Downtown Miami’s attracting plenty of new residents and developments, but it’s still not a destination on the level of South Beach or Wynwood. At night the streets are still mostly empty, and there’s not much of a neighborhood feel. But a downtown resident has an idea for livening up the area, and he’s getting a chance to try it out this weekend.
Earlier this year, Steve Dutton told us his hope of transforming a stretch of Northeast Third Avenue from a sleepy place with a few nice restaurants to a lively pedestrian-friendly area like Española Way on South Beach and Giralda Avenue in Coral Gables.
He’s calling it Avenue 3, and his plan is to create temporary dining areas along the street. He hopes they’ll eventually become permanent and be open to foot traffic only on nights and weekends.
He’s launching a pilot with a community dinner this Saturday.
WHAT’S HAPPENED SINCE JUNE: The City of Miami commission gave all clear for building parklets and formalized regulations for building the tiny raised platforms. Steve plans to install them where there’s currently street parking. They’ll be installed in front of restaurants on the street to provide extra seating. The first parklet will be installed before the community dinner in front of the Freshealthy restaurant.
Steve received $25,000 in funding from the Downtown Development Authority that will help fund the construction of the first parklet and eventually two decorative sculptures of the number three, one for each end of the street.
THE INSPIRATION: For Steve, this project is about more than just creating a fun space for locals. He also hopes it will eventually address the challenge of homelessness in Downtown, an issue close to his heart, by providing more activity at night and bringing a new design to a stagnant area. Steve’s husband, Tom Lang, was killed a few years ago after he was attacked by a mentally-ill homeless man. Both of them previously worked with agencies combating homelessness.
THE EVENT: The night will be a tour through different restaurants with live music. More importantly, Steve says, it will be a chance for people to see what Avenue 3 could look like if it becomes permanent. The restaurants that won’t have parklets installed on Saturday will be painted instead.
WHAT’S NEXT: Steve says that he needs an additional $95,000 to build about a dozen more permanent parklets to complete his vision for Avenue 3. The local makerspace Moonlighter is building the first parklet with architect Glenda Puente.
And Steve has been working with the Miami-Dade Transportation Quick-Build Program, the Street Plans Collaborative and the Green Mobility Network. They all work to launch pilot programs for public space improvements and Street Plans has donated tens of thousands in funding and resources to the development.