Blog Posts

Code Changes and the Battle for the Grove

[2/7/18] Neighborhood Conservation Districts (NCD), and the battles between density and preservation in Coconut Grove get to the heart of Miami’s growth problems.

“Coconut Grove is beginning to accept that its neighborhoods have many different sides with this proposed rewrite of the NCD ordinance. Whether it be the string of high rises along the marina, the blocks of apartments down Grand Avenue, the grandiose homes along the bay, or the pockets of dense single-family historic homes in the East Grove, its neighborhoods have always co-existed in harmony.”

Flagler Street Fail

[1/29/18]  After spending $14.24 million and hurting hundreds of businesses, FDOT left Flagler St. in the past, squandering a major opportunity on a historic corridor.

“A larger problem is a separation and lack of coordination between jurisdictions. While the state controls the Road, the county controls the Transit, and the city controls the zoning code. This split in decision making and communication causes failed projects like this to occur.”

Grading Metro Frequencies

[1/15/18] In light of Metro Cuts, how does Miami’s estimated rail frequencies compare to other cities?

“In comparing this service to 7 other lines across the world, Miami ranks 6th at peak service, and ties with 4 others for 2nd place at off-peak hours.”

Quick Take: Miami’s Water Rush

[1/8/18]  Miami’s proximity to water has been its boon, however, it is what threaten’s the city most today due to Sea Level Rise. Can this threat be turned into an opportunity for the city?

The 10 Most Important Miami Stories of 2017

[12/28/17]  My choices for the Top Miami Stories in 2017.

The Many Hubs of Art Basel

[12/11/17]  Art Basel’s many “hubs” illustrate Miami’s multi-nodal urban structure and the transit woes that go along with it.

“Basel’s growth and popularity as arguably the most important international Art fair in the world shows Miami’s potential to be a truly global city. However, the way that the local government is treating transit will continue to hold the city back. Robot cars and light rails are not coming to save us from our woes. We need truly innovative thinking that is specific to our city.”

Terror and Public Space

[11/30/17]  Should potential acts of terror and security be considered when designing public space in Miami, and how can this be done smarter?

“While an attack of this kind has not occurred in Miami, security precautions and planning have already taken these world events into consideration. This past August, Miami Beach added concrete barricades to the ends of Lincoln Rd to prevent a potential vehicular attack after a terrorist event in Barcelona. Next weekend, NW 2nd Ave, in Wynwood will be closed to vehicular traffic during Art Basel by local law enforcement due to no specific threat, but as they said, due to ‘world events.'”

The 9 Most Significant Miami Buildings

[11/14/17]  Here are, in my opinion, Miami’s most important buildings and the stories behind them.

Including Viscaya, The Marine Stadium, 1111 and more!

What is the Miami Forever Bond?

[11/3/17] On November 7th, The City of Miami votes on whether or not to approve a proposal called the “Miami Forever Bond.” Nomenclature aside, here is what that means.

“In terms of Sea Level Rise mitigation, this item requires both capital projects and policy changes that plan for the next 100 years. In this category, I am more skeptical as to the blank check given. It seems that the city is focusing more on flood prevention, than the longer term problem of mitigation. This is an area that we must demand answers on, and need to push the city on over time to create a long-term plan. We need a county-wide master plan that takes sea level rise into account using solutions in every department. From zoning to parks, from building code to life safety and power, all of these pieces matter in the larger puzzle, and it is unclear that we are looking at it from that level yet.”

FPL in a Post-Irma Florida

[9/27/17] Everyone’s favorite punching bag brought power back to 99.9% of households within 1 week. While that is nothing to sniff at, it is important to ask how the system can be designed to work better, instead of designed to fail better.

“The City of Coral Gables announced that it will study a plan to bury power lines in the city. It is estimated to cost upwards of $250 million, a figure almost equal to the total annual expenditures of the city. Any other year this would sound like a preposterous proposal, but with the context of Irma, it appears to be the only logical conclusion. The voters, after 4-8 days of overheated boredom, are ready to shell out an indeterminate amount of special assessments in order to never have to live through it again, and that is understandable.”

Irma: A Storm 25-years in the Making

[9/14/17] South Florida has been preparing for a storm like Irma since Andrew hit in 1992, and our efforts have paid off.

