Mismatched, unappreciated flourish not right for Brickell Avenue

BHA directors were just as surprised as residents to see the very out-of-place, black “tree guards” being installed in early February on Brickell Avenue. The “little fences,” as some residents referred to them, made a prominent architectural statement, mismatched with the modern high-rises all around. They provoked numerous objections. Installation stopped after the City’s contractor completed only a few surrounds.

The tree guards were to address one of the lingering items on the Brickell Avenue Beautification Plan punch list:  Identify and install some sort of ground cover to go around the trees in the swales. With most of the surrounds filled with weeds, dirt and rubble, and with big roots from the old growth trees making growing grass in the small patches nearly impossible, these areas have looked unfinished and unsightly since the project’s “completion” two years ago.

The widened sidewalks were put in place, but the City’s Department of Capital Improvement Projects didn’t have in the plans what to do about the tree surrounds. For the past two years Brickell neighbors had been asking what the plan was to finish these areas, and BHA had been waiting to see what CIP would come up with as solutions to consider. A number of possibilities were discussed with our former commissioner. Stones or some other material set in place? Ground-level grates fitting around the trees, covering the ground but letting water in? Some kind of natural ground cover or hearty plant that would spread over the inhospitable earth?

BHA heard about the offensive fences before we saw them with residents and management from The Imperial and Villa Regina, where the installation began, quite alarmed and vocal. BHA conveyed its concerns to city staffers and Commissioner Ken Russell’s office, asking that the tree guards be removed immediately and that Brickell residents be able to have input on possible solutions.

BHA does not know exactly how they were chosen, as their style is not in keeping with the look of our neighborhood. It was only a few years ago that the old timey looking black light poles were replaced along Brickell Avenue, at our urging, because they were so out of character with the modern architecture that distinquishes our high-rise community.

We were particularly disappointed after so many years of discussion and input by the BHA leading up to the Brickell Avenue Improvement Plan with Commissioner Sarnoff and City staff…after enduring the wrath of our neighbors for the City’s careless mistakes and poor planning that took out many healthy trees in our medians when it first got underway in September 2013…after patiently waiting as construction on the sidewalks took place and median landscaping was installed….and after waiting for resolution on the unfinished state of the swales for almost two years now.

Commissioner Russell had to take the matter of removing those already installed and repurposing the material to some other place in the City before the entire City of Miami Commission. This was necessary because the expenditure had been approved by the full body and all the material had been purchased. Fortunately, the Cty has found another area of Miami where the traditional, classic look is more fitting. Our Commissioner was able to put the item before the Commission in late April, which approved their removal from Brickell.

We have communicated with Director of CIP Jeovanny Rodriguez that BHA stands prepared to meet to review alternative solutions. Our first priority is to cover the ground in some more attractive, enduring way, not necessarily to cordon off the trees.