The Basel Effect: Creative Placemaking

It’s that time of year again. You finally snapped out of food induced coma, survived Black Friday madness, just in time to face the impending onslaught of...Art Basel.

Years ago, I would have been out stocking up and preparing my bunker to minimize any chances of needing to go anywhere near Art Basel. All I saw was traffic leading to 100s of events and exhibits that I could never get into -- none of it worth the hassle. I was, as defined by Oscar Wilde, a cynic - someone who knows what something cost without ever knowing it’s real value. 

So the question for many is why? It’s not a lack of interest, but residents often see Art Basel more like an event for “other people”, generally people coming in from out of town.  It’s easy to understand the monetary value that the Basel effect has on Miami. Prior to Art Basel, there were less than 10 major art galleries in Miami-Dade County, but now there are over 130. 

 
 

More than 1,000 international galleries and other exhibitors come in for Art Basel, not to mention the surrounding satellite fairs. Over 75,000 visitors and 1,500 journalists descend upon Miami-Dade County each year for Basel. Art Basel and the other surrounding fairs, have a combined ripple effect estimated to bring in more than $500 million annually to the city of Miami. These numbers make the positive economic impact easy to see.

It’s been pretty well established that arts and culture are associated with increasing economic vitality, particularly here in Miami. The problem is that, aside from the monetary impact, the influence on the broader community is not always apparent. Our work with Urban Impact Lab has, however indirectly, helped make Basel’s broader impact more clear.  Our work focuses on what makes public spaces great and is driven by one central question: how can people connect more meaningfully with their city. From that vantage point, an important element of events like Art Basel that is often not highlighted, is more apparent, its contribution to creating a sense of place.

 
 

Festivals, like our public spaces, are often the sum of their parts. It’s not just money or art that contributes to making great places, but the greater effect it has on the community as a whole and how the community builds around it. As much as Basel has changed Miami, Miami has changed Art Basel as well and in doing so, we have changed as well. As Basel has grown, Miami has grown with it. Basel is now synonymous with Miami. It’s part of its fabric and culture, like cortaditos and urban chickens.  And it is specifically due to those elements - the highlighted culture, the increased diversity, activity, and interactions that contribute to what makes great spaces and places.  It’s the layers of collaboration and how we as the community engage with a place that creates the broader value that reaches us all.


 
 

To facilitate that engagement for the average resident, here is some info to help navigate 2 of the bigger challenges that come up during Art Basel - 1. how to deal with traffic and 2. finding free or low cost events.

Transportation

Main challenge is how does one get around.  There are a lot more options available now to help get around Basel.

  • Miami Dade Transit  has launched the Free Art Express bus just for Art Basel.  You can find information on stops or download the app here

  • Wynwood, City of Miami and Miami Beach all have free trolley services in and connecting the various locations.  Here is a list of schedules and maps here.

  • Several of the fairs like Art Miami, Aqua and Context to name a few, will also provide their own direct shuttle buses - Here are their schedules.

  • There will also be several different shuttle services offering rides in and around Wynwood, can an eye out and flag them down or for FreeBee - you can download the app here

  • There are several other new options this year that include Uber, WaterTaxis, and etc.  You can find out about them here

    • NOTE:  Remember that the worst kept “secret” shortcut to Miami Beach, the Venetian Causeway, is still closed for reconstruction, so avoid it.


Cost of Events

Yes, there are a ton of events and parties that many can’t get into, but there also a big number of FREE events that anyone can attend.

Photography: Isabella Bru @MoxxiCreative

With Colada: Our Sunday Reads 11.08.15

This week’s reads were kind of a hodge-podge of interesting, but only loosely related articles - that doesn’t mean we don’t have anything to share though! Read on to learn about exciting events on transportation happening in Miami and get some new insight on gentrification.

Image courtesy Active Living By Design

One article that caught our eye this week was on the value in coming from a place of “I don’t know” when working on systems change. We have found the notion of coming from a place of not knowing widely applicable. One of the most important lessons we’ve learned from working with clients is to stay in the question and to recognize that we “don’t know.” Starting from there on, a project allows us the ability to listen and carefully work with our clients to create what they really need.

What does "staying in the question" mean to you? How can you start from a place of "I don't know"?

Some of our more interesting reads this week were on gentrification and research showing that we aren’t getting the full story in many articles on the topic. City Observatory recently reported that high income inequality neighborhoods (or you could say mixed income) are usually helpful to poor residents, raising their average income. 

"Residents of public housing projects in wealthy and increasing income neighborhoods showed dramatically better economic and quality-of-life outcomes than those in low-income neighborhoods—even though their racial, ethnic, and age demographics weren’t significantly different" - Image courtesy City Observatory

"Residents of public housing projects in wealthy and increasing income neighborhoods showed dramatically better economic and quality-of-life outcomes than those in low-income neighborhoods—even though their racial, ethnic, and age demographics weren’t significantly different" - Image courtesy City Observatory

They also released a report and a number of articles discussing how the immediate association of gentrification with displacement isn’t really reflective of the more pressing concerns facing poor people: concentration of poverty and displacement in high poverty areas resulting in decreased populations (See City Observatory’s Lost in Place report for more). This leaves us with many questions about what positive gentrification looks like and how to reverse the concentration of poverty into certain areas, a segregation of poverty that disproportionately impacts people of color who are poor.

One way to ensure that gentrification happens in ways that benefit current and new residents of a neighborhood is to have a city government reflective of the city’s population. And in Seattle they look to be doing just that; an article in Governing disclosed that Seattle may be electing a much more representative counsel as they are holding elections for all council seats and dividing things up by district. Governing reports that there were 48 candidates and that in the August “‘primaries, of the top vote-getters, five were women, four were people of color and only two were older than 60,’ Liz Berry, president of the National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington, [reported]. ‘This is not a city of 60-year-old white men, and that’s what our council looks like now.’”

A section of the current M-Path - Image courtesy The Underline

A section of the current M-Path - Image courtesy The Underline

What that same area could be like for cyclists and pedestrians - Image Courtesy The Underline

What that same area could be like for cyclists and pedestrians - Image Courtesy The Underline

Closer to home, we’re excited for what’s happening with mobility and the walkability of Miami. First up, there was an interview with WLRN of Meg Daly about the Underline, a project to develop the M-path into the first complete pedestrian and cyclist corridor to weave through our city. Daly talked about how she was inspired to begin this project when she had broken her arms and was forced to walk to her doctor’s appointment.

