The following is a submission by Jennifer Garcia of Garcia Design Studio in Coral Gables.
My wishful thinking and blind admiration of Coral Gables has tricked me again! One would think that with all the hype Coral Gables gets for historical preservation and aesthetics, that new construction could be close-to-perfect. For the most part, I can proudly state that most new developments have been positive and typically change the cityscape for the better - infill of vacant properties; creation of quality public space; improving intersections and leveling the transportation playing field. Unfortunately, even a forward-thinking city doesn’t get everything right all the time. Case in point: the Northern Trust Bank property at the northeast corner of Biltmore Way and Segovia.
Not familiar with the intersection? It is a relatively new round-a-bout, now receiving funding for civic monuments; bookended for the Segovia median/bike lane project; and centerpiece for future Biltmore Way Streetscape Project.
Where once stood a mod￼￼￼￼est 1960’s corner building - with parking appropriately in the rear and side - is now an elaborate surface parking lot. I have to admit that when they were constructing the new building in the former parking area, I thought they were infilling the old lot! To my disappointment, once the new building was up, the old building came down to make way for their new parking lot. Now the new bank building sits on the east part of the property. The parking lot at this “major gateway” corner creates several issues:
This is urban design 101: to create a successful public realm, you need to hold the corner at every intersection. Missing buildings on any street are like missing teeth - a missing corner building is like missing your front teeth!
New parking lot without bicycle parking?
You would think that with the investment of a new parking lot along a newly designated bike corridor on Segovia that a goal would be to provide a suitable amount of bike parking.
Expensive materials don’t cut it
￼This parking lot is definitely top-of-the-line, with all sorts of pavers; trees; and even a corner fountain at the sidewalk. But we know no matter how much money is spent on materials and landscaping, nothing can hide the fact that its still a parking lot.
I’d like to challenge the city when approving permits to begin with a critical eye of how it may impact the overall neighborhood. Coral Gables residents are proud of our City Beautiful, and don’t like to see mistakes like this.
You can follow Jennifer on Twitter at @Garcia_Design.
“There’s a Car2Go fever going around right now. Those of us who are already members are raving about it; and those who aren’t yet members don’t want to be left out.”
The voice brimming with optimism about Miami’s newest, green transportation alternative is that of Rodrigo Galavis, co-owner of FilmMia, a local Motion Picture Production Management Company. Galavis and a colleague, Cigarra Expressions’ Arturo Perez, were recently opining at the inexorably with-it Panther Coffee about the brand new car-sharing company called Car2Go. Coincidentally, the two had just arrived in one of Car2Go’s very vehicles, and took but a nanosecond for both to show how ga-ga they’d become over benefits of car-sharing.
For the uninitiated, Car2Go is Miami’s latest mobility alternative: a car-sharing service that affords its members all the comforts and conveniences of vehicle ownership without the hassles, costs, or burdensome search for parking. At just $0.38/minute, Car2Go members have access to 240 blue and white SMART cars which are conveniently scattered throughout the City of Miami. Through a partnership with the Miami Parking Authority, Car2Go drivers can end their one-way journeys in most non-restricted curb side parking spaces, any Residential Parking Restricted Neighborhoods and all parking meter/paystation locations without having to pay in the City of Miami.
“…it’s an easy and affordable way to get you from point A to B,” noted Galavis.
“It’s also a great and efficient alternative between taking the train/bus or a taxi,” adds Perez.
Of course it takes more than a couple early adopters and an accommodating company to prove that a concept’s time has come; it also takes a certain wherewithal, and the capacity to deliver on what’s promised. To twist Gertrude Stein’s infamous precept, there needs to be a there there, and therein lies C2G’s genius.
Car2Go’s sudden appearance in Miami isn’t a coincidence. A number of factors have made car-sharing viable including the recent urban renaissance, the rising costs of car ownership and maintenance, increased congestion, and the economic recession. Together, these factors create an environment favorable to car-sharing programs that provide car-free residents with the freedom they seek in our otherwise autocentric cities.
