Posts tagged with "Florida":

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40 years after its founding, the landmark firm Arquitectonica continues to shape Miami and beyond

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

Arquitectonica was founded in 1977 as a loose collective of designers working out of a Miami strip mall. The original five members were Bernardo Fort-Brescia, Laurinda Spear, Andrés Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Hervin Romney. Though Duany, Plater-Zyberk, and Romney eventually went off in different directions Fort-Brescia and Spear remained as Arquitectonica and created the most important Miami architecture firm in the world. They gained early fame for their Brickell Avenue high-rise, the Atlantis Condominium. The Atlantis appeared over the credits of the television show Miami Vice in the 1980s and helped create the image of glamorous style now associated with the city.

The firm is the first one in South Florida to have an ambition larger than the city itself and has built all over the country and overseas. It now has over 850 employees working in eight other cities from Paris to Shanghai and is currently building in 58 countries around the world.

A survey of the firm’s projects currently on the boards reveals an astonishing number of large skyscraper and complexes that display its ability to create stylish exterior facades and interior public spaces.

Arquitectonica has built dozens of important buildings in Miami, but one that highlights its current design philosophy is the massive Brickell City Centre just blocks away from its early residential buildings. The Centre is a massive 4.9-million-square-foot development on 9.1 acres, including an underground car park, two mid-rise office buildings, two residential towers, a hotel with residences, and 500,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space. The centerpiece of the project is a large open-air shopping mall covered with a sculptural glass canopy called the Climate Ribbon (designed in collaboration with Hugh Dutton Associés, Cardiff University, and Carnegie Mellon University) that snakes through the projects and acts a brise-soleil and flange for catching prevailing winds. Fort-Brescia was tasked with developing the uniform look of the Centre in his signature glass-and-steel manner.

Brickell City Centre sits adjacent to the city’s geographic heart and connects to key transport nodes by incorporating the Metromover light-rail station and offering easy access to all major highways. Arquitectonica is known for developing stylish interiors and even product design (lead by Spear) but in Brickell Centre they are virtually designing a new city within a city that will likely become the new heart of the region.

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Optimism fuels Miami’s mega-developments, but a denser Miami isn’t a sure thing

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

New York or Los Angeles?

These are the two contrasting models of urbanism that Raymond Fort, designer at Miami-based architecture firm Arquitectonica, cites when asked about Miami’s future. In New York, numerous walkable neighborhoods—whose density, convenience, and character are major assets—are connected by a robust public transportation system. In Los Angeles, low density and car-oriented urbanism is the norm outside the downtown core (though transit-oriented development has begun to spread in recent years). Many developers working in Miami are clearly enthusiastic about the New York model. However, that future isn’t guaranteed: The potential for car-dominated sprawl and other hybrid models still exist.

Arquitectonica is behind Brickell City Centre, a 5.4-million-square-foot complex of offices, luxury condos, a hotel, and ample retail south of Downtown Miami. Developed by Swire Group, Brickell is one of the many large, mixed-use developments in Miami that signals movement toward density. Phase one opened late last year, and phase two will entail an 80-story mixed-use tower.

Just north of downtown, there’s Miami Worldcenter, a 17-million-square-foot, 27-acre complex. It’s a joint venture by multiple developers, with Boston-based Elkus Manfredi leading the master plan and designing the center’s phase one, which is anchored by a 1-million-square-foot retail podium. Phase two is a $750 million convention center and hotel.

Development isn’t only concentrated in the urban core. About two miles north of Downtown in the Wynwood neighborhood, developer Moishe Mana and Miami-based Zyscovich Architects are poised to build a 9.72-million-square-foot, 23.5-acre development that will feature as many as 3,482 residential units, a mix of retail, office, and cultural programming, as well as an extensive public “Mana Commons” that will cut through the complex’s cluster of medium-rise towers. Dubbed Mana Wynwood, it won approvals last September. More like it may be on the way: In Little Haiti, the Eastside Ridge development will replace 500 townhouses with 7.2 million square feet of mixed-use development, and another project dubbed “Magic City(also located in Little Haiti) would see an innovation center, business incubator, housing, retail, and other art-entertainment facilities arise across a 15-acre campus.

What’s driving all of these major concentrations of development? In part, affluent young professionals across the U.S. are moving to cities seeking walkable, transit-connected neighborhoods, and developers are eager to meet that need. But there are factors unique to Miami. One is the city’s zoning: The Miami 21 code, implemented some six and half years ago, has significant parking requirements that incentivize large developments. For example, in dense high-rise areas, the code mandates 1.5 parking spaces per unit. Consequently, smaller projects struggle to meet the logistical and economic challenges of incorporating that much parking into their site. Bigger projects can more easily integrate a parking garage into their lower levels. Furthermore, if a development covers nine contiguous acres, it can qualify for a Special Area Plan, an arrangement that allows developers more flexibility in situating parking and negotiating the rules of Miami 21’s form-based code. This maximizes the development’s value. Brickell, Mana Wynwood, and the Worldcenter, as well as virtually all of Miami’s major developments, are (or have applied for) Special Area Plans.

Miami’s geography is also part of the equation. John Stuart, professor of architecture at Florida International University and executive director of its Miami Beach Urban Studios, explained how wealth from the Caribbean and Central and South America has historically flowed into Miami. “We have this gravitational pull from the south,” he said. Affluent people from Chile, Venezuela, and elsewhere come to Miami seeking “these kinds of urban experiences where they’re safe, their products are confirmed as authentic, but they’re close to their own countries….”

