It happened “by accident.” While taking the Metrorail to physical therapy after a biking accident, Meg Daly had a Eureka moment. During her 7 block walk from the Coconut Grove station to her destination, Daly noted that the shady area was rather large and very underutilized. It was at this moment that she had a vision to transform the land underneath the Metrorail into a contiguous world-class urban trail, mobility corridor, and linear park. A year and a half after her walk under the Metrorail, her vision is now close to reality.
Daly’s inspiration, New York City’s High Line is a “shockingly fantastic sculptural beauty dropped in a real gritty part of the meat packing district,” says Daly. In just a few short years, New York’s linear park has spurred an influx of meaningful development and generated billions of dollars in private real estate investment and increased tax revenue. With the knowledge of New York City’s High Line, Chicago’s 606, and other successful railroad initiatives, Daly founded Friends of The GreenLink. Where New York’s High Line spans only one mile, Friends of The GreenLink’s vision spans a 10 mile tract underneath MetroRail, from the Dadeland South station to the Miami River at Brickell Station (commonly known as the “M-Path”).
The Foundation has quickly sprung into action to develop Miami’s own version of the High Line. The “M-Path” is currently a maximum 8 foot wide winding asphalt path lacking continuity, lighting and amenities. Friends of The GreenLink hope to change all this by more than doubling the width, adding uniform lighting and amenities, exercise zones, dog parks, landscaping and much more. With a committee including leaders in the Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation and Miami-Dade Transit departments, preeminent urban planners, transit oriented specialists, biking advocates, public relations and marketing experts, leaders in the legal and accounting fields, private commercial developers, and more, things are moving fast. “The momentum has been kind of mind blowing,” Daly says.
Florida Department of Transportation has taken great strides to support the project. Out of the 28 intersections spanning the 10 mile stretch, the FDOT owns eight. FDOT’s Gus Pego and Zakary Lata are leading an initiative to overhaul these intersections. They are currently focusing on “GreenLinking” the crosswalks at Bird Road and 27th Avenue to enhance bicyclist and pedestrian safety. These demo projects are in-line with GreenLink’s vision of a connected urban trail largely geared for runners and bicyclists. Other discussions have included painting the intersections green and building pedestrian plazas which could include increased lighting.
The University of Miami has also jumped on the bandwagon. The University “has been so amazing to us,” says Daly. The School of Architecture offered a Spring 2014 studio class to prepare, pro bono, a concept plan of the 10-mile linear park. Ten students were each assigned one mile and created their interpretation of the project. Through July 11th, these student projects are on display at the Miami Center for Architecture and Design (“MCAD”). The public is encouraged to come to the free “Envisioning the M-Path Exhibit,” located at 100 NE 1st Ave. “The exhibit of the UM SoA vision plan drawings at MCAD is the beginning of taking the GreenLink vision to the community,” says Daly. The exhibit kicked off with an opening reception, panel discussion, and guided bike ride last month. During its first week, the exhibit received a visit from Herb Hiller, a bike trail advocate on the Florida East Coast Greenway committee. According to Hiller, “there is nothing like the GreenLink anywhere in the country. What [they] are doing here will transform this city and community … in many positive ways.” UM’s MBA Real Estate Department and Sports Science and Kinesiology Department are supporting the project as well. Along with Urban Health Solutions, the Departments will assist in an Economic Impact Study and House Impact Study respectively.
Friends of The GreenLink believes that public involvement is crucial to their success. With a recently received Knight Foundation Grant, the organization has plans to unveil a new interactive map, accessible at their website, www.thegreenlink.com. The map will allow the public to click on various spaces throughout the tract and offer suggestions and leave feedback on different options for development. As plans for the GreenLink continue to develop, Miami residents are encouraged to get involved and visit the current student designs on display. After its time at the MCAD, the Exhibit will move to History Miami this Fall.
To learn more about GreenLink you can visit www.thegreenlink.org or follow GreenLink on Facebook and Twitter.