Posts tagged with "Florida":

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Disney will recreate this historic Kansas City theater

It is not likely that anyone has first-hand memories of the Willis Wood Theatre. Designed by noted Kansas City architect Louis Curtiss, and built in 1902, the impressive Beaux Arts theater burned to the ground in 1917. One hundred years later, as part of a major announcement at the D23 Expo 2017, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts announced it will be building a replica of the long-gone theater at near Main Street U.S.A. at the Magic Kingdom. The choice of a theater that no one has seen in a century is not random. Kansas City was the boyhood home of Walt Disney. Disney moved to Kansas City at the age of nine from Marceline, Missouri. While the small town of Marceline is the basis for the Main Street U.S.A. area at Magic Kingdom, there are also many references to Kansas City in the middle America–themed amusement park. In particular, signs from Kansas City's Laugh-O-Gram Studio, the studio in which Walt Disney invented Mickey Mouse, can be found throughout. While it is not known whether Disney ever attended shows at the Willis Wood Theatre, historians think it is likely. It is known that 33rd President Harry S. Truman frequented the theater to see Shakespeare plays performed. Built by Colonel Willis Wood, a successful dry goods merchant, the theater hosted live performances until being converted into a movie theater. Today the site of the block-and-half-long theater is home to the Mark Twain tower, a historic landmark in its own right. With no chance of the theater every being rebuilt in its original location, it would seem central Florida will be the place for those looking for turn-of-the-century Kansas City. The real question is whether the new theater's interior will match the reds, greens, blues, and gold that reportedly adorned the original, and whether the large nude caryatids will once again fill the main theater space.
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Here’s the $3 billion project that will give Tampa a skyline

Correction 7/7/17: The article initially stated that Water Street Tampa was spread out over roughly one square mile. It is on nearly 50 acres. A $3 billion project will add Tampa’s first new office towers in almost 25 years and is set to reshape the city’s downtown. The nine-million-square-foot development will take just under a decade to build. Spread over almost 50 acres on the edge of the Garrison Channel and Hillsborough Bay, one of Water Street Tampa's focal points is a new college and medical center via the University of South Florida. But the Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute is only part of the package: The development will include 3,500 condominiums and apartments, two hotels with 650 rooms in total, and one million square feet of mixed-use retail threaded between 13 acres of public space. According to a press release, the project will break ground this fall, with the college's ribbon cutting set for a not-too-distant 2019. That building will be the first of the development's 18 buildings to open. So who's behind the project? The developer is Strategic Property Partners, an alliance between Jeff Vinik, the owner of the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning, and Bill Gates's Cascade Investment. In addition to this mega-project, and sibling projects in the Sunshine State, Construction Dive notes that there's a substantial number of new development in Downtown Tampa. The latest is Lafayette Place, a tri-tower complex near the University of Tampa, that will feature a hotel, apartments, office space, plus restaurants and entertainment programming over 1.8 million square feet. Water Street Tampa is seeking a special wellness certification through the International Well Building Institute (IWBI). Like the WELL building certification, its close cousin, the WELL Community Standard applies to new developments that encourage healthful behaviors, like walking, while mitigating environmental hazards like noise and air pollution that detract from quality of life. It's a relatively new framework, but given how quickly wellness has spread from the crunchy margins to the mainstream, the designation is catching on: In March, Gensler and construction services company Structure Tone scored the country's first WELL office certification for a New York City building. At Water Street Tampa, all buildings will be cooled by a central facility, eliminating the need for cooling towers atop each individual structure. Instead, the developer promises green roofs with views over the water and downtown.
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Can Tampa undo its Post-War planning mistakes while embracing its environment? This competition explored how.

