The Upper East Side neighborhood, loosely considered the area around the Biscayne Boulevard corridor from NE 50th Street to NE 85th Street, has tremendous potential for redevelopment. Unfortunately FDOT’s current streetscape design for Biscayne Boulevard is suffocating the neighborhood and stunting its growth.

FDOT recently resurfaced Biscayne Boulevard, but they did a disastrous job. They essentially designed a highway through a historic commercial and residential neighborhood without considering the needs of the businesses and residents that call the area home. As long as Biscayne Boulevard remains unfriendly to businesses and pedestrians conditions in the Upper East Side will not improve. The redevelopment of the Upper East Side begins with Biscayne Boulevard. FDOT must understand that they play a central role in the economic redevelopment of this community. They cannot persist to enable the decline of communities through poor roadway design that is unfriendly to businesses and pedestrians. If FDOT continues to design roadways with the sole purpose of moving cars faster, communities will suffer and they will not prosper.

The first step to redeveloping the Upper East Side neighborhood is to redesign the Biscayne Boulevard streetscape.  Lucky for the FDOT, University of Miami Professors Chuck Bohl and Jaime Correa have provided the MiMo Business Improvement Committee with a Biscayne Boulevard Streetscape Vision plan. At the very core of redevelopment are the businesses; they need to be on solid footing to thrive. Accessible parallel parking is the cornerstone for businesses to flourish.  Without it businesses will continue to go bust and prospective retailers will continue to turn their back to the area.

Source: MiMo Business Improvement Committee- Design by Professor Chuck Bohl and Professor Jaime Correa- University of Miami


Once parallel parking is in place, a number of things will occur which will transform the neighborhood. Existing business will blossom and new businesses will relocate to the neighborhood.  Parallel parking will help to calm traffic as well; bringing the current 45 mph design speed closer in-line with the 35 mph speed limit. (The speed limit should be reduced to 30mph). Once the design speed is reduced to 35 mph, Biscayne Boulevard will become more pedestrian friendly. Additional crosswalks and bicycle sharrows would also be introduced, further calming traffic and enhancing the pedestrian realm.

As a result, there will be a domino effect in the neighborhood. More businesses will open and remain open. A sense of place will be created and residents and visitors will begin supporting local retailers because the area will be more pedestrian friendly. More importantly, crime will decline since there will be more “eyes on the street”.

Last but not least, the 35 foot building height limit needs to increase to 53ft. Without it, real estate developers will not invest in the area.  One of two things will occur if the 35 foot building height limit remains- 1) Empty lots will remain or 2) The area will be filled with Discount Auto Parts type buildings. Contrary to doomsday conspiracy theorists that believe increasing the building height will destroy the neighborhood, the 53 ft building height is not out of scale. If we want good development to come to the area, the neighborhood must support an increase of the building height. If you want crappy development, keep the 35 foot building height limit.

Source: MiMo Business Improvement Committee- Design by Professor Chuck Bohl and Professor Jaime Correa- University of Miami

Source: MiMo Business Improvement Committee- Design by Professor Chuck Bohl and Professor Jaime Correa- University of Miami

So how do we make this happen?  Well, we here at Transit Miami are trying to mobilize the Upper East Side HOAs.  Tonight we will have an informal meeting with several HOA representatives. The Upper East Side HOAs need to come together with the MiMo Business Improvement Committee and the MiMo Biscayne Association and agree that streetscape design is the most pressing issue for the neighborhood. If the community speaks with one voice we can apply enough pressure on Commissioner Sarnoff and shame the FDOT to make these necessary and relatively inexpensive changes to make the economic redevelopment of our community a reality.

The Upper East Side Neighborhood must plan for its future now and begin envisioning the future for this historic district. We need to consider a week long charette and bring all major community stakeholders to the table within the next year. Let’s make this happen neighbors!

FYI: Speeding is clearly an issue on Biscayne Boulevard in the Upper East Side neighborhood. I have documented three accidents in the past 4 months. There have been more, but I just have not had time to document all the accidents.

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9 Responses to Upper East Side Redevelopment Begins with Streetscape Design

  1. Ironic says:

    I was told that a pedestrian was hit and killed in front of Red Light restaurant early in the morning about a week ago.


  2. kevin says:

    I applaud your guys’ work, and I hope the upper east side community can get together and form a coalition to urbanize and redevelop a vibrant neighborhood of our city. Best of luck, and again, thank you TM for everything you guys do in our city, you guys are a blessing!


  3. B says:

    Agree with everything except the sharrows. There are already sharrows 2 blocks away on NE 2ND Ave, and bike traffic should be directed there. I’m in favor of designated cycling routes, but they shouldn’t be along major congested commercial roads.


  4. Felipe Azenha says:

    @ B
    NE 2nd street is not 2 blocks away from Biscayne blvd in the MiMo district. It is considerably further. Actually, according to Google Earth Biscayne and NE 2nd st is 1/2 mile away apart. Bicycles need safe access to Biscayne it is a commercial and residential area. People on bicycles need to buy things and they live in the area as well. So yes, sharrows are appropriate here.


  5. Felipe Azenha says:

    Could you provide us with any more information about the pedestrian that was killed?


  6. B says:

    Beyond the 195 overpass, It’s Federal Highway and NE 4th CT that you’d use. Bicycle access does not require that cyclists have to go up and down the length of the Boulevard itself! Provide ample bike racks and wide sidewalks for short distances, and use the side road for longer distances.

    As a cyclist, which would you rather use: a 2-lane road with relatively light traffic and bike lanes, or a congested 4-lane road with sharrows which is also a major bus route (and probably no bike lanes, judging from how it was done on Washington Ave.)?


  7. tjblaze says:

    Thanks for fleshing out some good ideas for a neighborhood that is right on the brink of a major renaissance. I had a chance to do some work up in the Mimo district last year and I was really amazed at how much it has changed over the past decade. But it would really benefit from the urbanist design changes suggested in the article.

    FDOT really should consider forming a subcommittee of their engineering department that would consider the particular problems of densely populated urban areas.


  8. Mike Moskos says:

    Just further south, where the new condos put retail on the ground floor, an amazing thing has happened: there are non-scary people walking Biscayne at all hours. I mean non-scary people on Biscayne at any hour is amazing, but at night? (I lived in this area and had a business in the Design District for 10 years.) All is takes is the right design (and the right density). And of course, trees, trees, trees: you don’t get walkers to go very far in South Florida without trees. FDOT did put trees in, but not enough and only a small percentage of canopy trees.

    Of course, this is yet another example of why this road should be a city road, not a state road: the community has little influence on far away law makers.


  9. […] regard to the value of installing the flashing crosswalks instead of implementing real traffic calming measures in the MiMo District on Biscayne […]


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