I was excited to attend a public workshop for the Architectural Design of the Miami Shores Downtown District, last night at the Community Center. It was organized by The Miami Shores Village Council and administration, in conjunction with RMA (Redevelopment Management Associates). This workshop was a kick-off meeting to introduce the RMA design team who will present a preliminary analysis of the downtown district. It was an opportunity for the community to provide input on the downtown district architectural design. The RMA team did a great job of explaining the scope of their analysis which included architectural design, streetscape and parking. Their goal was to achieve a balance between what the community wants, what businesses need and what the village can afford. I was also happily surprised that one of my professors from The University of Miami School of Architecture,(Maria deLeon Fleites) was part of the RMA team. I love when life comes around full circle. The RMA team broke down their presentation into 2 parts and then orchestrated a workshop with the attendees from the community to get direct feedback on what they have done and know which direction to continue their study.
Downtown Miami Shores Architectural Design
Maria explained how they did an intensive study of existing architecture within the downtown district as well as its history. The original architectural styles included: Mediterranean Revival, Streamline Modern/Art Deco, Commercial Vernacular, MiMo, Mid-century Modern and Colonial Revival. It was made clear that the only architectural style that wasn't true to South Florida was Colonial Revival. It was also made clear that out of all the downtown buildings currently standing, the only architecturally relevant today is the Theater with its Streamline Modern design. The post office corner building also had some MiMO relevance as did the 9999 Building sans the persianas. In the community workshop, the following questions were discussed:
- Do you agree with establishing a unified image for Main Street Miami Shores? - the consensus was an overwhelming and unanimous YES
- Do you agree with establishing the Mediterranean Revival, Streamline Modern, MiMo and Commercial Vernacular as the adopted style for new development on Main Street? - answers were mixed but majority agreed that the area was too small (from 94th to 101 street) for too many styles. The fact that Mediterranean Revival was more of a residential style which called for smaller windows and not extensive glass was also discussed and that Commercial Vernacular was too broad of a style. Most of the attendees agreed that the Colonial Style did not belong (except for a few people that felt strongly about it), but all agreed that MiMo and Streamline Modern were the appropriate styles.
- Do you agree with allowing existing buildings to substantially renovate following the adopted Architectural Design Standards for the existing style of the building? Answers also varied but seemed to come back to a common theme; never imposing a burden on building owners, restoring buildings to original architectural integrity and using elements that were true to their style. There was a lot of conversation about many of the buildings having barrel tile roofs that were not appropriate. There was also conversation about helping businesses with renovations in some way or providing assistance for such renovations.
- Do you agree with allowing civic buildings to have their own identity without regulating a specific style but requiring that the design is complimentary to the adopted style? Discussion for this included how the civic buildings have gone through changes throughout their existence that don't quite match their original style. Although everyone agreed that they could stand on their own, it was suggested that any changes go back to their intended styles. One resident was passionate about sustainable architecture and suggested that civic buildings should be a good example of green buildings using active and passive solar elements that would drive their architectural style. Personally, the thought of bringing sustainable design to our downtown is a very exciting concept.
Downtown Miami Shores Streetscape and Parking Design
The second part of the workshop was not as exciting based on the fact that it included streetscape and parking. Their base was the mobility study done by Kimley-Horn for the village and how it can be incorporated into their plan. Deficiencies were identified and left for the group to discuss. RMA did a business inventory and this is what they found our downtown current make-up to be, by use count, not square footage (please note that office and medical make up 45% of the inventory):
One of the suggestions was to decrease the parking standards since most of the parking belongs to the village and to come up with a comprehensive parking improvement plan for the future. They used the village of Delray Beach as an example. It was also clear that the area between 94th to 97th street was not as pedestrian friendly as the area between 97th and 100th street. In the community workshop, the following questions were discussed for Current Parking Conditions:
- Do you agree with changing the parking standards? - answer was yes, agreeing that there must be a plan for the future. There was a strong opinion that downtown should focus on pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
- Do you agree with counting on-street parking to meet on-site demands? - again the answer was yes, there was little discussion on this questions since it's the way the village currently operates
- How do you feel about prohibiting employees to park on the street in order to make parking more accessible to patrons? - everyone agreed this was a smart business practice no matter the location
- How do you feel about Village negotiating a lease agreement with church site on the north of the district to mitigate on-site parking deficiencies? Most agreed it would be a good idea, but as one of the solutions, not the ultimate solution.
- How do you feel about establishing a residential parking permit for swale areas? As long as this did not impose a burden on those residential owners, then the answer would be positive.
The last part of the community workshop included questions for future parking and redevelopment:
- Are you opposed to metering on street parking? - the consensus was no, especially if it provides extra income for the city to be able to plan for parking and helping current businesses. One business owner was concerned that metered parking would prevent his stop-and-go clients from making quick stops to his establishment.
- Would you support public structured parking as part of a comprehensive parking plan? How about a payment in-lieu of program? Although the answer was yes, the discussion included location for such a structure and the aesthetics of it. I suggested taking down the Colonial Bank of America Building and building it there - the idea was received with applause.
- If parking demand is met as stated above, would you support the reconfiguration of the on-street parking to replace back-out parking with parallel? This would create an opportunity to widen sidewalks and provide landscape buffers along the street edge and improve the overall quality of the streetscape to enhance multi-modal mobility. - This was received extremely well for several reasons: the areas would become more attractive to adjacent residential neighbors that need more of a buffer from the commercial district, it would provide more trees and shade and less asphalt. Only one resident was concerned that this would create a parking problem, but it was discussed that the future parking redevelopment would address this.
I was honestly thrilled that the community would be invited to participate in such key decisions for our downtown area. Having resided in Miami Shores for over 35 years, I have been involved in different capacities, from Historic Preservation Board, to designing the Miami Shores Library addition as well as Downtown Advisory Committee created by The Chamber of Commerce. I have seen the village make horrible architectural design decisions based on lack of information. Knowing that they are willing to create architectural standards for downtown is commendable and gives me a sigh of relief. I can see the issues this will cause with some owners that don't like for cities to dictate what their private property should look like, but I also feel that owners like that, don't belong in our village. I can see a very bright future and can't wait for RMA's presentation in September to our city commission. YAY MIAMI SHORES!!! You have come a long way! If you are interested in getting one of our "I LOVE MIAMI SHORES" magnets, please email us your address and contact information and we will happy to send you one (for free of course).