South Miami was an early suburb — it was built from the 1930s through the 1960s, with the fastest growth in the 1950s. Like many early suburbs, it benefits from a street grid and small parcels, which allow lot-by-lot rebuilding. South Miami’s center languished for decades before getting a heavy rail station in 1984. Revitalization of the main street area, now called Hometown, didn’t begin in earnest until about 2000 — following the strategy of Dover Kohl, which has its offices there.
In this video filled with excellent graphics, urbanists from Dover Kohl explain in detail how the revival took place. Here’s the formula:
1) Build walkable streets.
Streets at the heart of South Miami were wide, car-oriented, and offered little shade. Sidewalks were widened and covered in brick instead of concrete. Shade trees were installed. On-street parking was added and travel lanes were narrowed. Sidewalk dining was legalized, and benches and street furniture were added.
2) Require street-oriented architecture.
Buildings provide a continuous urban form and awnings provide shelter in South Miami’s downtown, but this wasn’t the case in the early 1990s. Vacant storefronts lined the street. Reduced parking requirements allowed more businesses activity. Code changes ensured that doors fronted the street and storefronts are composed of windows, transoms, and entrances. Awnings provide shade. The two-story height of buildings provides a sense of enclosure.