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Knight Foundation pledges nearly $1 million to transform Miami Underline technology

An art installation of lighting beneath Metrorail and along the Underline won a 2014 Public Space Challenge grant for the idea of enhancing safety and spotlighting public transit.
An art installation of lighting beneath Metrorail and along the Underline won a 2014 Public Space Challenge grant for the idea of enhancing safety and spotlighting public transit. Miami

The Knight Foundation has announced a new investment in Miami’s Underline project to bolster technology in the “linear park.”

The $925,000 grant will be used to hire a chief operation officer and a chief technology officer, who will create a tech master plan for a space that covers 120 acres and spans 10 miles beneath Metrorail.

Beyond that, the details will be left to stakeholders. Raul Moas, Miami program director for the Knight Foundation, said the earmark was left purposefully vague in order to allow input from residents.

“The question is, how can we use tech to enhance this space. ... We want to have a discussion in general terms around the different ways tech can be applied to this base,” he said.

To date, Knight has invested nearly $2 million in the project.

One obvious idea, he said, would be equipping the trail with Wi-Fi and 5G cellular service. Another would be using technology to enhance the trail’s safety and security.

Otherwise, “tech” could mean any number of things, said Meg Daly, founder of Friends of the Underline.

“This can be a lab for public spaces around the world,” Daly said. “It’s one of the reasons Knight got so excited, is the opportunity to pioneer something new.”

Knight and Daly say tech can also be used to increase mobility to and accessibility of the trail. Although an estimated 250,000 people live within a mile of the park, Moas says there is an opportunity to use tech to invite more people to use the space.

“We’re approaching this as ‘blue sky,’ “ Daly said. “Let’s see what’s new, not thought of, potentially be model, and improve user experience.”

The first phase of The Underline, called Brickell Backyard, is expected to open sometime in the summer of 2020. Phase 2 construction is projected to begin this spring.

The Underline’s two new leadership positions are expected to be hired by the end of this year.

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