Miami-Dade County

Public Space Challenge winners aim to get you moving — without a car

One Public Space Challenge winner proposes to paint the gray concrete Metrorail columns in rainbow colors.
One Public Space Challenge winner proposes to paint the gray concrete Metrorail columns in rainbow colors. The Miami Foundation

Miami’s dead zones — those shabby, neglected and underutilized public spaces — are about to be reincarnated.

Twelve winners of The Miami Foundation’s annual Public Space Challenge were announced Monday, and they will share $250,000 in prize grants to activate the potential of wasted places. These local visionaries submitted plans in line with this year’s theme: Improving mobility and connecting neighborhoods in Miami-Dade County, where it can be difficult to get around.

From colorful crosswalks to bayfront ferry service, the ideas make it easier, safer and more fun to ditch your car and move, whether you’re in South Dade or North Bay Village.

In Opa-locka, a new Light District would illuminate sidewalks around the historic City Hall and project residents’ poems on the pavement. O, Miami led a series of poetry workshops in the spring on the topics of light, democracy, public safety, transportation and infrastructure. The Opa-locka Community Development Center plans to retrofit street lamps to bring light to a dark area while giving the people who live there “a public venue for expression that would instill civic pride” and inspire budding poets.

A Public Space Challenge project to light up Opa-locka would install street lamps that project poems on pavement. The Miami Foundation

The town of Miami Lakes plans to enhance the Northwest 170th Street recreation and bike trail by covering the asphalt with photo-luminescent paint and calling it the MiGlo Trail.

“Similar glow-in-the-dark trails exist in the Netherlands, Poland, Australia, and Singapore,” the proposal said. “We want to change the concept of a traditional trail and make Miami Lakes the first to bring this mobility-intersects-the-arts project to South Florida.”

The Friends of the Commodore Trail want to improve safety on the poorly maintained five-mile pathway that runs from the Rickenbacker Causeway through Coconut Grove to Cocoplum Circle. One of the most dangerous spots is where Ingraham Highway intersects with Douglas Road. Cleaning overgrown vegetation and installing plastic pole barriers would help protect pedestrians and cyclists from the traffic zooming by.

Another winning proposal advocates painting the drab concrete columns supporting Metrorail tracks in rainbow colors along the South Miami stretch of the paved Underline. The color theme could be continued on the city’s crosswalks. Make the painting project into a community-wide, volunteer event.

Extending the downtown Baywalk with a floating dock beneath the MacArthur Causeway is a Public Space Challenge grant winner. The Miami Foundation

Similarly, an idea to paint school crosswalks with Miami-themed designs that correspond with each community’s character and history would beautify school zones.

Other approved projects include a floating dock that would extend the Baywalk beneath the MacArthur Causeway; ferry service from the Palmetto Bay library to downtown Miami; bus benches in Little Havana, where many residents are dependent on bus transit but have nowhere to sit and rest; overhead lighting that would straddle Northeast Third Avenue to make it more inviting at night; an urban nature trail that connects the islands of North Bay Village; improved pedestrian and cyclist accessibility to Hidden Lake in Southwest Dade; and rollout of the Velocia mobility app.

“Our residents are stepping up and reimagining how we get around our community — and presenting solutions for how to improve it,” said Dawn Shirreffs, director of public affairs for The Miami Foundation. “We’re proud to work with these Miamians who want to make their neighborhoods better.”