Brickell neighbors wowed by Brickell CityCentre project

The Brickell on the River North meeting room overlooking the Miami River was filled to capacity one evening in late June when BHA Board members and officials came to hear about Brickell CityCentre. Several news articles had recently come out about the huge, mixed-use project planned for the Brickell community. Everyone was ready to catch a first-hand glimpse of what all the fuss was about.

BCC2Folks were anxious to hear how the nine-acre, multi-level project would be a positive for the community, and how such a massive undertaking could be designed to succeed in our unique metropolitan neighborhood. Some neighbors were wary of the project, having heard analogies to the humongous Sawgrass Mills, and fearing out-of-control traffic and inadequate parking for all the amenities planned.

The BHA Board had invited its creators to share their plan with Directors.

Steve Owens of Swire Properties and Bernardo Fort-Brescia of Arquitectonica— both big, highly-respected names in the Brickell community and well beyond — presented their plans for a state-of-the-art, modern development, truly unlike anything ever seen in South Florida. It’s slated for four blocks around Miami Avenue and 7th and 8th Streets.

BCCinterior1The audience was wowed by the images presented and the approach being taken for the project. They saw amazing architectural shapes rising out of the four blocks of the project. They saw open air levels, and connectivity across the streets. They saw “towers floating over a garden,” as described by Mr. Fort-Brescia, and inviting, street- front stores.
Attendees heard about two levels of underground parking, a daunting and expensive feat of engineering rarely attempted so near the water, but what sounded like the perfect solution for the project.

An investment in the future of Brickell

Swire is taking the long view with this project, making an investment that won’t pay off for a decade, but one, Mr. Owens said, the major international company believes is a wise investment.

“We think the attraction of Miami as an international city is continuing,” Mr. Owens said. “We are believers in the urbanization of Miami. We believe more people will live in the inner core.”

BCC3“We have seen how much energy has come around since we announced this project. This is what we can collectively do in the Brickell area,” he said.

Brickell CityCentre is a mixed-use development in the true definition. The major elements are a hotel, retail, service department, cinema, office building, wellness center and medical center. It will also have a lap pool with glass bottom open to levels below, a bowling alley and facilities for musical performances.

Plan for vehicles and traffic

Mr. Fort-Brescia said they engaged top traffic consultants to be sure that traffic doesn’t reach Brickell Avenue, which is a troubled artery with its limited east-west access. When drivers depart from the underground garage, there will be multiple points of access and exits to efficiently direct cars to their destinations above.
The development will be state-of-the-art green, and will have rain collectors to supply the landscaped areas. Bike and pedestrian paths will connect to 8th Street and the Miami Riverwalk.

Mr. Owens said key project components critical to retail success are the connectivity and activating the street level. The project will embrace public transportation. Swire is committed to redoing the Brickell Metromover station and making it into an inviting public plaza.

Swire Properties began amassing the land in 2008 after the collapse and near-collapse of major Wall Street firms and the continuing real estate meltdown. The project has been two years in the planning. Mr. Owens said they hope to break ground and have “meaningful activity on the site” by the beginning of 2012. Phase 1 construction is expected to take four years. Phase 2, which encompasses office space, will follow.

BHA takes a position

BHA passed a resolution in support of the project with the provision to the City of Miami that its legal department do its part to ensure that the impact fees generated as a result of the project are properly allocated to support infrastructure improvements in the surrounding area.