Unlike other car-sharing programs (See: Zipcar or RelayRides), Car2Go’s one-size fits most approach gets down to the basics: providing simple, efficient vehicles to enhance mobility. A big difference between Car2Go and its competitors is the ability to use the vehicles for one-way journeys.
For a limited time, the company is waiving the initial $35 registration fee (promo code “HEAT”). Once registered, you’ll find that getting in and going about is as easy as operating an ATM. There’s no gas to buy (though an on board gas card is available should it be needed), and, because of C2G’s deal with the Miami Parking Authority, parking is included as well within the home base, an area that stretches from the Grove to 79th Street, the Bay to beyond the Marlins Stadium.
In a city where parking is at a premium, traffic is notoriously snarled, a woeful transit network, and taxis are too often hard to come by, Car2Go is a cinch. With the added myriad costs associated with car ownership the argument is over — the clear winner is Car2Go.
Parking spaces around the globe to be temporarily reclaimed for people
Miami, FL September 16, 2011 — In cities around the globe today, artists, activists and citizens will temporarily transform metered parking spaces into public parks and other social spaces, as part of an annual event called “PARK(ing) Day.”
Originally invented in 2005 by Rebar, a San Francisco-based art and design studio, PARK(ing) Day challenges people to rethink the way streets are used and reinforces the need for broad-based changes to urban infrastructure. “In urban centers around the world, inexpensive curbside parking results in increased traffic, wasted fuel and more pollution,” says Rebar’s Matthew Passmore. “The planning strategies that generated these conditions are not sustainable, nor do they promote a healthy, vibrant human habitat. PARK(ing) Day is about re-imagining the possibilities of the urban landscape.”
Locally, a group of organizations such as OPRA, Transit Miami, the Street Plans Collaborative, and the Urban Environmental League have partnered with the City of Miami Parking Authority to transform ten metered parking spaces in one of Downtown Miami’s least green neighborhoods into a park. The event will take place at 700 N. Miami Avenue, directly in front of the old Miami Arena, demolished in 2008. The Old Arena site is also the future site of Grand Central Park (www.grandcentralpark.org), an OPRA project to convert five acres of rocks on the former arena site into a three year temporary park.
Since 2005, the project has blossomed into a worldwide grassroots movement: PARK(ing) Day 2010 included more than 800 “PARK” installations 180 cities around the world. This year, the project continues to expand to urban centers across the globe.
PARK(ing) Day is an “open-source” user-generated invention created by independent groups around the globe who adapt the project to champion creative, social or political causes that are relevant to their local urban conditions. More information regarding local PARK(ing) Day activities can be found and a global map of all participating cities are available on the PARK(ing) Day website, at parkingday.org.
Editor’s note: This is part one of a two part series.
I was in San Francisco recently and aside from riding every form of urban transit imaginable (cable car, light rail, subway, bicycle, and commuter rail) I took the opportunity to explore a few of the city’s up-and-coming neighborhoods particularly, South of Market (SOMA), Mission Bay, and South Beach. Of particular interest on this visit was the urban development sprouting up along the China Basin, home of AT&T Ballpark where the San Francisco Giants have played since 2000. AT&T Ballpark and the new Muni Metro transit line which accompanied the stadium have served as catalysts for new urban development.
Having visited a number of America’s Baseball stadiums, what really strikes me about AT&T Ballpark is its connectivity with the surroundings. From the boardwalk along the famed McCovey Cove to the King Street Walk of Fame, this ballpark was designed to be as much of destination during the off-season as it is when the Giants are in town (Note: when I visited the Giants were on the road). This is a true urban ballpark; warm and inviting with some restaurants and bars within the ballpark opening up to Willie Mays Plaza. The Plaza, of course not only pays homage to one of baseball’s greatest players, but creates a sense of space and grand entrance to the ballpark. It’s important to note that AT&T Ballpark was the first privately financed ballpark in Major League Baseball since 1962. Noticeably absent from the area surrounding the stadium is parking, a good segway into a brief discussion of the transit service that was built to connect the region.