The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) has partnered with urbanNext—a multidisciplinary platform for design promoted by Actar Publishers—to share articles on common topics every two weeks. This week, we’re pairing the urbanNext article below with AN’sHow is the New Jersey Meadowlands planning for climate change?” The article below was authored by Shannon Bassett, an architectural and urban designer.
The (Re) Stitch Tampa project was initially conceptualized during 2010 around the advent of the announcement of what was to be the first high-speed rail line in the U.S. The Obama Administration had just announced as part of its “New” New Deal program that the region was to receive $1.2 billion in federal monies earmarked for the construction of a high-speed rail line along the Tampa-Orlando corridor. The program was reminiscent of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s WPA program, during the great Depression, where the federal government funded large-scale public infrastructural projects with the intent of jump-starting the economy. In Florida, such projects included the Rural Electrification Program of rural farms, running wire to over 54,000 farms, and the development of much of the Florida State Park System. [1] Plan Tampa, a post-war coastal American city, was reeling from the worst recession since the great Depression. Arguably, it was also located in one of the regions the greatest impacted in the country by the 2008 economic bust and mortgage crisis. The region had developed around car privileging infrastructures and an economy predicated principally on real estate and its speculative practices. The real-estate bubble had burst hard here, where real-estate speculation and flipping were part of the main sources of the economy. It was not uncommon, beginning in 2007 and continuing onwards, to see hand-crafted signs dotting the on and off ramps of Tampa’s highway infrastructures and byways of the city advertising short-sale, foreclosed houses, or offering flat-out cash for houses. “We buy up houses-$50,000.00 each and 3 for…” [2] By 2011, however, this “New” New Deal in the form of high-speed rail infrastructure had been squashed, and the $1.2 billion of federal monies returned to the federal government. The stymying of the project had been largely due to the prevailing anti-smart and, arguably, anti-urban politics which did not support the funding of public transportation. This was even despite the efforts of mayors in the six cities who would be positively impacted by the high-speed rail system, who self-organized at a local-regional level to accept the federal monies, although in the end they were not able to do so. The aggregated land for the high-speed rail station in Tampa was also left vacant, left to return back to nature. Therein existed other such aggregated plots of land or “land-banking” which had occurred at the height of the real-estate boom, such as on the north end of the Riverwalk, the northern anchor of the competition project site, where the developer had acquired and aggregated land and had then, subsequently, gone bankrupt. The Trolley Barn-Armature Works lay in decay, as a relic of the post-industrial landscape, and the former affluent trolley-car suburb and trolley system which was one of the most successful in the U.S. before it was ripped-up and replaced by the roads of the predominant automobile culture. This aggregated lot lay in urban decay; the ecology and the biodiversity returning back to it and recovering the site’s natural landscape. This urban aggregate added to the 50% of surface parking, as well as to the additional vacancies in the downtown core. The focus of the competition brief shifted, at this moment, to a critical re-thinking of the ebbs and flows of circulation and movement throughout the city, and how these might contribute to a more sustainable development and ecological practices. The competition brief posed the question, how might the re-calibrating of infrastructure serve as an opportunity to re-choreograph the flows and the movements of people and habitat to and from its natural lifeline running through the city, and how might it bring the River into the city? Paradoxically, the recession and the mortgage crisis with its foreclosures, vacancies, and halted development, had actually provided an opportunity to take stock, as well as to critically reassess a legacy during the 20th century of largely unsustainable building and development practices and seemingly unlimited growth, much of which was eating up valuable wetlands and ecologically sensitive lands. Unsustainable land development practices had been catalyzed by the rationalization of the pumping system. Dredging, as well as the canalization of swamplands pushed by real-estate speculation and tourism, had largely trashed the natural environment and its ecologies. Further, the invention of air conditioning had perpetuated the development of housing typologies divorced from their natural systems and local ecologies, dissimilar to Florida’s earlier vernacular housing typologies, such as the Florida Dogtrot. The Dogtrot’s design was more integrated with passive design strategies, such as breezeways as well as the natural Florida landscape. The competition also prompted a re-thinking of the current oppositional relationship of the city to its water, as well as the potential to re-stitch, re-cover and re-claim the landscape of the Post-War Coastal American City through Ecologies. Tampa—the Beginnings of the Post-War Coastal American City Unlike their counterparts to the North, the Sunbelt coastal cities of the south, including Tampa, did not experience the same overarching opposition to the top-down urban renewal planning practices of the 1950s, largely inspired by the Modernist City. During the 1960s, freeway revolts occurred in