Sunday, June 25, 2006
Miami 21 Project: Scattered Notes
Over the past 5 weeks I have been deeply immersed into the Miami 21 Project. Does that sound cultish? Perhaps a bit CIA-ish?? Anyway, all I can say is the scope of this thing is incredible, if not intimidating. It is indeed rather mind boggling to think that we are only working in one quadrant of the city.
Having now seen most of the neighorhoods I am understanding the issues. Miami is such a young city, a baby really. As Andres says, cities must molt and its definitely time for Miami to molt, and grow into itself...from baby to toddler, hopefully we skip "the terrible twos. "
My biggest impression thus far has been how uniformly inconsistent Miami is as a city. From crack houses and industrial neighborhoods, to historic preservation and neighborhood conservation, to people aching for the largest upzoning possible, this project will change so much about the city. One thing is for sure, it will be better. It must be better.
Currently, Miami has downtown core, and sub-urban neighborhoods essentially next to each other. There is no gradient of density, no succession in the urban fabric. It's quite shocking for me because all I really have known in urbanism are the mature cities and towns of the northeast.
Fortunately, Miami has a rich tradition of mixed-use, typically along 16 main corridors that truly are easily accessed by the neighborhoods. However, the corridors are a mess. Public transportation is quite prevalent, but underutilized. Garbage, debris, and the homeless line some of the quadrants worst neighborhoods, while horrible frontages plague some of the better ones. Chain link fences that fence in driveways! FENCED IN DRIVEWAYS?! One has to unpadlock the fence before driving into the garage. It is very odd. Some chain link fence company made out very well on the City of Miami.
We had some very important public meetings in the last couple of weeks. In particular, this past Friday brought a cadre of neighborhood association representatives for one meeting, and then industrial property owners concerned about what will happen under Miami 21 for another. I do not need to explain the details of the meeting, but I can say it went very well. Many of the neighborhoods are unhappy with the initial proposals for changes, which is why we had them come to the office. We want to hear their concerns, understand what they do want -- but not pander to them. We must do what is best for the City in general, not the individual property owner. We wouldn't get anywhere. Not everyone will be happy. Growing pains will happen. But before the neighbors left the office, they were applauding the Miami 21 team. They were included, and they appreciated it. We heard, and the know we listened. If anything, DPZ has mastered the art of public interaction -- though one must. All those narrow streets, alleys, and mixture of uses and building types found in new urbanist communities didn't happen easily. Mastering the public process is essential. Designing in public is essential. Changing our country's patterns of development is essential. Urbanism is essential.
Final thought: Miami 21 will be a success when the NBA finals show pictures of downtown Miami streets on TV , and not South Beach, which is a separate city (Miami Beach). Improvement will happen. Miami will arrive. Give it time. Urbanism needs time.