Miami Must Move Toward More Open Spaces As The Metro Area Grows

Apr 26, 2013

I spent a recent night watching a performance of the New World Symphony being broadcast on a wall at the New World Center. As the symphony performed inside, the video played simultaneously on a soaring, 7,000-square-foot projection wall on the building’s façade. It was a dazzling night, with hundreds of people speaking multiple languages gathered on blankets and chairs, toting picnic baskets, children and pets. The event symbolized the best that urban public places have to offer—dynamic arts programming in a well-designed space, free and accessible to the public, where young and old, rich and poor, can come together for a shared cultural experience.

A New World Symphony "wallcast" concert.
Credit Rui Dias-Aidos

  As I watched the performance, I couldn’t help but think that there ought to be more spaces like this in Miami. As we look to the future of Miami and cities around the world, our challenge is to make sure we plan for these kinds of spaces even as we address complex issues including population growth, transportation infrastructure, sustainable development and climate change.

Surveys and reports released in recent years suggest that Miami lags well behind other U.S. metropolitan regions in indicators of civic well-being such as trust in elected officials, support for not-for-profit organizations and community engagement from broad sectors of the public.

University of Miami’s Cities 2030 conference was a step toward reversing these trends, bringing academics, civic leaders and the public together to address critical issues of urban development in major urban areas around the world. Our work toward creating a more sustainable, dynamic and engaged Miami is already underway, but we need awareness and input from every Miamian to achieve these goals.

In the past two decades, we have seen entire communities transformed by tourism, arts and education. South Beach is deeply established as a global travel destination, but more visitors are exploring the neighborhoods west of the beach each year. Wynwood, Midtown and the Design District are among the most desirable arts communities in the country. Miami also has the fifth highest percentage of college students per capita in the United States and a booming startup scene. As more people take up residence and seek out entertainment experiences in the  urban core, these trends can expand and multiply, provided we plan infrastructure and services to encourage smart growth.   

One of the main goals of Cities 2030 was to consider how urban communities can more effectively engage in integrated policy-making and decision-making processes. Universities and community organizations will play a vital role in connecting these stakeholders while empowering citizens and amplifying their voices.

Miami is a transforming global city with an incredible future. As we collaborate, we can break down the mistrust, isolationism, and apathy that have marred our civic life in the past to look toward that future. As individuals, officials, institutions and organizations work together to shape how our city grows and shifts, Miami can serve as a beacon and an example of smart growth and inclusive planning for cities all over the world.

Robin F. Bachin is the Charlton W. Tebeau Associate Professor of History and an assistant provost for civic and community engagement at the University of Miami. Her areas of research and teaching include American urban, environmental, immigration and cultural history. She published her  first book, Building the South Side: Urban Space and Civic Culture in Chicago, 1890-1919, in 2004 and won the Award for Outstanding Contribution to Illinois History and Heritage. Bachin’s current book project is Tropical Urbanism: Modernity, Exoticism, and the Creation of South Florida, 1890-1965. She is the past president of the Society for American City and Regional Planning History.