But the city’s geography turns from an asset to a risk when one considers the threat of extreme weather and sea-level rise. Miami Beach, which sits a mere four feet above sea level (compared to Miami’s six feet), is regularly inundated during king (high) tides and is spending nearly half a billion dollars to raise streets, install pumps, and push back the waters. Faced with such uncertainty, Stuart sees mega-developments as “just overflowing with optimism” and the belief that climate change will be remedied, ameliorated, or far enough away to not warrant significant concern in the near future.

In the shorter term, how Miami 21 and public transportation evolve may be deciding factors in shaping the city. In Wynwood, the City of Miami Planning Department is testing out a new zoning overlay that alleviates parking requirements for developments with smaller units. If Wynwood ceases to become the exception, then dense growth may not be restricted to Special Area Plan developments and the downtown urban core.

This leads to the issue of public transportation. “That’s at the core of much of what’s fragmenting the city, holding it back economically, socially, culturally,” said Stuart. “There’s very little opportunity for people who live in a neighborhood they can afford to access other neighborhoods for employment, artistic production, or other means.” Miami is in the process of funding and planning an expansion of the Metrorail, the city’s above ground heavy-rail rapid transit system. Eighty-two miles of new rail and six new lines—costing $3.6 billion—would connect the city’s burgeoning neighborhoods with each other and downtown. Complicating the situation are Uber and Lyft, whose low rates can be competitive with public transportation. Moreover, according to Fort, the prospect of driverless cars adds a new level of uncertainty to major public transportation investment.

A conversation about public transportation and mega-developments must also include the question of affordability. According to a 2016 study from the New York University Furman Center, in Miami “85 percent of recently available rental units were unaffordable to the typical renter household,” making the city the least affordable for renters among the country’s top 11 metro areas. But there are glimmers of hope: As development moves from the urban core and the waterfront to places like Wynwood, more non-luxury units may come online. Additionally, the city is already taking steps to increase affordable housing stock: A measure passed in late February would reward residential projects that feature affordable units with greater density and less required parking. However, while the downtown core and Wynwood don’t have large existing communities facing gentrification, that challenge may arise elsewhere. In other instances, density alone may deter development: Earlier this year, local opposition stopped a 1.2-million-square-foot Special Area Plan development east of Little Haiti.

For a firsthand experience, Fort recommends riding the Metrorail to survey the city—from there, you can see pockets of development (Coconut Grove, Little Havana, Brickell, Downtown) that he thinks could become medium-density nodes in a new polycentric city. He also cites neighborhoods like Edgewater, Wynwood, and the Design District that aren’t on the Metrorail but are still growing. “That’s what I think the next phase of development in Miami is,” he said, “where we look at neighborhoods and understand what’s missing” to make them mixed-use, denser, and affordable. Optimism for density, however, is just one of many factors—climate change, transportation technology, affordability, and zoning codes, to name a few—that will shape Miami in the years to come.

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Jorge “The Condo King” Pérez: Trump’s wall is “the most idiotic thing I’ve ever seen or heard in my life.”

This post is part of our years-long running Eavesdrop series (think page 6 for the architectural field). It’s your best source for gossip, insider stories, and more. Have an eavesdrop of your own? Send it to: eavesdrop[at]archpaper.com.

In a now-par-for-the-course Trumpian weaponization of identity politics, the president asked Related Group president Jorge “The Condo King” Pérez—of Argentinian descent—to help build the U.S.-Mexico border wall. The real estate tycoon, who is friends with Trump and has built a couple of buildings with him, said that he declined nicely and made a joke about which side he might end up on, according to Bloomberg. Pérez said later that “The wall is the most idiotic thing I’ve ever seen or heard in my life.”

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A Planet Hollywood becomes a Victorian observatory in Orlando’s Disney Springs

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

When it comes to theatrical architecture, Disney rarely disappoints. So when it came time to remodel the spherical Planet Hollywood in the Disney Springs Development, it turned to Boston-based Elkus Manfredi Architects to double down on the theme “Dine Amongst the Stars.”

Disney Springs is located near Disney’s collection of theme parks in Orlando, Florida. The recently expanded district is home to retail, dining, and entertainment, all modeled after a centuries-old American town that evolved along an alternate timeline to our own. The remodeled Planet Hollywood was envisioned as a stand-alone destination while still fitting into this fantastical setting.

Leveraging the existing iconic dome of the Planet Hollywood, Elkus Manfredi reimagined the building as an epic late-19th-century observatory. A new brick base, complete with arched windows and truss details, adds 5,000 square feet to the project. A tensile Teflon-coated silver fabric resurfaces the dome, referencing the metal domes of vintage observatories, and completes the thematic exterior transformation. Outdoor seating and an exterior stair, encased in a radio-tower-esque structure with another exterior bar, give guests a whole new set of dining options.

The interior of the spherical building has four levels. At the heart of the space, a mock vintage telescope rises through all three of the main dining and entertainment stories. Throughout the whole project, planetary and stellar motifs adorn everything from the custom carpet to the multimedia screens, but each floor has its own character. The main dining level is large and open, connected to the outdoor terrace overlooking Disney Springs. The second level is more intimate, with a smaller dining area and a lounge area geared toward adults. The top dining level on the fourth floor is the most intimate space in the restaurant. Guests here are closest to the dome and the projected stars on its inner surface.