The T third street line is a modern light-rail system completed in 2007 at a cost of $648 Million. The 5.1 mile transit line is the newest addition to the SFMTA in 50 years and connects the existing Muni Metro system and AT&T Ballpark with some long neglected neighborhoods including Potrero Hill, Bayview, Hunters Point, and Visitacion Valley. Today, new development dots the landscape around the T third street line including the Mission Bay Development, an emerging bioscience hub anchored by the UCSF Mission Bay campus as well as an abundance of dense, urban, development (see: Avalon, Edgewater, and Strata). It’s also important to note that the T third street line was funded largely through the city of San Francisco’s Proposition B, a ½% sales tax levied to support transit projects.
Visiting AT&T Ballpark (and the surrounding neighborhoods) allowed me to more fully comprehend the shortcomings of the Marlins new Ballpark currently rising in the heart of Little Havana. The new Marlins Stadium is beautiful feat of engineering; it is sleek, shiny, and futuristic, much like Miami itself. Once inside, watching the home team play will be a pleasure, no doubt, but its interaction with the surrounding host community is, like much of Miami’s development, designed with a certain air of indifference for neighboring land uses.
Constructed at a taxpayer cost of $360M, one would think that we’d be unveiling a trophy piece of civic infrastructure next season; one whose public investment would outweigh the costs by spurring new urban growth, tourism, and economic development in the heart of the Magic City. One would also think that the additional $100M of public investment in transportation infrastructure would be designed to alleviate an already stressed infrastructure rather than exacerbate the problem, right? Wrong. This is Miami, here we spend $100M building four massive, structurally deficient parking garages.
Having visited AT&T Ballpark and the surrounding neighborhoods it’s difficult not to think of what a $100M down payment for a new transit line akin to the T third street line could have looked like. It could have linked EXISTING parking in downtown or the civic center urban centers with the Ballpark. Think of the opportunity lost to spur new development and provide a reasonable modal alternative to the residents of a largely lower-middle class neighborhood. Think of the pedestrian-scale development that could have risen alongside the stadium instead of parking garages. Imagine paying a nominal $2 transit fare to access the ballpark rather than shelling out upwards of $30 for parking (there are, after all, only 5,700 spaces available).
It’s an interesting juxtaposition in my eyes:
- AT&T Ballpark was built without a single cent of public financing and is one of the most inclusive, consciously designed stadiums in all of major league baseball. Coupled with a sound investment in sustainable transit, the stadium has spurred ongoing economic development in the surrounding neighborhoods.
- On the other hand, the heavily subsidized Marlins Ballpark is beginning to look like a full-blown assault on Little Havana, replete with the loss of public open space, parking structures which isolate the stadium from the surrounding community, and a guarantee that at least 81 days of the year the congestion in this area will be a nightmarish hell with little, if any, net positive impact to local businesses.
This is part one of a two part series. Part two will be published over the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
The video below documents the struggles of a suburban Phoenix, AZ family as they try to cope with the high cost of transportation and a lack of alternatives to driving in their autocentric neighborhood. It’s amazing (and sad) to watch this family struggle to get by with just one operable vehicle and no public transit in sight. I have a feeling that a lot of households in the Miami area are experiencing similar difficulties as the Brosso family because they too live in communities that lack the presence of other quality transportation options beside motor vehicles.
Transit Miami welcomes former writer (and my partner in The Street Plans Collaborative) Mike Lydon as he gives a lecture about parking and parking policy reform in South Miami this coming Wendesday, December 1, 2010. Mike served as a member of the City of Miami’s Bicycle Action Committee, where he helped spearhead the creation of the city’s first Bicycle Action Plan, and contributed to the creation of the first cyclovia in Miami, Bike Miami Days. He currently serves on an Executive Committee for Transportation Alternatives-one of the country’s leading active transportation advocacy organizations, and is a board member for the CNU New York Chapter.