many American cities, opposing the byproducts of the 1958 Federal Highway Act, which included cutting highway infrastructure through swathes of the city in order to expedite commuters out to the suburbs. The post-war suburbs had been federally subsidized in the form of inexpensive mortgages to returning war vets from World War Two. Jane Jacobs, author of the seminal text, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, successfully organized her community to oppose and subsequently defeat Robert Moses’ attempt to bulldoze part of the West Village in New York City with a cross-town expressway infrastructure. Further, grassroots community opposition to urban renewal projects and the bulldozing of Boston’s historic West End and Scollay Square, as well as New York City’s Penn Station, lay the groundwork for the bottom-up preservation movement of cities and their historic fabric beginning in the 1950s. It also ushered in the establishment of the National Park Service in the U.S. Tampa’s period of urban renewal happened later, in the 1960s and 70s. Unlike their northern counterparts, many of the community leaders in the districts designated for urban renewal actually embraced it, as opposed to attempting to fight it, such as in Tampa’s Ybor City. As Tampa historian Emanuel Leto writes, “these projects were also motivated, in part, by racial divisions within urban communities, and the desire for segregation in districts and enclaves of the city.”[3] The erasure of one such community known as “the Scrub,” was one of the three major urban renewal projects carried out by Tampa in the 1960s as part of the Federal Urban Renewal program. Its name came from its natural landscape, referring to the territory outside of the protected Fort Brooke boundary which was settled by white settlers, and referred to the small brush-like vegetation of scrub and Florida brush. The area was settled by freed African-American slaves and the neighborhood had a vibrant music scene, including Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald. The inhabitants were relocated to public housing and the city became largely zoned as single use as part of the CBD (Central Business District), with highway infrastructure cutting through the urban fabric, carrying people out to the suburbs in the wetlands and the reclaimed swamplands, which lay beyond a middle landscape of trolley suburbs, largely vacated. Tampa as the Ecological City Prior to the period of urban renewal which radically transformed the urban space and fabric of Tampa, the settlement of the area had a much more intrinsic relationship to the landscape and its natural ecologies, living more symbiotically with the Tampa Bay natural estuary. Historical natural atlases and guides of Tampa from the turn of the 20th century boasted in their descriptions of Tampa’s natural landscape, as well as its estuary. “People came from miles around to eat the fish and oysters out of the Tampa Bay.” Such sites as Sulphur Springs, located further north up the Hillsborough River were, in fact, natural springs where people came from afar for their natural healing powers. Other sites of intrigue included an alligator farm adjacent to the natural spring. The site became contaminated and trashed in the middle part of the 20th century, however, although ecological remediation and recovery is currently being undertaken in the area by the City. Competition Brief The competition brief is premised on a critique of the failings of the post-war American City, the prevailing traces and conditions of which can be seen in Tampa. The brief also calls for resilient design strategies, which address its coastal location, as well as the re-articulation of its land-water edge between the city and the water. It proposes possible design strategies, which might begin to de-construct, de-engineer, as well as to de-laminate the previous infrastructures that are part of the legacy of these predominantly short-sited planning strategies. The competition framed a re-thinking and re-programming, as well as the re-articulation and re-consideration of the possible occupation of infrastructures operating at a large-scale. (Re)stitch Tampa serves as a research platform. The publication serves as a useful toolkit and handbook for disseminating design strategies which both design for resiliency, as well as addressing the conditions which are resultant from the failings of the policies around the post-war American city, and their unintended consequences. Designers are trained to be strategic, innovative and tactical in design, as well as having the ability to synthesize multi-scalar systems, and to conceptualize multiple scenarios for different conditions. The brief also encouraged designers to work across a spectrum of design scales, while addressing issues of recovering a landscape. Arguably, the state of Florida and its coastal cities will be some of those the worst impacted in the U.S. by sea level rise and climate change. Whereas human settlement and inhabitation in these locations initially co-existed in a much more symbiotic relationship with their natural landscapes and ecologies, the natural geography of this territory writ-large has been significantly impacted and altered by a manufactured landscape. Design strategies can also build on new modes of design representation, employing mapping as a process of design research. The competition brief challenged designers to develop schemes addressing the perceived failings of the post-war American city, offering solutions for the vacancies from previous failed urban renewal programs, and the ensuing urban decay and flight from the city. Perhaps, most importantly, it is the ability of design to act in a milieu not possessing the political will or agency to address the pressing issues of sea-level rise and climate change in coastal cities. The schemes should offer design strategies, which lie in more symbiotic relationships between city and nature, including the Hillsborough River and the Tampa Bay and its estuary. It should be noted, however, that recent trends currently show, in fact, the population to be actually increasing as migration flows of the Baby Boomer retirement generation move to Sunbelt coastal cities seeking warmer climates and cheaper housing prices than those available in the North.