Her parting message to Miamians was to look through a different lens in order to have a moment of recognition. She goes on to say that “I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve driven on U.S. 1 and I’ve been stuck in traffic and I’ve been heading south to my house in Coral Gables and I never had that moment. I think it’s that notion of getting out of your car and experiencing the city in a different way. I think that everyone has that set of alternative sunglasses we can put on to see things differently, and, fortunately, I had that moment.” Everyone's moment comes in it's own time, but events like the one discussed below are certainly a place were moments could happen.

Find your moment at WHEELS

The event in question is WHEELS - the five day conference in South Miami that is all about changing transportation now! It's an exciting development in terms of mobility events; everything begins on Wednesday (November 11th) evening with a reception and talks about the history of cycling in Miami.  Events continue throughout the weekend, from conference talks to bike rides, be sure to check out the WHEELS website for more information and in this interview on NBC 6 South Florida, Victor Dover talks WHEELS

We’ll leave you with one recommendation for Sunday: enjoy your neighborhood and the afternoon by taking a walk or biking around in your community.

With Colada: Our Sunday Reads 10.25.15

What kind of street do you live on? Work on? Go for walks on? Is it safe for you to walk and bike on? Do you like the streets you use? These are all questions I began asking myself a long time ago when I moved to the city, but this week’s reads made me revisit them again. Our streets connect us, but they can also separate us. So much depends on the kind of street you have, not only the built infrastructure but the kinds of interactions you have on the street. Whether you have to worry about street harassment when you head out the door for a walk or if you know it will be a pleasant, calm experience makes a difference in our lives.

The Next City, The J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City, and The Nature of Cities’s newly published collection of articles on the Just City provides a deep and multi-faceted look at what we must consider if we want to create streets, and by extention cities, that are truly resilient, sustainable, and smart -- buzzwords that are all the rage with urban planners and anyone focused on improving cities. Developing better neighborhoods, creating complete streets, pushing for mixed-use, and working on placemaking -- all of these can be counterproductive if the interplay of race (and other factors, such as gender) aren’t taken into consideration.

Rendering of the neighborhood Moore lives in - Illustration Courtesy Andrea Posada

Rendering of the neighborhood Moore lives in - Illustration Courtesy Andrea Posada

This is exemplified in Darnell Moore’s description of the chilling implications “safety” can have for black residents of neighborhoods that have begun an urban transformation. In his neighborhood, a friend spotted a wanted poster put up by the police regarding a robbery allegedly committed by black men (the victim was white). His friend noted that when black teens were murdered or robbed no wanted poster had materialized. Given the continued issue of police violence against black men, the poster highlights the racialized meaning behind safety, causing us to ask, “safety for whom?”

Safety in a neighborhood isn't neutral, creating the perception of safety for white people often means state violence against black people

This story emphasizes how seemingly innocuous improvements, if not carefully thought out, can end up harming the communities that are most vulnerable to the effects of change, for good or ill. When engaging in placemaking, better street design, and other neighborhood and city redesigns it must be with a careful eye toward equitable, just improvements. Because if we don’t, we will continue to create streets, cities, neighborhoods, and nations that exclude and marginalize people of color, poor people, and other disadvantaged groups. Including and working with the communities whose neighborhoods we are hoping to alter for the better is key to creating the kind of cities that are equitable for all of us, not just a few.  

Photographs of past and present Alabama Street, and a rendering of future possibilities - Image Courtesy ATL Urbanist

Photographs of past and present Alabama Street, and a rendering of future possibilities - Image Courtesy ATL Urbanist

Luckily, our streets (and cities) are flexible, and they can transform over time to look and feel completely differently. StreetsBlog excerpted an article musing on Alabama Street in Atlanta - and how much it has changed since 1890 to current day. The 1890 image shows a street full of bustling pedestrian activity and transit running through the main street. Switch to present day and you see a failed underground mall and a deserted street. What this reveals though is opportunity: that street can change again and become a vibrant hub, filled with people and activity. Looking to history can help us to imagine new possibilities for our streets and neighborhoods, reminding us that the present needn’t continue as is; change is possible.

That doesn’t mean change comes easy however, a recent article in CityLab details the painfully slow process of implementing a road diet on New Brunswick’s Livingston Avenue, turning the four lane road into something more pedestrian and cycling friendly by adding a bike lane and reducing the driving lanes to two, with one middle turning lane. The city has been working with the county since 2008 to implement a road diet, but multiple jurisdictions, a wary public, and unexpected costs (to name a few barriers) have made for slow going. However, New Brunswick’s director of planning and community development, Glenn Patterson, emphasized that slow isn’t necessarily a negative, it can be an indication of a thorough and well-thought out process.

Either way, changing streets are on the horizon in cities all over the U.S. These are exciting times for cities, filled with possibilities as well as pitfalls. As we move forward in trying to make our cities more vibrant and livable, let’s do it with an eye toward creating cities that are truly just, that will better serve all citizens.

With Colada: Our Sunday Reads 10.18.15

Integration of people within our cities and neighborhoods is a sometimes difficult but essential process for creating a vibrant, equitable future for ourselves, and it is a topic that united our reads this week.

Right now, the poor, the rich, and the middle class often exist apart from one another, and the lines that separate poor people also work to keep them there, in poverty. The way we design our cities, the infrastructure, and the culture we develop can work to isolate and segregate us in ways that devastate communities of color and poor people in general. Or those elements can work to bring us together, fostering a sense of community and a drive to work toward an equitable future.

The impact of poverty, and the social and legal mechanisms that keep people there, is especially felt by poor black families, many of whom are still feeling the effects of racist policies of the past, such as redlining. Generational poverty, when tied to racial discrimination,  becomes even more difficult to escape - as a recent in-depth report by ProPublica on how debt collection suits are concentrated in black neighborhoods reveals.

Wage garnishment that began in 2012 over an unpaid car loan has never stopped for Cori Winfield. Her annual interest rate is over 30% so she has already paid what she owed twice over - Image courtesy Edwin Torres/ProPublica

Wage garnishment that began in 2012 over an unpaid car loan has never stopped for Cori Winfield. Her annual interest rate is over 30% so she has already paid what she owed twice over - Image courtesy Edwin Torres/ProPublica

Their account is a fascinating and sobering read - well worth the time investment. The report explains that when poor families fall on hard times, they have fewer resources to draw from, and this is especially true for black families. The average black family making $20,000-40,000 a year has about $650 in liquid assets, while the average white family has $2,010. And, since poverty disproportionately impacts black communities, that means fewer extended family resources to draw on. The report also found that “High-cost installment lenders and subprime auto lenders obtained more than 8,200 judgments against residents of mostly black neighborhoods from 2008 through 2012. The lenders have seized at least $9.5 million from debtors through those cases.”

