Currently viewing the tag: "Urban Parks"

The relatively new pocket park on Flagler Street has seen some recent improvements. The park is very much a 9-5, weekday park, a reflection of Downtown itself, but nonetheless has attracted a lunchtime following.

New improvements include tables and chairs which invite office workers to eat and relax in this urban greenspace. Although I am happy to see the new outdoor furniture, the selection and the placement of the furniture should have been considered more carefully. The furniture is too bulky for such a small urban space. It should be smaller and less intrusive, allowing for additional space to accommodate extra tables and chairs. Also, the furniture should have been placed closer to the trees in order to maximize the shade cover from the hot Miami sun, especially when the umbrellas have not been set up.

Some suggestions for improvement:

  • Art in public spaces. A mural on the east wall would look great.
  • Mesh shade canopy covering a large part of the urban space
  • Better bike racks. The bike racks which were installed are not the preferred bicycle rack design.

PA040145PA040139Flagler Park

A little public art on this wall would look great

A little public art on this wall would look great

The City of Miami should avoid using these racks. The inverted U racks can accomodate bicycles much better.

The City of Miami should avoid using these racks. The inverted U racks can accomodate bicycles much better.

Even though I was a bit skeptical of this park at first, it is being used more then expected. With a few small improvements, the park can get even more use. The Paul S. Walker Urbanscape proves that these urban parks can work; perhaps this idea could be extended to the Brickell area, where the daytime density already exists to support something similar.

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The Miami circle is an attraction, a cultural focal point of our area’s heritage, and will ultimately become a destination for visitors and locals alike. It will provide a glimpse into real prehistoric culture without today’s seemingly artificial representation of Native American Culture. The National Park Service is looking for ideas for what to do with the Miami Circle site and here is what we suggest:
  1. The Miami Circle should be a protected exhibition connected with a local museum (historical Museum of Southern Florida or the new Museum of Science at Museum Park come to mind.)
  2. The exhibition should be located in a passive park with abundant benches, trees, lighting, some sort of protective canopy over the exhibition itself, and little else.
  3. The park should be easily accessible for pedestrians, i.e. no parking, this is downtown and plenty of alternatives exist and are readily available. Those seeking to drive will likely be able to find a spot in the adjacent Viceroy.

Our suggestion is a combination of the National Park services’ options 1 and 4, found here in the Planning, Environment and Comment section of the website. The full plans can be found in this PDF. We’re fond of the integration with the surroundings of Option 1 and the absence of surface parking, facilities, and extreme amounts of pavement. Option 4 presents visitors with a chance to see the remnants of the Miami circle in a protected way and creates a point for guided boat tours on the bay.

Once again, I can relate a scenario in Miami to an existing project in Vienna: The Roman Ruins outside of the Hofburg Imperial Palace. The preservation of the Roman Ruins allows visitors to glimpse back 2500 years to the founding Vindobona. The ruins are encircled by a wall which allows viewers to peer down at the remaining structure, located some 25 feet below street level.

Can anyone, without cheating of course, name the city, central plaza, and cathedral depicted in this picture?

Answer: Plaza de Armas, Guadalajara, Mexico

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Too often our society seems to overlook one of our most important modes of transportation- our own two legs. A new website, Walk Score, aims to change our dependence back to our own legs for personal mobility and seeks to help homebuyers find homes with many destinations within walking distance.

The premise is simple, you enter an address and the system characterizes the neighborhood on a 0-100 scale based on how many destinations are within a reasonable (less than 1 mile) walking distance. Essentially any ranking below 25 is is impossible to walk around while scores above 90 signify dense easily accessible neighborhoods. The website takes schools, restaurants, grocery stores, shops, parks, and libraries among other items into consideration when calculating the neighborhoods walk score.

