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Flagler Street Getting Full-On Redo, With A Subtle RR Theme

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Flagler Street, Miami's original 'Main Street' will undergo a $12 million overhaul that includes a total redesign and reconstruction from Biscayne Boulevard to the Miami-Dade County Courthouse at NW 1st Ave, and a really adorable (but not overdone) "Henry Flagler/Railroad"-ish theme. The plan has been in the works for three years and is the result of a rare alliance between property owners and city and county officials, all of whom want downtown to be a friendlier, safer place for residents and downtown workers, and is designed by Miami-based Curtis + Rogers Design Studio. With so many historic buildings undergoing restoration and the arrival of thousands of new condo units, everyone agrees that timing is critical.

It's been nearly a decade since any significant improvements to Flagler have been made: existing sidewalks are narrow and cracked, shade trees are practically nonexistent, and flooding occurs regularly. The proposed plan by Curtis+Rogers Design Studio would replace on-street parking with valet stations, (because Miami is fancy like that) allowing an extension and leveling of sidewalks to make ample room for pedestrians, outdoor dining, bike racks, and benches. And you can forget about the typical, ultra-tropical, "welcome-to-Miami-where-there-ain't-no-shade" row of royal palms. An innovative, below-grade root-management system will allow for the planting of large, shady oak trees without obstruction to the pavement. The design also includes subtle nods to the street's namesake, railroad tycoon Henry Flagler. Embedded steel train rails will run along sidewalk edges, and railroad crossing gates located at key points will be lowered to close sections of the street for special events.

Officials are hopeful the project will create a "Lincoln Road" effect, slowly attracting a new kind of clientele without actually making the road pedestrian-only. Apparently that was "too risky and impractical." While a successful downtown renaissance will require much more than a pretty streetscape, it is a first step towards identifying it as a place worthy of first-class shopping and dining (a stark contrast to the bargain-rate stores that occupy much of the area today). Most importantly, it could establish a precedent for the neighborhood and act as a catalyst for additional improvements.—Margina Demmer
· Flagler Street in downtown Miami to get a makeover [Miami Herald]
· Flagler Streetscapes [Curtis + Rogers Design Studio]