The Competition The competition had both national, as well as international participation, bringing forth the best practices for designing for resiliency in coastal cities from all over the world. The invited jurors, prominent theorists as well as practitioners in urban design and landscape urbanism—Margaret Crawford, Juhani Pallasmaa, Chad Oppenheim, Chris Reed and Charles Waldheim—discussed the opportunities for the envisioning, as well as the re-thinking of these urban landscapes. Juror Charles Waldheim lectured broadly about the agency that the Design Ideas Competition possesses, and the pivotal role that it continues to play in redefining urban design and theory, citing such seminal examples as the competition for the Parc de la Villette in Paris’s nineteenth arrondissement, a former slaughterhouse. Both Bernard Tschumi’s project, as well as the OMA scheme for Parc de la Villette, reconsidered the re-programming of the urban condition through the programming of the landscape of a thickened surface, as well as the juxtaposition of programmatic bands with indeterminate and flexible programs. As Waldheim discussed, more recent design competitions, such as that of the Downsview Park competition, an international competition for an urban park design for a former military base in Toronto, Canada, have focused on the integration of ecologies and habitat into design schemes. So did the naturalization of the Mouth of the Don competition, also located in Toronto. Here, the previous infrastructure of the Don River was softened and re-naturalized at its mouth where it empties out into Lake Ontario, thus creating an urban estuary, as well as catalyzing a re-thinking of the co-existing natural habitat with landscape systems. The Competition Schemes Many of the competition schemes featured here investigate resiliency as a design strategy. The winning schemes distinguished themselves by addressing the issues of the competition framework, including landscape recovery, in addition to the contemporary urban issues in the post-war Coastal American city such as designing with vacancies. This also included the de-engineering of infrastructures from the failed paradigms of post-war city planning policies, at the same time as layering resiliencies and ecologies into strategic planning and frameworks. The competition entries, which are featured here, are analyzed and considered for their contribution to new and more flexible frameworks of urban design and planning design for the Post-War Coastal American city through Ecologies. The winning schemes for (Re)stitch Tampa distinguish themselves by challenging existing planning norms through ecological urbanism. Schemes also examine alternative methods of representation and process in urban design. The featured schemes address the city through the three mutually reinforcing lenses, which framed the competition, those of ecology, infrastructure and connectivity. Landscape infrastructure becomes the underlying structure and connective tissue of the urban system. The schemes also critique the single-use zoning, of the modernist, post-war city. Winning Schemes 1. Flowscape—A Vision for a New Urban Estuary proposes the de-engineering and re-programming of the previous regimes of historic infrastructures, resulting from poor-sighted urban policy decisions. Its underlying concepts propose the re-calibration of the historically oppositional relationships between land and water, in addition to critiquing the previous regimes of decades-old infrastructural projects and their resulting fragmentation of cities. It also proposes the reclaiming, as well as the re-assigning of new and layered programs between the interface of the city and the water. The scheme introduces an urban bayou along the underside of the Crosstown Expressway along its right of way. It affords a large-scale re-stitch in a swapping out of parking on the land for an ecological system. Thus, the bayou is connected to the Tampa Bay natural estuary, the city, and the Shipping Channel. Here, design strategies engage ecological processes in their frameworks. This scheme creates urban marshlands that integrate liquid programs into the city, as well as integrating both urban, and ecological relationships within the city. This scheme re-organizes and aggregates the surface, re-stitching the forgotten layers of the city, creating a layering of programs, as well as new flows and movements. Soft-infrastructure can accommodate flooding.
The strategies used here address the disinvestment of the public realm, as well as integrating flood protection onto the city grid and its systems.