Walk score allows people to quickly find homes in areas where car ownership let alone full dependence on a vehicle is not a requirement. In playing around with the program for a little while you’ll quickly see the disparity between automobile based/designed sprawl areas and true urban neighborhoods. The importance of walking to destinations daily cannot be emphasized enough from a planning perspective or as new research shows as a matter of your health.

President Bush’s Crawford Ranch somehow attained the dubious zero rating. Let us know how your neighborhood compares…

I seem to be having some technical difficulties with my internet connection, please be patient while I work to sort out the kinks. In the meantime, I have chosen to republish an article forwarded to me by Michelle of Museum Park Forum. The article extensively covers the happenings of last week’s Museum Park planning meetings:
October 5, 2007

The City of Miami held its first of three scheduled “Museum Park” public meetings last night at the Orange Bowl Athletic Club. Two additional public comment sessions are proposed for the end of October and the end of November.

Local 10 News covered the event:
View Story Here

One major image of the proposed “Museum Park” was posted at the meeting. Of particular note were the changes made to the rendering from its previous form, and those that were not made, all of which was addressed at the outset of the meeting. The city and the architect have elected to change the prior holistic approach to the development of Museum Park (which was to include the FEC Slip and Parcel B), and rather have opted to break the design process into two distinct phases. “Phase I” includes all of the land north of the FEC Slip - and was presented for public comment last night in the identical form presented earlier this year.

The Architectural rendering displayed at last nights meeting included both the FEC Slip and Parcel B (“Phase II”) - but left them virtually blank. All of the elements previously shown in the FEC slip (the cantilevered platforms, the man-made “island” and boat docks as well as the elevated/operable bridge are now gone - and they left “Parcel B” blank - no “Bay Of Pigs Museum,” no soccer field, nothing…blank canvas for both the FEC slip and Parcel B.

Perhaps our words from a few days earlier were heard - though left for future designers to solve?:

“As for the existing Museum Park rendering, note that the bridge over the mouth of the FEC slip is NOT proposed to serve as the solution to Bay Walk, as the grade/elevation required to transit the bridge would preclude barrier-free use, a requirement for public facilities. This bridge is proposed to be operable, though the costs and maintenance and method of operation seem not to have been articulated. What is the actual cost of the proposed improvements to the FEC slip? What would all of the proposed cantilevered decks do in the event of a hurricane-driven tidal surge?

If the City is truly interested in public input, let’s all make it a point to read the results of the Parcel B Study in the context of the broader vision for Bay Walk, and try to arrive at solutions that will draw the most people to actually use the waterfront, serving as a tourist attraction and most importantly, PAYING ITS OWN WAY, in perpetuity.” LINK TO FULL STORY HERE

Last nights “Phase I” vision of “Bay Walk” actually requires that people circumnavigate the entire (8 acre) FEC slip by walking (for example) from the waters edge at Parcel B all the way back in to Biscayne Blvd. - then proceed north to the main park, then walk all the way back out to the Bay before proceeding north on your “Bay Walk” journey.

A quick calculation reveals that the planners of Museum Park propose that your “Bay Walk” include a 2,850′ (HALF-MILE) detour over to the hustle and bustle of Biscayne Blvd. before proceeding on your morning stroll along Biscayne Bay. That my friends, is not a “Bay Walk.” Until a true at-grade (barrier-free) solution is identified to transit the 300′ mouth of the FEC slip, there is no “Bay Walk.”

The proverbial “elephant in the room” is obviously the FEC slip. Aside from the problematic and as-yet unresolved stretch of the proposed “Bay Walk” that will lead users along the water frontage of Bayside Marketplace (and around Miamarina), the FEC slip is the number one impediment to the design and development of Bay Walk. Is it really wise to design and develop half a park, leaving the rest for others to resolve?

FEC Slip
The FEC Slip is so huge that it is clearly visible from space (check it out on Google Earth). It’s 1,200′ long and 300′ wide representing 8 acres of “Museum Park.” The improvements being made by Shoreline Foundation, Inc. have saved the slip’s walls from crumbling into the water, and have beautified an otherwise decaying relic of Miami’s early shipping heritage - but as yet, no “highest and best” use of the slip has been identified.

