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Green Urbanism in Miami

Ines Hegedus-Garcia

I wrote the following article back in December of 2007 and wanted to share it again because of all the different urban issues we have been seeing in Miami - from the #NoWalmartinMidtown battle, to the casino proposal just North of downtown Miami.  In order to have an opinion on either of these subjects, we must understand how these 2 proposed projects will affect our urban core and will have to change existing urban infrastructures that work.  (I will be writing about the casino in the near future, but warning....strong opinions to come your way!)

Most of you know that I have a bachelors degree in architecture from The University of Miami. The Dean of the school of architecture is Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, from the firm DPZ and best known for their unbelievable urbanism concepts. walking-frame I studied with The Luis and Jorge Trelles as well as Teofilo Victoria and Andres Duany and the concept of "New Urbanism" was drilled into us from day one at UM. I recently found an article by where Andres Duany was interviewed and explains a bit about New Urbanism.

Andrés Duany is writing the blueprint for a greener human habitat. The Miami-based architect is the co-founder, with his wife Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, of the firm DPZ, and over the years he's become a leader in what's called New Urbanism. It's a philosophy of design that tackles not so much buildings themselves as the entire built environment. Duany and his peers in New Urbanism want to stem suburban sprawl in favor of medium-density towns and neighborhoods where houses, offices, shopping and leisure activities would all be within a walkable space. The automobile - which is responsible for a significant portion of most Americans' individual carbon footprint - would become an option, not a lifeline. "This goes beyond simply having cars that will pollute less, like hybrids," says Duany, a voluble 58-year-old who grew up in Cuba before moving to the U.S. in 1960. "It means not having to drive." (Hear Duany talk about New Urbanism on this week's Greencast.)

How is this "New Urbanism" relevant to Miami Real Estate?

SIMPLE. Miami is a HUGE city; the amount it takes you to travel from one end to the other could be in excess of 2 hours in rush hour traffic. That could mean INSANITY for anyone relocating to Miami-Dade County who doesn't know any better.

Within Miami, there are plenty of self-sustaining neighborhoods and people throughout the years have chosen to live, work and play in those areas to avoid the whole commute issue. Of course Rick and I will ask our customers where they plan to work and what schools they are looking for their kids because this is crucial for the commute.

In a perfect world of design, when we are talking about the typical American family, both parents would work near their place of residence and they would choose a school for their kids where they live. In Miami it has gotten out of hand. You see a parent working in Downtown Miami and the other in Fort Lauderdale - typically they choose to live in the middle of their commute but this is far from the "new urbanism concept".

The romantic architect in me favors these mixed-use projects and self-sustaining "walkable" communities. But that romantic side is in constant disagreement with the practical side of me that says "that could only happen in a perfect, fictitious world". From our friends in Miami Shores whose husband was just transferred from Fort Lauderdale to El Doral, or the Barry University professor who has to commute to Miami Shores from Miami Beach every day. Where we choose to live to lessen the impact of a commute is an extremely important decision and one that deserves delicate scrutiny. As for New and Green Urbanism, I will keep encouraging and dreaming and will certainly support it, but know that reality will win in most cases.

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