful to some pretty basic premises (active street fronts, eyes on the street, etc.) and allows a lot of latitude after that. If you need your building to stand out like a huge phallic symbol, go to Dubai. Never mind that the the latest draft of the code has all but relaxed the height restrictions in certain T-Zones to be what they are in the existing code.
-> “Miami 21 will not allow me to rebuild my house if it gets destroyed.”
First of all, as with any zoning rewrite there will be nonconformities. The whole point of the code is that the existing code is allowing some pretty awful stuff to get built, and the new code will make some of that illegal. That’s the nature of any zoning code. I live in a 1940’s med style house that is illegal by today’s code because its too close to the sidewalk. Go figure. At any rate, the new draft of the code explicitly states that nonconformities in R1 zones will be grandfathered in. Period.
-> “Developers hate Miami 21.”This one is my favorite. Developers love Miami 21 because it gives them greater development rights than they had before. The code was drafted using the existing regulations as a base. That means that all of the development rights have been preserved or augmented. All the code does is say that you have to meet the street in a way that will promote healthy urbanism. It’s not complicated.
-> “Miami 21 will allow tall buildings next to single family residences along Biscayne in the NE part of town.”This one is true much to the chagrin of community activists such as Elvis Cruz who have long protected the area. Unfortunately they aren’t entirely using their thinking caps as to what they get in return for this extra height. Along parts of Biscayne you can build a 3 story building that would reach a height of 50’+ that would be adjacent to 30′ homes.
There are two parts to this that people need to understand.1) We are trying to encourage pedestrian friendly development along in this part of Biscayne and part of that involves defining the street as a public space. With a street as large as Biscayne is, you need something more than two stories to make that happen. I don’t think that 50′ is all that egregious a transition to a single family neighborhood (especially in comparison to what is allowed now).
2) We need to start thinking of our eastern edge as the place where more intense development needs to happen. We cannnot hold the UDB line and be NIMBY’s at the same time. Saving the Everglades means that growth has to be in someone’s backyard. Biscayne Boulevard deserves buildings that are more than 3 stories.
Remember this: Miami 21 is a lot better than the existing code, and if we let this opportunity pass we are the ones who suffer. This is not some abstract concept in a book, this is about the kind of city in which we want to live and raise our families. I for one will not give up.
I figured Chopin’s Funeral March would fit this slide well because this street is good as dead Dead…
On Northwest 68th Terrace, a street in the heart of the neighborhood with 17 houses, nine homeowners reported having something stolen from their property or had property vandalized in the last month.
The list of stolen property includes: childrens’ bicycles that had been chained up in the backyard, car stereos, tools, yard equipment, plants and light fixtures. Resident Margaret Brown had her Nissan Altima stolen from her driveway.
One quote in particular really sums up this myth:
Many of the 50 families living in the subdivision off Northwest 22nd Avenue and 68th Street expected it to be an island of suburbia floating in an area known for its hardscrabble ways.
They worked together to plant the trees, paint the houses and popcorn the ceilings. When the neighborhood opened, it was heralded as a ray of hope for the hundreds who were lied to and displaced by the county’s oft-troubled HOPE VI housing program.
However, the fact that suburban-style housing does not magically stop crime should not be a new revelation. This myth that social problems found in urban environments can be solved or mitigated by improved architecture or suburban-style design dates back to the housing reform movements of the early twentieth century.
One of the most popularized examples of this myth actually is the story of a more urban model — the Pruitt-Igoe public housing projects in St. Louis, Missouri. Pruitt-Igoe opened in 1954 as 33 eleven-story apartment buildings somewhat emulating New York City’s public housing. At the time, it was thought that the design of Pruitt-Igoe — impressive modern high-rises surrounded by large open spaces — would on its own merit be a prescriptive solution to poverty and crime. However, within a decade after opening, Pruitt-Igoe’s tower-in-the-park design had done little to curb crime or poverty, as both raged on throughout the neighborhood. As Katharine Bristol wrote in “The Pruitt-Igoe Myth”, published in the Journal of Architectural Education in 1991,
“By placing the responsibility for the failure of public housing on designers, the myth shifts attention from the institutional or structural forces of public housing problems.”
Then in 1972, just 18 years after being built, Pruitt-Igoe was demolished. Dramatic images capturing the demolition were framed to symbolize the destruction of an inhumane place and the failure of urban housing (among other things).
Though the scale and design of Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis and and the Scott Carver Projects in Miami (the public housing demolished to make room for Habitat Homes) are certainly different, the same faulty message has come from the razing of both communities: urban-style public housing is inherently bad and therefore facilitates crime. Of course this leads to the terribly flawed logic that suburban-style housing will somehow make everything all better. Talk about putting a cheap band-aid on a gaping wound.
