|View from Condo in the Brickell Neighborhood|
Anthony Flint praised the Miami 21 code in the Boston Globe as a "blueprint for sustainable urban form," and many others in the planning community have expressed enthusiastic approval. Last spring, the U.S. Conference of Mayors presented Manny Diaz with an architectural award for Miami 21. Of course, certain elements have been watered down from the original intentions of DPZ, the planning firm leading the rewrite, especially the crucial issue of minimum parking standards around transit stops. However, most of the commenters I've come across think it's a step forward. Even the folks over at New Geography gave some words of approval, albeit couched in skepticism over its implementation.
"New Urbanism won this victory because there weren’t any compelling counter-arguments to their basic argument for urban hygiene. And Miami 21 comes at a time when the city has been egregiously abused at the hands of the free market; its citizens disenfranchised and suffering from an environment of ugliness, traffic and congestion."
|Calle Ocho, the Main Street of Little Havana|
My limited experience with walking around some neighborhoods of Miami revealed to me the need for such a code. The demand for walkable urban living was clearly evident in the recent condo boom, which still clearly has to grow into itself for a few more years. The Brickell neighborhood went from being mostly a financial district to housing over 17,000 people. Local bloggers tell of the dangers of walking in a city oriented around the automobile, but many are trying nonetheless.
The ground-floor urban fabric and pedestrian experience has yet to catch up to this market demand. It's interesting that the public focus during the Miami 21 seems to be mostly about building height restrictions, while the meat of the code deals with what happens on the street level. Some transit is in place, but many of the stops are fronted with empty lots, parking garages with no liner buildings, or stark office towers with little street presence. There seems to be very few mid-rise areas. The downtown is filled with tall buildings that abruptly transition into single-story dwellings throughout the rest of the city.
Whenever the next building boom kicks back in, the City of Miami should be well prepared to shape the new growth into a sustainable and attractive form. And the rest of us have an opportunity to see how it all takes shape.