Miami ‘City Within a City’ Exemplifies Urban Design Trends
|Bernardo Fort-Brescia, founding principal of Arquitectonica|
In a session titled “Global Urban Design & Miami 2020,” held during the University of Miami Real Estate Impact Conference Feb. 10, 2012, Bradley and Bernardo Fort-Brescia, founding principal of Miami-based architecture firm, Arquitectonica, discussed how Brickell CitiCentre exemplifies Miami’s leading role in global urban design trends. “This will be the first sustainable neighborhood development project in the U.S. of this magnitude,” said Fort-Brescia said. “For us, it’s all about designing a lasting urban environment that will support the Brickell neighborhood.”
Brickell CitiCentre will transform a nearly four-block area just west of the Brickell Avenue financial corridor into a “city within a city.” The plans, approved by the City of Miami in 2011, call for three office towers, a wellness/medical center linked to a hotel, and two residential buildings on each end. Elevated walkways provide safe passage over the city streets, and connect the development with the 8th Street Metromover station, which will be redesigned to provide an elegant entrance.
The development also incorporates outdoor performance spaces, helping to support cultural and social activities, and provide new experiences for Brickell residents and visitors.
“Right now, this area is the hole in the donut in the Brickell neighborhood,” added Fort-Brescia, who has worked with Swire Properties on several mixed use projects in Hong Kong and China. “It will be easy for residents to walk, bike or take the Metromover to Brickell CitiCentre, which offers easy access from I-95. The buildings will hug the streets, which will remain open to vehicles. It’s a very urban solution to the site.”
|Guy Bradley, CEO Mainland China for Swire Properties|
Bradley began the panel session by outlining his company’s roots in the United Kingdom, and its leading-edge real estate developments in China, as well as Swire’s longstanding commitment to Miami. In Asia, Swire’s transformational projects include Pacific Place, a $10 billion mixed-use development in Hong Kong; Festival Walk, a Hong Kong retail-residential center built above a rail transit hub; and Sanlitun Village, a low-density retail-hotel complex in Beijing.
Referring to the company’s $1 billion Brickell Key development over the past three decades, Bradley said, “Swire Properties has already had a transformational impact on Miami. We have a strong local team that understands Miami, and we see another excellent long-term opportunity here.”
Brickell’s growing residential population, easy access to transit facilities and an under-retailed local market were among the reasons Swire decided to develop the city, he added. “Miami is also an international gateway city, like Hong Kong, whose economy is reinforced by a flow of offshore capital,” added Bradley.
Fort-Brescia said Arquitectonica has been working with Swire Properties since 1993, in keeping with its global design portfolio. “This is the classic Swire urban proposition,” said Fort-Brescia. “All the uses are in one place: retail, restaurants, theaters, hotel, office and medical.”
In his presentation, Fort-Brescia discussed how Brickell CitiCentre has been designed to take advantage of Miami’s subtropical climate, reduce energy consumption and fit into its urban neighborhood setting. For example, specially shaped trellises will funnel tropical breezes to the outdoor walkways. “By using the natural winds, we can drop the temperature and humidity to make it thermally comfortable,” he added, noting that the façade will fold out to encompass light fixtures and provide rain protection around the shopping promenade.
In addition, the development’s roofscape has been designed as a “fifth façade,” providing an attractive view from neighboring office and condo towers. “Instead of a gravel roof with unsightly mechanical equipment, this roofscape will be a park with plazas, benches, walkways and lighting,” Fort-Brescia said. As part of Swire’s commitment to sustainability, the roof will also have water collectors and solar panels. A climate ribbon will collect water for the project’s cooling towers and landscape irrigation system.
Brickell CitiCentre will also have two levels of underground parking to create a pedestrian-friendly streetscape. Asked about the difficulty of constructing a garage below the area’s water table, Fort-Brescia said the development team may use a soil freezing and removal system that has been applied effectively in its Asian projects. “While underground parking is more expensive, it is both feasible and necessary for this large-scale development,” he said. “It provides comfort for visitors to the shops and allows for open-air retail shops and restaurants on the ground level. This urban design is well suited to its Miami urban setting.”