How to Make Your City's Waterfront Fabulous

For the past year, I've been working on my pet project called the Baywalk pop-up. Over time I've recruited an internationally acclaimed architecture firm and collected an assortment of public endorsements, funding and finally a true partnership with the City. Here's how I did it and how you can do it in your City.

5. Play hard and with conviction:

With the design in place, now the hard work begins. First, we had to reach out to each of the property owners to figure out what permits were needed. Look at all the different owners in the image above! We went round in circles for several months because no one really new what kind of approval we should seek. In the process we brought in the City, County and elected officials who all loved the project and wrote us glowing letters of support. Then we reached out to the big institutions–the art museum, Bayside, Bayfront Park and the Miami Heat. Everyone loved the concept. More letters. Finally, we came back to the City and they agreed that the project was a special event and suggested a special event permit. Now we were getting somewhere.

6. Go for the money:

This was perhaps the most complicated part. Through begging, pleading and a very generous donation from the Miami Foundation, we have been cobbling together a tidy sum to pay for materials and construction. With some donations from public entities, non-profits, private foundations and private companies we are closer than ever to our goal.

7. Ride the twists and turns:

Your project may not always go as expected. We lost our agency sponsor right when we were awarded our grant from Miami Foundation. Miami Parking Authority pulled out their sponsorship and left us with no public champion. But persistence paid off! The City was so bought into the project that they jumped in as our sponsor. Thanks to their amazing Risk Management Department who evaluated all the legal implications, and the Department of Real Estate and Asset Management who will use their internal team to manage permissions and construction, we are well on our way to seeing this amazing project be built.

8. Maintain your good old rolodex (or contact list for those of you too young to know what I’m talking about):

It’s a constant game of follow up with all the various players. You need to stay on top of this, keep a good list of contacts, send regular emails and follow up on all the details. If this is your project, you need to always be in leadership mode. No one else has the time to follow up like you can. Be inspiring. Be polite. Be thankful. You can’t do this alone.

9. Invite the community and their leaders:

Your project won’t work if no one shows up to see it and use it. I pursued partnerships with local institutions like the Perez Art Museum Miami and the Miami Center for Architecture and Design to host events and presentations about the project. ArquitectonicaGeo has brought in their PR firm to help us promote the project to various media outlets and through social media. Publicize ribbon cuttings and incorporate walking tours and special events in your project to increase usage. Use these events to communicate your ideas to the public and elected officials. This is critical to the project’s success.

10. Share the credit:

Remember everyone who helped you and try to help them. Give credit to all involved and share in the project’s success. Regularly share your progress and thank those who have supported you.

11. Measure your results:

Make a good assessment of your project to prove its value. For our pop-up, we’ll be using an automatic counter to count how many people use the temporary installation per day, week and month. We can use the data to ask for more permanent improvements and to get the City and County to budget more money for long term improvements.

The Baywalk pop-up is still a work in progress, but now that we have all the right leadership and advocates, we are well on our way to seeing this project become a reality. Hard work, perseverance and the ability to react positively and creativtly to unforeseen obstacles will keep your project moving. My ninth grade art teacher once told me “there is no such thing as mistakes, just opportunities.” Grab your opportunity. Just go for it.

Article originally posted by Melissa Hege, AICP at

Melissa Hege, AICP, LEED AP, practices planning and urban design in one of the Country’s most envied and envious iconic cities—the Republic of Miami. For more than a decade, she has enjoyed the juxtaposition of the region’s beauty and dysfunction, and continues to learn from it daily. Educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Brandeis University, her portfolio includes award winning plans which translate design based solutions into practical applications.

In her current practice, Melissa Hege City Planning, she straddles the roles of planner and community advocate by exploring infrastructure investments which add exponential value to cities. These include waterfront parks, bicycle and pedestrian trails, and complete streets—streets which have comfortable and protected zones for bicycles, pedestrians, cars, and transit. She is currently developing a waterfront pop-up installation on Miami’s Biscayne Bay to demonstrate the potential value of a permanently improved and connected waterfront trail in downtown Miami. Other recent projects include an interactive web based tool to visually track all multi-agency infrastructure improvements in downtown Miami and a Complete Streets forum for local municipalities in partnership with Miami Dade County.

Melissa is a board member of the Miami Modern (MIMO) Biscayne Boulevard Association, a 501c3 dedicated to preserving its architectural history and expanding commercial opportunities for this US-1 corridor. She is Past Chair of the Miami Section of the Florida American Planning Association, was Co-chair for the State’s annual conference and served on Miami-Dade County’s Transportation Aesthetic Review Committee. She has been published in the Miami Herald, Florida Planning, Planetizen and Panorama (University of Pennsylvania) and taught as an adjunct professor at Florida Atlantic University. She developed a planning curriculum for middle school students at the Cushman School and is a regular speaker at the Florida American Planning Association’s annual conference.</i>