04/08/2010

A cool $3 mill for Miami Marine Stadium

From Thursday’s print edition:

By ANDRES VIGLUCCI

In a big leap forward for preservationists trying to salvage the historic but dilapidated Miami Marine Stadium, the Miami-Dade Commission has unanimously agreed to provide $3 million toward the city-owned facility's restoration.

2It's the first chunk of money secured for the renovation, a priority of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, who said the grant will make it easier for the city and preservationists to attract additional funding. The cash-strapped city is unlikely to provide substantial funding directly, Regalado has said.

``This is important because now we can go to other government entities and private donors and use this $3 million as leverage,'' said Regalado Wednesday, a day after the county commission approved the measure by a 12-0 vote.

The county money, which will come out of a voter-approved bond issue, has lots of conditions, however. To collect, the city must present a full plan for the shuttered stadium's rehabilitation and a plan for its use and management. It also must demonstrate that it has sufficient money to finish the renovation.

Regalado said he is confident the city will have the plans done within 18 months, although the county commission gave the city five years.

Read all about it here .

Posted by Andres Viglucci at 12:29 PM
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03/29/2010

Whatizzit? Take a gander and a guess…

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A few views of a very interesting project. Where and what is it? More to come in print in a week or two, after I get back from Spring Break. In the meantime, take a guess…

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A few hints: It’s a comeback against great odds. It’s under construction (thus the fence). It was almost wiped out and has,  like the person who built it, been almost forgotten.

 

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Posted by Andres Viglucci at 05:49 PM
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03/25/2010

Miami 21: It’s ba-a-ack.

From Thursday’s print edition:

By ANDRES VIGLUCCI

First Miami 21 was on, then it was off. Now it appears to be on again.

Three months after a new city commission majority put the controversial rezoning plan on ice, it's back for a new vote.

Or, to be more precise, several neighborhood-friendly revisions to the plan will be up for approval Thursday by the commission. Once the board vets that set of revisions, plus a second package of amendments that should be up for a vote next month, the new zoning code would finally go into effect May 20.

Commission Chairman Marc Sarnoff described the revisions as mostly ``tinkering'' with the pedestrian-friendly, urban-oriented Miami 21 code, which he said would not be fundamentally altered. The new code would replace the current auto-centric zoning rule book, which critics say encourages out-of-scale, helter-skelter development.

SARNOFF14 fit MHD MCB

``I'm not looking to do heavy organic changes,'' Sarnoff (left) said. ``It's tweaks, and some mapping and corridor changes.''

But some of those proposed changes in the Miami 21 zoning map could significantly downsize development capacity along some major commercial corridors, including Coral Way and sections of Southwest 27th Avenue, from what the already-approved Miami 21 code would allow. The code got the thumbs-up from the previous city commission in October.

The contemplated density reductions were proposed by district commissioners and Miami Neighborhoods United, a coalition of neighborhood activists who complain the Miami 21 rules, like the code it would replace, would permit tall buildings backing up to single-family homes along those corridors.

Miami Neighborhoods backed Mayor Tomás Regalado, a Miami 21 critic, in the November elections. Regalado won a delay in the implementation after assuming office in November to allow reconsideration of the organization's proposals, which had been mostly rejected by the previous city administration of Mayor Manny Diaz.

The newest proposed revisions, which would limit new construction to three stories in those areas, have now drawn protests from some property owners already facing reduced development capacity under the approved Miami 21 rules.

In Wynwood, by contrast, certain revisions would increase allowable densities in light-industrial districts where Miami 21 would introduce ``live-work'' housing. Sarnoff said those changes would make redevelopment in the area more viable.

Other changes would allow affected residents to appeal certain development permits to the city commission, another change sought by neighborhood activists.