“Irma was a massive dress rehearsal for the worst case scenario. 3 days out, the hurricane was a Category 5 storm headed directly towards Miami from the south, with 200 mph gusts. It eventually hit Marco Island, on the west coast of Florida, as a Category 3 storm and spun up the center of the state. South Florida felt Category 3 wind gusts with Category 1/Tropical Storm sustained winds. This was a welcome deviation from the predicted outcomes, but the real story is not in the outcome but in the process.”

Houston’s Harvey, an Urbanist Perspective

[8/30/17] Blame is counterproductive. Let’s talk solutions.
“Harvey’s rainfall was both historic and predictable. With the heightening frequency of flood events and the escalation of tropical systems due to climate change, a storm like Harvey’s was inevitable. Houston has known about this, and has been preparing for flooding events for decades but has only scratched the surface of necessary improvements. The city spends $100 million annually in flood mitigation efforts and has used it in hydraulic systems, floodable highways, and water reservoirs. That may sound like a lot, but South Florida spends $664 million annually on water management and still has issues.”

Review: North Beach Masterplan

[8/22/17] The North Beach Master Plan is a learning experience for many towns along the Eastern Seaboard. In it is a plan for resiliency that has many hits, and a few key misses.
“The master plan suggests creating 2 specific historic districts as a precursor to upzoning, but this plan has not been approved by the council. It also casts too wide of a net and does not allow for enough development or freedom. Select parts of this district can and should be saved, but large parts of it must be upzoned in order to survive. In doing so, historically designated buildings have an ability to sell air rights around North Beach. This would give the historical buildings funding to improve while creating an economic engine in the residential areas.”

The EB-5 Paradox

[8/8/17]  EB-5 Visas have been an important post-recession tool in Miami for raising money, but have also fueled unaffordable housing in the City.
“In Miami, most of these investments land in luxury real estate projects. These are projects that are planned with EB-5 Visa investment and buyers in mind. In other words, developers create a building product that is a good candidate for easy investment that translates into the sale of a condo.”

Are Buses SMART?

[7/20/17] While trains may have been promised, suburban areas of the SMART Plan are looking to Rapid Bus Systems for savings and long term thinking.
“I am not saying that the SMART plan is a bad plan, in fact, the opposite. It correctly identifies corridors that are both possible and popular for these initiatives, and it takes into account density, future development, and existing public transit use. However, the mediums for these lines must be tailored to each’s environment, density, and use estimates. This is what good governing looks like. It’s not sexy or inspirational, but it is making the city an inch better at a time and doing it pragmatically and efficiently.”

 Miami, a Retail Paradise?

[7/10/17]  While retail jobs are falling across the Country, Miami has continued to add retail sqft across the city; But will that be enough for the new American Dream Mall?

“While brands like Macy’s and JC Penny are seeing shoppers move online, luxury shoppers still appear to go into the store to make purchases, and Miami is a robust market for luxury shopping. This is due to both tourism shoppers and international residents, who typically patronize these locations.”

The Beckham Deal is Good for Miami

[6/19/17] How Miami pushed a run of the mill bad stadium deal, into a new kind of agreement.

“This process began with a proposal for a curvaceous stadium located on Biscayne Bay, given for free, and ending with a better solution for a nuanced, simpler stadium design located in Overtown, fully paid for by its privately funded ownership (The Miami Beckham United Team).”

Miami Style: The Intra-Block

[6/6/17] New Projects claiming to be “Urban Wonders” just glorified Malls.

“All of these projects call themselves “multi-use urban projects,” while they appear to all be borrowing ideas from the simple suburban open-air mall.”

Why Miami Grid?

[5/23/17] A description of my obsession with the Miami Grid, and why I named this Blog after it.

“The advanced laying out of the Manhattan grid, up to 155th St., decades before there was any development north of Houston St., was a bold move. It created a system of development that would later engulf the island, and allowed for organized capitalistic chaos. The founders of Miami acted much the same way, when creating the grid system that we still use today.”

The Virtue of AirBnB

[5/6/17] Miami’s crusade against AirBnB does not understand the problem, and therefore, will not find a solution.

