Public Involvement in Planning ? Beyond Cesar Pelli, by Gregory Bush

Many people have been asking me whether the public cannot be more involved in planning the extraordinary site now owned by Genting – if it does not become a casino destination site – which so many have been fighting in recent weeks. The issue is, of course, more than just Genting because we need to keep the pressure on against other destination resorts taking over as well. However, this threat, in my view, also provides Miami area residents with an opportunity to rethink our needs – somewhat similar to what happened with Bicentennial park back in 2000 when the Marlins desire totake the park was rejected by renewed public involvement- led by the Urban Environment League.

Seeing the future of the Genting owned land should not simply be an exercise for world famous architect/planners and influential business/developers. There should be a parallel public process created with a set of criteria and development principles to help develop this critically important area. We all realize that it is private property but the public should have significant impact on helping to forge its future. If done well this area could absolutely transform Miami and the region. In my view, we do not want another Millennium Park – like Chicago – but we should seek a unique design – even working with Genting if they choose to do so- as long as a resort destination casino is not part of their picture. All to often we try to ape other cities and their development formulas. Yet, in my view, any new plan should include:

-A gorgeous design that would attract major corporate headquarters – and go a long way to pay for the space.
-Integrate cultural center elements (Arsht Center, Science, Art Museums)
-Become thoroughly pedestrian friendly -with walk and bike ways and smart public transportation designs
-contain an attractive Community Center
-provide additional park space
-Allow major waterfront access and generous views of the bay
-Be acutely sensitive to nearby neighborhoods and people friendly walk and bikeways – to Overtown, Venetian Causeway etc
-Respect and enhance historical structures such as Trinity Church, the Boulevard Shops and the Woman’s Club.

Miami should not try to rebrand itself a theme park city or a Casino town but champion itself as a REAL CITY with a vital public that is involved in making smart plans for the future of all its residents. That means adding thousands of additional jobs, stimulating our cultural life, providing more public spaces and attracting businesses and people to live and work in our downtown area. It’s possible to do it with strong and effective leadership towards that end. That’s my perspective.

I’d like to hear other perspectives. These are my own views and do not necessarily express the views of anyone else.

Greg Bush, Urban Environment League

VOL 1, NO. 10: OCT 25, 2011
New Town Square By ArtPlace Miami, FL

Famed urban architect heads Miami’s place-making project

A group of Miami civic leaders has chosen César Pelli – a venerated Argentine-American architect known for designing some of the world’s most famous modern landmarks – to handle the master planning for the development of New Town Square, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County’s project to ensure the artful evolution of its downtown neighborhood.

This will be a return engagement for Pelli, who was the architect for the Adrienne Arsht Center, which opened in 2006.

Choosing Pelli is one of the first major actions of the Town Square Neighborhood Development Corp., an independent nonprofit that private developer Armando Codina chairs with vice chair Manny Diaz, Miami’s former mayor.
“We came together a year ago with the goal of ensuring that the landscape of the Arsht Center District neighborhood evolves into a vibrant neighborhood supportive of what has become Miami’s cultural entertainment heart,” Codina said.
The Pelli appointment was made possible by $300,000 in grant funding from ArtPlace.
Pelli’s original two-building design of the Adrienne Arsht Center, which incorporates a 1929 Art Deco tower and has plazas at every edge, has been called an “elegant and sophisticated home for the arts.” At night, the Center’s glass-walled lobbies gleam like lanterns, beckoning South Floridians to the heart of their city.
The American Institute of Architects has listed Pelli among the ten most influential living American architects. His many awards include the 1995 AIA Gold Medal, which recognizes a body of work of lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture. Pelli served as dean of the School of Architecture at Yale University from 1977 to 1984.
Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects has designed some of the world’s most recognizable buildings, including the World Financial Center in New York, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur and the International Finance Centre in Hong Kong. In addition to the Adrienne Arsht Center, the firm has designed the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, Wisc., and academic buildings for the performing arts for such clients as Grinnell College, Vassar College, DePaul University and the University of Minnesota Duluth.

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