Curbed Miami

I’ve been working on a little project for the past few weeks called Curbed Miami, and it just went live today. Go take a gander!

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Finally, DACRA’s Plans for the Miami Design District

Today, at a meeting of the Commercial and Industrial Association of South Florida, Steven Gretenstein presented DACRA’S plans for the future of the Design District, including the future of the Oak Plaza site. Until today, we knew little more than what Craig Robins and the DACRA P.R. machine had waxed poetic about, in vague but enticing terms. Now, we know a lot more. I’ve requested a copy of his presentation, which presents the somewhat radical but ultimately exciting future of the district, and I hope to post it here soon, to illustrate my description.

The core of DACRA’s plan is the current Plumer Alley, which is the pedestrian alley adjacent to Oak Plaza. Plumer Alley will be extended from 42nd Street to 38th, creating a  pedestrian street that stretches the full north/south length of the district. At both ends property has been secured for a department store, each potentially 3 stories in height.

Plumer Alley, first section of the new Design District "mall"

This pedestrian street will be the core of the “new” Design District. It will be the “mall” that the various fashion retailers like Louis Vuitton, Hermes, and Cartier, will cluster around.

The character of the neighborhood, although densifying, will remain low-rise and a mixture of new and old construction.

Hermes, and perhaps other LVMH brands, will have its headquarters at Oak Plaza, in a building which is still being designed. At the moment, designs have the Hermes headquarters, which is what it is being called, at three stories. Presumably the trees will remain, as DACRA has taken such care to preserve them so far.

Louis Vuitton, Cartier, and Celine, will open temporary locations by this summer on NE 40th Street, while their permanent locations are being constructed.

The lot behind the Post Office and Fendi Casa store will have a large city parking  garage, containing five hundred spots. Additional garages, as well as underground parking similar  to what currently exists under the Buena Vista and Melin Buildings will raise the number of new spaces to 2,000.

Buckminster Fuller’s Fly’s Eye Dome, which Craig Robins restored and displayed at last year’s Design Miami Fair, will enclose the pedestrian entrance and exit to the new underground parking deck.

Buckminster Fuller's Fly's Eye Dome will be the pedestrian entrance to the underground parking deck

New facades are being given to many of the main DACRA buildings along NE 2nd, Including the 4100 Building, and the Buena Vista Building, by various haute-design architects.

The extensive landscaping plan will include a series of rooftop gardens on many of the retail buildings. The first garden is currently under construction, on top of the infill building that replaced the Enea Bamboo Garden. That building should be complete and occupied later this year.

This new building at the former Enea Bamboo Garden site, will be topped by a roof garden, as will many others according to DACRA's plans for the Design District.

DACRA is interested in the Design District’s connections with Midtown, Wynwood, and Buena Vista. Steve, specifically, is working on getting the city to install a street light at 36th street, to facilitate pedestrian access between the Design District and Midtown. When asked about DACRA’s opinion on the new Walmart, he said that European brands don’t see it as the threat that many Americans do, and left it at that.

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Biscayne Plaza: MiMo Gem at Risk

The Midcentury Modern / Biscayne Boulevard Historic District has a few shocking omissions, including the magnificent grouping of mostly dilapidated Midcentury Miami Modern (Or MiMo, a term coined by historian, urban planner, and midcentury advocate Randall Robinson) structures at the major intersection of Biscayne Boulevard and 79th Street. This intersection is one of Miami’s least known, but most significant historic crossroads. 79th street was the most direct route to the famed Hialeah Park Racetrack from the equally famed and luxurious postwar Miami Beach hotels, which served the same clientele. It was a chic enough neighborhood that Miami’s Playboy Club was located here. Two office towers sprouted here, at a time when buildings higher than a few stories were rare outside of downtown or mid-beach. Biscayne Plaza, right at the intersection, was Miami’s first suburban shopping center and, along with the adjacent Admiral Vee Motel, a bold modernist composition.

The shopping plaza and motel have seen better days, but they’re both still here, and both still fabulous. The motel’s elevated lobby was just used as a filming location, where it plays the role of a gym.

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Yo Yo Mr. Mayor: Gimenez isn’t the Architectural Type

First, here’s Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez (0n the right) with a big tower of cupcakes, celebrating the City of Miami’s 115th Birthday with City Mayor Tomas Regalado in, not a place of historic or civic important, but a mall. Happy Birthday Miami. Your go-to place for ceremonial civic events is now Mary Brickell Village. I think that’s Fado’s Irish Pub in the background, upstairs. I celebrated my celtic ancestry with plenty of Guinness there once. It was very ceremonial (Burp!).