While the restaurant will no longer sport the familiar 1990s Planet Hollywood branding, that does not mean that everything will be replaced. Multiple displays of Hollywood memorabilia are still part of the project’s experience.

The timing of this transformation seems only appropriate. As NASA continuously announces the finding of exoplanets in neighboring star systems, perhaps this new observatory will help Disney discover its own planet… Hollywood.

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Miami’s infrastructure woes run deep, but the city has its eyes set on “huge cultural change”

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

Talk of “infrastructure” may be one of the few things—if not the only thing—that comes close to uniting Democrats and Republicans at the moment. It was transit infrastructure, of course, that literally united the states of America: originally with railroads in the 19th century and later with interstates and automobiles in the 20th. Today, however, some cities’ prevailing love affairs with the car have become rather one-sided.

Polluting air and clogging roads, vehicles choke our cities. Miami ranks fifth nationally and tenth globally for congestion, as residents spend 65 hours in traffic per year on average, according to INRIX, a global traffic researcher that uses big data. Adding real injury to insult, the state’s stretch of the I-95 is America’s most deadly, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

There is a financial burden to excessive traffic too. INRIX estimates that congestion costs Miami drivers $3.6 billion per year (remember that figure). Additionally, drivers pay out an average of $628,000 every day in tolls, just for the privilege of using the Miami-Dade Expressway.

Cars aren’t cheap, but what is the alternative in an auto-dependent city like Miami? Director of the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTPW) for Miami-Dade County Alice Bravo said that she wanted to make Miami a “car-optional community,” where people can get to “all the different regions within the county using reliable public transit that’s convenient and helps people save time.”

A plethora of schemes and projects are now occurring in and around the city, such as high-speed regional rail, local rail, bus, bicycle, and pedestrian routes, water travel, and carpooling. Miami has gone from having nothing concrete in the pipeline for years to everything happening at once, and this coincides with a development boom that is more tuned for urban living than previous waves of development.

Bravo said that the backbone of the infrastructure surge is the Brightline, a completely private, approximately $3 billion scheme by All Aboard Florida. The “higher-speed” (Note: not high-speed) rail service runs the 235-mile stretch from the Orlando airport to Downtown Miami. The new line will reduce travel between Orlando and Miami from four hours to two and a half, for about the same cost as driving.

Such a commuter-rail service may sound familiar: In the late 19th century, the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) was developed by Henry Flagler. Flagler’s railway ran from Jacksonville and was dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world.” The commuter rail prevailed until the 1960s when the line was used to transport freight only, which it still does to this day. Unsurprisingly, then, All Aboard Florida is a sister company of the FEC and the new tracks will be laid along the existing lines.

Designing the Miami station, as well as those in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach is Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) who are working with Miami-based Zyscovich Architects. Design principal Roger Duffy explained how the stations would work with the existing infrastructure around them: “At Fort Lauderdale, we’re looking to link up with a bus service that will connect the cruise port and the station.” The city is also pressing on with plans for a streetcar system called “The Wave” that would connect with the station as well.

Meanwhile, at West Palm Beach, the 60,000-square-foot station is located at the center of downtown and will connect with the existing trolley network as well as Tri-Rail and Amtrak. In Miami, the station inhabits a similar location. A zoning override that turned the area into a special transit district was required to build the station, and tracks here are elevated 50 feet into the air so that the 11,000-foot-long station can bridge roads and pedestrian pathways.

Like any contemporary train terminus, the station will offer a ton of retail space, with room for a food court too. Duffy, however, stressed that the station was “not like duty-free at an airport,” where you have to weave through shops to get anywhere. Amenities will also cater to the area outside the building. Space for food trucks—a hit in Florida—has been provided, while skylights where the station bridges the streets offer daylight.

The Brightline train itself was designed by the LAB at Rockwell Group—an in-house strategy and technology studio at the New York architecture and design studio. The LAB at Rockwell Group worked with All Aboard Florida to conceive the Brightline name, brand platform, visual identity, and designed the train’s interiors as well as the exterior graphics. In addition to this, one of Rockwell Group’s architectural studios designed the interior check-in areas, food and beverage areas, and lounge experiences for all four Brightline stations.

Using the Brightline project as a springboard, Bravo is embarking on a $3.6 billion (remember that number?) transport scheme. Part of “Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit,” otherwise known as the S.M.A.R.T. plan, 82 miles of track will be laid along six transportation corridors that involve local services, including the suburban Metrorail and the elevated monorail Metromover.

In addition to new tracks, existing tracks are also finding a new lease on life as a haven for pedestrians and cyclists. Known as the “Underline,” the rails-to-trails scheme, comes from James Corner Field Operations (JCFO)—the same firm who developed New York’s hugely popular High Line.

As one might guess, the scheme involves area underneath the Metrorail being turned into a landscaped oasis filled with pedestrian paths, cycle lanes, and native planting. The 10-mile stretch is planned to run from Brickell Station down to Dadeland South Station. Phase one is occurring in Brickell, where work is due for completion in 2019, set to cost netween $7 million and $9 million. “Brickell has grown explosively in the past 10 to 15 years,” said Meg Daly, president of Friends of the Underline, the group leading the project. “We really believe that this trail-cum-park will offer incredible amenities and green spaces to offset the vertical growth and increased density in the area.”

