Like New York’s High Line, Miami’s Ambitious Underline Project Has Potential To Revitalize Region
Kobi Karp is a renowned architect who works on Miami’s most luxurious projects. But when he took the stage at Bisnow’s Construction, Development & Design event, he highlighted another real estate player in the city, Meg Daly, for founding the nonprofit group Friends of the Underline and kick-starting an ambitious park project in the city.
“This is the work that is going to make Miami stand out. It is no different than the Romans did the aqueducts,” Karp said of Daly’s under-development project.
It started eight years ago, when Daly had the idea to transform dead space under elevated rail tracks into a linear park — something she initially thought was “a crazy idea.”
“I went to talk to the Department of Transportation, and they said, ‘That's a great idea — turn all that dead land below Metrorail into a walking trail. Go do that,'" Daly said during the Nov. 30 event. "So it was like, ‘I think I'm on my own.’”
That idea would ultimately become The Underline.
Daly got to work in a volunteer capacity, founding a group called Friends of the Underline. Now, her vision is becoming a reality, as the first 10 miles of the pathway open in stages over the next four years.
The first phase, a half-mile-long stretch that begins in the Brickell neighborhood in downtown Miami, opened in February with biking and walking paths, a flex basketball and soccer court, an outdoor gym, butterfly gardens and gathering spaces.
Future amenities will include dog parks, exercise equipment, performance areas, and programming like exercise classes and cultural activities. Construction for Phase 2 — the next 2.14 miles — began in August and will be completed in mid-2023. Phase 3 — the final 7 miles — is in the procurement phase.
Eventually, The Underline will connect with two other projects — the Miami River Greenway to the north and the future Ludlam Trail to the south — to comprise the 22-mile Miami Loop.
There have been plenty of challenges along the way. Much of the land is owned by Miami-Dade County, but some parcels have private owners. A public/private nonprofit called The Underline Management Organization (aka The Underline Conservancy) had to be set up to manage the park. Then of course, there was the matter of funding: The total projected construction cost of the Underline is more than $120M, with funds cobbled together from federal, state, local and private contributions.
Karp, who grew up in Minnesota and earned a degree in environmental design before becoming an architect, compared the project to New York City’s 1.45-mile High Line, which activated real estate beside an old railroad corridor.
“We have so much more than that, and so many more miles that we can create,” Karp said.
Karp said that green space will prompt people to live near it, adding value to nearby real estate. South Florida politicians, he said, “are just progressive thinkers about urban planning and development. That creates value for developers who want to come in and do mixed-use and do multifamily projects.”
Daly said Miami can be a design leader and create a model for other cities.
“It’s really sort of this reforestation of our city and connecting it and making it more safe to walk and bike and take transit. It really is a future vision for not just Miami, but for other great urban areas.”