Poor families, especially poor children, are deeply impacted by neighborhood quality, according to research by Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren of Harvard University. Children whose families relocate to better neighborhoods (i.e. ones with less poverty) are more likely to earn a higher income as adults than their peers who were raised in poor, segregated neighborhoods. Of course, for long-term change in our cities to take place, “bad” neighborhoods must be rehabilitated in collaboration with their current residents, so that neighborhood improvements don’t price them out - as happens too often for residents of areas that become the target of gentrification. 

Economic segregation trends upward as middle-income neighborhoods decline. High-income and low-income Americans have become more geographically separated within metropolitan areas. Between 1970 and 2009 the proportion of families living either in predominantly poor or predominantly affluent neighborhoods doubled from 15 percent to 33 percent.
— Joe Cortright

Focusing on how we can integrate becomes even more urgent in light of a recent report from City Observatory that indicates Americans are becoming more segregated and have less in common with each other than prior generations. Loosening exclusionary zoning regulations (which would allow for more mixed income neighborhoods and pave the way for better street design), better transit, and more diverse public places all go a long way toward contributing to developing neighborhoods and whole cities that are integrated and more equitable.

Chalk art from the community event, Chalktackular, aimed at securing land promised for a park in Miami- Image courtesy James Sweet

Chalk art from the community event, Chalktackular, aimed at securing land promised for a park in Miami- Image courtesy James Sweet

Anyone can get involved in making their neighborhood and city more equitable, in Miami there are any number of organizations you can join to become more civically engaged. There’s the Miami Worker’s Center, a nonprofit engaged in the interests of working class people; Catalyst Miami, a nonprofit dedicated to building community; Engage, a new nonprofit bent on civically engaging the burgeoning millennial generation; Emerge, a grassroots organization focused on strengthening the sense of community in Miami, and so many more.

As you prepare for the new week, share with us on Twitter or Facebook how you are engaging with your community in Miami!

With Colada: Our Sunday Reads 10.04.15

The push and pull of cites as they are built and redesigned ran through our reads this week, as did the impact place has on those who live there. Seemingly unrelated factors connect, like the link between education level and fatal car crashes, showing us how decisions can have unintended consequences.

Sometimes, though, a connection we perceive may not really be there or things may be a little more complicated. Take how a placemaking project like a bike lane is sometimes viewed as a dangerous improvement in a community because, as a neighborhood improves and becomes more desirable, the cost of living there often increases, driving current residents out. As Matthew Yglesias points out, that is not a “crazy concern,” but it is a misunderstanding of what placemaking is, because placemaking is not a product but a process.

Placemaking is not a product but a process

The Project For Public Spaces elaborates on that principal, explaining that “placemaking is not the end product, but a means to an end. It is the process by which a community defines its own priorities. This is something that government officials and self-proclaimed Placemakers ignore at their own peril.” When done properly, the placemaking process isn’t imposed on residents, they are part of determining what will work for their neighborhood.

Rents in formerly lower income neighborhoods are rising in Miami - Image courtesy WLRN

Rents in formerly lower income neighborhoods are rising in Miami - Image courtesy WLRN

Of course, this doesn’t address the underlying issue of how low income people are priced out of their neighborhoods as their real estate becomes desirable. But mixing up housing could go a long way toward addressing the issue of creating neighborhoods that people want to live in but that are also affordable for poor and middle class people. A recent article in City Observatory that examined the latest report on people who are rent burdened, advocated for a reform of zoning restrictions as part of a solution to affordable housing. This would broaden the range of housing options in an area, for example allowing more single bedroom units and loosening parking restrictions for builders. A change in zoning restrictions, among other measures could begin to open neighborhoods up in ways that don’t result in displacement and encourage community oriented placemaking.

[children in poverty who live in better neighborhoods are] more likely to complete high school, finish four years of college, and be childless throughout their teens than those who live in more disadvantaged neighborhoods. - Caroline Ratcliffe

A powerful reason to stay focused on both placemaking and equitable neighborhoods is our children. Study after study has shown that neighborhoods have a significant influence over how poor children fare on their path to adulthood. According to a recap of 40 years of research on poor children by the Urban Institute’s Caroline Ratcliffe, children in poverty who live in better neighborhoods are “more likely to complete high school, finish four years of college, and be childless throughout their teens than those who live in more disadvantaged neighborhoods.” Working to create neighborhoods that aren’t class and race segregated is a vital step in increasing children’s opportunity.

A skatepark in Australia, perfect for teens - Image courtesy Project for Public Spaces

A skatepark in Australia, perfect for teens - Image courtesy Project for Public Spaces

Some placemaking efforts are already headed in that direction; all over the world communities are recognizing that young people need public spaces that cater to their interests and encourage them toward creativity and play. In the Australian city of Fremantle, that has taken shape as a skate park - one that also includes a mini rock climbing wall and a stage.

When you walk through your neighborhood this weekend, ask yourself, “Who is welcome in this space?” The answer may inspire you to get involved in creating great places in your community!

Sunday Reads (Lite): 09.27.2015

It's officially autumn which is UI Lab's favorite time of the year. Not only does it mean all manner of pumpkin-infused goodness, but this is also when we start to catch a break from Miami's incessant heat. And that makes heading outside less of a test of willpower and endurance and more of a pleasant experience that reminds us just how great living in Miami can be. 

Naturally, when we think of being outside we think of walking, biking and general city exploration. That's why this week's article about streets with no game immediately caught our attention. Colin Ellard built on an already robust understanding of street and city design by testing people's emotional states as they walked along very differently-designed city blocks.

As it turns out, how we design and build our urban environments affects us emotionally in measurable ways, and this emotional response may even turn out to be an important public health indicator.

 

Downtown Miami Population

Data Source: Miami DDA 2014 Demographics Report
 

In Miami, the issue of design is ever more pressing as buildings continue to rise, and population increases are projected with no slowdown in sight. The development of smart, walkable, livable streets is more than just a generational trend; it is a matter of health and (measurable) happiness. To bring this point home we've put together this handy graphic to capture of our thoughts this week and illustrate a few basic elements of good street design.  

And with that, we're heading out for a delightful stroll in search of Miami's happiest streets and maybe even a pumpkin spice latte. 

Sunday Reads (On Monday): 09.21.15

Whoo, it’s been a busy week at UI Lab, despite a little downpour Friday afternoon, PARK(ing) Day went off without a hitch. All over the city people woke up to tiny parks spilling out of parking spaces, creating many a mini-oasis with yoga, mini-golf, board games and more. Those little parks are one of the ways that we can alter places and begin the work of transforming our communities into ones that better suit us. Placemaking, broadly, is what we have on the brain this week and it shows in our reads. How we create and alter places affects how and who uses those places and spaces.

