After Years Of Development, First Section Of The Underline — Miami’s Linear Park — Opens Under The Metrorail
I live on Brickell Avenue, a few blocks from The Underline, and for six years, since it’s inception, I’ve watched impatiently as it has begun transforming on underused land below Miami’s Metrorail.
On Friday, February 26, the park’s first section, “Brickell Backyard,” officially opens.
The Underline will eventually become a 10-mile linear park, a world-class urban trail and public art destination, and will meander from the Miami River to Dadeland South Station. Each of the three sections of the park will reflect the feel and desires of its neighborhood.
Designed by James Corner Field Operations, the same group that designed New York’s High Line, Miami’s version — ground-level rather than elevated — is expected to create the same economic boom along its route.
“It’s been unofficially opened about a week, and people are already using the paths,” says a delighted Meg Daly, president and CEO of Friends of The Underline. “This Brickell Backyard section has been under construction for two-and-a-half years, and people are pent up in so many ways. They’re seeking mobility and nature, and to see butterflies and ride bikes and breathe fresh air in the midst of downtown Miami skyscrapers.”
Daly conceived of this public-private partnership after breaking both her arms in a bicycling accident. While walking on the underused, scruffy paths under the Metrorail, she envisioned a safe, beautiful space for walking, biking, and gathering.
Her father and partner in the project in its early stages, Parker Thomson, founder of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, died unexpectedly three years ago. But Meg kept going.
The park’s lofty goal, according to its website is to: “connect many of Miami’s communities, improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety, create over 120 acres of open space with restored natural habitats, encourage a healthy lifestyle, provide an easily accessible place to exercise, create a mobility corridor that integrates transit, car, biking and walking, provide a 10-mile canvas for artistic expression, attract development along US1, and generate significant economic impact.”
Communal events such as yoga and concerts will bring communities together, and along the entire park, places to sit, eat, play games and enjoy outdoor art installations in the midst of native plantings will be installed based on the particulars of the location.
Habitat designs will use native vegetation, featuring healthy trees, hardy plants and 20 butterfly gardens, with the advice of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. And lighting will allow for nighttime enjoyment.
The Underline is designed in three main sections, with rooms or spaces, each having their own theme. All will be open by 2025. The first completed section, “Brickell Backyard,” runs half a mile from the Miami River to Southwest 13th Street near busy Brickell Avenue. The shortest of The Underline’s three phases, high density and other factors made it the most difficult to create, said Irene Hegedus, chief of transportation enhancements for the county’s Department of Transportation & Public Works.
“The River Room,” at the northern end of the park, connects to the Miami River Greenway at the Miami River and Eighth Street. With a rolling topography of native grasses and pollinator plants, this block features an art gallery and a dog park on the riverfront.
Between Seventh and Eighth streets, the “Urban Gym” sponsored by Baptist Health, and “Flex Court” sponsored by Swire Properties is the active area, with half a basketball court, a soccer court and exercise areas. Across Eighth Street in the heart of high-rise Brickell. “The Promenade” includes a sound stage and plaza sponsored by Florida Power and Light, a 50-foot communal table and square gaming tables for chess and checkers games. “Station Grove,” is a seating area at the Brickell Metrorail station entrance.
Stretching two blocks from the Brickell Metromover station to Coral Way and carved from native oolite rock from Miami’s Rock Ridge, the “Oolite Room” is nestled in a natural canyon of stone, with four butterfly gardens and meditative spaces, bedrock benches, outcrops and seat walls. Painted walls enhance the paths.
Along the corridor restaurants and food trucks offer places to eat, and right off this first section of The Underline are lodgings including is a new Novotel. Adjacent playgrounds, commercial and meeting spaces will be added as the park lengthens.
The Underline will eventually link to other trails and change the way Miami moves and plays in the next decade. But right now, with the first section finally opening, I can’t wait to grab my mask and head toward a butterfly garden for some serious contemplation in an otherwise lousy year.