Currently viewing the tag: "New Urbanism"

‎They (CNU NextGen: The Next Generation of New Urbanists) are living the religion of sustainability and will embody its built response … How they deal with the challenges of planning and urban design in the 21st century will probably end up defining the course … And, after watching them … last weekend, I sort of trust ‘em with that responsibility.

-Howard Blackson, from the Placemakers Blog, Placeshakers

Amen, brother.

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As City of Miami Commissioners consider final tweaks before implementation of Miami 21 this week, they should be proud that our own code is already influencing land use laws all around the country.  In our own backyard, the Lee County Board of Commissioners just recently approved a plan for the Southeast part of the county  which will be awarded a Charter Award at this year’s Congress for the New Urbanism. The project plans for 150 square miles of Lee County, Florida (east of Fort Myers) that hosts neighborhoods, limerock mines, farms, endangered species and public water supply wells (as a comparison, the City of Miami encompasses  55 square miles). This area is the main water supply for Lee County which is expected to have a million residents by 2030.

Using the same zoning designations as Miami 21, Lee county has created a series of pedestrian friendly, walkable communities.

The plan proposes a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) Program to create 11 compact, complete, transit-ready and sustainable communities in the midst of preserved farmland and habitat. All of the development rights in the 150 square mile can be utilized on a fraction of the area previously allowed for development. The project area has 3-unit per acre sprawl to the north and west, but has up to now been ‘‘protected’’ by a 1-unit-per-10-acre density requirement. As with our own UDB/agricultural area, this has led to over development by limerock mining and large-lot subdivisions.

By building more compactly, agricultural lands shall continue to produce local food; natural lands such as wetlands which contain public supply wells are preserved, and pathways for endangered species such as the Florida panther remain undisturbed.  Each community has been coded to allow the appropriate level of food production – from large community-supported farms to roof gardens – based on the Food Production Module of the SmartCode. The plan allows build-out of the traditional mining corridor in the northwest of the site hand-in-hand with flowway restoration. By mining compactly,  Lee County can satisfy the region’s need for limerock used in building materials and restore the flowways that purify surface water en route to the Estero Bay.

The project included a two-week charrette (including nine stakeholder meetings), 23 steering committee meetings, six approval meetings and was unanimously approved by the County Board.  The design of each plan involved input from property owners and neighbors. Each of the proposed new communities is designed in accordance with the LEED for Neighborhood Development criteria. The approval of the communities shall be ‘‘as-of-right’’ as the plans have been approved by local neighbors and neighborhood associations and endorsed by environmental groups such as 1,000 Friends of Florida, the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.  Sites for schools and municipal buildings were embedded into each community within walking distance to homes at even the farthest periphery of the proposed neighborhoods.

This is a big win for smart growth and conservation advocates across the US. Our county commission should look to this plan to learn how other urbanized areas balance mining, development and conservation. Bravo Lee County!!

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Functional Streets

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?

Speaking of curb cuts, I was passing along NE 2nd Avenue and was completely disgusted to experience firsthand the atrocities permitted to occur on the backside of the buildings facing Biscayne Bay. The term Biscayne wall is quite fitting as the backsides of these towers were clearly designed to resemble the blank slate of a concrete wall, keeping pedestrians well away. The worst part of all, as we’ve discussed before, is the lack of adequate transit integration and pedestrian facilities along this route. The blank backsides will almost ensure that any use of metromover by building residents is inhibited by vehicular needs. The parking entrances of these buildings should have been relegated to the minor cross streets (NE 11, 10, 9, etc.) instead of the major thoroughfare with DIRECT rail transit access. Even worse is the street activity. Aside from an existing pawn shop, the only street activity these buildings will be seeing is parking garage access… From now own, we’re calling this the Biscayne Blunder

I figured Chopin’s Funeral March would fit this slide well because this street is good as dead Dead…

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…

Busch Stadium and Surroundings…

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While some may find a lamppost to be a mundane element in the urban landscape, it is yet another of the thousands of elements that create the complete aesthetic experience of our environment. This beautiful new lamppost design in Midtown Miami is another piece in the puzzle of the cool design mecca that is blossoming in Miami. Every single improvement reveals its significance in the final vision. Whether it is a newly planted tree or 70 story skyscraper.

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Originally, Miami 21 was scheduled to go before the Commission tomorrow, September 27th, for its final hearing. However, due to a scheduling conflict on the Planning and Zoning agenda, this will no longer be the case. From the Miami21.org website:
The City of Miami City Manager is working on establishing a date in October, possibly for a special meeting to hear the item. The final date has not been established, but will be posted as soon as it is scheduled.

I’ve been looking for a mainstream media announcement of the date change, but I have yet to find anything. We’ll post any updates as we receive them.

In the meantime, if you haven’t seen DPZ’s latest Miami 21 presentation, I recommend checking it out here.