2. Stitches and Fabrics, another winning scheme featured here, offers a proposal for not only a singular scheme, yet for a number of possible different scenarios, which are flexible, operating within the framework of the post-war coastal American city. Schemes plan for a shifting landscape, through both flexible, as well as indeterminate programs, where design has the agency to address uncertainties. The proposal identifies points for individual stitching to occur. These stitches, when aggregated or combined, have the agency to become activated as part of a larger, scalar proposal. In their overall totality, they have the agency to activate new programs within the city. Strategies include those of infill, as well as the introduction of tidal zones and aquatic typologies within the city grid. The scheme reclaims infrastructure for other uses, introducing layered programs within these substrates. 3. (re) stitch Resilience is an elegant design strategy which pays homage to the intrinsic relationship and symbiotic siting of the initial human settlement in the region with respect to its fragile eco-systems and their natural resources. The design’s overarching intent is to make the city more resilient to sea level rise, in addition to creating a public water space in the River which registers the changing water levels. An archipelago design strategy addresses the current vacancies in the urban fabric, which are aggregated through the recovering and reclaiming of the landscape. A floating public square acts both as a public space and as a scaffolding for layered programs and ecological services. It also acts as storage for storm water and purification systems. PARK in lots re-introduce layered programs, which engage both the water, as well as the integration of urban and ecological systems and the transformation of infrastructures. It creates different matrices of green infrastructure, in addition to re-naturalizing the post-war coastal city.
Conclusions (Re) Stitch Tampa, as a research platform, fundamentally questions the prevailing frameworks and methods of traditional urban design practices. It also challenges traditional city planning strategies, which design cities through a weightier approach of buildings, which also employ single-use zoning. The schemes featured here and resulting from the competition, reintroduce the River as the new spine and lifeline of the city while creating new and layered programs along it. This resonates with design strategies of flexibility and open-endedness for programming. It also integrates performative design aspects through a re-working of the river’s infrastructure. It begins with a new spine for the city, as well as the re-introduction of new ecologies which reconnect the city to the water. The projects emerging from the (Re) Stitch Tampa project have the potential to have a life beyond the competition itself. They offer a tool-kit of possible design strategies for architects, planners, and city planning agencies, as well as the constituents, stakeholders, and developers vis-à-vis public place-making in the post-war coastal American city. This publication should be used as both a toolkit, as well as a handbook which affords an alternative insight for both designing, as well as recovering cities and their landscapes. These include tactical strategies, designing for resiliency, flexibilities, which engage multiple readings and possibilities. As initiated by the competition brief, connective urban landscapes and ecological infrastructure have the agency to function as the underlying framework. The featured schemes here robustly address the competition charge, designing frameworks with ecologies, as opposed to a singular proposal. Within this framework, these strategies can act as catalysts for the economic redevelopment of the city, in addition to calibrating the reconnection of the city to its nature, while ameliorating its current fragmentation. Other notable coastal cities in Florida, such as Port Charlotte, south of Tampa, have adopted more progressive design strategies for their land-water edges, which might also serve as useful precedents. After Hurricane Charley in 2004 severely impacted Port Charlotte, the city engaged a strategy of acquiring land through rolling coastal easements, land banking and compensating those property owners with the properties impacted. The vacated land became part of a public trust for the city of parklands and areas for coastal replenishment and building for resiliency. As a strategy, the design is more flexible and that allows the city to replenish their valuable wetlands, which can mitigate storm surge. In a milieu where there does not exist the robust political will to address these increasingly critical issues facing Florida’s coastal cities, as well as other coastal cities within North America and the world, it is the charge of designers, trained in stewardship, who must be tactical in their design gestures and strategies, with an overarching agenda for the greater public realm. Epilogue-DIY (Do it Yourself) (re) stitch Tampa There were a number of significant public space projects which were actually implemented shortly after the (Re) Stitch Tampa awards ceremony on April 12, 2012. The city received a significant TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) federal grant, which in part was used to finish the remaining segment of the Tampa Riverwalk, which has recently just opened. Additionally, a green pedestrian right of way is being implemented along the right of way under the Crosstown Expressway. The abandoned Waterworks Park industrial building on the northern anchor parcel of the Riverwalk was adaptively reused as a restaurant, and the natural spring there as well as a city park. Ulele Spring was recovered and connected to the River, in addition to undergoing a significant shore-softening strategy and habitat restoration. Its warmer water temperatures serve as a destination for the manatee, which swim up the Hillsborough River from the Tampa Bay Estuary into the downtown core. Perhaps most inspiring is The Tampa Green Artery project, a grassroots, bottom-up organization with a mission to complete a 22-mile planned, perimeter trail throughout Tampa. Through the aggregation of vacancies and other opportunities, this dedicated group continues to connect the neighborhoods of Tampa and various public spaces with off-water and close to water trails. This is an excerpt from (Re)Stitch Tampa. Riverfront-Designing the Post-War Coastal American City with Ecologies, 2017. For further information, visit [re]stitchtampa.org.

