January 7, 2006

Miami Makeover

Miami has long had a "glamorous" look and "spectacular setting; but until recently, notes the New York Times, "a drive down among the high-rises at night revealed mostly shuttered office buildings and empty spaces." However, the city is in the midst of a major new development effort, "as developers build spaces where people will shop and play - and live."

Along with private development has come investment in public spaces: the Miami Performing Arts Center slated to open in the fall. And, "along Biscayne Bay, Bicentennial Park is being transformed into Museum Park, home of science and art museums." Nearby, according to the Times article, "Bayfront, an underused 32-acre public park redesigned in the 1980's by Isamu Noguchi, will be redesigned again 'to be more pedestrian friendly,' Mayor Diaz said."

I haven't seen the development plans, but it seems the city is learning some important lessons for a vital downtown: Mixed-use is critical, or your city center will likely be dead at night. Destinations are important. And you've got to design a pedestrian-friendly streetscape, because that's what attracts people looking for an enjoyable experience somewhere with a sense of place. If it's not an appealing streetscape, people might as well head to a mall or a Rte. 9-like series of strip malls.

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