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The Tragedy of Suburbia is a 20 minute presentation by James Howard Kunstler which just about sums up everything we are trying to achieve with this website. His witty presentation is thorough and identifies many of the main problems facing every American city. It goes hand in hand with many of the issues addressed in our book of the month: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces; and will provide you with some great visual evidence on our planning deficiencies.

Now, you’ll notice this video is marked under our weekly Metro Monday feature but clearly lacks any mention of public transit. We’d like to emphasize that this is done on purpose. Our message is that transit is far more than trains, buses, and automobiles; it’s a comprehensive study of these systems and their interactions with our urban landscapes and people. It includes our buildings, their uses, and the way people interact with them on a daily basis…


in an ideal world, originally uploaded by thisisforever.

Speaking of the vast improvements needed to upgrade Miami’s substandard biking facilities…

Not Exactly practical, but it emphasizes our point that some drastic measures need to be taken to right the vehicular imbalance in our region…

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I was going to retype them all out myself, but Alesh had a handy spreadsheet available…

The latest rounds of Miami 21 meetings begin tomorrow:

Date Location Address Time Net Area
Aug 2 Simpson Park 55 SW 17th Road 6pm Coral Way
Aug 7 West End Park 250 SW 60th Ave. 6:30pm Flagami
Aug 9 Police Benevolent Assc. 2300 NW 14th St. 6pm Allapattah
Aug 15 Curtis Park 1901 NW 24th Ave. 6pm Allapattah
Aug 16 Belafonte Tacolcy Center 6161 NW 9th Ave. 6pm Model City
Aug 20 St. Michael 2987 West Flagler St. 6pm West Flagler
Aug 21 Disabilities Center 4560 NW 4th Terr. 6pm Flagami
Aug 23 Orange Bowl 1501 NW 3rd St. 6pm Little Havana
Aug 27 Citrus Grove Elementary 2121 NW 5th St. 6pm Little Havana
Aug 28 Frankie S. Rolle Center 3750 S. Dixie Hwy 6pm SW Coconut Grove
Aug 29 Hadley Park 1350 NW 50th St. 6pm Model City
Aug 30 Shenandoah Park 1800 SW 21st Ave. 6pm Coral Way
Sep 4 Coral Way Elementary 1950 SW 13th Ave. 6pm Coral Way
Sep 5 LaSalle High School 3601 S. Miami Ave. 6pm NE Coconut Grove

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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.

New Urbanism discussion on CBS, aired May 20, 2007…

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Here at Transit Miami, we’re always preaching about how important it is to increase Miami’s density while simultaneously reinforcing how critical it is for this density to follow quality urban design principles. Unfortunately, I’ve spent more time bashing new developments for being auto-oriented, fueling NIMBY rhetoric that “all development is bad and greedy”, and ultimately squandering a great opportunity to improve Miami’s urban facade.
However, I’m happy to inform you about “Oak Plaza”, a new development in the Design District. This development, which recently won the Congress for the New Urbanism’s 2007 Charter Award, is a perfect example of how quality density with pedestrian-first urban design can enhance our neighborhoods.

What makes it work? The buildings engage the pedestrian realm instead of hiding from it. The arcades not only add architectural flair, but they offer shaded walkways for pedestrians. The buildings are built right up to the sidewalk, which helps define urban space and enhance pedestrian accessibility. The sidewalk trees don’t appear to be much more than aesthetic at this point, but just as the neighborhood matures overtime, the trees should grow enough to add some shade in the future.

My favorite part of this development, however, is the creation of a public plaza. Public plazas, when designed right, can serve as great public gathering spaces and are the next best thing to parks. If you’ve ever been to Manhattan, you’ll notice that plazas are everywhere, and thousands and thousands of people use them each day, be it as a meeting place, for people-watching, or just as a nice spot to sit on a ledge and rest for a few minutes. William Whyte, a world-class urban observer and mentor for so many urban planners, does an excellent job showcasing public plazas in his book The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (the red book in our “recommended reading list”).

Thus, plazas present a great opportunity to provide Miami with more public meeting spaces, which it desperately needs. It’s very difficult to be a thriving urban destination without them. Oak Plaza’s architects even designed this particular plaza around 150 year old oak trees. Again, this shows that with good urban design we can have increased density without bulldozing over all of our trees. Khoury & Vogt, Cure & Penabad should be applauded for this design.

Note: The two main buildings at Oak Plaza will be called Y-3 and Ligne Roset.

Fortunately, we should see many more developments like this once Miami 21 passes. Oak Plaza embodies the type of design elements that Miami 21 will mandate. Hopefully those concerned with an increase in density in their neighborhood due to Miami 21 can see that Oak Plaza represents a great example to follow when critiquing future developments.

Erik Vogt, one of the project designers said it well when referring to Oak Plaza, “a critique of what Miami could have been and what it still could be”.

Beth Dunlop, Herald architectural critic says it even better:

“If every work of architecture had the intelligence, the artistry, the engagement and yes, the sense of enchantment of Oak Plaza, we’d be living in a really remarkable place”.

Photos courtesy of Congress for the New Urbanism

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