This article originally appeared as Tampa as the Ecological City. Living with and Inhabiting the Estuary and the Swamp in urbanNext. You can find additional Honorable Mentions and Selected Proposals there. [1] Gary R. Mormino, “WPA in Florida”, FORUM (The Magazine of the Florida Humanities Council), Issue 25-Nov./Dec. 2005. [2] Empirical observation of the author. [3] “Manuel Leto, Cigar City Magazine.
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Is Jacksonville, Florida’s best hope for a post-climate change megacity?

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.

Increasing economic and environmental pressures have the potential to challenge the resiliency of South Florida’s low-lying urban areas in the near future. As Florida’s population continues to grow in the midst of the increasingly obvious impacts of gentrification, global climate change, and sea level rise, economic and environmental displacement are likely to make the northern city of Jacksonville a beacon of hope for a climate-ravaged state.

Why? Because Jacksonville is huge and has room to grow. The city, named after President Andrew Jackson, also first governor of Florida, is the state’s largest by population and the 12th largest in the U.S., population-wise, with 868,031 residents. Jacksonville is also the largest city in the U.S. by land area—874.3 square miles—making it almost twice the size of Los Angeles and about three times that of New York City. The city’s corresponding 1,142 people per square mile density—L.A. and New York are many times denser—means there is plenty of room to grow.

Ruth L. Steiner, professor and director at the Center for Health and the Built Environment in the department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Florida, Gainesville, said: “I think the area is amenable to accepting large amounts of new growth,” adding that though the region could likely support an influx of new residents, its schools, transportation, and land-use policies would need a healthy dose of re-thinking to be ready.

A question regarding the massive growth in southern and central Florida, however, centers around the long-term sustainability of these new population centers as the impacts of climate change and sea level rise threaten the state’s coastal communities. With sea levels predicted to rise between four inches and up to ten feet across the region, low-lying areas of the Miami region will see massive losses in real estate and untenable retrofitting costs. The simultaneous and ongoing population growth across that region will likely ultimately push residents to flee to higher, cheaper ground.

That’s where Jacksonville comes in. Though some parts of the city lie on the coast, much of the city’s land area currently sits roughly 16 feet above sea level. As of 2010, Jacksonville had 366,273 households with an 11.8 percent vacancy rate, meaning that roughly 43,220 units are currently unoccupied. The relatively high vacancy rate means lower rents and, maybe more importantly, lower economic barriers to homeownership for first-time buyers—a growing problem for Miami’s millennial residents. Jacksonville is also home to the nation’s largest urban parks system, with 80,000 acres of parkland distributed across 337 sites, which according to Steiner, “bodes well” for any future urban development. She explained, “Investment in public infrastructure like parks has a high level of pay-back in terms of raising quality-of-life.”

Steiner added that the city faces challenges in terms of its urban layout; “another dilemma is the city’s sprawled out urban form,” she said, adding that because most of the development in the city has happened since World War II, the city is organized along “a series of major arterials and mega-blocks,” a 3,400-mile long network of roads that deters pedestrian-oriented design. Jacksonville also has a bus-only transit system that, aside from a downtown monorail line, leaves much to be desired in terms of mass transit.

The city, a short drive from the University of Florida’s Gainesville campus, is, however, poised for knowledge worker growth. Not only that, but the vast majority of Florida’s recent population growth is not from an increase in births or even migration from other American states, but from a net influx of individuals moving to the state from foreign countries, with Cuban, Venezuelan, and Haitian immigrants showing up in the highest numbers. The impact of climate change on those countries is currently unknown, but it is safe to assume that those communities would continue to grow should conditions back home deteriorate.

In a not-too-far-off future, could Jacksonville provide a relief valve for the growing state? It’s likely, and if city officials can prepare accordingly, Jacksonville’s new residents might learn to love the city. “Sometimes,” Steiner added, “I think Jacksonville is a diamond in the rough.”

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The old mall is dead and Florida’s largest retail developments are showing what comes next

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 Victor Gruen designed the first contemporary American malls in the mid-1950s, he changed the changed the way Americans shopped. Much to his chagrin, however, what malls would become over the next 50 years would be far from the civic social suburban spaces that he had envisioned. He would eventually distance himself from the typology.

Today, malls, as a typology, are going through major change. Whether due to a changing economy or a changing customer base, malls—as 1990s mall rats knew them—are disappearing. Instead, new configurations and old ideas are shaping the way people are shopping, and if there is one place to look at this change, it’s Florida.

Florida has weathered the last decade relatively well. Buoyed by its massive tourist industry and the ever-replenished retiring baby boomer population, malls across the state still draw crowds. Even so, these palaces of consumerism are not impervious to the changing tastes of the country. As national retailers such as Macy’s and J.C. Penney fall on hard times, the anchor stores have become literal anchors—dragging.

Although new “traditional” malls are rarely being built, shopping centers are still popping up, or being reformatted. Perhaps ironically, one of the most popular mall replacements are retail streets. Many of these have been commercial centers for decades, but so many of them declined as malls gained in popularity. Across Southern Florida, the towns and suburbs surrounding Miami have rushed to remodel and reinvigorate their “urban” shopping streets.