Posted by Andres Viglucci at 11:57 AM
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03/23/2010

Struggling Coconut Grove looks for a jolt

Coconut Grove, my onetime home, has seen a few ups and downs of the old roller coaster in the 25-plus years I’ve been in Miami. My esteemed colleague Elaine Walker took this recent look. Is it up or down?

Elaine finds it’s hit a trough. I think it depends on where you look, as she points out below. Commodore Plaza was a ghost town two years ago. Now the sidewalks are crowded with diners. Try getting a table at George’s for lunch any day.

Here is what Elaine wrote:

The last few years haven't been kind to Coconut Grove.

stroller00 cocgrove MHZ AD

The area's anchor CocoWalk is in foreclosure. The movie theater closed last fall. The Coconut Grove Playhouse remains shuttered. And the Coconut Grove Convention Center is no longer a tourist draw.

Increased competition and a recession have translated into fewer Grove customers. And no longer is Coconut Grove the only game in town for entertainment.

Mary Brickell Village stole away business, as did the renaissance of other neighborhoods such as downtown South Miami and Miracle Mile in Coral Gables.

The combination has been too much for many business owners. Vacancy rates are up as shops and restaurants throughout the urban village have given up.

``What empty windows will do to a place is create a sense of urgency,'' said David Collins, executive director of the Coconut Grove Business Improvement District. ``It's clear that if we're ever going to work together, it's now.''

But if you have to hit bottom before you can start improving, then maybe Coconut Grove is poised for recovery.

Read all about it here.

Posted by Andres Viglucci at 06:49 PM
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Biscayne Boulevard’s MiMo historic district sees a future in the past

BY ANDRES VIGLUCCI0605031162

The plaster nymphs seem unnaturally downcast behind the fence at the Vagabond Motel, the dimmed leading light of Biscayne Boulevard's fledgling Miami Modern historic district. After years of frustrated stabs at renovation, the droll '50s drive-in hotel sits vacant, a victim of over-large ambition and foreclosure.

Yet just a few blocks south, the husband-wife team of Walter Figueroa and Shirley Diaz put the finishing touches on their tenderly refurbished motel, a far less attention-grabbing but still significant exemplar of the MiMo style by architect Norman Giller.

mot20 mimo mhd wmm The New Yorker has its original name back after years as the Davis Motel, and with its restored lobby and terrazzo floors, new mid-century-style furnishings, and resplendent new neon signs, it will be the star attraction of the MiMo district's third annual street fair Saturday.

Nearly four years after the city of Miami bestowed historic designation on 27 long-neglected blocks of upper Biscayne Boulevard, the pace of progress is starkly uneven along the district, best known for its cheery if rundown mid-21st century MiMo motels.

Signs of verve abound: Despite a deep recession, the district has become a thriving restaurant row, with tasty and tasteful food both high and low from the pricey star-chef fare of Michy's to Ver Daddy's taco stand -- and lots in between, catering in large part to the gentrifying single-family neighborhoods that flank the boulevard.

Though retail shops have struggled, new services pop up regularly:, from pet-grooming, and hairstyling, to dry cleaning and, since December, a gleaming new workout gym, Biscayne Boxing, in a smartly restored 1940s MiMo building.

And, of course, the famed, historic Coppertone Girl sign that once hung in downtown Miami was restored and installed in the district at the end of 2008. Like Diaz and Figueroa of the New Yorker Motel, a handful of hopeful property owners have embarked on modest but winning renovations. A Haitian-American couple, Thomas and Jocelyne Hider, converted a small Art Deco gem of a hotel into a loft residence for themselves, with a soon-to-open antique store, Memoires, on the ground floor.

Developer Michael Luis painstakingly renovated a low-scale MiMo apartment building just off the Boulevard at Northeast 74th Street and Sixth Court after the recession killed plans for a new mid-rise.

STALLED PROGRESS

But for every culinary and preservation success, there is a vacant storefront or seedy liquor store or dilapidated motel, still catering to the diminishing traces of the drug and sex traffic that once plagued the entire district.