For those who aren’t quite sure what placemaking is, it means pretty much what it says. It’s the act of creating, studying, and developing public places. And that can actually encompass a lot once you start thinking about how you even get to public space or how you might want to start changing that place.  

Placemaking is the act of creating, studying, and developing public spaces

That’s why small interventions like PARK(ing) Day matter, they enable everyday citizens to not just reimagine, but create something new with a place. This week we read, not about an intervention persee but something that could be the beginning of one, a small observational study by Slow Streets in Vancouver, an urban design and planning group. Slow Streets decided to study one particular street to see how people were getting there and who was getting around. This kind of study is something that almost any organized group of people with time can conduct, since it is simply observation and analysis. 

Their interest in conducting this study was also to determine if the street they were looking at qualified as a stroad or not, a street+road hybrid that has multiple access points but faster speeds (basically a death trap for pedestrians). They found that 83% of people arrived by walking to the street and that improvements were needed to make walking in that area safe and accessible. Studies like these can help move cities and neighborhoods to alter design and create places more accessible to people, rather than just cars.

How we plan and design a place or space can include or exclude; as alluded to above, speed limits and street design can encourage or discourage foot traffic. It can also shore up or breakdown class and race based segregation in cities. The podcast 99% Invisible goes in depth on “the arsenal of exclusion,” a term coined by urban planner Daniel D’Oca and his colleagues Tobias Armborst and Georgeen Theodore to describe “design elements” that are used by “architects, planners, policy-makers, developers, real estate brokers, community activists, neighborhood associations, and individuals to wage the ongoing war between integration and segregation.” Exclusionary design elements like sparse crosswalks, exclusionary zoning, dead-end streets, residential parking permits, etc. functionally serve to keep out “undesirables” (i.e. poor people and people of color).  

residential zoning today has carried class separation to great extremes, which you can see if you travel by air: Over here, big single-family homes on big lots. Over there a mobile home park. In another direction, a pod of apartment buildings. A place of every income, and every income in its (separate) place. - Robert Liberty

An example of how neighborhoods and communities can include through planning and development was published by City Observatory. The article, My Illegal Neighborhood, chronicles all the ways the author’s old neighborhood is built to include: mixed income housing (with apartments and houses intermixed) with small business and industry woven into the community. The author, Robert Liberty, points out that “residential zoning today has carried class separation to great extremes, which you can see if you travel by air: Over here, big single-family homes on big lots. Over there a mobile home park. In another direction, a pod of apartment buildings. A place of every income, and every income in its (separate) place.”

PARK(ing) Day encourages better placemaking

PARK(ing) Day encourages better placemaking

A ladybug released during PARK(ing) Day

A ladybug released during PARK(ing) Day

Placemaking (how we create our public spaces) and how neighborhoods are planned has a great impact on the kind of community that is developed: one that excludes or one that includes. As we look to the future of Miami, we can either begin to support projects that create a more inclusive and vibrant city or we can throw our weight behind projects and plans that cater to only a few. What do you choose?

Parking Space or Public Space? Reflections on PARK(ing) Day’s Approaching 10th Anniversary

As the 10th annual PARK(ing) Day approaches, we’re moved to reflect on the concept of public space and how the day asks us to start thinking about the spaces we use and move through on a daily basis.

Miamians taking part in last year's PARK(ing) Day

Miamians taking part in last year's PARK(ing) Day

What is now an international event began in 2005, the brainchild of a San Francisco based design firm called Rebar. The first PARK(ing) day was little more than a strip of grass on a parking spot and lasted for two hours - the amount of time that could be bought on the meter. From there it has grown into an international event, one that Miami’s citizens have embraced for the past three years.

A public square, the traditional gathering place for citizens - Image Courtesy David Grant

A public square, the traditional gathering place for citizens - Image Courtesy David Grant

Fundamentally, PARK(ing) Day is about ordinary citizens claiming space in a way that challenges everyone who passes by to consider how our public space is used and allocated. Public space is an old concept and closely tied to democracy, citizenship, and freedom of speech. The public square of older times - which served as a gathering place for the public to converse and protest - is now mostly symbolic in the U.S., and our understanding of what constitutes public spaces and their use has expanded over time. But, our recognition of their importance has never disappeared.

A livable, lovable city that is walkable and bikeable is good for business too! - See the details here

A livable, lovable city that is walkable and bikeable is good for business too! - See the details here

In addition to their ties with democracy and citizenship, in modern city life, vibrant, plentiful spaces for everyday citizens to gather are also a sign of a healthy, livable, lovable city.

PARK(ing) Day is a response on many levels to all these aspects of public space. By reclaiming, even for a day, a parking space designed for a car and turning it into an inviting area open to public use, citizens are challenging how cities allocate space and proactively engaging their communities.

Parking spaces are a great place to relax on PARK(ing) Day!

Parking spaces are a great place to relax on PARK(ing) Day!

In Miami, PARK(ing) Day’s growing popularity has been exciting to witness, and UI Lab’s Co-founder Irvans Augustin sees it as a reflection of the “shift in how Miamians engage the city. It is one more indicator of how Miami is embracing the walkable, livable communities we have been advocating for over the years.”

This year, we have over ten PARK(ing) spots being turned into parks, and organizations like Metro 1 Community, who are participating in the day, is turning their spot into a mini-oasis, offering massage, yoga and games. In the central downtown area, The Miami Foundation will have games and activities for passersby while CappSci and The Frost Science Museum invite people to check out aquaponics, aeroponics, and what a floating science lab might be all about. Back in Wynwood, the Miami-Dade Parks PARK(ing) Day spot will take visitors on a mini eco-adventure.

Each site will be unique, but what emerges is the sense of just how much is possible in a roughly 20’ x 8’ space when the goal is to add value to the community and create a truly walkable, lovable place and focus the space on people.   

So come out and experience your community in a different way on PARK(ing) day by checking out a PARK in your neighborhood, and take a few moments to consider how public space is allocated and used.  

With Colada: Our Sunday Reads 09.06.15

When it comes to talking about equitable transportation, what that really means, and making it a reality - things get complicated pretty quickly. This week a plethora of articles and reports have crossed our path on that topic and it’s gotten us thinking about this knotty issue. One thing that has become clear is that equity is more than theoretical access, access must be comprehensive and functional to be useful and really transform how people get around.

