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Miami’s growing artistic vision

Imagine a chain of small parks connecting a new Museum Park in downtown Miami to Dorsey Park in Overtown, one of Miami’s historically black neighborhoods.

Imagine miles of new bike lanes and walkable streets in a district where driving a car to the city’s premiere cultural venues is an option – not a necessity.

These are some of the goals of a new master plan for the downtown Miami neighborhood that is home to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, which launched this planning initiative late last year with funding from ArtPlace.

The area is slated to add a new Miami Art Museum and a new Miami Science Museum in the next few years.

On Feb. 1, Cesar Pelli, the world-renowned architect who designed the Arsht Center, presented a new vision of the neighborhood to 120 people – residents, property owners, government officials and other stakeholders – at a town hall meeting at the Arsht Center. Carrying backpacks and briefcases, they all came to hear the beginnings of a plan to keep arts at the heart of downtown Miami’s development.

“The Center does not own one foot of land outside the Center,” said Armando Codina, a prominent Miami developer who chairs the board of directors of New Town Square Development Corp., a nonprofit formed by the Arsht Center to shepherd the planning project. “Only elected officials have the authority and property owners have rights. Nevertheless, we have the obligation to dream and to fight if necessary for the neighborhood.”

The plan is meant to serve as a guide for future development, Codina said, and the town hall meeting was the first of many discussions to come about the neighborhood’s growth.

Among the plan’s chief features:

• A chain of small parks and green spaces, with the Arsht Center at the center, connecting it to Overtown, Museum Park and other outlying neighborhoods.
• Organized public spaces that accentuate the character of the neighborhood and tie into key landmarks.
• A dynamic mix of urban uses – from office and residential to cultural, hotel and educational.
• More bicycle paths and walkable streets.
• Completion of a loop for Metromover, Miami’s elevated mass transit system, to encourage more use of public transportation in the area.

Former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, vice chairman of New Town Square Development Corp., said it was important to kick off this project with a vision. He used the same approach to redevelop another once-barren urban neighborhood: Midtown Miami, now a thriving neighborhood of condos, offices, stores and restaurants, just north of the Arsht Center.

“What most people don’t realize is that Midtown was designed before someone bought it,” Diaz said. “The city got ahead of the curve, designed and established guidelines. The developer agreed. He went and built what had been designed.”

Diaz said there is more work ahead for the master plan. “We will keep meeting with property owners and others. The idea is to build consensus.”

Other stakeholders said the master plan is a good start. “It’s a great plan,” said Russell Galbut, a private developer in the area who urged Miami leaders and Town Square representatives to create economic incentives to spur development.

Alyce Robertson, executive director of Miami’s Downtown Development Authority, also praised the master plan. “They mentioned issues we care about: walkability and parks.”

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