Real Estate

Dutch-Style, Pedestrian-Friendly "Woonerf" Streets Could Come To Wynwood

Wynwood might just get Miami's first woonerf. No, it's not the latest craft coffee or designer furniture craze — it's a Dutch term for a kind of pedestrian-friendly, low-speed street that can be walled off from cars on weekends.

And woonerfs are part of a larger proposal headed to the city commission tomorrow. Commissioners will consider the first comprehensive plan on how to change the neighborhood as it evolves from an industrial garment district into an arts-heavy, bars-and-restaurant-packed cultural district.

“Wynwood can evolve into what it wants to become: an arts and cultural district but with residential units and offices. All while still retaining the culture and character that it has today,” Juan Mullerat, the director of PlusUrbia, a Coconut Grove firm hired to create the plan, tells New Times

Despite all the changes in recent years, Wynwood is still governed like the industrial district it was back when garment factories occupied its warehouses. Local business owners argue that the neighborhood could be more liveable and walkable, but the city's outdated, industrial zoning has kept their hands tied.

Enter PlusUrbia, which the Wynwood Business Improvement District (BID) hired to translate their ideas into a plan that commissioners could one day approve.

That day is finally here. Their works have been wound together in a proposal called the Wynwood Neighborhood Revitalization District (NRD) Plan. On June 17, the plan passed unanimously in the Planning, Zoning and Approval Board. On Thursday, the NRD Plan will be brought to commissioners for the first time. If approved, the plan will usher in a new phase for Wynwood.

Wynwood will be the first “NRD” in the city. PlusUrbia and the Wynwood BID crafted this new term because Miami has never had a neighborhood quite like Wynwood before. Their focus in on retaining the art and culture, a much harder concept to define.

The last thing Mullerat, his team, and the business owners want to do is destroy Wynwood's character. They want the iconic murals to stay on the walls, and they want artists to continue painting them. “That's why it's so difficult. We don't want to get rid of what we have today but still evolve with local businesses. It's not a simple rezoning,” he explains.

Their plan calls for a “diversification of uses,” which broadens what types of structures can operate in the neighborhood. The plan calls for more residential, small-dwelling units in order to keep costs low and affordable for the people who work and frequent Wynwood. “In turn, it maintains an option for artist and millennials to remain in the district,” Mullerat points out.

The urban planners tussled with the lack of green and open space in Wynwood. Wynwood Walls, where locals and tourists can walk around and look at the art, is the area's only real public space—even if it's technically operated on a private property. The plan calls for a fund to be created that would offer incentives to developers if they contribute to creating new green and open spaces.

That's where the woonerfs come in. The plan suggests creating the Dutch-style streets on First Avenue, Third Avenue, and First Place. According to Mullerat, woonerfs are typically curbless streets paved in a way that slows down traffic and opens the road to pedestrians and cyclists. They can even be shut down on the weekends to hold local events, like farmers markets.

“It's designed so that the cars go slower, the sidewalks are wide, and there's shade. It's not an open space but it provides some relief,” Mullerat explains.
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Jess Swanson is the news editor at New Times. She graduated from the University of Miami and has a master's degree from the Columbia University School of Journalism.
Contact: Jess Swanson