Miami transit in the past - Image courtesy WLRN

Miami transit in the past - Image courtesy WLRN

Over the past year, we’ve seen an uptick in talk about expanding transit in Miami as our public officials have recognized that expanding our roads for cars is not the answer to addressing congestion, let alone the livability of neighborhoods in our city. But undoing decades of flawed thinking about transportation and cities takes time and an appreciation for history. Before we can rethink cities in relation to transportation it’s helpful to look at how cities were organized prior to the rise of the automobile. Diane Rehm’s show this week did an excellent job of hosting a complex discussion on transportation, and one of the interviewees, Sam Schwartz, helped frame the discussion by reminding us of how the car rose to prominence and what was lost as public transit infrastructure was eroded.

Schwartz talked about LA’s excellent transit system of streetcars and how streets were filled with people, but that changed as the automobile ascended in prominence. This ascension was aided by the automobile industry buying up street cars and other transit companies so they could shut them down and make way for the car. These shady practices earned companies like General Motors a conviction for conspiracy but the damage was already done - public transit was destroyed in most cities.

Fast-forward to present day and we have a situation where the car is the central form of transportation that we design our cities around. Looking back, we can start to appreciate the forces that helped to create car culture and formulate strategies of phasing our car dominance, so that other modes of transportation can again flourish. Light rail, bus rapid transit, biking, and walking are all modes of transportation that work much better for cities and neighborhoods than solely relying on cars. These modes of getting around can reduce congestion; increase equity, health, and happiness of residents; and better business revenues.

This map shows how pedestrian deaths and poverty correlate - Image courtesy GOVERNING

This map shows how pedestrian deaths and poverty correlate - Image courtesy GOVERNING

Since expanded thinking about what constitutes transportation is on the rise, it’s important to consider how to make transportation more equitable. Safe Routes to School National Partnership talks about why safe and equitable transportation is especially a priority for low income people and people of color. Their short fact sheet illustrates why this is so important, for example, in low income areas only 49% of roads have sidewalks, while in high income areas 90% have sidewalks. This matters because low income people walking are twice as likely to be killed as those who are high income. When it comes to our transportation infrastructure and design (which includes sidewalks - walking is transportation!), poor or non-existent infrastructure and design literally has a body count in Miami.  

Combatting harassment is part of making transportation equitable - Figure courtesy Stop Street Harassment

Combatting harassment is part of making transportation equitable - Figure courtesy Stop Street Harassment

Equity in transportation also affects women; a recent article on women only train cars highlights the unique safety issues that women face when in public: assault and harassment by men. Countries as diverse as Brazil, Mexico, and Japan have all tried out women only train cars in an effort to protect women from harassment, abuse, and assault while taking public transportation. In the U.S. at least 65% of women report being harassed on the street, and cities like D.C. and New York have launched campaigns on their public transit aimed at discouraging the harassment and assault of women and encouraging reporting. Addressing women’s safety on the street and on public transit is an essential part of moving toward an equitable system of transportation, whether it be by walking, biking, or taking the bus or train.

What a difference a sign can make - Image courtesy Hess and Peterson

What a difference a sign can make - Image courtesy Hess and Peterson

Examining our cycling infrastructure is yet another important aspect of expanding equity in transportation, the same fact sheet from Safe School Partnership indicates that in some metropolitan areas, low income cyclists are more likely to sustain injuries when cycling than their richer counterparts. And, in Florida, cycling is particularly dangerous, we rank the highest in the nation for bicycling deaths. With that in mind, new research on cycling signage points the way toward one aspect of safety that can be improved. In a new study published last month in PLOS, researchers found that “share the road signs” were not only ineffective, but confusing and possibly dangerous to cyclists because the message was interpreted differently by drivers and cyclists. Instead, they found that signs saying “bicycles may use full lane” was interpreted more consistently by both motorists and bicyclists. Additionally, that language increased cyclists’ feelings of safety on the road.

From just this short survey of reads from our week, it’s clear that tackling transportation equity comprehensively is a complicated endeavor, and one that must take into consideration many factors. As Miami and other cities move forward, let’s keep those issues at the forefront so that no matter who needs to move about, they can do so safely and have the option they need to get where they are going.

And, finally, here is a tumblr of transit maps from around the world to brighten your long weekend!

With Colada: Our Sunday Reads 08.16.15

All things transportation have been on our minds this week, from a tri-rail extension to pedestrian safety we’ve been reading about how people get around and thinking about how that applies to Miami.

Quote by Jeff Speck

Quote by Jeff Speck

Lane size has been foremost on our minds lately, advocates of complete streets and walkability for cities have long asserted that narrower lanes for cars are actually safer and, combined with other measures like wide sidewalks and bike lanes, work to calm traffic. But empirical evidence related to crash data and width of lanes has been limited; a new paper published this year fills some of those gaps, showing that narrower lanes of about 10 ft. result in fewer crashes, help control driver speed, and do not impede the flow of traffic. Although it may seem counterintuitive, this paper provides additional support to a growing body of thought and evidence pointing to the superiority of narrower lanes. Traffic engineers have traditionally been resistant to this, insisting that wider lanes are safer, but as more and more evidence is compiled hopefully their thinking will begin to shift in response to the data.

Studies on lane width and safety have particular applicability to Miami since we consistently rank as the 4th most deadly metropolitan area for pedestrians. We have a high number of pedestrian injuries as well in Miami, each year averaging well over 1,000 injured. Looking to how we design our roads and intersections and altering them to conform to best practices could go a long way toward making Miami a more walkable city.

Image courtesy Matt Karp

Image courtesy Matt Karp

The word walkability might have a wonky sound, but it measures something quite important, not only how pleasant a city is to live in but also health. As this roundup of data and recommendations shows, walking has a significant, positive impact on our physical and mental health. Walking regularly has the potential to prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression, amongst other health issues according to multiple studies. The CDC recommends that adults walk for at least 30 minutes at day, 5 days a week - an activity that is much more appealing if our streets are safe and pleasant to walk along.

See map here

See map here

Of course, robust public transportation options go hand-in-hand with walkability and improved city life, which makes the uptick in conversations on transit in Miami so exciting. For example there is renewed energy again around extending the tri-rail to Homestead, a move that could give everyone along that route faster and more reliable access to the rest of Miami. And light-rail to the Beach is in conversation as well.

We are hopeful that Miami is beginning to move toward a more holistic approach to transportation and road design, one that will increase the quality of urban life and put Miami on the map as a walkable city with world-class transportation.

With Colada: Our Sunday Reads 08.09.15

Our week has been filled with Miami news, from the gross to the magnificent; it’s been quite a week. For example, did you know that Miami has one of the highest cockroach infestation rates in the country? Well, now you do.

