Saturday, May 14, 2016

The successes of Miami's form-based zoning code

Governing Magazine has a nice article about Miami's form-based zoning code.  Here's an excerpt:


Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood epitomizes hip. A neglected industrial enclave that sat mostly empty just a few years ago, Wynwood today thrums with energy. Its low-slung warehouses and onetime auto garages are filled with buzz-worthy eateries, high-end tattoo studios, vegan juice bars and edgy art spaces. At Wood Tavern, twentysomethings gather around graffiti-covered picnic tables to sip La Rubia blonde ale, brewed just a couple of blocks away at the Wynwood Brewing Company. At nearby Wynwood Kitchen and Bar, diners eat Latin-tinged cuisine under wall-sized paintings by popular street artists. A block down, the line at Panther Coffee can stretch out the door. Throughout the neighborhood, at all hours of the day, people stop to snap selfies in front of the colorful new murals that cover seemingly every inch of every building in Wynwood.

It’s the kind of dynamic urban scene that cities dream about. And it would never have happened, Miami planners say -- or at least not to the same degree of success -- without the city’s new zoning code known as Miami 21. “I cannot imagine it,” says Francisco Garcia, the city’s planning director, shaking his head at the thought. “I just can’t even imagine.”

Miami 21 isn’t actually brand-new: It’s been on the books since 2010. But it was the first true overhaul of the city’s code in nearly 80 years, and it points toward major change in the way Miami will grow for generations to come. The controversial code has altered every aspect of the city’s development, from the way a builder interacts with the planning department to the size of the windows of a finished storefront. And it touches every part of the city, from the shimmering urban high-rises of downtown Brickell to the single-family homes in historic, tree-lined residential neighborhoods like Little Havana and The Roads.

Public zoning codes are typically filled with mind-numbingly dry details of frontages, setbacks and floor-area ratios -- and Miami’s is too. But these codes ultimately determine the way a city looks and feels and functions. They’re the 1s and 0s that build the matrix. Miami 21 may be abstruse, but it’s also a new vision for what the city wants to be.

Miami 21 is what’s known as a form-based code. Rather than prescribing development based on how a plot of land will be used -- residential, say, or mixed-use commercial -- the code defines the physical shape development should take in different parts of the city. That means buildings are considered in context with what’s around them, regardless of what goes on inside. The goal is a more walkable, more human-scale form of development. When Miami adopted the code in 2010, it was the first big U.S. city to implement a form-based code citywide. Six years later, it’s still the only one.

Rest of the article here.

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