In the late 1800s, industrialist Henry Flagler opened Miami’s first hotel, catering to the wealthiest families in America. Twelfth Street, opposite the hotel, grew into the city’s first main street and was home to the original courthouse, dry goods and specialty stores, and the first Burdines department store.
In 1921, twelfth Street was renamed Flagler Street and became the north-south dividing line on the city’s first urban plan. The Roaring Twenties cemented Flagler Street’s role as the vibrant hub of Miami.
And so began the story of Flagler Street in the historic downtown Miami Central Business District. For the next 50 years, Flagler Street thrived as one of the most well-known and well-loved retail and business locations in Miami before beginning a slow decline in the 1970’s. Now, with the surging popularity of the Greater Downtown Miami urban core, it is time for Flagler Street to shine again.
In June 2011, Flagler Street business owners, property owners and residents, with the authority of the Miami Downtown Development Authority, created the Flagler Street Task Force. Since then, stakeholders have hired the firm of Curtis + Rogers, and worked to secure $13 million in funding to make their vision of Flagler Street a reality.
Last night I attended a town hall meeting about the Flagler Street Beautification Project at the gorgeous Olympia Theater. The purpose of the town hall was to update Central Business District residents and business owners on the proposed design and to celebrate the start of construction scheduled for January 2017. From 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., there was an “open house” in the Olympia lobby to see graphic renderings and a phasing map “detailing project phases with an anticipated construction schedule”. The open house was followed by an informal Q&A session, and then a formal presentation inside the theater.
The overall plan for the half-mile stretch of Flagler Street from NW First Avenue to Biscayne Blvd is to create a pedestrian-oriented “Main Street” with wide sidewalks, shade trees and sidewalk cafes. As one of the oldest streets in Miami, Flagler Street is filled with historic buildings and the design from Curtis +Rogers reflects that rich history, including several nods to Henry Flagler and his railroad. The major components of the renovations will include:
- Replace on-street parking with Valet Parking/Loading Zones to accommodate wider sidewalks to allow for more pedestrian traffic and sidewalk cafes, and provide increased safety to all street users.
- Provide quality, large shade trees (live oaks) planted with underground Silva Cells to assure large tree growth without sacrificing walkable space. These will provide shade and lower the temperature of the corridor for pedestrians.
- A complete re-design of the street drainage, including ten new drainage wells, to fix current issues, including the inverted sidewalks.
- Provide a sidewalk that is made from readily available, quality materials arranged in an aesthetically pleasing pattern. The hardscape will feature neutral colors and patterns that can change with the times. There is also an actual steel railroad rail embedded flush with the sidewalk making a tangible connection with the street’s history.
- Unique and iconic “Crossing Gates” to close sections of the street for regular street festivals and events. Gates in up position serves as a gateway or beacon adding to the character of the streetscape. They are placed at the avenue intersections, and the attached signage rotates in up or down positions and is designed to relate to the history of the street.
- New Street lighting, bicycle racks and trash cans. Trash and Bike racks are placed in convenient locations with at least 1 per block on each side.
- Bollards placed at mid-block crossings for pedestrian safety.