Baby crocodiles - Photo courtesy of The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science

Baby crocodiles - Photo courtesy of The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science

Another animal is making the news in Miami too, rare crocodiles! These tiny little crocs have been found on Virginia Key, nesting in the beach originally restored with turtles in mind. This find underscores the importance of the restoration work done on VIrginia Key and highlights the need of keeping developers and even our city government from destroying the ecology of the island. Unfortunately, to make way for the controversial boat show, City of Miami officials have already begun destroying the environment of the Key with the illegal destruction of mangroves that provided valuable protection from erosion. The City will likely face fines for cutting down the mangroves without a permit but the damage has been done, and it will take a considerable amount of work and time to restore the lost mangroves.

Wynwood Mural - Photo courtesy Juan Cristobal Zulueta

Wynwood Mural - Photo courtesy Juan Cristobal Zulueta

But it wasn’t all bad news that filled our newsfeed this week, Wynwood is greening up! A new plan proposed by business owners and just approved by the city commissioners focuses on creating a much greener Wynwood, replete with tree lined streets, wider sidewalks, and roof top gardens. Though some of this plan will take some time to implement, it is exciting to see a Miami neighborhood moving toward a progressive path of urban development! And, if, like us, you are interested in the nitty-gritty of Wynwood’s continuing development, check out Curbed Miami’s  breakdown of the rezoning and see all the ways this neighborhood is changing.

The Dyer Building - Photo courtesy Carol M. Highsmith, courtesy of the Library of Congress

The Dyer Building - Photo courtesy Carol M. Highsmith, courtesy of the Library of Congress

Meanwhile, in downtown Miami, a Biscayne Times article renews the push to reconsider the unsightly barriers around the Dyer building, placed there due to its status as a federal building. The Downtown Development Authority has been in discussions for several years, trying to have the barriers removed and replaced with an alternative that provides security without sacrificing the urban landscape, but so far to no avail. Currently, Miami-Dade College is looking to acquire the building, and hopefully their interest will lend momentum to removing the barricades and creating a more pleasing urban space.

Getting busy with chalk! - Photo courtesy James Sweet

Getting busy with chalk! - Photo courtesy James Sweet

The movement to renew urban spaces was nowhere more evident this weekend than at what community advocates have dubbed Dan Paul Park. Yesterday saw a massive action to bring attention to the almost park, currently languishing behind the American Airlines arena, a giant concrete reminder of an unfulfilled promise. Engage Miami, Emerge Miami, the Urban Environment League and a host of other community and advocacy organizations teamed up to turn that unsightly concrete slab into a giant chalk mural! Thus bringing attention to an unfulfilled promise from The Heat and our city officials to make that space into a functional park.

Chalking in neon brights! - Photo courtesy James Sweet

Chalking in neon brights! - Photo courtesy James Sweet

Adding some green to the park - Photo courtesy James Sweet

Adding some green to the park - Photo courtesy James Sweet

For over three hours, around 200 people converged on the area, creating beautiful chalk drawings and using the space as it was meant to be used, a public community gathering place. To see the art created there yesterday check out the #chalktacular tag on Instagram, where there are a plethora of bright photographs as well as aerial views taken by tiny drones.

Playing at Climate Change

As climate change becomes an increasingly pressing issue, more groups are coming up with innovative  ways of taking action and being heard. Such was the case on Tuesday, July 7th, 2015 when Mom’s Clean Air Force hosted their second Play-In for Climate Action in Washington DC. Turning the traditional sit-in style of peaceful protesting on its head, with over 500 families from across the nation gathered on DC’s Upper Senate Park to take a stand and play some games for stronger policies around clean energy, reduced pollution, and overall healthier communities through responsible policy and decision-making.

As the morning emerged, locals and passersby found the park’s central lawn strewn with map-imprinted play parachutes, inflatable globe balls, hula hoops, cardboard houses and assorted costumes, plus lots of kids. By 9:30am, yoga and capoeira instructors were leading short classes, performers entertained participants with musical acts, and giant puppets waded through the crowd.

Climate change activists of all ages united

Climate change activists of all ages united

Kids were still playing when community leaders from across the country, representing our nation’s broad ethnic, cultural and social diversity, took to the microphone, rallying the group using their personal stories on the impact, importance, and urgency of taking climate action now.  Partners and fellow organizers stood in solidarity under the blazing sun, holding up large posters bearing messages and signatures directed at their respective state senators, asking they take action to protect children from the negative impacts of climate change.

By noon, the group had organized themselves into a rough line, ready to march in front of the US Capitol building before breaking off into smaller groups organized by state. Each group had pre-arranged meetings with their state senators and/or staff to discuss first hand experiences with climate change and urge their representatives to take action.   

Young activists ready to take flight

Young activists ready to take flight

More young activists hard at work at the play-in

More young activists hard at work at the play-in

Our Florida group consisted of  roughly 10 adults and kids  who met with staff members of both of Florida’s senators. We discussed issues associated with sea level rise, solar energy and climate-related health impacts (especially asthma, allergies, and skin conditions). One piece of legislation that drew particular interest from Moms Clean Air Force participants and our Florida group is the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, set to release state-specific renewable energy recommendations aimed at reducing carbon emissions by 30% while increasing energy efficiency. The group urged Florida’s senators to look beyond party lines and take action for cleaner air and energy. We also took the opportunity to present the same question to our meeting hosts, asking “Will the senator support the EPA’s Clean Power Plan?”.  

Rubio was concerned the plan was overreaching and would place too much power in the hands of the EPA and federal government. Senator Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) staff, on the other hand, quickly asserted Nelson’s support for the EPA’s plan and urged our Florida group to continue taking action at the state level

Senator and presidential hopeful Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) legislative correspondent met with our group a bit after 1pm. When asked whether the senator would support the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the correspondent hesitated before stating that Rubio was concerned the plan was overreaching and would place too much power in the hands of the EPA and federal government. Senator Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) staff, on the other hand, quickly asserted Nelson’s support for the EPA’s plan and urged our Florida group to continue taking action at the state level, since his power to affect change is greatly enhanced by on the ground efforts of dedicated citizens.

The contrast between the meetings, not just responses to that one question, was striking -- probably about as striking as finding 100s of kids clad in bright red t-shirts taking over a park right off of New Jersey Ave. Senator Nelson’s staff was prepared and knowledgeable, while Rubio’s aide seemed pleasant but unknowing, asking questions like, “are there any studies that link climate change and health impacts?”.

What remains clear is that although our elected officials are urged to view climate change not as a political issue, but as a growing challenge to our community’s basic health and well-being and a critical threat to our kids’ future, the issue remains entrenched in the partisan divide. Additionally, action and change, at least in Florida, will have to emerge at the local level, build support from neighboring communities and swell into a regional movement that the state can no longer ignore. To that end, Mom’s Clean Air Force provides a useful lesson: when all else seems to fail (or at least move unacceptably slow), throw in the towel, sunscreen, crayons, and bubble maker and invite others to play all the way to the top.