Expanding on this, Isabel Castilla of JCFO listed amenities such as a dog park, an outdoor gym, a basketball court that doubles up as a space for yoga classes and similar activities, as well as a 150-capacity bicycle garage (Miami-Dade’s first) and a bike repair station. Art will also line the trail, and amenities will be site-specific: In the University of Miami area, a beach volleyball court will be installed.

According to Irene Hegedus of the DTPW, providing safe bicycle routes is a high priority. Castilla added that the shade provided by the Metrorail is “critical” for a project where people are encouraged to “walk, run, and cycle to stations and along the path.” “Working with the existing infrastructure,” she continued, “we hope this leads to the rezoning and re-visioning of areas along the Metrorail as transit-orientated development sites and areas where, as Miami continues to grow, it hopefully grows in a denser way near transit stations rather than continuing urban sprawl that is very dependent on highways and cars.”

Bravo, too, is aware of the interwoven relationship between transit development and the densification of urban areas. Another tool she discussed to further assist Hegedus’s and her ambitions was the possibility of Uber and Lyft entering the fray of her transport plans, acting as the “first and last miles” for journeys.

Now operating in Miami (after three years of lobbying for service legalization), Uber and Lyft previously found success in other parts of Florida, notably in Pinellas Park and Altamonte Springs where rides are subsidized and saving the cities considerable money. Altamonte Springs City Manager Frank Martz described the pilot partnership as “going very well,” but said the scheme is due to end in July.

The low-cost nature of services such as Uber and Lyft is a key to their success. Already able to outprice traditional taxi drivers, ridesharing services Uber Pool and Lyft Line are looking to compete with bus service, too. Uber has gone further than mere carpooling by introducing pickup points optimized by algorithms that essentially create Uber bus stops.

Uber is also losing money—approximately $3 billion per year. In December, economist Justin Wolfers commented that “prices will rise once they’ve succeeded at monopolizing the industry.” If he is correct, the governmental embracing of Uber and Lyft long-term will prove to be shortsighted. Evidence of what happens when alternative public transit routes become unavailable can be seen in London. During a tube strike earlier this year, Uber fares surged by 450 percent; one rider was reportedly charged $138 for a five-mile trip.

It should be noted, though, that Altamonte Springs and Pinellas Park went with car sharing due to other circumstances not going their way. The Altamonte Springs city government set aside $500,000 (of which only a fraction has been needed) for private-hire subsidies after it was denied funding for a $1.5 million pilot “FlexBus” program. At Pinellas Park, the program emerged in response to a 2014 referendum in which local voters declined to adopt a one-cent sales tax to aid transit in the area.

In Miami, however, residents appear to be more enthusiastic about public transport. The “People’s Transportation Plan,” a half-penny charter county sales surtax is helping to fund the S.M.A.R.T. project, something the public voted in favor of back in 2002.

All this, too, shouldn’t suggest that Miami is waging all-out war against the automobile. Getting around by car is being made easier by what Bravo calls “smart signals”—traffic signals that adapt to current states of congestion. Using cameras, they monitor intersections and use AI to optimize traffic flow. Miami-Dade County is investing $40 million this year for the implementation of the traffic signals along major corridors, part of a five-year, $160 million effort. Other smart-city services include 300 soon-to-be-installed wi-fi transit hotspots from CIVIQ Smartscapes.

With all the proposed infrastructural plans, varying in scale, Bravo is under no illusions about the difficulty of the task. “This is a huge cultural change,” she said. However, Bravo is optimistic about how future generations will take to the changes. “New millennials are cool about public transportation,” she added. Such unprecedented growth seldom comes around often, and the chance to invest off the back of hefty tax receipts may be fleeting. Miami’s public transit system is dire, but if it continues to ride the wave of public support and enact its plans, change in the form of mobility lies ahead.

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An interstate conspiracy against Florida real estate?

This post is part of our years-long running Eavesdrop series (think page 6 for the architectural field). It’s your best source for gossip, insider stories, and more. Have an eavesdrop of your own? Send it to: eavesdrop[at]archpaper.com.

A developer in Miami said that there is an interstate conspiracy against South Florida architecture. “We would sell way more real estate here if the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) would stop telling everyone that Florida was sinking!” Sources have not confirmed whether either claim is true: the conspiracy or the sinking.

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Weiss/Manfredi tapped to master plan Naples, Florida’s cultural campus

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

Naples, Florida-based arts organization Artis—Naples hired New York-based Weiss/Manfredi to create a master plan for its 99,000-square-foot Kimberly K. Querrey and Louis A. Simpson Cultural Campus. The plan will help the campus—home to the Naples Philharmonic, The Baker Museum (formerly the Naples Museum of Art), and a handful of other arts facilities—become more cohesive and dynamic, as well as embrace its natural surroundings.

“What we’re really focusing on are the spaces between the buildings,” said Weiss/Manfredi’s Michael Manfredi, who points out that much of the campus, even though it is located less than a mile from the Gulf of Mexico, is covered in surface parking and self-contained structures. “The light, the water… to take that atmosphere and pull it into Artis—Naples is an extraordinary opportunity,” added fellow principal Marion Weiss. “They have an opportunity to have both a cultural and public dimension.”

The master plan, set to guide development on the campus for the next two to three decades, is scheduled to be ready by summer, with work getting underway next year. The designers are set to meet with Artis—Naples officials and the local community in the coming weeks.

