This next segment is the beginning of a new series here on Transit Miami where we will look at certain actions or policies that will invariably counteract true urban progress.

This might be the ultimate mistake in zoning history; constructing a ½ billion-dollar opera/ballet house and later allowing a Wal-Mart to settle in next door.  On the way to the ballet, you can pick up some cheap shit foreign made goods, contribute to the massive trade deficit, and support the public financial burden caused by an employer who perennially underpays employees.  A Wal-Mart in the urban core continues the suburbanization mentality of building we have seen here in Miami – that is, tall, dense structures only accessible by car.  In a sense: Urban from far, but far from urban.

Now, it is not just the zoning that is the issue; imagine spending another billion dollars to rid the downtown of the majority of port-bound truck traffic, only to allow a retailer that will generate hundreds of weekly truck trips to nestle in that very same downtown core.  Seems a bit counterproductive, if you ask me, but then again this is Miami, why should we be surprised?

From the beginning, we were not against a mixed-use retail center rising alongside the performing arts center.  We viewed the complex, coupled with the PAC, as a formidable component to a thriving media-arts district, filled with nightlife, restaurants, hotels, and well, worthy destinations, not big-box retail.  A Wal-Mart anywhere in the downtown region automatically negates that key phrase every Miami politician loves to toss around wildly.  You know the one, it goes a little something like: “This _____ will put Miami on the map, this going to a real “world-class” _____.”  I guess you can fill in the blanks with Wal-Mart if there is such thing as a “world-class” Wal-Mart, perhaps third world class…

Commissioner Marc Sarnoff recently said it best:

“I thought the idea for that neighborhood was to create a walking neighborhood and not a big box for the Beach,”

Frankly, we envisioned something similar to Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz, nothing revolutionary, just a proper mixed-use development complete with theaters (imax too), restaurants, hotels, and corporate businesses (DB HQ, Price Waterhouse offices, Sony, etc.)  From wikipedia:

…The rebuilt Potsdamer Platz now attracts around 70,000 visitors a day, rising to 100,000 at weekends, and some critics have been surprised by the success of the new quarter. Fears that the streets would be dead after 6pm have proven false. At almost any time of the day, the place is alive with people. It is a particularly popular attraction for visitors: the “Arkaden” shopping mall contains around 150 shops and restaurants on three levels, the lowest (basement) level being a food floor; there are also four major hotels, and Europe’s largest casino (the “Spielbank Berlin”)…

Note: in this last image the two large buildings on the bottom right is the home of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.  The situational resemblance is uncanny.

13 Responses to Two Steps Back: Surburbanizing the Urban Core

  1. Emperor Tomato says:

    Is it too late to do anything about this or is it definately going to happen.


  2. Wild Style says:

    I think i am missing the point. Whats the problem with Walmart being in the urban core again? K-mart is in midtown Manhattan and it has not made NYC any less urban, so i don’t see how this will deteriorite Miami’s urbanization. People living in the urban core can’t just go there and play all day. they have to buy goods i.e. clothes, food and such. If anything, this is promoting people living in the urban core (not just the well to do) as they don’t have to travel out to the burbs for their needs. I mean sure, they could have gone with Trader John’s, Whole foods (like the one in Union Square) or something else. I hate what Walmart stands for as much as the next guy, but providing more retail isn’t bad in my opinion. Right now, Miami’s urban core is far from self sustaining. If you live there you would still have to travel a bit to get EVERYTHING you want/need. Throw a best buy down there and other things that every day folk need. Give them a reason to want to live in those half empty @ss condos downtown.

    Now one thing they do need to do is, make sure any mass transit plans tie all this together so people can get out of these cars.


  3. Emperor Tomato says:

    I think there is potential for Wal-mart to do what they do in many towns and cities which is eliminate competition. In Miami we have many small businesses particularly in the urban core. We can expect to have more vacant shops on Flagler to start. Also, the fact that they pay such low wages and encourage workers to get public assistance so they pass the savings (i mean bill) to tax payers.
    A K-mart is not a Wal-mart. Target in Mid-Town Miami does not diminish the business around it, but a Wal-mart affects all business. Also, the waterfront locations next to our premiere arts facilities and next to the future Museum Park is not an ideal use of space.


  4. Dave says:

    How about the fact that it will have 3997 parking spaces? Thats 3 times as much parking as they put in the similarly styled Dadeland Station.


  5. JM Palacios says:

    The article says 4,052 parking spaces. A rough calculation of the parking space area gives at least 1,114,300 square feet for parking and circulation, nearly twice the 641,104 square feet of retail space in the entire City Square project. That’s how inefficient our cars are!

    I say they let them build the project without any parking. Walk and take the metromover to shop there. Then it wouldn’t be so bad. (Of course, Wal-Mart wouldn’t touch it then. They love parking.)


  6. JM Palacios says:

    BTW, I came across a couple of permit documents for this project. See the PDFs here and here. From what it looks like, the developer has to send the project back to the planning department to prove that he met a long list of requests they made before getting a building permit. So if they really wanted to stop the project, it seems that the planning department could get really nitpicky when they come back. Of course, I’m no expert on this, and maybe they cannot really do much.

    Oh, and the documents also tell us that the parking spaces break down to 1,780 spaces for retail, 744 to replace the Miami Herald parking lot they are building it on, and 1,528 spaces for the Performing Arts Center. For whatever that’s worth. It’s still too much parking.


  7. kevin says:

    That’s a lot of parking. How is the streetscape for this project? Is it atleast pedestrian friendly and urban-style despite Wal-Mart being there?


  8. Wild Style says:

    Emperor Tomato

    Ah ok, I agree 100% with the aspect of it hurting small businesses. This is a unfortunate outcome of Big Box retailers like wallmart. The article should have raised this as a point of contention. As it reads now, it just seems like more Miami mentality sort of stuff. I get the impression from many people in Miami that they want it to be some wonderland playground in the urban core for those with money. This does not equal urbanization nor sustainability. Having businesses both big and small and enough to cater to everyones needs regardless of income bracket is sustainable. Also producing quality jobs in the urban core and having them centered in districts. They also need mass transit.

    How far is this Walmart from metro mover in terms of blocks.


  9. Dave says:

    The site is about 1 block or 500 feet from the Omni metromover stop.


  10. Wild Style says:


    Oh, then thats a problem/ridiculous that they would build such a huge parking garage there. I thought Alvarez was Mr. Sustainability or is that just his shtick?


  11. Emperor Tomato says:

    I was reading the permit you posted and in the Major Use Special Permit read pages 5-7. There is a lot there that urges urban design, keeping active streets. There are a lot of requirements to be met, also pages 8 & 9 of the alaysis of the MUSP. I hope someone who understands this more than me can keep this from turning into a Wal-Mart.


  12. Tony Garcia says:

    The stipulations of the MUSP are enforced by Roberto Lavernia and staff of the Land Development Section of the City of Miami Planning Department as well as officials of the building department at the time when a building permit is pulled. The stipulations become part of the legislation that is the ‘Major Use Special Permit’. They are legally binding. If the project is changed in any way the MUSP must be re-approved by the Department of Planning, the Planning Board, and two readings by the City Commission (depending on how much the project changes). The MUSP is good for six years before it expires, at which time the owner must re-appy. Miami 21 does away with the MUSP system and creates a more direct process of obtaining entitlements.


  13. Jmac says:

    That article gave me a good laugh. Thanks Gabe.


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