About Moms Clean Air Force

Moms Clean Air Force is a special project of the Environmental Defense Fund, headquartered in New York.  Moms Clean Air Force is a community of moms and dads united against air pollution – including the urgent crisis of our changing climate – to protect our children’s health.

The organization aims to arm its members with reliable information and solutions through online resources, articles, action tools and on-the-ground events.  

More information at Mom's Clean Air Force and @cleanairmom

With Colada: Our Sunday Reads 08.02.15

Our readings were all over the map this week, from redistricting in Florida to the pull of automation, a lot is happening that affects cities and the people in them.

Our state is in trouble, and so are a lot of of other states, when it comes to our ecological footprint. A recent report on the bio-capacity of each state measures how many resources we are consuming in proportion to what is available. Unfortunately, Florida is exceeding its biocapacity by 200%, an especially worrisome figure in light of how vulnerable our state is to the effects of climate change.

The people mover (image courtesy David Reid)

The people mover (image courtesy David Reid)

Locally, however, things are looking up for sustainability when it comes to our transportation options. Alice Bravo, the new transit director at the county level, has announced that she wants to work toward a Miami that is car optional. In an interview with the New Times she observed that the “younger generation...is not interested in having a car and wants to use public transportation. We have to make sure there is a system there for them to satisfy their needs.” Although we’d wager it’s not just younger people who would want or use public transportation, we are eager to hear more about her plans given more and more reports are rolling in on the soaring rental costs in many cities, making city life less feasible for young professionals.

Affordable housing and transit go hand-in-hand toward making a city more attractive for millennials, that generation we can’t seem to stop talking about. And, this is something cities should pay attention to because the data shows that millennials may not be as tied to the city as you’d think. In fact, the numbers indicate that they are decamping for their own hybridized suburbs, to raise families and find housing that won’t break the bank.

With all the talk of millennials, you’d almost think that they are the only ones in need of affordable housing and good transit, but these are things that improve the quality of life for everyone in cities, especially people in low-income communities who are often pushed out as old neighborhoods are gentrified into hip spots for the young professional class (just take a look at how much Wynwood has changed over the last five years). When talking about critical issues like housing and transit, it’s important to consider all residents of a city and how change (or a lack of it) affects them.

Often, low income communities don’t have the political sway to change or influence policies that adversely affect them, and such communities also deal with having their political power limited by gerrymandering. This is an issue that raised it’s head in Florida, where our state supreme court ruled that eight districts had to be redrawn because they unjustly favored incumbents or were partisan. The court spoke to the fact that many districts had been drawn in a way that limited the power of the minority vote and favored the Republican party. These maps are currently being redrawn and will almost certainly impact the outcome of the 2016 election cycle.  

Mexico City (image from Daily Overview)

Mexico City (image from Daily Overview)

The port of Hamburg (image courtesy Daily Overview)

The port of Hamburg (image courtesy Daily Overview)

Finally, we’ll leave you with some inspiration that is definitely not local, these images exemplify the “overview effect” that astronauts report, and that is a feeling of awe and a renewed sense of responsibility for the planet when they see it from space.

With Colada: Our Sunday Reads 07.19.15

A recurring theme throughout our reads this week is equity and inclusivity and how to create and adapt our cities so that they are actually equitable places. Such a vision is expansive and encompasses many aspects of a city, intertwining factors like health, activity, parks, housing regulations, and art - all of which shape the cities and neighborhoods we live in.

Proposed FL High-Speed Rail - Source

Proposed FL High-Speed Rail - Source

Equitable, accessible public transportation is one of the key aspects of a vibrant city that is completely connected within itself and within a broader system of transportation that is (or should be in our utopian vision) regional and national. Right now such a vision is threatened as many of the great potential rail projects that would connect regions are being started and then stopped midway, or outright rejected - as with the rail project funding that Governor Scott refused. Vice details how rail projects have been systematically rejected or stopped as political winds in states have shifted right, halting projects even when there was significant popular will in favor of their completion.

In Miami, a recent MPO meeting on transportation solutions illustrated how a lack of political will or action (as well as corruption) can stall expanding and improving public transit. Part of the meeting detailed Miami’s longstanding People's Transportation Plan, including a promised rail to and from Kendall and one to the Beach that has so far not materialized. Much of the discussion centered around lack of Federal funding for transportation projects, although what commissioners and others present failed to mention is that Federal funding was pulled from the MDT in 2009 over massive mismanagement and theft concerns.

But, although poor political leadership can stall or circumvent transit development, visionary leadership that is responsive to the needs of citizens can have an equally transformative impact. A good example is the city of Pittsburgh and their mayor, Bill Peduto, who ran his mayoral campaign on working to make the city more walkable and bikeable. As mayor he has made good on his promise to focus on those issues, shepherding the construction of a flexible protected bike lane and working with advocates and planners to stay ahead of the curve on adapting Pittsburgh into a fully bikeable, walkable city. 

One of the things that happens when a city is easy to get around in via means other than cars is that it is more connected, and people have the opportunity to interact with one another with greater frequency. These interactions with others who may be outside of our normal social sphere have the potential to increase our empathy and understanding of others - an important ingredient in any city that wants to be livable.

Getting to a place of empathy is going to be quite a challenge though, as long as opposition remains strong toward fair, integrated housing. A new ruling by the Supreme Court around disparate impact and fair housing will force cities to reconsider how and where they distribute low income housing. Unfortunately, such housing has long been opposed by conservatives and liberals alike. This kind of NIMBYism (not in my backyard) is a tough issue to beat because it rests on the ubiquity of casual and unacknowledged racism and classism, which translates into a “separate but equal” scenario that is separate but definitely not equal. CityLab has a detailed article on the historic opposition by white liberals toward building low income housing (often functionally a euphemism for minorities moving into a neighborhood since minorities are disparately impacted by poverty) and how the Supreme Court ruling will likely continue to be fought at the local level.

Community planning for the Haven Project in South Bronx - Source 

Community planning for the Haven Project in South Bronx - Source 

While opposition to integrated housing carries on, others are working on making low income neighborhoods more equitable via parks, greenways, and sidewalk and crossing upgrades and redesigns, to name a few changes underfoot in areas like the South Bronx, as the Haven Project takes shape. This project is being spearheaded by the New York Restoration Project; they are working with residents to transform their neighborhood into one that is safer and a lot greener. As the Think Progress article on this project points outaccess to parks and greener neighborhoods encourages residents to be more active and increases the safety of those neighborhoods. All of these are factors closely tied to community health and well being on multiple fronts. Changes like these have the potential to positively impact crime and individual health problems, such as diabetes.