“We’re still at the early part of this exploration. But we know that when disciplines intersect something special happens,” said Artis—Naples CEO and President Kathleen van Bergen, hinting at closer connections among the institution’s varied cultural offerings. She added: “We want them to look at the entire property and consider everything. You don’t often get an opportunity like this in an organization’s life cycle.”

Currently that property, which hosts about 300,000 visitors per year, consists of five buildings, including two performance halls (Frances Pew Hayes Hall and Myra J. Daniels Pavilion), The Baker Museum, the Toni Stabile Education Building, and the Kohan Administration Building.

Best known for its Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, Weiss/Manfredi has also master planned the Nelson-Atkins Museum Cultural Arts District, and designed the Kent State Center for Architecture and Environmental Design. On this project, the firm beat out Diller Scofidio + Renfro with Hargreaves Associates, NADAAA with Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, and PWP Landscape Architecture with Allied Works Architecture.

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Massive $3 billion development will accelerate Tampa, Florida’s growth

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

Tampa, Florida, is one of the fastest growing cities in America. But one development in particular is set to catapult it forward more quickly than any other.

Developer Strategic Property Partners (SPP) is planning a roughly 50-acre, 9-million-square-foot, $3 billion, mixed-use project on the south side of the city’s downtown that will employ more than 15 architecture teams, designing more than 20 buildings. The first phase is slated to be complete by the end of 2020.

While the full team will be announced next month, confirmed architects include Morris Adjmi, COOKFOX, and Alfonso Architects, and landscape architects Reed Hilderbrand. Master planners include David Manfredi of Elkus Manfredi Architects, Jeff Speck of Speck & Associates, and David Dixon of Stantec.

Currently the site, edging the Hillsborough River and other local bodies of water, is a warren of oversized roads, parking lots, empty warehouses, and some lonely-feeling, but important, buildings like the Tampa Convention Center, Amalie Arena, Tampa Bay History Center, and the Florida Aquarium.

In order to create a more vibrant, urban environment, the team, said SPP CEO James Nozar, is paying careful attention to elements like walkability, architectural and programmatic variety, sustainability, landscape, and public space.

“We want it to feel authentic despite the fact that everything is going up at the same time,” said Nozar, who focused on the exceptional variety of architectural talent involved, a re-instituted street grid, and a careful balance of “depth, shadow, [and] context,” and “defining where the special moments happen and where the background fabric is.”

A dizzying amount of uses include over 2 million square feet of corporate office space, 200,000 square feet of creative and tech office space, a 320,000-square-foot facility for the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, a 400,000-square-foot medical arts building, 5,000 new residential apartment and condominium units, 750,000 square feet of new retail and cultural arts uses, a new arts pavilion, two new hotels, and the renovation of the existing Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina.

The project, added Nozar, is pursuing WELL Building Certification, focusing on human health and wellness elements like fitness, light, and comfort. SPP is a joint venture between Cascade Investment LLP (Bill Gates’s investment fund) and local businessman Jeff Vinik, who owns the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team.

The city of Tampa has pledged to chip in $100 million for the site’s infrastructure, including new and updated roads, sidewalks, water, sewer, and park spaces, confirmed Bob McDonaugh, Tampa’s economic opportunity administrator. “They have very ambitious plans and we’re very supportive of them,” said McDonaugh. “It’s an interesting opportunity; instead of doing this piecemeal, it seems to make sense to do this all at once.” Pending approvals, building is set to begin next spring.

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Facing rising sea levels and greater insurance risk, Southern Florida braces for relocations, new flood design standards, and more

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We're publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

The moon over South Florida looked like a swollen grapefruit in November, its reflection rippling off pools of ocean water that bubbled up through storm drains, crept over seawalls, and swallowed Miami streets. It was a “supermoon,” about 17,000 miles closer to Earth than usual, according to NASA, arriving just in time to supercharge the seasonal high waters known as king tides. The water made an island out of the lifeguards’ shack on Matheson Hammock Park, swept “No Wake” signs from marina harbors onto city streets, and marooned a live octopus in a parking garage along Biscayne Bay.

On days like these, it’s obvious that much of the region now home to about 7 million people began as a network of swampy canals meandering from the Everglades to the ocean. Sometimes nature conspires to remind the city of this fact, as it did in November 2016.

Lately those reminders have become more frequent. The rate of sea-level rise has tripled over the last decade, according to a recent study from the University of Miami, bringing with it more frequent coastal flooding. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects that Miami-Dade County will see about 15 inches of sea-level rise by 2045. And because South Florida sits on porous limestone bedrock, saltwater is not just encroaching on coastal communities, but gurgling up from below.

Right now it’s a nuisance, but over the lifetime of a mortgage, flooding in South Florida could threaten tens of billions of dollars of real estate and upend development in the country’s 10th largest metropolitan area. Architects, planners, and developers are just beginning to overhaul the urban landscape, laying the groundwork for a sweeping transformation of building codes, municipal infrastructure, and design norms that could save the city from rising seas.

The crucial question is: Who will change that built environment? Will it be architects and city officials, safeguarding South Florida against the effects of climate change as the world’s living laboratory for so-called climate resiliency? Or is nature coming to reclaim Miami as a swampland?

