City Commission Approves Design Guidelines for Baywalk, Riverfront

Published on July 23, 2021


The Miami City Commission voted yesterday to approve a comprehensive set of design guidelines that will help to visually unify and brand Miami’s Baywalk and Riverwalk as a marquee Downtown Miami attraction and destination for residents and visitors. The vote marked the culmination of an effort that began in 2017, when the City of Miami, the Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the Miami River Commission together took on the challenge of improving public awareness, connectivity and wayfinding around the public pedestrian promenades. 

"Water is a part of Miami's identity, and this city commission vote to unify a vision for the Miami Baywalk and Riverwalk is a tremendous step forward for this landmark project. Designing waterfront promenades that are visually appealing, while also creating infrastructure to address rising sea level, is a win-win scenario for residents and tourists alike. I'm proud to have helped lead the effort on this project and thank my fellow commissioners for their support in realizing this vision that will further bolster Miami's reputation as a world-class waterfront city," said Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell. 

Since work on developing the design guidelines began in 2017, Savino Miller Design Studio has worked with the City, DDA and River Commission to gather public input and develop a unifying design element, brand identify and waterfront design guidelines for the Miami Baywalk and Riverwalk. Four years of public outreach and input, design charrettes, revisions and continued progress went into the new “Waterfront Walkway Design Guidelines” that were approved by the City Commission yesterday. The new design guidelines will help achieve the following goals:

•    Provide a clear and cohesive vison for the design and construction for both the Baywalk and Riverwalk;
•    Promote interconnectedness and mobility opportunities from surrounding recreation spaces, such as parks;
•    Provide residents and visitors of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds with additional access to Miami’s scenic waterfront; 
•    Increase wayfinding, visibility and branding opportunities; 
•    Improve safety through lighting standards that deter crime and create a more welcoming environment; 
•    And introduce structures that will provide for mitigation of future sea level rise and decrease loads on the City’s existing stormwater systems.

In 1979, the City of Miami passed the Dan Paul ordinance requiring new buildings on the waterfront to be set back 50 feet from the water’s edge and requiring owners to build and maintain a 25-foot public pedestrian promenade along either Biscayne Bay or the Miami River. Following passage of that ordinance, Miami’s Baywalk and Riverwalk have grown incrementally over the past 40 years, as new waterfront buildings are developed. Today, they span a miles-long stretch along Miami’s waterfront, and the Baywalk and Riverwalk are now 88% and 65% complete, respectively. 

Yesterday's Commission vote delivers a strong momentum boost for completing and further activating both public spaces. As the remaining Baywalk and Riverwalk sites are built out and/or renovated in coming years, they will continue to provide a major quality-of-life asset that attracts new residents, businesses and visitors to Downtown Miami.

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