The Miami Foundation has a grand vision for Greater Miami, one that their annual Public Space Challenge helps bring to reality. “We want to get a great public space within 10 to 15 minutes of where you live, anywhere in Miami-Dade,” said Stuart Kennedy, the foundation’s director of program strategy and innovation.
“We’re talking the transformation of Miami-Dade County into a walkable community,” said Maria Nardi, chief of planning and design excellence at Miami-Dade County’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces. Nardi led the creation of the county’s Parks and Open Space Master Plan, which serves as a guiding strategy for that vision.
By collaborating with The Miami Foundation, the department’s hoping to get Public Space Challenge applicants thinking of ideas within the seamless, sustainable system of park, recreation and conservation spaces they envisioned for future generations.
“It’s a 50 year plan that we are implementing with any dollar that we have, guided by the principles of the master plan,” Nardi said.
These are the principles the county came up with:
- Seamlessness—so neighborhoods, parks, streets, and commercial areas are connected to create a great network of public spaces
- Beauty—to complement existing landscapes and to connect people to the outdoors
- Access— so residents feel safe and comfortable getting from point A to point B
- Equity—so public facilities and spaces are accessible to residents regardless of age, gender, race, income, or geographic location
- Sustainability— because environmental prosperity = economic and social prosperity
- Multiple benefits— because we’ve got to make most of those taxpayer dollars, y’all.
This year’s Public Space Challenge was arranged into four categories, which mirror those in the Master Plan:
- Parks & natural areas— great green spaces (think Vizcaya, Fruit and Spice Park, and nature preserves) to hang out, relax, and exercise, to help create happy and healthy communities
- Greenways & blueways— projects like The Underline and navigable waterways like the Miami river that can serve as alternative forms of transportation to reduce traffic congestion and engage surrounding neighborhoods
- Safe routes to parks— safer routes like sidewalks, crosswalks, and complete streets for pedestrians and cyclists to take advantage of those great green spaces
- Public spaces— other kinds of public places like promenades or ocean front vistas that provide an opportunity for meaningful recreation experiences
Keep tabs on Miami’s progress — The Miami Foundation is tracking metrics like total park space and percentage of Miamians within walking distance to parks to make sure the county’s making moves.
What does it all mean?
“We often forget how huge the parks are to the economic vitality of a community,” Nardi said. “Top companies are always looking for cities to live and invest in, and individuals are looking for a diverse set of recreation opportunities.”
Nardi said creating a connective system to destinations—designing streets like linear parks, for example—creates for a desirable place to live and has the potential to improve Miami’s economic prosperity.
“Open, beautiful green spaces provide a lot of social offerings. They improve physical, mental, and spiritual health, and are a driver in terms of building a connected community,” said Nardi.
Short-term, Miami-Dade County is building recreation centers, designing nature-based playgrounds, installing outdoor fitness zones, and improving access roads to help fulfill their master plan of an interconnected network of safeways and public spaces. Long-term, the department is planning to build and expand amenities at existing parks.
Meanwhile, Nardi hopes more private citizens will actively engage in civic initiatives, and apply for The Miami Foundation’s Public Space Challenge to take ownership of their green spaces.
“We want to create a community that’s livable and loveable,” Nardi said.
The 2017 Public Space Challenge idea submission period will run until April 6. Learn more about the Public Space Challenge and past winners on its site.