Read all about it here.

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Posted by Andres Viglucci at 06:35 PM
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03/16/2010

On schedule, new Marlins ballpark rises (way) over Miami’s Little Havana

BY ANDRES VIGLUCCI

   The Roman Colosseum it's not, but it is round. The publicly financed, $634 million Marlins baseball stadium is rapidly taking shape in East Little Havana, where its tall roof-support columns already loom like alien monoliths over the modest apartment houses around it.

   After seven months of construction, work is about a quarter done and “on track'' for the scheduled April 2012 opening, team officials and their contractors said Tuesday during a media tour of the stadium, which occupies the site of the demolished -- and also round -- Orange Bowl.

   “We will be ready to play ball,'' said Sid Perkins, construction manager for the joint-venture contractor, Hunt/Moss. “There is no doubt.''

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   The shell of the 7-story main structure, which will house team offices as well as luxury suites, has been topped off, water pipes and bathrooms are going in, and grandstand construction is under way. The poured concrete looks nice and smooth.

   The stadium shell is relatively simple to build, though the ziggurat-shaped, cantilevered grandstand supports can be “a little tricky,'' Perkins said.

   But the real engineering and construction feat may be the support system for the stadium's retractable roof. On the north and south sides of the stadium, four slender, oval columns hold up concrete beams weighing millions of pounds, cast on site and hydraulically lifted into place.

  The columns only suggest how high the stadium's going to go -- 264 feet at the roof's tallest point, or the equivalent of a 25-story tower.

   The two sets of columns are of differing heights. The base of the sliding roof, Marlins vice president Claude Delorme noted, will slant from 157 feet on the north down to 127 feet on the south in an attempt to lessen the impact on 80-year-old apartment buildings across the street that are just two to four stories tall.

   As the builders close the perimeter, the intimate scale of the 37,000-seat stadium, one of the smallest in the major leagues, is becoming apparent. Seats will be unusually close to the field, and more than third of them will be on the bottom tier. Even the last row of nosebleed seats, at 124 feet above ground level, will be practically on top of home plate.

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   Most seats will have at least a partial view of downtown Miami's skyline to the east when the roof is open, though structural elements may obstruct some vistas. Over left field, six massive, moveable glass panels will permit views of the towers fronting Bicentennial Park even when the dome is shut.

   Also underway: About $17 million worth of improvements to public infrastructure, including new water and sewer lines, to accommodate the stadium.

   Yet to start: The two large parking garages, to be built by the city of Miami, that will also house restaurants and retail at the stadium's north and south flanks. The north garage is to start construction in May, the Marlins' Delorme said, and both structures should be done in time for the stadium's inauguration.

   Breaking with a longstanding trend of ‘’retro'' downtown ballparks that blend into their urban surroundings, the streamlined Miami stadium is distinctly contemporary in design, the preference of Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, a modern-art dealer. But some critics say that lends the park the appearance of being ''plunked down'' in the old neighborhood, with at least one wag likening its bowl shape to a bidet.

Florida Marlins Ball Park 7

Posted by Andres Viglucci at 05:26 PM
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03/15/2010

Miami’s architectural landmarks: Saved – and shaped – by women?

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Here’s something that had not occurred to me.

The Urban Environment League, in the theme for its latest dinner forum, posits this intriguing question: “Have Women Been the Major Visionaries for Historic Preservation in South Florida?’’

The panelists include: Sallye Jude, Kathleen Kauffman, Nancy Liebman, Dolly MacIntyre, Arva Moore Parks and Enid Pinkney (in that order, top to bottom, left).

Asked and answered, I would say, given that list. And others immediately spring to mind. Barbara Capitman, anyone? She only saved Miami Beach. And of course Ellen Uguccioni, formerly Coral Gables’ preservation officer and now at the City of Miami, and her predecessor at Dinner Key, Sarah Eaton, names that only add weight to the thesis.

