October 1, 2012

South Florida’s “best block’’ video and photo runners-up announced

Photos and videos of three famous South Florida streets won runner-up props in The Miami Herald’s “best block’’ contest as expert jurors made their picks, with winners to be announced Saturday at a free public event in Wynwood.

Downtown West Palm Beach’s resurgent Clematis Street, East Little Havana’s funky Calle Ocho and Miami Beach’s lively, historic Espanola Way snagged runner-up video and photo awards Monday in The Miami Herald’s “best block in South Florida’’ contest, setting up a final round of prizes — including the overall winner — later this week.

Still to come: the top, $600 awards for photo and video, the people’s choice selections, and the big one, the Goldman Prize for the best single block in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Those will be unveiled Saturday evening at a public event in Wynwood.

In the meantime, feast your eyes on the best block jury’s two runners-up in the photo and video categories, which showcase some of the region’s iconic urban streets — including not just one but two awards for Clematis, the downtown West Palm street first laid out in 1894, making it one of South Florida’s oldest.

In the video category, the expert jury awarded:

•  Second prize to Mitch Koch for a bouncy video, set to a Latin hip-hop beat, that dances along the two blocks of Miami’s Calle Ocho, or Southwest Eighth Street, flanking 15th Avenue. Anchored by the famous Domino Park and the restored Art Deco Tower Theater, the two blocks and their sidewalk-friendly old buildings have become the center of a lively East Little Havana urban street scene of clubs, cigar makers, shops and restaurants, drawing throngs of tourists by day and locals by night, especially during the monthly Viernes Culturales event.
•  Third prize to a video of the “perfect for walking’’ 200 block of Clematis Street, by Jesse Bailey and Aaron Wormus. The video and voiceover highlight the rich variety of uses housed in renovated buildings on the street, from a yoga studio to sports bars, restaurants, coffee shops and a regional live theater, with apartments and offices above. It also boasts free trolleys circulating around downtown West Palm and connecting to Amtrak and Tri-Rail nearby, a car-share program and even convenient bicycle parking. If that weren’t enough, the street ends at a park that overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway and hosts weekly concerts and a green market.

In the photo category, the jury awarded:

•  Second prize to a neon-soaked overhead view, also taken by Bailey, of the 300 block of Clematis Street. It was shot from a rooftop bar just as a white convertible stopped at the corner. The perspective captured the street’s human scale and pedestrian-friendly features: the shady trees and awnings, the on-street parking and the narrow, traffic-slowing right-of-way. The street’s uses range from clubs and bars to a century-old men’s clothing shop.
•  Third prize to a photo of a romantically glowing Espanola Way at dusk, by Barry Miller. The photo, taken on the block between Washington and Drexel avenues, highlights its intricate and picturesque Mediterranean Revival architecture and the intimate atmosphere created by the narrow, pedestrian-dominated street, the sidewalk cafe tables, the street trees and the close, low-scaled building fronts.

“The finalists, picked from 170 photo and video submissions, were selected Monday by four expert jurors: Miami historian and author Arva Moore Parks, Coral Gables-based town planner Victor Dover, West Palm architect Rick Gonzalez, and Gregory Stuart, executive director of the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization. All selections were unanimous.

Urbanist and developer Tony Goldman, who died last month, had agreed to be on the panel before he fell ill. His place was to be taken by his second-in-command at Goldman Properties, Joe Furst, but he bowed out, citing a conflict.

The jury also selected winners in all categories, including the overall best block — the prize named after Goldman. Just for fun, readers also voted for a people’s choice award in both video and photo. Those tallies will also be announced Saturday.

The Miami Herald is sponsoring the competition in partnership with WLRN/Herald News, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Townhouse Center, a nonprofit that promotes redevelopment of urban neighborhoods through construction of human-scaled, multi-use buildings.

It aims to showcase the best urban streets in the region and highlight what makes them work as South Floridians flock to the region’s reviving downtowns, city neighborhoods and suburban town centers for fun, work and commerce.

Submissions were judged on several criteria, including a block’s friendliness to pedestrians, the architecture of its buildings and the mix of activities it hosts, and, for the photo and video categories, for quality and originality of presentation.

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