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Front Page » Communities » US 1 as a walking village?

US 1 as a walking village?

Written by on December 10, 2014
US 1 as a walking village?

Miami’s mayor and city commission are backing efforts by upper eastside residents to slow the traffic on Biscayne Boulevard to make the area safer for pedestrians.

Back in the day, Biscayne Boulevard or US 1 was the way you entered Miami.

Before the construction of Interstate 95, Biscayne Boulevard was the main drag of Miami and the region, with motels and surf shops and other small businesses dotting the highway in a growing resort area.

The place lost its luster over the years, but with an influx of development money and the revival of properties like the Vagabond Motel, the neighborhoods of Bay Point, Morningside and others are looking to new life as a walking village.

A major part of that effort is the calming of Biscayne Boulevard.

With the encouragement of Mayor Tomás Regalado, the Miami City Commission has approved a resolution acknowledging the MiMo Biscayne Plan for improvements to the boulevard from Northeast 61st to 78th streets and endorsing its recommendations.

The commission vote is also a promise to make the matter a state legislative priority in 2015, and directs the city manager to send copies of the resolution to state lawmakers and officials.

The MiMo Biscayne Association seeks a change to the design of the streetscape, noting that the current design and use of this stretch of Biscayne Boulevard has encouraged high-speed traffic and disconnects the residential district from the commercial district by reducing walkability and tree canopy.

The plan has been developed to create a “Main Street” sense of place in the historic district, as it considers a combination of best-in-class street design elements, utilizing a block-by-block approach.

Recommendations include the addition of medians, both raised landscaped and pavered, which might involve eliminating the center turn lane in some sections; the inclusion of on-street parking on blocks with wider right-of-ways; and the addition of pedestrian crosswalks at each intersection, while including streetscape furnishings.

The plan uses new urban design principals consistent with the Miami 21 code, according to the association.

In the resolution, the city commission requests that the Florida Department of Transportation support the plan. Biscayne Boulevard in this area is the responsibility of the state.

Mayor Regalado introduced MiMo association members to the commission and spoke of the group’s tireless work to get improvements to Biscayne Boulevard.

They crafted the plan at their own expense, he said.

“They need some leverage to work with the DOT,” Mayor Regalado said.

Nancy Liebman, a longtime leader in the MiMo area, said the group has worked more than seven years on this “monumental” effort to “turn Biscayne Boulevard into a walking Main Street rather than a major thoroughfare.”

Ms. Liebman thanked Commissioners Keon Hardemon and Francis Suarez for meeting with group members on the matter.

“Our goal is a walking village,” she said.

Mr. Suarez said it’s frustrating that this effort has gone on for seven years when the decision should have taken seven days, calling it such an obvious improvement for that area.

“When we see the government put roadblocks in the way… it’s very frustrating. I commend you for not giving up,” said Mr. Suarez.

The discussion of traffic on Biscayne Boulevard led Mr. Suarez into a speech about the unrelenting traffic congestion in the city and county that only gets worse.

“You can’t go anywhere,” he said.

There needs to be a serious focus on improving mass transit in the area, he said. “We need major [advancements] in public transportation to get us out of this gridlock.”

Commissioner Hardemon also commended the group for its determination.

“This makes that community more vital,” he said of the plan to make Biscayne Boulevard more walkable.

Among documents city commissioners reviewed was a study of Biscayne Boulevard prepared for the MiMo Biscayne Association by Urban Environments Design Group, which included drawings of recommended improvements to the roadway and sidewalks.

The drawings are intended to guide conversations with city and community leaders, local businesses, residents, and the Florida Department of Transportation, it states in a cover letter written by Jorge M. Planas.

“It is strongly believed that the current streetscape of Biscayne Boulevard within the historic district is in extremely poor conditions regarding its design, character and maintenance,” wrote Mr. Planas. “It fails to promote a pedestrian-friendly environment and the options of mobility are leaning heavily in favor of private automobile use and ignoring the facilitation of walking, cycling, and public transit.”

The MiMo Village serves as the “Main Street” to the residents of the upper eastside, he continued.

“It is a hidden jewel within the City of Miami and is quickly becoming a tourist destination. The MiMo Village’s potential is just being realized as an abundant number of new projects and restorations are under way,” Mr. Planas wrote. “This portion of Biscayne Boulevard is worthy of a highly dignified and aesthetically pleasing streetscape that showcases its rich architectural legacy.”

13 Responses to US 1 as a walking village?

  1. Ben Grimm

    December 11, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Do the residents know that they live on a major thoroughfare, NOT a gated community? Biscayne Boulevard is the ONLY street east of I-95 that can take you from downtown Miami to the county line and all places to the north. Constraining it is the opposite of a good idea. There aren’t enough businesses to encourage the level of pedestrian traffic someone is imagining.

    All major cities require a healthy grid network of streets. It gives everyone access to other parts of the city. Restricting streets discourages the interlacing of people and places. It seems to me like the [more vocal] residents of the Upper Eastside want an enclave where their “people” can be sheltered from everyone else. And they want to do it at our expense. A bad idea all the way.

    • Adam

      December 11, 2014 at 4:08 pm

      I don’t think anyone is suggesting “restricting” Biscayne Boulevard or creating an “enclave,” but the way it is set up right now (wide, ROW, multiple highway-width lanes, no bus pullouts, no street parking, front-facing parkinglots, etc), makes it very dangerous, and frankly unappealing, to walk across or alongside. Study after study shows that this is bad for the local economy, bad for safety, bad for health, and good for subsidizing development further and further from where the jobs are.

