The City of Miami is preparing to reconnect – and reactivate – a long-divided section of downtown Miami through the creation of the 33-acre ‘Underdeck’, a vibrant, multi-use public space beneath the forthcoming I-395 signature bridge project. Last week, officials from the City’s Office of Capital Improvements (OCI) joined their counterparts from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to kick off the visioning process for the new outdoor space. FDOT is managing the design and construction of the new bridge, while the City of Miami will vision and operate the ‘Underdeck’.

“The ‘Underdeck’ presents a tremendous opportunity for the City to create new public space for our residents and visitors to enjoy, while connecting an area of downtown Miami that was physically divided when the existing I-395 connector was built decades ago,” said Miami City Manager Emilio T. Gonzalez. “We’re excited to partner with FDOT and the local community to make this area a destination and to permanently change Miami’s urban core for the better.”

City and FDOT officials – including OCI’s visioning and programming experts – spent three days last week imagining the ‘Underdeck’ space, interviewing stakeholders, and developing initial concept plans for FDOT’s design and the City’s subsequent programming and operations. The group also included local partners from the Omni CRA, Southeast Overtown/Park West CRA and the Downtown Development Authority. On Friday, the stakeholders concluded their three-day session with a recap meeting at the Omni CRA offices that outlined initial concepts and set forth the plan to engage the local community as the ‘Underdeck’ plan moves forward.

Ultimately, the community space will incorporate elements including public art, lighting features, native landscaping and resiliency elements, educational features and programmable event spaces. The details of the plan will come into sharper focus as the City begins gathering community input, with final plans slated for Spring 2020.

Historically, the existing, low-slung I-395 highway overpass that extends east from I-95 to the MacArthur Causeway has divided downtown Miami’s northern reaches – including historic Overtown and the Omni district – leaving a dark, under-utilized space that cuts the area in two. The ‘Underdeck’ project presents a unique opportunity to reverse that and transform a feature that has physically divided the community for decades into a prominent destination that unites and activates the area.