Location: South Miami City Hall, 6130 SW 72nd Street (Sunset Drive)
Presentation followed by questions
I received the following email from Miami Beach transportation activist Gabrielle Redfern, on an upcoming speaking engagement against a new proposed scheme by the City of Miami Beach. If you can attend, you will find the information below.
Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club
Meeting Date: Tuesday, September 21st, 2010
Meeting Time: 8:30 AM
Meeting Place: David’s Café II, 1654 Meridian Ave., South Beach
Miami Beach civic activist Gabrielle Redfern, speaks out against the city’s proposed fifty million dollars in Parking Bonds (debt), as this week’s guest speaker at the September 21st meeting of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club .
Gabrielle has been investigating the finances of the city Parking Department, which brings in some thirty million dollars a year, and has formed some strong opinions as to the benefits (or harm) to taxpayers of taking on so much new debt, especially with our difficult financial situation. Her objective is to further the development of an integrated and managed high-tech transportation and parking system, which she believes the terms of the new bonds might hinder.
Gabrielle is county commissioner Sally Heyman’s appointee to the Citizen’s Transportation Advisory Committee and a member of the Mayor’s Miami Beach Blue Ribbon Committee on Bikeways. She also served as vice-chair of the MPO’s Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and is a member of the city’s Design Review Board.
Everyone is welcome to attend.
David Kelsey, Moderator for the Breakfast Club
For more information contact David Kelsey . To be placed on the Breakfast Club ’s mailing list, contact Harry Cherry. Both can be reached at TuesdayMorningBreakfastClub@Yahoo.com
Visit our new web site at: http://www.MBTMBC.com (Miami Beach Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club ).
Looks like City of Miami residents can expect a show-down between Elected City officials and the Miami Parking Authority at the ballot box in November. Control of the MPA is being contested between City of Miami Commissioners /Mayor who want a greater piece of the parking money pie, and the independant Board that exists to run the MPA. A semi-autonomous entity, the MPA is currently managed by a governing board that is not answerable to the City Commission.
Critics have correctly noted that the City’s lack of financial stability is concerning as the City seeks control over yet another government agency. Municipal officials can counter that other cities get greater profits from their parking authorities. Still others see this as a solution in search of a problem that does not exist. The MPA is solvent and sends the City yearly million dollar checks. Why change? All are valid points, but they miss the big connection between public parking management and transit.
A recent Herald article on the subject pointed to the Toronto Parking Authorityand their 2009 contribution to the city of over $50 million in revenue. What the article fails to mention is that Toronto has the third largest transit system in North America and respends the $50 million they get from parking on transit (many times over). After the slow and quite demise of the streetcar proposal, he City has been sleeping with regard to transit planning. If the City expects voters to side with them they are going to have to show that they understand the connection between parking supply and transit/mobility by using parking revenue to address the mobility needs of city residents.
The potential increased revenue from the MPA could be leveraged to bring premium transit expansion to the city. The long planned streetcar, the Brickell Metromover loop, and other local city projects must have local support and funding. As our downtown and surrounding suburbs densify and become ever more urban, City of Miami officials will not be able to look to the County to solve their mobility problems. The proposed MPA restructuring could be the beginning of an overhaul of how the City of Miami fulfills its mobility needs. City Commissioners should look to the example of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which is the agency responsible for transit, bike infrastructure, and parking in San Francisco. Reflecting the close relationship between urban mobility and parking, this agency is a model for the City of Miami in deciding how to establish control of the MPA. How Commissioners choose to take advantage of this opportunity will determine whether voters see the wisdom in fixing something that is not broken.
- Commissioner Sarnoff realizes that being green makes green:
“A recent report by the Earthday Network ranked Miami 71 out of 72 major American cities based on environmental policies, the benefits of taking part in a Container Deposit Program, both financially and environmentally are too great to ignore,” says Commissioner Sarnoff. “The City currently spends more than $4 million dollars per year to clean storm drains which are full of bottles and cans, this would dramatically reduce that cost.”
