Cities such as New York and Chicago invite residents and tourists to travel by foot to work, the grocery store or even a movie.
Now Miami, a city fueled by heavy traffic and inadequate public transportation, might remodel to become a city based on commuter-friendly principles.
Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, dean of the School of Architecture and partner to the architecture firm Duany, Plater-Zyberk & Co., is heading a project called Miami 21-Miami of the 21st Century.
Miami 21 is designed to change and update Miami’s current zoning code by dividing the city into four quadrants and using an idea called “smart growth,” which focuses on the relationship of one building to another rather than the building’s use.
Plater-Zyberk emphasized that the current zoning code is abstract and varies in code-instruction for different areas of Miami. In contrast, the new zoning code will be consistent among each of the four quadrants.
Plater-Zyberk believes that an overhaul of the zoning code is necessary in a city growing at the rate of Miami and resulting in overcrowded, densely-populated areas. With the plan, she hopes to cut-down on automobile use and develop a plan that lends itself to other modes of transportation.
“People will only get out of the car if it’s safe, comfortable and interesting to walk from your house to the train, from the train to your job or from shopping to the bus,” Plater-Zyberk said.
The new zoning code was initiated in 2005 by City of Miami Mayor Manny Diaz.
Plater-Zyberk said Diaz understands that the city’s growth requires both quantitative attention, such as how much is being built, and attention to qualitative aspects, such as the aesthetic appearance of the city.
From the time Diaz took office in 2001, the population of Miami has grown by more than 10 percent. Due to the increase, the mayor said Miami 21 is necessary to combat suburban sprawl.
“From all over, people are moving back home to our city,” Diaz said in statement. “The flight to the overcrowded and homogenous suburbs that marked the past has been replaced by a return to urban living.”
Luciana Gonzalez, a spokesperson for the City of Miami Planning Department that heads the Miami 21 project, emphasized the importance of Miami 21 in a city regulated by outdated zoning codes.
“There are lots of short-term solutions to long-time problems,” Gonzalez said. “As a city that takes initiative, we want to create more walkable streets in Miami and improve the quality of life of most of our residents.”
Plater-Zyberk outlined an example of the types of changes that Miami-residents will see with the Miami 21 zoning code.
“When you drive down Dixie Highway, you might see some taller buildings atop a parking garage where there’s not even a front door to the building,” she said. “Our code proposes the requirement that the parking garage will be lined with habitable space such as apartments or offices with windows and front doors.”
Because Miami 21 is such a large project, there is no set timetable for when the changes to the city will be expected to take place. Due to the scale of the project and the accompanying vagueness, Miami 21 has come under attack by some Miami residents.
Nina West, a member of Miami Neighborhoods United, a group of neighborhood associations that follow development issues, spoke with The Miami Herald in February.
“The whole thing is way, way behind schedule,” West said. “We don’t know where we are.”
Plater-Zyberk commented on residents’ frustrations.
“Zoning codes are tied to land-value and real-estate value,” Plater-Zyberk said. “When you do a drastic change like this, there are residents who don’t want any more big changes and there are people who bought property worth millions of the dollars who don’t want to lose the value by changing the zoning code of what they paid for.”
The plan for the east quadrant, which includes downtown Miami and Brickell, was presented to the planning advisory board, which makes recommendations to the city commission, on April 4 and 18. The City Commission casts their vote for the first quadrant in May.
Karyn Meshbane may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.