(Note: I think Habitat for Humanity has a wonderful core philanthropic goal to provide housing for the needy, but its methods regarding architectural and landscape design need to be reevaluated to include better urban design).
Clearly, the suburban-style design of the Habitat Homes have not done much to eliminate crime. The article continues,
Crime data from the Miami-Dade Police Department confirms the Habitat neighborhood is not crime-free: In January, when half the homes were still under construction, the police received complaints about vandalism, burglary and car theft.
Police said updated records of crime in the neighborhood are not currently available. However, an informal Herald survey showed more than half the residents in the community had been victimized.
Judging from this article, however, it doesn’t seem like the major players understand this suburban design myth.
But the nonprofit home-building group has learned something about crime prevention from its experience at Habitat Homes, she said: Habitat leaders will look into putting security cages around air-conditioning units in the future.
Every house in the neighborhood will also get a white picket fence, courtesy of Habitat.
Within the past few months, four-way stop signs went up at the intersection, making it significantly safer, or so I thought. One of the stop signs is all but hidden behind a tree. Cars blow past it all the time. This is doubly dangerous considering pedestrians now assume cars will stop at the intersection. There are people pushing baby strollers to the park, little kids going to shoot hoops, people walking their dogs.
I emailed the city to point out the problem. There had been small temporary stop signs in the middle of the road until recently, and I suggested they do something similar on a permanent basis or at least make the hidden stop sign more visible. Never heard back.
Walking home one night, I came across two
So, I’ve contacted the county’s public works department. They tell me they’ll check it out. In the meantime, I have a strong feeling someone is going to get hurt or killed. I hope I’m wrong.
Today’s quote comes from a phenomenal short video put together by our friends over at Street Films and the Project for Public Spaces on the vibrancy and quality of life of the streets of Havana. Although we agree Havana is not the ideal city to emulate, we could learn a lot from the beautiful urban streets, clearly designed for social interaction rather than vehicular dominance. Each narrow street of Old Havana is bustling with life as every ground level structure is opened up to the pedestrian realm. Meanwhile, the wide boulevards provide ample park space, recreational space, and plenty of foliage. The film clearly shows how this type of construction, for people rather than vehicles, promotes neighborhood and societal values, something we should be certainly promoting across Miami. To watch the whole film, click here…
“If children playing in the streets is an indicator of the success of a city, then
’s streets may be some of the most successful in the world.” Havana
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.
I love Church St because it embodies so many quality urban elements. The street is completely closed off to cars for several blocks, allowing people to comfortably utilize the public space in many ways.
The urban design is of high quality, with multi-story mixed use buildings defining street space as well as physically welcoming people on the street. In classic New England form, the street terminates as a “T-intersection”, showcasing a church (a public building/meeting house) as a symbolic gesture that the street is a functional community space and democracy is at work.
As you can see, this space is active year round despite Vermont’s frigid winter weather. During the summer and fall it’s a great spot to shop, dine al fresco, or just take a stroll with a friend or family member. Some of the surrounding streets are even bike-friendly, with bike lanes linking to the city’s network.
It’s hard to see how this scale could be objectionable to anyone; with Miami 21, we could expect to see quality urbanism of this scale in several neighborhoods.
Incomplete building? Designed well from 3 angles, the Marina Blue design team apparently fell asleep when working on the western facade. A blank, exposed backside will greet visitors viewing the Miami skyline from the west, a stark contrast from the stunning blue and green glass facade facing the Museums and bay. Another Arquitectonica and Hyperion development building, Blue, up in the design district suffers from the same 3 sided design syndrome…
Who needs public transit when we have enough space for every car? Logically, the best thing to place facing a metromover station is the entrance of the 12 story parking garage with enough space to handle at least the 2 cars each of the 516 units owners will have. Forget creating usable retail space fronting the metromover, the patron’s of this building will likely be arriving at the valet station anyway, it’s not like they have any other reasonable option anyway…
Of course, if we aren’t going to plan for the use of public transit then why would we expect pedestrians to access the building either? Beyond the absurd canopy placement, the 3 foot elevated platform will completely decimate any hopes of creating a vibrant and pedestrian friendly boulevard. The second picture shows just exactly how much width was provided for sidewalk cafes and activity, none of which will be possible thanks to the blank wall and guardrails which are placed accordingly to keep Marina Blue residents and visitors in.
Note: This picture is still prominently displayed on the DDA website…
I can’t help but think that for every step we take forward (dense urban living in an easily accessible location) we take two steps backwards (building enough parking to house a dealership and failing to adequately integrate the building with the surroundings…)
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