The next of these to be realized will be Coral Gables’ Miracle Mile. The half-mile main east-west drag through town, Coral Way, has been home to numerous mom-and-pop stores, many of which have struggled to survive. The urban design, by New York firms Cooper Robertson and Local Office Landscape Architecture, aims to replace the narrow sidewalks and copious angled street parking with a more pedestrian-friendly experience. Flexible plazas, outdoor dining spaces, enlarged planted areas, redesigned wayfinding graphics, and an improved lighting scheme will be used on and beyond the Miracle Mile. Stretching off on neighboring side streets and focusing on intersections, the plan will reframe the area as a full retail district. While the model for the project is a European shopping experience, overhead LED lighting and bright street pavers will be decidedly Florida, evoking the shapes and movement of raindrops and water ripples.

The Miracle Mile will be just one of the many revitalized shopping streets in the Miami area. It will join Palm Beach’s Sunset Drive and Worth Avenue, and Lincoln Road Mall in Miami Beach as alternatives to traditional malls. Yet while these more established venues are seeing new life, traditional malls are being completely rethought. New retailers and new customer expectations are being formalized as street-mall hybrids on a scale that has not been seen before.

The Miami Worldcenter will be a 27-acre mixed-use development in downtown Miami. At the heart of the $2 billion project is a “High Street retail promenade and plaza” which will include retail, dining, and entertainment along a pedestrian street. The project is so large—it will also contain 2,000 residential units and 1,700 hotel rooms—that it will connect the Central Business District and the Arts & Entertainment District, changing the way tourists and Miamians move through the downtown.

Boston-based Elkus Manfredi Architects is leading the master planning as well as designing three of the buildings for the project. The firm’s experience designing the extremely popular Grove and Downtown Disney projects in Southern California make it particularly suited for the project. Even so, the Worldcenter is on a much larger scale and addresses particularities of downtown Miami.

“Miami is evolving from a car-centric city to a pedestrian-oriented city,” Howard Elkus, founding principal of Elkus Manfredi said. “By focusing the energy of our project at the street level, we are able to create more vibrant streets and public spaces. Our dynamic open-space network now includes a system of parks, plazas, and car-free promenades anchored by a major urban plaza that will become the heart of Miami.”

In its original form, the Worldcenter resembled a more traditional mall, a three-level indoor shopping experience with large big-box anchors. Over the course of the design, the nature of retail had changed enough that the anchor-store model was rethought. The project quickly shifted to a more urban plan with separate blocks and pedestrian streets. Luckily for the development, a recent change in Miami’s zoning code made the project possible as an outdoor retail district. In particular, the Miami 21 zoning code, a new form based code that regulates building form standards, public space, and street standards. The code is guided by base tenets of the New Urbanism and Smart Growth movements. Both focus on pedestrian- and community-based design.

As customers demand more engaging shopping experiences with more complex programs, retail developers are not far behind with epic new shopping districts. From rehabilitated retail streets to newly built mixed-use districts, shoppers may soon be more likely to run into dapper flaneurs than escalator-riding mall rats.

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Miami’s working-class neighborhoods organize to reject gentrification

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.

Across Miami-Dade County, organizations like Miami Homes For All (MHFA), Struggle for Miami’s Affordable and Sustainable Housing (SMASH), Miami’s People Acting for Community Together (PACT), and Fanm Ayisyen nan Miyami (FANM), among others, have been instrumental in launching affordability campaigns across threatened and economically distressed neighborhoods. In the process, these groups are lending a voice to many of the Miami working-class communities as the forces of gentrification and luxury development rewrite the region’s urban fabric.

Miami real estate is booming but in all the wrong ways. A recent flowering of luxury condominium development coupled with a surging population and decades’ worth of under-building have pushed rents sky-high. Miami’s growing urban core—especially the neighborhoods of Brickell, Overtown, and Wynwood—are beginning to push past their traditional neighborhood boundaries, destabilizing surrounding communities. According to the 2016 Housing Miami Together report compiled by MHFA, an advocacy group dedicated to alleviating local poverty, Miami has the nation’s highest percentage of rent-burdened households. In response, advocates are pushing for increased development of affordable housing units and for mixed-income and transit-oriented developments across the region.

