Fall 2012 – Brickell Avenue makeover in the works

BHA continues to work with Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff on a comprehensive beautification plan for Brickell Avenue. As we contemplate how to make the Avenue realize its glorious entryway potential, we’re challenged to find aesthetically pleasing solutions to accommodate a great variety of users within Brickell Avenue’s limited space. Another challenge is to come up with a plan to address the forces working to undo or shorten the life of any improvements.

artonbrickell4The Commissioner has identified funding sources for these capital improvements, but the City’s financial woes and resulting lack of adequate and conscientious maintenance continue to be a problem. There’s nothing more frustrating and saddening than to see untended new plantings dying before their time, a familiar scenario for those who have witnessed the gradual demise of previous median improvement programs on Brickell.

Another plague is utility workers who mark our sidewalks and public areas with spray paint of every hue. While we appreciate their mission of protecting infrastructure, it seems the major objective is too focused on accommodating the demands of developers and contractors, and the legal taggers often get carried away with their spraying. Brand new pavers, just-poured sidewalks and hedges seem to be fair game in the utility marking business. (See article on pages 10-11 about utility marking.)

Art on Brickell!

Despite the hurdles, implementation of the first component of the Brickell Avenue improvement program is underway in the form of distinctive, large sculptures interspersed along the condominium corridor. With plans for up to eight pieces, the installations will help announce Miami’s premier artery and echo the surrounding urban metropolis environment.

The sculptures on display will be available for sale. However, regardless of what sells, the plan is for the sculptures to rotate, perhaps on a yearly basis. Several of the pieces were created by Artist Christian Bernard, the same popular artist who created and donated the memorial centerpiece sculpture in 1814 Brickell Park. Mr. Bernard’s permanent installation features a steel beam recovered from the rubble of the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001.

artonbrickell2The City of Miami Capital Improvements Program office is heading up the Brickell project and providing the engineering and building expertise. They will oversee the art installations, which will begin with the pouring of the small bases in October. LEDs, an inexpensive and appealing alternative to traditional lighting, will be used to light most of the pieces.

Timing-wise, Commissioner Sarnoff said “we should be seeing most sculptures in place by Thanksgiving.”

Medians a Mess; Long-Term Solutions Sought

Planning for the major Brickell Avenue median, sidewalk and swale improvements is still underway. Hard-scape alternatives, including rocks, pavers and state-of-the-art poured surfaces are being explored with no clear winner yet.

While residents don’t want to forsake all green in the medians, they are tired of looking at sickly plantings that maintenance crews can’t seem to properly trim or care for. They are equally weary of litter-laden weedy grass and haphazard bedding. They don’t understand a city that can’t take better care of its most famous roadway and are seeking design alternatives that recognize that maintenance shortfalls will continue to be part of the landscape.

On a positive note, the median provides a showcase for Brickell’s canopy trees and everyone seems to agree that lighting them is a good idea. Everyone also seems to be in favor of the plan to move fixtures and bus shelters further back wherever possible along the east side of Brickell. This will allow for a wider sidewalk to be installed, as wide as 10 feet in most places. The plan, the Commissioner stated emphatically, is to rip out and replace ALL sidewalks…no patchwork as has been the history.

artonbrickell-lolitaWhile there’s a meeting of the minds on wider, less cluttered sidewalks, reviews are mixed about another, less traditional concept that Commissioner Sarnoff describes as “creating a linear park” along Brickell. He has floated to BHA members and residents the idea of adding a path made of a rubberized surface especially suited for runners and walkers similar to that in Coconut Grove’s Kennedy Park. While runners love the idea, others are not convinced it will work, withstand wear and tear, or create a true park feel. Even if everyone were to say “let’s try it,” the challenge will be having enough space for the special path in addition to the wider sidewalks.

The initial concept that included meandering the running path through some frontages that many condo associations have assumed as part of their property has been abandoned due to a number of concerns and potential objections. Outgoing CIP Director Albert Sosa did acknowledge that technically 70 feet in from the sidewalk is City property, but said it’s not the intention of the City to take the land for a plan residents do not endorse. Many areas have been improved by individual condominium associations…some beautifully so.

Planning continues, hopefully with the benefit of engineers and landscape designers who can maneuver and conquer the challenges of Brickell Avenue.

From BHA News Vol. XXII No. 2, Fall 2012