Visitors to the slip along Biscayne Blvd. will note that, sadly, the slip is a serious debris trap, catching not only the surface “flotsam” that collects naturally there by virtue of its location directly at the end of Government Cut - but also serves as a catch-all for every piece of paper, Styrofoam cup and other construction-related debris that blows its way on a windy day.

While it has been suggested that the slip should remain open and available to visiting ships like the US Coast Guard Cutter “Eagle” there are some key issues to address. Upon their recent visit, they were actually required to truck-in massive concrete blocks positioned in the park along the dock in order to tie-off the vessel. Here’s why:

Despite the fact that the seawalls have been saved from collapse (courtesy of 40′ long sheet-steel driven into the sea bed, topped with concrete), the walls themselves are not sufficiently reinforced (as in this example) to handle the stress of securing large vessels in inclement weather - which explains why there are no “cleats” to tie-off vessels along the north wall of the FEC Slip.

Holistic Design:
The entire “Museum Park” design concept requires a singular holistic approach, as the ultimate disposition of the FEC Slip will effect the design of both the southern end of the “Phase I” portion of the main body of the park and the northern end of “Parcel B” - all of which together will become a destination known as “Museum Park” - tied together by the broader concept known as “Bay Walk” - which by its very name implies “a walk along Biscayne Bay.”

Thanks Michelle…Great update, keep us informed…You bring up some great points which we will soon be readdressing when we revisit the Museum Park issue…

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National Park(ing) Day 2007, West Palm Beach…

Originally uploaded by sampos.

We’ve turned today’s Transitography into a quiz. Can anyone guess what urban park this is and what exactly makes it so appealing to hundreds of visitors everyday? Check back this afternoon for the answer and to see how this park relates to the findings outlined by William Whyte…

Today, we begin another new series here on, our Book of the Month. We’ve started compiling a list of recommended reading on the left sidebar which we’ll be referencing from time to time depending on the book/month. The Book of the month for September is The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, by William Whyte, available for only $33 on Amazon.

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, by William Whyte, discusses principles in urban planning and human interaction that if/when applied would be revolutionary in Miami. Given the fact that the book was published in 1980 and was based on findings from his innovative Street Life Project, a study partly incorporated by New York City in the 70’s and 80’s, you can quantitatively see how far behind Miami really is.

The short 125 page book, tackles the socioeconomic complexities of planning large, useful, urban public spaces. His analysis includes practical issues such as sitting space, atmospheric conditions, street interaction, and even food vending activity and addresses the important balance between each characteristic found in the most successful urban spaces in New York City. The research identifies clear guidelines for foliage, useable sitting space, openness to the public, and importance of such spaces in urban settings.

Upon reading, you’ll soon come to realize the significance of such strict guidelines when designing urban spaces in Miami. Our few public spaces feature blatant design flaws which make them unappealing to visitors, ultimately becoming barren concrete wastelands. The void of public spaces in all our urban areas is even more troubling but can likely be easily justified by the suburban lives we all tend to live. The book even address security harassment issues (I’m familiar with) and methods with dealing with so called “undesirables” in public places, a problem we know all too well along our downtown streets. An excerpt from the introduction:

“But zoning is certainly not the ideal way to achieve the better design of spaces. It ought to be done for its own sake. For economics alone it makes sense. An enormous expenditure of design expertise, and of travertine and steel, went into the creation of the many really bum office building plazas around the country. To what end? As this manual will detail, it is far easier, simpler to create spaces that work for people than those that do not- and a tremendous difference it can make to the life of a city.”

We’ll use the principles outlined in the Social Life of Urban Spaces this month as we incorporate the message of William Whyte into many of our posts. We’ll discuss why two story parking garages behind the AA Arena on parcel B are such a terrible idea and will address the problems of some of the existing urban spaces.

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