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May 28, 2019

Walkability, Sustainability, and Going Places

Picture a bustling environmentally friendly neighborhood that has grown into an urban oasis for its residents. The community has tree-lined roads, active bike lanes, and sidewalks that go throughout the area. There are several local businesses, parks, and open urban spaces that set this neighborhood apart. It’s the trendy area that is home to professionals and families who take advantage of all the benefits it has to offer. There are a few neighborhoods located within Miami that are like this image, but others have work to be done in order to reach this type of status. Visualizing and then bringing sensible placemaking design to reality, is important to revitalizing a neighborhood and enhancing the lives of those who live there.

We are witnessing an economic boom happening in Miami, the Magic City is fully in the throes of redevelopment, becoming a city that attracts professionals and families from around the globe. Over the past five years, Miami has changed into a tropical metropolis that hosts luxurious condominiums and trendy neighborhoods. It’s safe to say that Miami has been on the rise. Even with all the constant change, there are a few neighborhoods that are falling behind in the race to being redesigned with sustainability in mind.

One of those neighborhoods is Overtown, the historical district that is in a residential area outside Downtown Miami. The area is close to the business and tourist districts, which adds to an already congested stream of Miami traffic. The INRX ranked Miami fifth nationally for traffic congestion that forces residents to spend 65 hours per year on the road. When thinking about solutions for neighborhood redevelopment, solving the challenges of becoming commuter friendly should be a key component to any urban planning – especially for rapidly growing cities such as Miami. Promoting residence to leave their cars behind and to choose alternative commuter options to get around the neighborhood. The key is to only have residents using their car when effective public transportation is not an option. Developers can affect how sustainability in neighborhood plays out, encouraging less car-centric planning and design. Catering to the needs of people and planet, by encouraging better earth friendly modes of mobility. Creating environmentally sustainable spaces and safe streets to travel along can help to boost the quality of life and economic growth of a neighborhood like Overtown. The goal would be to have residents enjoy being outside and establishing a sense of community pride for where they live. This could lead to healthier and happier lifestyles for working professionals and growing families. It’s an idea that can work as long as we have developers who can see and cares about the potential that already exists within this district that has already endured so much over the years.

Much can be said about Overtown, but its resilience cannot be matched as one of the oldest neighborhoods in Miami that has a growing population. It’s historical buildings that are currently being preserved only adds to the area’s potential. Many of the streets within the district are lined with sidewalks but are broken due to interruption of I95 which has divided the neighborhood since 1957. This structure left several empty cul-de-sacs and vacant lots under multiple highway overpasses. Simply put, there is nothing but space and opportunity to make Overtown the urban oasis it is destined to become. By keeping with the concept of adding landscape into our modern structures or recreating abandoned spaces into luscious greenways we can groom the area to be the next trendy yet sustainable spot to live, work, and play. Community developers have a wonderful opportunity to help shape Overtown’s renaissance. Abandoned lots can be turned into community gardens or create parks that can double as a space for creatives. Redesign the sidewalks to comply with the needs of the pedestrians by having small seating areas and plenty of places to access purified drinking water during those hot Miami days. All streets should include safe bike lanes and free public trolley with effective routes that match the lifestyles of its residents. These ideas will attract new residents, keep locals happy and on the move and promote businesses to flock here. It will bring residents out of their houses and into the streets – human-centered design can do that for a neighborhood, because it was redesigned with them in mind and with their involvement.

All neighborhoods and cities in South Florida should take into consideration how their residents would like to live,  promoting a wellness and happy lifestyle through better placemaking and transportation options. We are moving into an era where people are ditching car ownership, a movement of cutting ties with traditional mindsets and services. Leaving the car behind to spend more time in well-designed community spaces with family and friends, rather than stressing over driving. It’s essential that municipalities make it a priority to move their residents with efficient modes of sustainable public transportation, because it improves the overall quality of life and productivity of neighborhoods.

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