Miami's Giant Pop Up Recreates Downtown Street

March 13, 2017

Temporary installation is the first attempt to showcase possible improvements that could transform Biscayne Boulevard in Downtown Miami into street rivaling the Embarcadero in San Francisco.

Interview with Christina Crespi, Deputy Director of the Miami Downtown Development Authority, about Biscayne Green.

What are the current traffic counts, capacity and number of parking spaces along Biscayne Blvd?

Biscayne Blvd through Downtown Miami CBD currently has a traffic flow that ranges between 30,000 to 42,000 cars per day. The Level of Service for the corridor within Downtown Ranges between LOS A and B. The amount of parking spaces on the medians along Biscayne Blvd between SE 1st Street and Port Boulevard are approximately around 400 spaces.

How big is and how many parking spaces are located on the municipal parking lot where you’ve recently completed the Biscayne Green pop up?

The Biscayne Green public space intervention occupied 2 parking medians which account for 101 parking spaces. We were able to repurpose these parking lots and the space utilized around the Bayfront Park Metromover station into approximately 75,000 sq. ft. of public space.

Biscayne Blvd is a major thoroughfare the brings people in and out of downtown to places like the Bayside Market, Bayfront Park and the arena, but it’s also a huge urban that almost separates each side of the street into almost two different neighborhoods. What do you see Biscayne Blvd’s changing to meet the needs of a growing downtown and how do you strike a balance in whatever future changes may be appropriate for the thoroughfare?

The long term vision of Biscayne Green aspires to permanently transform Biscayne Boulevard through Downtown Miami into an urban boulevard that features a pedestrian promenade, emphasizes transit, and also provides bicycle infrastructure, akin to San Francisco’s Embarcadero and Barcelona’s Las Ramblas. Part of the objective of Biscayne Green – the temporary public space installation - was to bring awareness of the barrier effect Biscayne Blvd represents to our community and to showcase how these spaces can be turned around into a local destination for green space, entertainment, community & connections. The goal was to elevate the conversation about the importance of transforming our signature thoroughfare from barrier to destination, making downtown a more walkable, accessible, connected and inviting place to be. Allowing people to witness what it means to prioritize people over cars, and to experience the boulevard like they’ve never done before in order to get a sneak peek of what the future of Downtown could hold was in part a way to influence the change that needs to take place. Being able to see the community response to the public spaces and events planned as part of Biscayne Green are a true reflection of the desires of the local community. Gathering the necessary support from residents and community leaders is key to move the project forward.

A look at proposed plans to permanently remake Biscayne Blvd

The Florida Department of Transportation has been more willing to consider context-sensitive roadway enhancements in recent years. How are you working with FDOT to reimagine Biscayne Blvd?
FDOT has been in recent years expanding their horizons and including Complete Streets and Context Sensitive Design as part of their design manuals. FDOT Central office has advanced good efforts and continues to work internally and externally with its municipal partners to influence this paradigm shift away from conventional suburban engineering practices. Biscayne Boulevard has been a topic of discussion with FDOT District 6 for years. They have been aware of the long term vision and of the desire to incorporate context sensitive design elements to the boulevard in order to transform it into a signature feature of Downtown Miami that balances the transportation needs and community desires, helping strengthen Downtown Miami as a desirable and competitive destination. FDOT was actively engaged as part of the temporary installation, and thanks to the collaboration with the special events office and District Secretary Jim Wolfe, who supported this vision, we were able to have the support of FDOT to make Biscayne Green happen. In addition to their participation on this project, FDOT recently awarded the City of Miami and Miami DDA with $422K to complete a lane elimination analysis, ) to advance a Lane Elimination Analysis, which has been identified as the next step to solidify plans for Biscayne Green.  Once the necessary studies are completed, we will have a better idea of full costs and will be working with a wide range of partners – both in the private and public sectors – to fund it.

Are there any other street redesigns that have been implemented in downtown Miami that you’ve drawn lessons from?

Biscayne Green is one of a number of projects proposed and underway by the Miami DDA to make Downtown more livable and walkable.  These include a $13MM revitalization project to widen sidewalks and improve streetscapes along the Historic Flagler Street in the heart of downtown’s Central Business District; Baywalk, a linear bike and pedestrian corridor path spanning the perimeter of Biscayne Bay from the CBD to Brickell; and a Complete Streets initiative to transform the SE/SW 1st Street corridor between SW 2nd Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard into a multimodal street that provides transit priority and accommodates all street users, including cyclists, in a safe and comfortable manner.

Depiction of the upgrades currently undergoing construction along Historic Flagler Street.

What were some of the programming features of Biscayne Green that worked really well?

Spanning 20 days and featuring around 35 events, Biscayne Green had something for everyone. Events ranged from daytime fitness classes, meditation, playdates, and meet-me-at-the park programmed activities, to a live concert series on Friday evenings, puppy brunch on Sunday and movies al fresco on Sunday evenings. The Puppy brunch (including the doggy park) and live concert series proved to be very popular events. And although programmed activities were well attended, people utilized the park throughout the day every day of the week as they discovered the pop-up park and the oasis it represented in the center of Downtown.
Completely free and open to the public, Biscayne Green events were not just about entertainment, they were about fostering exchange by getting people out of their cars and onto the street to experience the boulevard in a way that helps them realize the potential of one of Miami’s signature corridors. This was, in a big way, about building community and educating citizens about a new way of experiencing their city.

NEXT: Our talk with Christina Crespi continues

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