- Ricky Williams may be pondering retirement - I hope he stays in Miami. I’ve always liked Ricky, especially since a 2008 interview where he extolled the virtues of walkable urbanism:
Well when I was living in Toronto I was living downtown and I could walk pretty much anywhere. There was a nice homeopathic shop on the boulevard I used to walk to and that was nice. Right where I lived there was a lot good restaurants. There was a good Tai food place. Across the street was a little corner store where people were really nice. And our neighbors became really close friends. So kind of just miss the community feel and all the great people that I got to meet that lived around where I got to live.
- Gables Parking study shows oversupply: Commissioner Sarnoff (who has become known for his anti-urban demand for more parking) should read through this recently issued report that shows that downtown Coral Gables, known as one of the most vibrant and economically healthy places in town, has an oversupply of parking. Wonder why? Duh…everyone is walking around.
- Kudos to Commissioner Francis Suarez, who has been on the rise as an ally in advocating for transit, cycling and smart growth. He recently attended Bike Miami Days, and has been a proponent of the new bike lanes on SW 16th street, between 32nd and 37 Avenues (next to the ugly new wall), as reported at the March BPAC committee. He also recently held an event to distribute free transit passes to seniors (thanks to the PTP), and has been very active in engaging remaining issues related to Miami 21 implementation. Other Commissioners - who shall not be named - could take a lesson from Commissioner Suarez, and his green awakening.
A faithful Transit Miami reader recently attended a zoning change hearing for a proposed mixed-use tower called Civica Tower, located at 1050 NW 14th Street in the Civic Center district. According to the reader, Miami’s Planning Advisory Board didn’t event question the developers new proposal, allowing an additional 650 parking spaces beyond the 800 gratuitous spaces already granted. The justification? The developers are nixing the tower’s hotel component to provide more retail and office space.
This utter lack of vision made on behalf of the city is unacceptable. Not only is there ample transit coverage in the district (three Metrorail stops, a myriad of Metrobus lines), there are newly planned trolley routes aimed at making one of Miami’s densest employment centers more walkable, transit friendly, and urbane. This decision, which follows a long standard of poor choices in the city, will continue to undermine the transit investment meant to improve the area, and the city at large.
Shame on the PAB.
Our Pic O’ the Day brings us back home to downtown Miami. Below you are looking at Wind by Neo, as shot from the Miami Avenue bridge. During the last Bike Miami Days I was tipped off that because the neighboring property owner was in foreclosure and therefore would not be building anytime soon, the city/developer of Wind sought to improve the blank white wall staring at the Miami River. Apparently, the best they could do was paint a parking garage mural….on the parking garage. I think Miami just one-upped itself.
Miami worships parking. Indeed, we can’t seem to build an urban building without smothering it with suburban parking requirements. Usually this comes in the form of parking as base or parking as appendage. The garage under construction above — an appendage if I have ever seen one — is located at Northwest Third Street, directly across the street from the new US Federal Courthouse. Currently at 10 stories, this latest garage is ostensibly being built to serve the needs of Courthouse employees and visitors. There are three glaring problems with this development.
1) The Courthouse was finished long in advance of the garage, which believe it or not means that employees and visitors are miraculously finding parking, despite the non-existence of this new garage. What, with the acres of surface parking lots, street parking, and other garages in the immediate vicinity, how could they not?
2) One block to the southwest of this new garage is Government Center, where Metrorail, Metromover, and Metrobus all converge. If there was just one location in downtown Miami able to reduce its parking requirements, this would be it.
3) The garage is being built with ramped floors, meaning that conversion to another use, say office building or residential with retail on the ground floor, will remain nearly impossible. A better parking garage would have flat floors and floor to ceiling heights that allow for the conversion to a higher and better land use, as dictated by the market.
