This post first appeared on Miami Condo Black Book.
Miami’s bay walk, extending along the edge of Biscayne Bay from Edgewater to Brickell, through the heart of the city has been in the planning stages for decades. Yet, with plenty of false starts, this great civic amenity designed to ensure public access to the waterfront is still nowhere near completion. At times, the city’s dream of a completely interconnected bay walk connecting and opening Miami’s urban core to the waterfront appears tantalizingly close to completion and, at others, completely dead in its tracks.
Currently, the bay walk exists behind some buildings in Brickell, it completely encircles Brickell Key, and lines both sides of the Miami River mouth, where it will connect with the river walk (which is also very much incomplete). The bay walk lines Bayfront Park, and goes through Bayside Marketplace. It extends behind the AmericanAirlines Arena (although this section is closed to the public) and lines Museum Park. There is a section going from 15th Street to 17th Terrace, and another section passes through Margaret Pace Park. Small sections are also scattered through Edgewater.
Piecemeal and disjointed, with no real overarching plan for the entire thing, new sections of the bay walk are added as time marches on. Recent additions to the include portions behind Icon Bay, Paraiso, and Biscayne Beach, all condominium projects in Edgewater. Sections currently in the planning or construction stages include the Genting/Resorts World Miami site, the Miami Women’s Club section, and Missoni Baia, both also in Edgewater or adjacent.
These additions are the result of a law which requires that any new construction on Biscayne Bay from Brickell to Edgewater include a publicly accessible bay walk. Buildings built since 1979 have been required to include this public baywalk, but many residents of older buildings are resistant to turning their private bay frontage into a public right-of-way.
This pattern of development has led to a choppy and incomplete bay walk, with frequent obstacles to passage between completed sections. Many of the missing interconnections are on public land and would require cooperation with the city, county, and other public entities to extend the bay walk under or around bridges, and past dead-end streets. Although the implementation of the sections of bay walk on public land would be easy, they require an organized push by the City of Miami government and other public entities that simply hasn’t happened yet.
There has been a lot of talk, but little action on the part of government officials to get organized and complete the bay walk. Arguments over funding, sea level rise, and the impacts to high value condos along the water persist. However, some progress has been made. Recently city commissioner Ken Russell proposed a $25 million bond issue to finance the rest of the project.
There have been a few efforts recently by various groups to complete the bay walk. The Related Group, Miami’s biggest developer, is advocating for the section of the bay walk that runs through Edgewater, where they have built towers recently. Related has even branded this section the ‘Biscayne Line’, and lobbied for public/private cooperation for its completion.
A few years ago, Related sponsored a design studio for architecture students at the University of Miami, to come up with ideas for the Biscayne Line. Proposals included floating docks, elevated observation platforms, artificial mangroves, lagoons, and interesting juxtapositions of public and private space.
More recently, the Miami Downtown Development Authority created their own vision for the baywalk with Savino Miller Landscape Architects. As part of the proposal, they suggested a rebranding of the bay walk as the ‘Miami Walk,’ along with unifying design elements and way-finding signage.
Although there is considerable public interest in completion of the bay walk, and various entities have thrown their considerable muscle behind its completion, a lack of organization has to make one wonder if it will be completed anytime in the near future.