It’s a special St. Patrick’s Day edition for the UEL. Will they serve Green Beer? Only one way to find out.

Festivities start at 6 p.m. on Wednesday (March 17th) at the Rusty Pelican on Virginia Key. It’s $25 for dinner (tax & tip included), and $20 for students. Show up at 7:30 p.m. for just the free discussion. Cash bar.

Use Paypal at: www.urbanenvironmentleague.blogspot.com or bring a check (made out to UEL) or cash. RSVP a must: uelinfo@bellsouth.net - Phone: 786-472-0011.

Along similar gender lines: Did you know that Florida’s second registered architect was a woman? Marion Manley was the first woman to practice as an architect in Miami, and helped bridge the local gender gap in the notoriously male-dominated profession.

107. Marion Manley in Office, c. 1953

Manley (left, in a photo from the Historical Museum of Southern Florida) also helped shape the University of Miami as the first all-Modern U.S. college campus, collaborating on its master plan and contributing Bauhaus-inspired designs for some of its simple original structures, many of which are still in use today. One group of buildings has long and fondly served as UM’s School of Architecture.

Now two faculty members return the favor with a new book, Marion Manley: Miami's First Woman Architect (U. of Georgia Press).

Authors Catherine Lynn, a historian and preservationist, and Carie Penabad, an architect, will discuss Manley’s life and work at an upcoming public forum at UM, including her contributions to the development of Miami. 

There will be a lecture at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 31, followed by a tour of an accompanying exhibition drawn from images in the book, and a reception. The events, as always, are free and open to the public.

Place: The UM School of Architecture Jorge M. Perez Architecture Center, Irvin Korach Gallery and grounds, 1215 Dickinson Drive, Coral Gables campus.

The exhibit will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, until april 19.

Posted by Andres Viglucci at 07:55 PM
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03/11/2010

Joe Riley to Miami: To be world class (whatever that is), “get down to the human scale.’’

  But, first, some relevant news: “A new study by the Miami Downtown Development Authority, in partnership with Goodkin Consulting/Focus Real Estate Advisors, has found that 74 percent of the 22,079 condominium units built in Downtown Miami since 2003 are currently occupied.’’ writes my colleague Elaine Walker in a story to run Friday in print and online.

   ‘’If occupancy trends continue, the study predicts that Downtown Miami's existing condo inventory would effectively be eliminated over the next twenty-five months.’’

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   Shocked? Shouldn’t be if you’ve been paying attention. So much for the canard about “all those empty condos.’’

  So the people are there, with more coming (probably). What now? If downtown still falls short of full-scale livability, much more clearly needs to be done.

   Not entirely coincidentally, the Greater Miami Chamber had some  people who’ve been there and done that to provide some pointers on Thursday. Thus a smooth segue to my story (which will pair with Elaine’s in print):

  BY ANDRES VIGLUCCI

  Miami's urban core has all the makings of what might one day be a ‘’world-class'' city, including a great natural setting, parks, new residential buildings and sports and cultural facilities -- but it's not there yet, a panel of prominent urban revivalists told a downtown business symposium Thursday.

Joseph Riley   If city leaders want to sustain and extend Miami's incipient urban revival, a trio of experts told a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce forum, they must pay closer attention to its streets to knit together a coherent, livable whole through which residents can move about easily.

   “Get down to the human scale,'' advised longtime Charleston, S.C., Mayor Joseph Riley (above), a legend in urban-revival circles for his work transforming that southern city. “How does a human being feel walking down the street? How does a woman with a child feel? Is it inspirational? Is it beautiful? A city is a delicate ecosystem. Every detail is mportant.''

   The task, Riley and the two other panelists said, includes everything from planting trees to fixing broken sidewalks, saving historic buildings, enhancing public spaces, providing attractive and affordable housing in the right places, and making sure people can cross Biscayne Boulevard without fear of getting run over.