By requiring and building so much parking, Miami will continue to develop an auto-oriented downtown, make development more expensive than it has to be, and keep the transit that we have from reaching its potential. Sure, some parking is needed when building high intensity downtown uses, but implementing a more creative shared parking approach, along with reducing overall parking requirements, especially when in proximity to transit -as proposed in Miami 21-would make a far more efficient, transit-oriented, and walkable downtown. Until we do that, Miamians should expect that their downtown will never reach its full potential.
If you build it - Traffic will consume the neighborhood, taxpayers will fund 73% of 2000 temporary construction jobs, Jeffery Loria will cash out in a few years, the Little Havana neighborhood will be revitalized disenfranchised, The Marlins will stay in Miami (for 35 years, guaranteed), etc…
This Friday, the Miami-Dade Commission will meet to determine the fate (maybe - they will likely postpone the vote) of the Marlins’ Ballpark at the Orange Bowl. As we noted earlier, from a strictly urban policy perspective – the current site plan (and funding scheme) is a calamity.
In addition to bilking taxpayers for 73% of stadium costs, we will also find ourselves footing the bills for at least $100 million dollars worth of parking. Then, in the not too distant future, we’ll realize we built the stadium too far away from existing transit, and we’ll need to fund a reasonable solution (like a streetcar west from downtown to the MIC) or our elected officials will think up of a $180 million scheme to create a people-mover extension from the Culmer station. By this point, I’m sure most rational people would then agree that it would have been better to save the hundreds of millions in parking and transit costs and just build the damned thing in downtown, near existing parking and transit to begin with… But hey, this is Miami, right? We can’t do anything right…
To reiterate – the current site plan will have deleterious effects on the surrounding community. In its current state, the site will act as a vacuum – sucking in traffic while providing few benefits to little Havana.
Central to the Marlins’ and public officials’ pitch to taxpayers was a promise that, in exchange for $450 million in public subsidies, the $609 million stadium project would propel redevelopment in the surrounding area, luring commerce, jobs, amenities and foot traffic to an area that sorely lacks them.
But the stadium site plan released this month suggests that the city of Miami’s approach might best be summed up as “build it and hope.”
Contrary to Andres Viglucci’s thoughts, to me, the current site plan evoke more of a “build it and to hell with the surroundings.”
In reading the article last weekend, I was curious if anyone caught onto the glaring contradiction posed by the political proponents of the stadium plan and the city planners.
On one hand, political proponents claim the park will serve as a catalyst, bringing commercial and retail activity to the community at least 80 days a year. This activity is confined to the “mixed-use” garages (FYI – parking/retail mix does not constitute mixed use) that provide scarce retail space along the base of the garages. This space, of course, is supposed to be sufficient to create a vibrant district around the stadium, regardless of the season.
Then the truth comes out we have the city planner’s take on the garages surrounding the stadium:
City planners say the size and shape of the garages were dictated largely by the Marlins’ need for 6,000 spaces and quick exit times.
My question remains, if we were planning a vibrant district around the stadium, wouldn’t we want to complicate the exit procedure so that people would linger around the stadium longer? It appears that is what the Seminole Hard Rock Casino did (rather well, I might add) in Hollywood (from what I’m told: just try leaving there in a timely manor on a Saturday night after a concert…) From a planning perspective, I would agree that this idea is convoluted, but it illustrates that the entire site plan is being designed so that drivers can come and leave as efficiently as possible on game day – not as it should be – a structure built to compliment a community.
As our own Tony Garcia aptly noted, ”Why are people going to come to this area? What’s going to make it a destination, and not just for baseball games?…You need a better mix of uses here, not just parking garages.”
Below are a few images of some other successful baseball parks around the country. These stadiums, particularly San Diego’s Petco Park, exemplify what a Baseball stadium should look like, how it should fit in with the surroundings, and how people interact with these spaces not just during baseball season, but 365 days a year. Compare these parks to the rendering above.
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