Higher Ground

South Florida’s development boom is so lucrative it seems inevitable that it will continue. Before the city was founded in 1896, however, it wasn’t clear that the mouth of the Miami River would ever be anything more than a mosquito-infested trading post—until the industrialist Henry Flagler dragged his railroad south from Palm Beach along the highest ground he could find: a coral ridge between 12 and 25 feet above sea level. The tracks reached Biscayne Bay on April 22, 1896. Three months later Miami was incorporated.

Today, Miami is a bustling, sprawling urban landscape that has been remade to suit cars, but some planners say that the same limestone ridge Flagler used could anchor climate-friendly development.

The Urban Land Institute is drafting a plan for the Arch Creek Basin, a mostly low-lying area straddling 2,800 acres and four municipalities, as well as unincorporated Dade County, around one stretch of the railroad. Primarily poor people of color, the residents of Arch Creek face a severe threat from sea-level rise—one that could eventually force them to abandon the area. The development would be flood-resistant and transit-oriented, dense with mixed-use buildings and affordable housing, but also with a health clinic, backup generators, and other resources that could come in handy during disasters.

At a charette in November, designers Gustavo Sanchez-Hugalde, Max Zabala and University of Miami professor Sonia Chao presented their idea for a flood-resistant transportation hub at Northeast 125th Street. It would be transit-oriented development, dense with mixed-use buildings and affordable housing, but also with a health clinic, back-up generators and other resources that could come in handy during a disaster.

“Think of these as not just transit but resilience stations,” said Chao.

In the long run, South Florida’s scarcity of higher ground could also make its elevated areas more valuable as waters rise. That could exacerbate gentrification in minority neighborhoods with relatively high elevations like Liberty City and Little Havana.

“It’s a matter of time until investors will head for the higher land,” said James Murley, chief resilience officer for Miami-Dade County. But climate change isn’t forcing people out of their homes just yet. Asked if climate change is a driving force for gentrification in Miami, Murley is skeptical, but others are starting to look toward the future.

“Right now we’re experiencing more of the classic gentrification that comes with a growing real estate economy,” Murley said.

While the mainland mulls long-term plans to adapt to rising seas, the coastal barrier island of Miami Beach is busy building.

Planning for High Water

Over the next five years, the municipality of Miami Beach will spend $400 to $500 million on flood defenses, installing 80 new pumps, raising roads, and strengthening seawalls across the city. So far the city has funded about $200 million of that project by more than doubling stormwater fees.

A law passed last year requires the owners of buildings larger than 7,000 square feet to pay a fee if they don’t get certified as at least LEED Gold. The builders of properties that don’t get LEED certified at all get slapped with a fee equal to 5 percent of their construction costs. That could help raise money for future infrastructure investments.

Miami Beach also requires new buildings to be at least one foot above the base flood elevation of six feet above sea level. As an additional incentive for developers, the city won’t count the raised elevation of a flood-proofed site toward the project’s height limit or floor-to-area ratio.

Miami Beach environment and sustainability director Elizabeth Wheaton said the new requirements wouldn’t stunt development.

“Developers want to build here,” Wheaton said. “They’re going to do what’s required.”

The first building completed under the new elevation requirements is Jean Nouvel’s Monad Terrace, a 59-unit luxury residential tower on the waterfront in South Beach. Nouvel built Monad Terrace’s ground floor more than 11 feet above sea level, elevating all of the building’s interior spaces and its entrance high enough to ward off flooding.

Building high is an increasingly popular choice for private residences, too. The local architect Rene Gonzalez, known for his high-end modernist houses, is building four new homes in the area that are modeled on mangroves—propped up with stilts and columns for an additional layer of privacy that also affords the owner some long-term insurance against flooding. Gonzalez designed his own home on Belle Isle the same way.

“It’s a responsibility that every architect should take on,” said Gonzalez. “Building a house up is not a luxury. It’s a necessity in our current environmental climate.”

For now, however, most of that work is clustered in tony Miami Beach. In Miami-Dade County at large, where nearly half of all residents live in poverty, there are fewer options.

Because saltwater rises up through South Florida’s porous limestone bedrock, it’s not just coastal communities that are at risk. Many of the most threatened areas lie miles inland, in suburban and often low-income areas of Miami-Dade and Broward County that can’t afford to elevate all their homes and streets.

“It’s unavoidable that there will be relocations,” said Anthony Abbate, an architect based in Fort Lauderdale in Broward County, just to the north of Miami-Dade. “It’s a difficult conversation but I think we’re on the verge of having it. This has to be a conversation with the people, with the public.”

Miami-Dade is in the middle of a vulnerability analysis for major infrastructure, from its airport to its water system, identifying “adaptation action areas” where city planners might best focus their efforts.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done and it needs to be done in short order,” said Abbate.

Some of that work is already underway. The newest addition to the county’s hospital system will pioneer a flood-friendly approach in the recently incorporated town of Doral, just west of Miami International Airport. Designed by Perkins + Will, Jackson West hospital will devote most of its 27 acres to green space and a retention pond to store runoff not just from the built-up part of the site that will house the hospital, but from the developments surrounding the site. Construction is set to begin later this year and the hospital could open in 2020.

Risk and Reward

Perhaps before it faces up to the force of nature, however, South Florida may have to reckon with its runaway real estate market. Wayne Pathman, a land-use attorney and chair of Miami’s Sea Level Rise Committee, said the face of Miami’s climate crisis might not be a natural disaster, but a collapse of the insurance market.

