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.’’
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.
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.
“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.''