“In a society where work and life are blending, storage and retail are brought together online, and home and hotel are becoming one in the same, restrictive zoning uses are not moving as fast as society itself.”

The Midtown Migration

[4/22/17] “Midtown” is not only in your city, they are popping up across the United States, and follow a specific pattern.

“Cities across the country are in the maturing phase of a transformation, where proximity and entertainment are king. This shift is good for public transit, sustainability, and innovation, however, it will cause a number of unintended consequences. Reverse flight is pushing the urban poor into suburban communities, far from public transit, government resources, and supportive communities.”

Pedestrianizing Flagler and the Mile

[4/8/17] The Cities of Coral Gables and Miami face slowdowns and shifting public opinions on their twin pedestrianizing streetscape projects.

“Contractors however should be held responsible for bidding with unrealistic timelines and incomplete information. In most cases, they are not financially penalized for lateness and bear little responsibility for damages of any kind. The ones that bear the responsibility and damages are political officials who subsequently lose their seats, and business owners who lose money every day the project is delayed.”

A Story of Highways and Railways

[3/24/17] How the construction of various transportation corridors gave the city of Miami its topography.

“At this time, deep south segregation laws called for the city to map out a specific “Colored Town,” which they designated as North and West of the new railroad tracks. This simple story, while an emblem of our racist past, shows the importance of transit corridors in creating boundaries in the city, while also being an economic engine. The train tracks brought a population of working class individuals and tourists to Miami. The tracks also created the first boundaries in a city without any topography of its own.”

The FIU Factor

[3/10/17] FIU is an important part of Miami’s future, and can be leveraged as such.

“There is a history of great cities being tied to great universities that feed them creative young workers. Examples include: UT and Austin / The Research Triangle and Raleigh / Georgia Tech and Atlanta. These pairings, when recognized, can be leveraged to create new business, and foster a more resilient city. Miami has this unique opportunity with FIU.”

Moonlight on Miami

[2/26/17] What the powerful Best Picture winner gets right about Miami as a city and a place to live. 

“The use of the city in these opening scenes showed how Moonlight planned to use Miami: not as a sexy beach metropolis, or the background for flashy scenes from Miami Vice, but a city with real people who call it home.”

Regulating Luxury

[2/12/17] Regulations and conventional wisdom incentivize developers to build luxury, and it is hurting Miami’s future.

“the market as it stands is a complicated mess of banking conventions, zoning boards, state building regulations, comprehensive land use plans, and business risk analyses. No city exists in a vacuum…I believe that there are many ways to aim at lower income workers while also being profitable, and different incentive structures by the city can help to catalyze these.”


The Magic of Wet Foot, Dry Foot

[1/15/17] How US-Cuban Policy Helped Fuel the Magic City in the 2nd-half of the 20th Century

“The story of Miami can be told through the stories of immigrant families. Most of our families came here fleeing something in hope of something new. We created neighborhoods that learned from the quirks of the places we fled, and we all got mixed up into the great Miami melting pot.”

Vroom City

[1/1/17] Cars represent an important part of Miami’s History and Culture

“While a growing number of Miamians are looking to public transit options to replace their daily commute, it is important to recognize the intertwined history between Miami and the Automobile.”

The Top 10 Most Important Miami Stories of 2016

[12/30/16] My choices for the top stories in Miami in 2016

Miami’s Climate Change Conundrum

[12/18/16] The science is in agreement, the politicians are not, and the money has not stopped.

“Climate change is both a worldwide phenomenon and incredibly local. Problems differ by city and by state. While Houston is flooding, California is in drought. While temperatures are hotter in Anchorage, they are colder in Chicago. We need both a comprehensive plan and localized ones.”

Miami & The Basel Effect

[12/6/16] Art Basel has helped Miami mature culturally and as a city.

“These conversations happening in Miami are not unlike the conversations in the salon in the Paris of art nouveau or Rome of the Renaissance. The connection between the advancement of the arts and the success of a city has been repeated throughout time. Miami has been blessed with this ever growing seed of the art world in its contemporary form.”

Inspiration and Transportation

[11/22/16] Why expensive comprehensive plans win public opinion, and small conservative ones do not.


Parks and Recreation in Miami

[10/12/16] Miami needs a commitment to parks.