   That last bit of advice came from urban historian Eugenie Birch of the University of Pennsylvania, who said she was forced to dodge cars while trying to cross Biscayne from Flagler Street to Bayfront Park.

Genie Birch

   “It was really unpleasant,'' Birch (right) said. “That's your connective tissue, and it needs work. You could make that an extraordinary, world-class boulevard with a little money and effort.''

   Still, the panelists told more than 100 people gathered at the Hilton Hotel in the Omni complex, Miami has done lots of things right in the past decade. In particular: pushing for development in and around downtown that mixes housing and commercial uses and attracts people around the clock -- the key to thriving urban environments.

   There has been “tremendous change'' downtown since her last visit 10 years ago, Birch said. “You have to appreciate that.''

   Taking it to the next level will take patience, meaningful public participation and money, the panelists say. Big, publicly financed projects and improvements to the public realm -- from performing arts centers to parks -- are important because they attract private investment, they said.

   And even a city facing a fiscal crunch like Miami can find ways to make improvements that will pay off in the future, said former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy, credited with launching a revival of his city's downtown.

   “It's a question of priorities,'' Murphy said. “Miami may be broke, but it's still spending $800 million a year. It's first and foremost a question of community will.''

Posted by Andres Viglucci at 04:31 PM
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03/09/2010

You mean Miami’s not world-class yet?

It was the cliche of the boom years in Miami: World Class City. It seemed the performing arts center would get us there, or the port tunnel, or the museums, or all those condo towers.

And while promising, it’s clear downtown Miami’s revival has not yet fully jelled, and it’s not only the real estate crash that’s to blame. The place is still somewhere south of real urban livability, despite encouraging signs of verve.

So how can downtown Miami's revival interruptus be extended and sustained?

Maybe we’ll find out from some of the country's leading urban revivalists Thursday, when the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce hosts a public forum on the question.

Speakers at the symposium, titled ‘’The Making of a Modern City: How to Take Miami to the Next Level,’’ include Joseph Riley, the former Charleston, S.C., mayor credited with that city's resuscitation, and former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy, who launched a wide-ranging downtown revitalization in his town.

Eugenie Birch, an urban planning historian at the University of Pennsylvania, will also be on the panel, to be moderated by Miami architect and planner Bernard Zyscovich.

Registration is $45 for members; $55 for nonmembers in advance, $60 at the door. Online registration is available at www.miamichamber.com. Registration and breakfast begin at 7:45 a.m., followed by the program from 8:15 to 10:30 a.m. at the Hilton Hotel at 1601 Biscayne Blvd.

Posted by Andres Viglucci at 06:29 PM
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02/26/2010

Dade Heritage Days are here again

Dade Heritage Trust’s annual two-month bonanza of tours of places natural, historic and architectural -- by foot, by bus and by boat – and preservation-themed talks, tastings, awards and other generally interesting stuff all launches on March 4.

The opening event: Presentations on a hot topic, Mid-20th Century Modern Architecture, all the rage in local and national preservation circles. Think MiMo. Think Bacardi building, whose architect, Enrique H. Gutierrez, will speak. Time is 6:30 p.m.

So will University of Miami prof Jan Hochstim, author of Florida Modern, who’s been championing this stuff since before it was cool.

The site: Miami Beach 10th Street Auditorium, at Ocean Drive, headquarters for the Miami Design Preservation League. Refreshments will be served. FREE for DHT and MDPL members; $10 for nonmembers. RSVP, 305-358-9572.

Lots more on the schedule, from films to concerts, moonlight tours of Vizcaya’s gardens to tours of the old missile base in the Everglades, a Coral Gables waterway cruise, and a chance to join teams of scientists on a 24-hour quest to count as many living things as possible within Biscayne National Park.

It all climaxes with the annual DHT awards, this year to be held April 28 at the old Spanish Monastery in North Miami.

Posted by Andres Viglucci at 06:16 PM
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