  2. Brian Sims

    December 11, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    As an Upper Eastside resident, as well, I think this is much needed. No one wants to gate in our community, we just want the cars to at least abide by the speed limit! The current speed limit is 35 and cars blow through our community at speeds above 50 mph. Sorry, I-95 is the main road in and out of downtown Miami, not Biscayne.

    Brian, you must not be a resident of this area because if you were, you would see the explosion of redevelopment occurring in MIMO. The city needs to put the proper infrastructure in place to support such walkable developments.

    Nobody wants restrict our streets. We want the cars to slow down and stop treating our neighborhood as a raceway to work. Is that too much to ask?

  3. Eli

    December 11, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    Ben, how would you like a 4 lane highway through the heart of your neighborhood? I assume then you’d be shouting “not in MY backyard!” Walkable communities are better for the residents, the surrounding businesses, and the City, in general. Here’s some science to back that up:

    • Ben Grimm

      February 1, 2015 at 12:51 am

      There are streets running parallel to Biscayne that folks can walk to their hearts content. If those businesses’ customer base is the immediate area then on-street parking is unnecessary. They can walk there. A city’s major arterial roads cannot and should not be subjected to the whims of every neighborhood running along its route.

      It’s the main tenet of affluent suburbanites everywhere really. Move into an area for its uniqueness then gradually block it out from everyone else… I just described cancer.

  4. SEFTA

    December 12, 2014 at 1:39 am

    Yes Ben. Take 95. To think there are not enough business to support a walkable neighborhood is ridiculous. This should be done the entire length of Biscayne

    • Ben Grimm

      February 2, 2015 at 9:04 am

      Your evil plan is straight out of the handbook: “The Miami Shores’ Guide to Killing Businesses and Building Classist Enclaves.”

      • SEFTA

        February 10, 2015 at 1:22 pm

        This is not radical thinking
        I will just quote ADAM from above;
        “I don’t think anyone is suggesting “restricting” Biscayne Boulevard or creating an “enclave,” but the way it is set up right now (wide, ROW, multiple highway-width lanes, no bus pullouts, no street parking, front-facing parkinglots, etc), makes it very dangerous, and frankly unappealing, to walk across or alongside. Study after study shows that this is bad for the local economy, bad for safety, bad for health, and good for subsidizing development further and further from where the jobs are.”

        • Ben Grimm

          February 11, 2015 at 3:18 pm

          While I do love a “Study after study…” intro, landscaping and narrower streets doesn’t slow down folks looking to get home and they don’t attract more businesses into an area. Trees covering up signs is the opposite of what businesses want. And making people forget that Biscayne Boulevard is for cars and not a path running through a giant greenway park is the opposite of safe. I know you get this. So I’m thinking you either have a monetary stake or it’s just a classist thing. I imagine the Bay Point compound is the envy of all the neighborhoods east of the Boulevard. If Bay Point can be duplicated using everyone else’s tax dollars that would be swell!

  5. AW

    December 12, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    The Belle Meade HOA and the Shorecrest HOA (together making up a super majority of homeowners impacted by this plan) made clear to the MiMo Association that in order to have support MiMo would need to not only present the plan to the HOAs (which they did, at least to Belle Meade) but to also wait for the comments of the HOA and implement their suggestions before going forward. The Belle Meade HOA is furious that MiMo went ahead and showed the City Commission plans in advance of this. While there might be agreement eventually between all HOAs and MiMo (which for the record is an organization that represents only a small number of businesses and is reality not a representative body nor one having any authority to speak on behalf of the Upper East Side) as to some common ways to make the neighborhood better, perhaps even including much of their plan, this tactic of pretending to represent the area and ignoring their wishes will only serve to infuriate those communities. In fact, the Belle Meade HOA has, in an emergency vote, decided to seek amendment to and restatement of the City Resolution supporting the plan until such time as all HOAs impacted have their official input adopted into the plan. Anything short of this will serve to make sure that the community rallies against any change. MiMo would be wise to not underestimate the strength of what they must feel is a disorganized and disparate group of HOAs. It will either work for all or work for none.

  6. IvoSan

    December 12, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    I was about to write about the importance of the coastal trirail line in transforming Biscayne Boulevard, but then i remembered what US1 looks like along the Metrorail.

  7. James livergood

    December 12, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    @aw, it’s that attitude that has kept biscayne functioning as it does! The mimosa has as much say as the hoa’s. There businesses are directly affected. Where as you take a left or a right and turn off biscayne and your done. Don’t get it twisted and check your ego! Someone got something done and anything is better than nothing which is what the how’s have accomplished…

  8. Brian

    December 12, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    @james livergood.

    This is not about Ego. Belle Meade and Shorecrest represent 1400 families and homeowners. That’s more than any other group out there. MiMo represents 20-30 people that aren’t even all business owners. They are actually mostly preservationists and architectural buffs that want to have a say in how everyone else’s building looks. Many are retired. Many work normal jobs nowhere near the corridor. But even for the MiMo members that do own businesses there, they chose to open up shop there. You can’t seriously expect that you can move in and change everything to your liking?!

    But this is not the point. The point is that most of the HOAs mentioned probably support the vision. They just want to make sure the vision is carried out in a manner sensitive to their needs. And where they turn and how much traffic they sit in is A VERY REAL concern. The only ego is the one that states “we got something done that benefits some business owners and the hell with the concerns of the 1400 families that will need to support our businesses.” Is there any reason the street can’t be done in a way that both the HOAs and the Business Owners support?