“Flood insurance is going to be the tip of the spear,” Pathman said. “Unlike hurricanes, which are a single event that may not happen for years at a time, sea-level rise is a constant. Once it’s here, it’s here, and it’s never going to get better.”

Pathman said some of his clients with property in Miami Beach and North Beach are already seeing a 500 percent increase in their flood insurance premiums. For now, that’s manageable, he said, because they were probably underpriced in the first place.

“When that jumps as high as $50,000 over the next 10 years, which it will, that’s alarming,” he said.

Areas that today flood two or three times each year could see water in the streets every week, and banks may stop offering mortgages there. That could have ripple effects across the region, Pathman said, jeopardizing tourism dollars and property-tax revenue that Miami-Dade and Broward counties will need to fund new climate-resilient infrastructure.

“Those are our only two industries here in South Florida,” Pathman said. “If we don’t start dealing with the insurance risk, all the ideas we come up with for future infrastructure will be cost-prohibitive because we won’t have any money.”

Reinaldo Borges, an architect who sits on the sea-level rise committee with Pathman, said the luxury houses and museums already built to deal with higher seas show climate-resilient design can provide a return on investment.

“If you design correctly,” he said, “you shouldn’t be worried about insurance risk.”

Borges has a checklist for clients who are looking to invest in the future of Miami real estate—not just flip property for a profit. It includes elevating building mechanical systems, installing hurricane-proof windows, and planning for severe floods.

“For a building like that, all you have to do before a storm is bring your pool chairs inside,” he said.

Climate-proofing one building may be a straightforward design problem. Saving a metro region of 7 million is something else.

Borges came to Miami when he was six years old, brought from Cuba by parents who sought a better life for their children. Today he has two daughters, ages 23 and 29, and he has the same hope for them.

“When you’ve got political leadership in denial, these are challenges I’m concerned about,” said Borges. “This is a world-class city, but people are starting to ask if this is the place they really want to invest.” 

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Deep in the Florida Everglades, this former state prison hosts private military training operations

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We're publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

Deep in the Florida Everglades, surrounded by wildlife and natural preserves, an abandoned correctional facility has become the unlikely background for high-stakes military training operations, far from the public eye. The Hendry Correctional Institute, a former high-security state prison complex turned private training facility, is the unlikely protagonist in a new generation of military-style training scenarios.

Since 2012, the site has been run by Altair Training Solutions, a private enterprise that rents out the facility and provides training to clients across a spectrum of military, private, and security interests. Site organizers capitalize on the facility’s protective architecture, and its layers of security infrastructure left over from its prison days, to inject realism in simulated missions for special operations forces, law enforcement agencies, and weekend hobbyists.

The site signals a shift in what we might think of as “adaptive reuse” in a niche market of the newly securitized economy. Instead of repurposing an abandoned warehouse or a dilapidated factory into lofts or retail space, the scheme here was to reinvigorate a vast area on the urban scale—including 1,150 surrounding acres, a nearby county correctional facility, two hotels, houses, dining halls, a research and development facility, long and short shooting ranges, shoot houses, and a 3,800-foot-long private airstrip. Instead of targeting traditional market forces, the land-grab speculation hinges on the presumed insatiable and continued interest of militarized forces in the kind of free-rein, live-fire, no-holds-barred urban expeditions that only an underused, remote, and built-up site allows.

Such sites have long been objects of desire for the U.S. armed forces, which see them as ready-made approximations of emerging theaters of operations—stand-ins for the streets, markets, and central business districts of hostile cities a world away. The RAND Corporation identified abandoned towns as future training gold mines in the mid-2000s. The U.S. military has, in recent years, used existing—and sometimes inhabited—domestic cities to add realism to their training regimens. But this site was identified and purchased by private citizens (albeit former-military), and was initially supported by public tax incentives (a package the State of Florida called Project Assassin, which was later rescinded). The newly reimagined facility opens its doors to the untrained hobbyist and gun enthusiast. Public programming requires no military training or law-enforcement credentials—passing a criminal background check and paying the entry fee gains entry to select courses. In one recent example, students from every walk of life spent a Saturday learning to shoot targets near the former prison law library from hovering helicopters. This is a mom-and-pop shop for street-front shoot-’em-ups. This is amateur hour. And it may only be the beginning, a model for the private security urbanism to come.

To better understand the draw of the site, one must understand remoteness as a fundamental asset of the new private security urbanism. The state has historically invested in remote areas for detention purposes, using distance from populated centers as a buffer. Built in 1977 to be intentionally surrounded by uninhabited wilderness, the facility had been deteriorating for decades. The required public funding for renovations and remote access had become a burden to the State of Florida. The once-desired remoteness proved to only expedite the prison’s eventual demise, but later offered an opportunity for other uses—allowing for the type of training other non-remote sites cannot.

The details of the training contracts are confidential, but one can imagine the series of exfiltration and other tactical operations that this type of location affords. As other military installations are spending money to faithfully recreate every physical nuance of projected intervention sites from scratch, Altair comes ready-made with a bona fide architecture of imprisonment. The former prison and its buildings, no longer capable of sustaining prior instantiations of security, are now seen as “up for grabs”—a kind of marketable good, repurposed to the whims of the new securocratic order.