How everything connects to place - Source

How everything connects to place - Source

Just from looking at a few issues as we have done here, such as transit, green space, and fair housing, it is clear that addressing inequity and exclusion is serious business - a problem that is complex and must be tackled on multiple fronts. This article on place-making and its future draws together many of those elements into a cohesive vision for cities, and that is what we’ll leave you this week to ponder.

With Colada: Our Sunday Reads 07.12.15

Adult Playground in the Bronx - image courtesy NYT

Adult Playground in the Bronx - image courtesy NYT

This week we’ve been reading a lot about ways to adapt cities and how we can make Miami more adaptable. Adaptability is a vital element of any city, allowing it to shift and change as new information is discovered and as the needs of its citizens change, sometimes even evolving into a playground!

Dr. Wendler is using her background as an urban geographer to think about cities in a new and exciting way, as playgrounds for adults. Turning the concept of urban space on it’s head, she is working to make walking around a city and going about your everyday business into an adventure. She wants people to become “aware of elements that they ignore in their daily life.” Projects like the Pac Man mural at Brickell Metro is an example of what Miami could do with such an idea. New York is also on the move with this, creating a playground for adults a few years ago.

Mountain biking at Amelia - image courtesy Mountain Bike Mike

Mountain biking at Amelia - image courtesy Mountain Bike Mike

Sometimes just exploring a part of the Miami area that you haven’t really ever seen can be it’s own adventure. We recommend following the advice of The New Tropic and heading over to Hialeah, perhaps to their famous Flamingo Plaza Thrift stores or the Amelia Earhart Park for some mountain biking!

So why is thinking about cities in new ways so important? For one thing, our environment in our community plays a huge and significant role in our health and overall wellbeing. A recent article on place-making focused on the impact urban design has on community health. According to Dr. Iton, “eighty percent of what influences your life expectancy happens outside of the medical system, and that’s a conservative estimate.” And a large part of that 80% is the built environment we interact with and live in everyday. Turning our city into a fun place to be, a place where play is a part of our daily routine, where parks are plentiful and sidewalks safe and accessible has the power to alter the health of our entire community.  

Cities like Vancouver have been working to change how their transportation functions and how their city is designed so that pedestrians and cyclists are not only accommodated but that streets, sidewalks, and the city is designed for them too. They have joined cities like Seattle by adopting Vision Zero, an initiative that aims to get pedestrian fatalities to zero. That kind of forward thinking could radically alter Miami into a city that is welcoming to its pedestrians and cyclists, and change the current depressing statistic of Miami as the 4th most dangerous city in the nation to be a pedestrian.

Meeting of a Special Committee of the MPO - image courtesy the Miami Herald

Meeting of a Special Committee of the MPO - image courtesy the Miami Herald

Miami has been adapting too, and it looks as though we may be on the cusp of a new age of transportation in Miami, as city and county officials have begun to recognize that multiple forms of transportation are vital if the Magic City is going to continue growing and welcoming companies like Twitter to the city.

As you’re reading, we hope your creative and advocacy juices are churning, thinking about how you can contribute to making your neighborhood and city more adaptable, more livable! And, don’t forget to join us today for our first #ColadaChat on Twitter at 1:00 PM. Tell us what you’ve been reading and thinking about cities and adaptability, place-making, transportation, and anything else you’ve been checking out!

A Vibrant Miami: Let’s talk about what will make our communities strong

What impacts our city? What can make it better, more livable, more vibrant?

Everywhere people are trying to answer those questions through ongoing global conversations about city culture, sustainability, equity, place-making, public space, and so much more; now we want to bring that conversation to Miami through Twitter!

Starting July 12th, we will host a monthly chat to share what we’ve been reading and thinking on and invite you to share what you’ve been checking out too! So, grab some cuban coffee and join in every second Sunday @ 1 PM using #ColadaChat (that’s right, we’re kickin it Miami style) for vibrant and intriguing conversations about our reads and yours.

We’ll be focusing on topics and articles that relate to developing great city culture and spaces, whatever that means to you or us! And, to kick things off, we’ll post a weekly roundup of our reading on Sunday morning. 

We can’t wait to see what you have to talk about!


Image Credit: Cortado (6170237822), By cyclonebill from Copenhagen, Denmark - Cortado Uploaded by FAEP. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Bayfront is for Rollerskates

Bayfront is for Rollerskates

Eyes are on Downtown Miami, with its transforming skyline and latest development boom. Many people see many forward-thinking and globally-motivated potentials. Then there's the Macias brothers, Alex and Marcos of Macias Advertising (macisascreative.com). Amidst a scramble for footholds on downtown's cultural scene Team Macias saw beyond by looking back- all the way back- to their youth in Miami. From his balcony facing Bayfront Park, Alex Macias pondered Miami's roundest fountain and realized what downtown is missing: a roller rink.

Pacman is Eating Your Calories

by melissa ostroff

A new public space installation was recently placed at the Brickell Metrorail station in downtown Miami, and features a Pacman mural on the stairs that lead up to the trains. While the stairs are a fun, artistic addition to the station, they also promote an informative and inspiring message about incorporating small changes in daily life to facilitate increased physical activity. 

Every other step has the number of calories burned while climbing the stairs. By the time the pedestrian reaches the top, they will see that they burned 2.60 calories. Although this doesn’t seem like a lot, if a commuter uses the stairs twice per day everyday for a year, they will burn an extra 730 calories a year. This, along with other numerous small tweaks in one’s daily life can make a huge difference in overall health and wellness. 

These artful stairs help you understand the value of opting out of the elevator!

These artful stairs help you understand the value of opting out of the elevator!

The mastermind behind this idea is the Active Living Team (A.L.T.), which is a non-profit company that aims to generate increased public consciousness about health and wellness. Their goal for this installation was to encourage people to notice and use the stairs, rather than more sedentary options such as the escalator or elevator. By putting the number of calories burned from walking up the stairs, it proves that even small changes in one’s lifestyle can contribute to an overall healthier life. 

This idea was chosen and funded by the Public Space Challenge, a part of the Miami Foundation.  They select and fund various ideas that all aim to improve public spaces through channels such as art, music and nature.  So far, the public stair activation project has been successful. The security guards at the Brickell station explained that people often noticed and showed interest in the mural and that people appeared to be happy when they reached the top and saw that they had burned calories.  

Learn more abut other Public Space Challenges and this one by visiting the Miami Foundation's Website dedicated to a list of the finalists