I found this picture over on Random Pixels, which lifted it from Regalado’s Facebook page. I’m writing this post about Gimenez, so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume Reg made the unfortunate venue decision.

I went to see Gimenez address the AIA Miami yesterday at one of its meetings, which was being held at the Miami Science Museum. The Mayor was invited to announce his plans, as Mayor, for Dade County’s future growth. Well, his speech began with a quick description of just how great Miami is, and how much new construction is started, or about to start. He mentioned just how great Vizcaya is, and how great the new Museum Park is, with its two brand new museums, and hopefully a few more.

A few more Mr. Mayor? Why, then it won’t be a park at all.

He then laid out his plan, in two parts.

1. Streamline the permitting process, reducing the time it takes to receive a construction permit, and removing rules that don’t make sense. He also eventually wants the entire permitting process to be online. He didn’t go into much detail beyond that, besides telling a few human interest stories about a dentist who didn’t need new plumbing but was forced to get it anyways, and a convenience store owner who waited forever for a permit while his 30 employees sat around without jobs. Practical, but not very specific, and frankly, uninspiring.

2. An official proclamation, declaring the day to be “AIA Florida” Day within Dade County to memorialize the institution’s 100th birthday. Awww, shucks Mayor, you shouldn’t have.

Seriously, Mr. Mayor. You shouldn’t have.

You were asked about expanding public transit in the county. You said it would be nice, but we can’t afford it, so No.

He ignored a comment about the half cent sales tax increase for transit which, although voted into law a decade ago, has little effect towards improving the system.

You were asked about a countywide implementation of Miami 21, the New Urbanist zoning plan that actually had some vision and inspiration to it. You said, without explanation or apology, No.

Well, thanks for the E-permitting, whenever that happens.

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Museum Park Construction Update

We’re beginning to see the form emerge to the Herzog & de Meuron designed Miami… errr… Jorge M. Perez Art Museum. Fingers crossed that it’s as run away of a success as the H& deM designed 1111 garage on Lincoln Road was, especially since Miami’s already feeling a bit jaded by the abundance of Starchitects hanging about.

Do you have a Zaha soon breaking ground New York? I didn’t think so.

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MetroRail is Slightly Unbalanced

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This is MetroRail’s Government Center Station, halfway point along the line, but as far north as most MetroRail riders go.

It’s an open secret that the northern half of Miami-Dade’s sad elevated rail line, MetroRail, goes in its seemingly random western pattern because it had to pass through particular districts of particular county commissioners who were pushing for the project. Thus you had a hulking heavy rail line, elevated 25ish feet in the air, with great big brutalist-chic stations, each one decked out with escalators and elevators, and some with big parking garages, running through some of the least populous parts of the county. Often the trains north of downtown (the midpoint) would, and still do, run mostly empty.

The southern half has had much greater success, due to its preferable placement, along the old Florida East Coast Railway corridor. It’s no F-Train, but it’s pretty packed during rush hour. It passes directly through a few urban centers, including Dadeland, and South Miami, it has a station at the University of Miami, and is semi-close to downtown Coconut Grove. Oh, and if you don’t mind roughing it a little, you can take your well-healed self to The Village at Merrick Park, the kind of place that has a Neiman Marcus and a Nordstrom.

The FEC corridor is the sweet spot, and the natural route for a new northern expansion of MetroRail. The success of the southern route, which passes primarily above an endless suburban sprawl, will only be magnified to the north, where the route runs in a north-easterly direction, straight through some of the county’s most densely populated areas. Although we don’t have an empty land like we did down south (the FEC and ripped out down there) we do have a very convenient one, with a single owner that’s already in the transportation business, and we can build a new elevated line over the older rails, while reserving the FEC rail bed for the intercity “All Aboard Florida!” service now planned. Just think how easy connections will be.

The density is there, and will only grow denser still, the route and right-of-way are both there, so why the hell aren’t trains there?

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Architects say Fontainebleau Hotel is Florida’s Best Building

The Florida AIA, has completed its recent promo campaign to create a generally agreed upon list of Florida’s 100 best buildings by crowning the Fontainebleau Hotel, designed by Morris Lapidus, with the title of “Florida’s Best Building.”

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My feelings are complex (and a bit painful considering my recent expulsion from the premises for “suspiciously” photographing architectural details), but in the end I adore that hotel, and I think the committees, architects, and members of the public that contributed or voted on the list of 100 buildings (there were over 2 million votes, apparently!) ultimately made the right choice.

Here is what the AIA has to say about the Fontainebleau.

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