It takes a mind with a particular type of calculus to understand the high value of civic remnants in the oncoming era. While the standard of real estate development speculation looks for new density and economic growth opportunities, these alternative post-urban investment schemes search for forgotten ghost spaces, where remoteness and absence of human inhabitation are the prized components. Given the rampant privatization of the prison-industrial complex, abandoned state prisons could soon be a boon to the speculative rehabber of disused security infrastructure. The architecture of incarceration is offered as a stage set, perpetuating its imagined use.

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AN focuses on Florida for upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando

The Architect's Newspaper's April 2017 issue takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We'll publish those articles online as the Conference approaches; in the meantime Senior Editor Matt Shaw's editorial from that issue highlights what we've explored in the Sunshine State.

Since The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) switched from four weekly regional editions to one single national monthly, we have worked tirelessly to maintain our in-depth regional coverage of architecture, even if it is packaged differently. But sometimes we miss the intense focus on one region for one issue. That is why for our AIA special issue, which coincides with the AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando, Florida, we decided to make a Florida regional issue, in the spirit of our old East, Midwest, West, and Southwest editions. We could call it Southeast, but there is so much building and development going on in Florida that we wanted to give it the classic AN treatment by itself.

What exactly is happening there?

Most of the high-profile development is in Miami, where The Four Seasons stands as the tallest building in the city at 789 feet, but will soon be surpassed by the 830-foot-tall Panorama Tower, and soon after that both will likely be passed by a wave of supertalls that are in the planning process. There are nearly a dozen proposals in various states of planning, including World Trade Center of the Americas, The Towers by Foster + Partners, KPF’s One Bayfront Plaza, and Skyrise Miami, a.k.a. “The Eiffel Tower of the Magic City.” The FAA has never approved a building over 1,049 feet, so that is the designated height of many, including the latter three listed above.

This boom shows that while the condo market in South Florida may actually be cooling off, the cities are not. In our feature, we profile Miami from several angles, showing a complex metropolis layered with architecture and design activity. The latest wave of development has brought with it a new civic-mindedness to a city that is struggling to escape its car-centric culture and is slowly growing to offer more urbane experiences through infrastructure, density, and advances in technology. The re-urbanization of Miami parallels many other places, but it has its own characteristic development patterns.

The paradox of building directly in the face of sea-level rise may seem daunting, especially as the governor of Florida continues to deny climate change and forbids government employees from using the term. Luckily, there is hope: A sub-state organization of counties and municipalities are taking the lead without state help. Since 2009, the counties of Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach have led the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact. Other partners include the Institute for Sustainable Communities, South Florida Water Management District, The Nature Conservancy – Florida Chapter, and the Florida Climate Institute. Along with a collection of cities and towns, they have been working together—and meeting annually—to coordinate mitigation and adaptation activities across county lines, as well as address funding and policy issues.

In Miami, there is also work being done to combat the social issues of sea-level rise threatening the city, as there is real concern that up to 50 percent of the land will not be habitable in the coming decades. What will happen if this is true? Not only would real estate become unusable, but higher ground that is now affordable could become unaffordable for those who live there, if that territory becomes more desirable to those displaced along the shore. To offset that, many are looking to Philadelphia’s anti-gentrification “Development Without Displacement” methods such as the tax exemptions in the Longtime Owner-Occupant Program (LOOP), and other alternative ownership incentives and models, and applying them to a GIS-based plan for the city.

These contradictory forces—the ocean and the city—may pose a threat to Miami if no action is taken, but they are also what makes it so desirable. The landscape and the resultant tourism industry—hotels, malls, resorts, beaches, nightlife—fuels a tropical paradise with urban, suburban, and rural issues as compelling and complex as anywhere.

Because we cover Florida regularly, we have some past coverage that might interest those who enjoy this issue. Click here for a list of past articles.

Special thanks to landscape architect Walter Meyer of Local Office Landscape Architecture whose help was indispensable for this issue.

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A Jimmy Buffett–themed community for seniors is coming to Daytona Beach

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded. Thanks to a new Florida development, it will soon be possible to live in Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville.

The almost $1 billion Buffett-themed Daytona Beach complex is marketed towards the 55-plus crowd who crave those tropical vibes. At Latitude Margaritaville, parrotheads residents can enjoy beach access, a resort-style pool, Margaritaville-branded cuisine at on-site restaurants, a fitness center, and a walkable town square complete with transit links to the community's various destinations. A band shell for live entertainment will round out the programming.

Though the singer's Margaritaville brand includes hospitality ventures in the U.S. and Caribbean, a retirement community is perhaps the perfect entrepreneurial synthesis of Buffett’s drunken yacht rock and easy life ethos. Canada- and Florida-based developer Minto Communities is spearheading the project, which is located near the intersection of Interstate 95 and LPGA Boulevard. A sales center for the development's 6,900 homes is expected to open this fall.

The Orlando Business Journal reported the project, previously christened Tomoka, will boost Daytona Beach’s residential population significantly.

“For over 60 years Minto has focused on providing incredible lifestyle in the communities we create,” Minto Communities senior vice president Bill Bullock said, in a statement. “We are thrilled to be partnering with Margaritaville to put the exclamation point on fun living for active adults.”

“We are excited to partner with Minto and believe this relationship will redefine lifestyle destination living in Daytona Beach,” added Margaritaville CEO John Cohlan. “With Minto’s expertise in creating master-planned developments and Margaritaville’s inherent ability to deliver fun and escapism, Latitude Margaritaville has the exact coordinates for those looking to live the Margaritaville lifestyle as they grow older, but not up.”

Well, cheers to that.