Assessing Miami's New Urban Experiment

Three years after its adoption, Sean McCaughan assesses the impact of Miami 21, first New Urbanist zoning code adopted by a major American city.

Miami 21, authored by Miami based New Urbanist leaders Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Andres Duany, was the firm's attempt to translate their policies, which had largely been tested at the suburban scale, to a fully urban environment, in their own backyard. McCaughan sees successes and failures at this early junction.

Of the failures, McCaughan sites the lack of adequate mass transit to support walkability, the design of the new Miami Marlins ballpark, and the lack of reduction in parking requirements. "The code is not complete. Miami 21 is stymied by the fact that it is not a code for a complete city, but only for its zoning. Miami's lack of quality mass transit is one of the city's worst obstacles to growth, and yet transportation planning was firmly beyond their jurisdiction. The long battle to enact the code also led to compromises and conformity on such matters as parking requirements."

McCaughan sees the code's early successes at a finer grain. "The strength of Miami 21 is not in big moves, like rail lines, or iconic public buildings. Miami 21's power is urban infill, density, and the vitality of the pedestrian experience at the neighborhood level."

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