MHFA held a special housing summit in 2016 that spawned the aforementioned report. The conference led to increased efforts by groups like nonprofit housing developer South Florida Community Development Coalition (SFCDC) and PACT, a direct-action organization made up of religious congregations and groups, to push the county to implement a slate of pro-affordability reforms. The groups were instrumental in getting the county to establish an Affordable Housing Trust Fund that would be used to harness additional resources for new affordable units. The county contributes 25 percent of proceeds from certain county-owned land sales to the fund, which itself dedicates 50 percent of overall resources toward the development of very low– and extremely low–income housing. MHFA also provides Section 8 project-based vouchers through the Miami-Dade County Public Housing and Community Development Department in order to embed Section 8 housing in market-rate developments.

MHFA executive director Barbara Ibarra said, “We treat homelessness as a part of the affordability crisis,” adding that her group is focused on what is referred to as a “continuum of housing” that spans from the market-rate sector to various other income-defined groups, including formerly homeless individuals. Ibarra explained that MHFA is working, broadly speaking, to expand the prevalence of mixed-income communities across the Miami-Dade County area. She added, “It’s frustrating to see luxury development going on without any forethought being put to housing for people who take care of and work in those buildings. [Developers] have not been building housing for them.”

And it shows. A big problem in the rental market due to the apartment shortage has been the rise in slumlord-controlled properties. Adrian Madriz, project leader at SMASH, an initiative within the Center for Social Change, said, “Our organization seeks to smash the slumlords that target Liberty City and Overtown. They are grossly negligent and keep buildings in woeful disrepair.” The group’s program in those neighborhoods has seized properties from area slumlords and converted them to community ownership via a community land trust. The units are ultimately renovated as affordable housing and rent-to-own properties. Madriz added, “People are being priced out of decent living conditions. They’re being forced to live in places with cheaper rents in properties that are in worse repair.”

SMASH is currently working on two housing projects and is looking to develop emergency housing solutions for residents removed from extremely dilapidated or unsafe living conditions. For the latter effort, SMASH is looking to modular, shipping container, or prefabricated building systems to increase housing availability substantially. Madriz explained that certain shipping container designs can be engineered to be stronger than typical Type-V construction, an important consideration in the hurricane-prone region.

Developers, advocates, and city agencies are also working to implement a mix of so-called “2-percent fixes” like density bonuses for inclusionary housing, relaxed parking requirements, and upzoning measures. The measures individually boost housing production slightly and when taken together can make for sizable shifts in housing affordability. Regional partners are using these measures in order to incentivize the development of more deed-restricted affordable and less expensive market-rate units.

Miami-Dade is currently redeveloping the Liberty Square public housing projects in North Miami. Seven hundred existing units will be rebuilt as a 1,500-unit mixed-income, mixed-use community by developer Related Urban Development Group. Alberto Milo Jr., principal and senior vice president, said, “There has been a void in the development of workforce housing within the City of Miami,” adding that too many projects are “being developed with either all low-income or all market-rate units, but nothing in between.” Related’s growing portfolio in the region will include increasing amounts of mixed-income housing to take advantage of new incentives aimed at increasing affordable resources via mixed-income developments. When asked about whether mixed-income developments can relieve pressure on Miami’s historic working-class neighborhoods, Milo explained that they “are essential to the long-term viability of these lower-income neighborhoods, and will give quality housing choices to many working individuals and families.”

Ibarra also supports the idea, and described expanding the inclusion of low-income housing units in transit-oriented development across the city as “very critical” to maintaining affordability.

In many ways, the emerging mixed-use and transit-oriented trends pit developers and newcomers focused on a vision for a denser, transit-accessible—and, potentially, more equitable—Miami against longtime residents increasingly being priced out of their own neighborhoods. The sentiment led the neighborhood of Little Haiti on the city’s north end to fight for official city designation as developer Cho Dragon Management and architects Arquitectonica pursue a new 15-acre “innovation district” there. The $1 billion project aims to bring a 30,000-square-foot coworking space, a sculpture garden, and a 15,000-square-foot innovation center to the neighborhood. The problem is that new developers working in the area have taken to branding their projects after the historical moniker Magic City, a designation taken from a time before the neighborhood was populated by Haitian immigrants. FANM, an organization in Little Haiti that works to empower and deliver social services to Haitian women, recently worked to get the Little Haiti neighborhood officially designated by the city. The fear among the Haitian population is that as development moves in, Little Haiti will be wiped from the map.

FANM’s efforts paid off when the city council voted to approve the designation. At the meeting, Marleine Bastien, executive director of FANM, said, “We are elated. Now no one can come and erase the name of Little Haiti. If this decision was not made today, in a few years Little Haiti would disappear.”

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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.