Summer 1995 – Residents disappointed and angry over “beautification” of Brickell Ave.

When asking residents if they like the work on Brickell Avenue their typical reaction is noncommittal, until they are told that the road repaving is complete and the landscaping only has sod to go. Then they become alarmed at what’s been done. . .

It’s the old “good news-bad news” clichè. The good news is that the noisy, disruptive trucks and heavy equipment are gone at last from Brickell Avenue. The bad news is, they’re not coming back.

Somehow, the Florida Department of Transportation and the City of Miami’s view of this beautification project has not come close to matching the vision of Brickell area residents. Both FDOT and the City say they’ve done exactly what they set out to do, that the results are according to plan and residents should not be displeased.

Many residents, including BHA board members who have met monthly with officials in charge of the job and have made residents’ views known all along for more than a year, feel strong action should be taken by Brickell residents now. Accepting this as final is unacceptable, many feel. (See column, next page.)

Residents are disappointed in the landscaping and don’t see the canopy effect they were promised. They see small trees, many of which look sick and about to die. They don’t see design consistency, or the “…tropical and colorful landscaping [with] trees to fill in the canopy effect and flowering plants to add color” as promised when the project began last summer by Enrique Nunez, the City of Miami’s landscape architect on the project.

The Landscaping: Does It Just Need Time?

The BHA formed a Median Committee with landscape architect Richard Rogers, who is in charge of Miami Airport landscaping, as a member. The committee met several times with FDOT Project Director Gus Graupera and provided a list of concerns and recommendations. They reported they could never get a meeting with the key person, Enrique Nunez. They have not heard back on their recommendations which were to have been forwarded to him.

Among the concerns the committee cited, one of the most perplexing had to do with trees that were already planted, pulled out of the ground and then left to die. Prior to the new planting, residents had been upset and dismayed by the removal of large, seemingly healthy trees, particularly one at 15th Road.

The work is still in progress, however, with workers still on the project, Nunez said. Trees will take time to fill in.

Ana Gelabert, a landscape architect and now the City of Miami’s Downtown N.E.T. administrator, originally created the median plan. She said the tree sizes were as large as could be transplanted without high risk of failure.

“The trees are a nice size,” Gelabert said. “You are comparing them to the [full-grown] trees that are still there.”

The subcontractor for the landscaping provided a guarantee to FDOT of one year for the trees and six months on some plants, after which the City of Miami will take over maintenance. The BHA committee cited concerns about some ground cover used that will require frequent trimming for traffic visibility. Will the maintenance be adequate after the guaranties expire?

The leaky pipe irrigation system activated by solar cells will provide the correct level of water for maintenance, Nunez told BHA President Tory Jacobs.

This Part of the Problem Won’t Grow Away

While work continues on the landscaping, the roadway is the major sticking point, since FDOT says it is complete. Many residents mistakenly think there is a “top coat” to come. What is there is not a base; it’s the new road.

“The patchwork look, the mismatched cement?” residents ask. FDOT says that it’s all permanent. And it turns out that the cement will not cure to match in “a year” as residents were once told by the FDOT. Apparently matching the new cement to the old was not a factor that PJ Constructors, FDOT’s contractor on the job, was asked to consider when choosing the concrete mix.

Is the FDOT Negligent?

BHA directors are investigating what recourse, if any, they would have against the FDOT. A Florida Statute enacted in 1992 addresses the “uniform minimum standards for design, construction and maintenance” of county road systems. It says that designs for roads shall provide “the appropriate aesthetics based upon scale, color, architectural style, materials used to construct the facilities, and the landscape design and landscape materials around the facilities.”

BHA directors have made an inquiry to Jose Abreu, district secretary of FDOT here in Miami, as to what aesthetic standards were considered in the Brickell Avenue job. BHA wrote to Abreu in late July explaining the feelings of the residents:

“Brickell Avenue from the new bridge to Rickenbacker Causeway is one of Miami’s prime thoroughfares, traversing the premier high-rise residential community and our world-class international financial district.

“But the street’s appearance in no way lives up to the neighborhood. It is an eyesore, with permanent jagged cracks running through the center of the pavement. It looks like a broken chess board.

“Brickell Avenue must be redone to aesthetic standards consistent with the area it traverses.”

BHA is awaiting a response.

From BHA News, Summer 1995, Vol. V, No. 2