19 Dec In Kendall, Eric Katz builds a park from scratch
Growing up in Kendall, Eric Katz could feel the urban sprawl creeping in around him. It inspired him to think more analytically about South Florida’s landscape and become an urban planner. In graduate school, Katz was dedicated to studying South Florida’s M-Path: the 30-mile walking and biking trail beneath Metrorail and built atop the old Florida East Coast railway.
Last year, as The Miami Foundation launched its first Our Miami Public Space Challenge, Katz submitted the idea of building a park on the M-Path between the Dadeland South and North Metrorail stations that included new landscaping, signage and recreational programming. He won and is expected to start this spring by having a pop-up park on the site so residents can envision the possibilities.
With the Challenge in year two, we caught up with Katz, 29, to talk about what he is trying to accomplish.
What inspired you to build a park in Dadeland?
There is a lot of excitement happening in Downtown Miami; it’s generating buzz and our urban core is starting to embrace pedestrians. But in the wider Greater Miami metropolis, there is still a lot of this:
– a general lack of appropriate urban design for those trying to escape the automobile. Growing up in this environment in Kendall inspired me to pursue a career in urban planning.
Maybe I’m being naïve here, but I honestly believe that Miami has the potential to become the greatest city on Earth – for all residents. I’m not just talking about the affluent class who lives in penthouses and new condos. I’m talking about the middle and working classes who spend two hours of their day in gridlock.
What’s your goal for this park?
My goal is for M-Path Park to be a self-sustaining, multi-modal park that serves as an entertainment and recreational venue for Dadeland, Kendall, South Miami, Pinecrest and anyone else who would like to visit. Because it’s so interconnected with public transit, literally anyone from Florida City to Jupiter can come to this park without a car! Kendall is my home and I would love for this community to have more of an opportunity to showcase its vibrant culture to the rest of South Florida.
Why the Dadeland neighborhood in particular?
There are a few key ingredients to a successful, transit-focused development project. Downtown Dadeland has all of them. First, you need high-density living. We have that. Second, you need flexible zoning that allows you to build structures that are mixed use. Next, you need a strong economic engine that supports a lot of jobs, meaning you have a constant flow of money and people throughout the day. We have that. Finally, you also need close proximity to transit and other modes of travel, in our case, Dadeland North and South and the M-Path. One of the final ingredients needed is a green space. A place for leisure and a venue for recreation and entertainment. That’s hopefully what this place can provide.
You’ve pulled together a team to help create this park. Who did you seek out as partners?
I first reached out to my closest friends, family members and colleagues to help me. I’m lucky to be connected with people who are talented and come with an array of skills in marketing, graphic design, fundraising, event production … the knowledge needed to help make this project a reality. Since the project has gained in popularity, we are now fortunate to have a lot businesses, organizations and community leaders reaching out to us, offering their resources and general support. We look forward to seeing many of them participate in the pop-up park event.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to apply to the Public Space Challenge?
Take the time needed to develop a solid vision. Visualize the end point and begin to work backwards, understanding the practical steps needed to make your project a success. Do not merely identify the problem. Focus on the solution you are providing and get others to jump on board.