Reconsidering the 'Special Area Plans' of Miami 21

Insider knowledge on one of the most controversial components of a groundbreaking plan.

January 5, 2021, 5:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Palm Court

The Fly's Eye Dome by Buckminster Fuller is located at the Palm Court luxury retail center in the Miami Design Center. | lazyllama / Shutterstock

Erika Morphy and Neisen Kasdin, the latter the former mayor of Miami Beach and current managing partner of Akerman LLP's Miami office, sit down for a question and answer session on the subject of the Special Area Plans in the Miami 21 plan—a groundbreaking plan adopted in 2009 as the largest form-based code to date.

"Special Area Plans (SAPs) permit new uses, such as housing and retail, on land that was previously zoned for industrial or other bygone uses," explains Morphy before commencing the Q&A. "The SAP designation sparked some of the city’s most successful developments, but has lately been the target of vigorous opposition, culminating in a January [2020] vote by the Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board to recommend its repeal."

Kasdin, who clearly supports SAPs as catalysts for large, acclaimed investments in the city of Miami, including the Miami Design District and Brickell City Centre, explains how SAPs work:

SAPs are a wonderful planning tool. They allow for the master planning of parcels greater than nine abutting acres and promote flexibility and creativity in urban design, including creating public spaces and improvements and accommodating a variety of architectural styles. They also enable unique land uses – such as large retail centers, hospitals, schools and technology districts – that can’t be accommodated under existing zoning regulations. 

Kasdin and Morphy discuss the opposition from community activists that led to the repeal of SAPs in 2020, and some of the ways that SAPs can be adjusted to prevent some of the abuses that Kasdin also acknowledges in addition to the praise offered above. The city of Miami announced the formation of a task force to reform Miami 21 and Special Area Plans earlier this year.

Monday, January 4, 2021 in Globe St.

Chicago Commute

Planning for Congestion Relief

The third and final installment of Planetizen's examination of the role of the planning profession in both perpetuating and solving traffic congestion.

May 12, 2022 - James Brasuell

Twin Cities

Minneapolis Housing Plan a Success—Not for the Reason You Think

Housing advocates praise the city’s move to eliminate single-family zoning by legalizing triplexes on single-family lots, but that isn’t why housing construction is growing.

May 13, 2022 - Reason

Single-Family Housing Construction

New White House Housing Initiative Includes Zoning Reform Incentives

The Biden administration this morning released a new program of actions intended to spur housing construction around the United States.

May 16, 2022 - The White House

Complete Street Vancouver

Study: Most of Vancouver Is a ‘15-Minute City’

A large majority of Vancouver residents can access a grocery store in 15 minutes or less by bicycle or on foot.

3 hours ago - Vancouver Sun

Montreal, Quebec

Urban Design, Transport, and Health

The Lancet medical journal published a series of articles that explore how to evaluate and guide urban planning decisions to create healthy and sustainable cities. Live long and prosper!

4 hours ago - The Lancet - Urban Design, Transport, and Health

MoGo Bikeshare Bikes

Detroit Bike Share Celebrates Five Years

In its five years of operation, Detroit’s MoGo bikeshare has added electric and adaptive bikes to its fleet of more than 600 bikes.

5 hours ago - MoGo

HUD’s 2022 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Expanding HUD’s Eviction Protection Grant Program

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.