Up To 6.5 Million Square Feet In Dense, Walkable Miami Innovation District


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May 4, 2015

Michael Simkins’ goal for the Miami Innovation District is to create an area conducive to a tech hub by providing amenities that surpasses anything that currently exists in Miami.

To accomplish this, he has tapped SHoP Architects and West 8, who are creating an environment that will be comparable to, and perhaps exceed, other similar districts throughout the world.

They are focusing on designing a neighborhood from the ground up, with density, walkability and diversity of uses among the key aims. The Special Area Plan will be spread over ten acres on four blocks and include:

  • 3,850,000 square feet of office space
  • 2,400,000 square feet of residential space
  • 250,000 square feet of retail
  • 2,500 parking spaces

The district is to be divided among different levels:

  • Commons level at the ground floor, consisting of building entries and public passages
  • Campus level with large floor office plates and indoor gathering spaces
  • Horizon level, which will be dominated by an extensive green-roof landscape with outdoor gathering and cultural programming
  • Cloud level, a signature feature of the district will be the. Each tower will be connected to another 200 feet above ground, with amenities such as day care, exhibition and work spaces on that level, acting as a ‘mixing chamber’ for workers and residents.

Approval is expected later this year.


Miami Innovation District Set to Cement Growth of City’s Booming Tech Sector

Miami Innovation District to help position Miami to become Florida’s Silicon Valley, bringing financial benefits, sustainable economic growth, and jobs to the city

MIAMI & NEW YORK – April 30, 2015 – On an approximately 10-acre, four-block area in Miami’s Park West neighborhood, the team of SHoP Architects and West 8, led by noted developer Michael Simkins, is proposing a new special-use district that will provide the infrastructure for the future growth of creative technology industries in the city. The Miami Innovation District, expected to receive full city approval later this year, will be a dense, walkable, experience-rich new neighborhood, bringing to Miami the world-class urban amenities that the global technology workforce increasingly relies on for inspiration and support. Just as important, it will bring to the nearby neighborhoods and the city significant benefits in terms of financial contributions, thousands of jobs, and sustainable economic growth.

The early days of the digital revolution were marked by widespread concern that inventive collaborators would become more isolated from each other, relying exclusively on virtual means of communication rather than face-to-face interactions as they went about making the world of the future. Cities across the country are now discovering that the opposite is true. The young, connected workers who are pushing forward today’s technologies have voted overwhelmingly with their feet, adopting, transforming, or creating urban environments that can provide them with the qualities they crave. Among these are density—close-knit, neighborhood-scaled communities that encourage accidental discovery and catalytic chance encounters. Variety—a mix of uses that supports a lifestyle without the traditional boundaries between work and play. And most of all, connectedness—not in the technological sense alone, but also in the human one.
True innovation today requires the very thing that cities, at their best, have always provided: creative proximity. Even as it continues its rapid development, the city of Miami does not currently offer significant urban environments that meet the necessary criteria. The Miami Innovation District is conceived with the goal of correcting this shortfall, giving the city the means for truly sustainable economic growth in this increasingly important sector.
The district is conceived as an urban campus, an integrated complex of mutually-supportive programs including public amenities, targeted retail opportunities, indoor and outdoor spaces for community and campus gathering, performance and exhibition zones, office environments suited to the collaborative work typical of high-performing tech companies, and a variety of housing designed specifically for the generation that will be drawn to work for such companies.
In total, the project comprises 3,850,000 square feet of office programs, 2,400,000 square feet of residential and 250,000 square feet of retail with 2,500 spaces for parking integrated into the buildings. The planned apartments include what are coming to be known as “micro units”—living spaces of 300 square feet or less that are designed specifically to meet the needs of young, creative urbanites who may currently be priced out of the competitive Miami market. The Miami Innovation Tower, an integral component of the District, will mark the development with an inspiring and enlightening presence on the skyline (please see below for full details).
In the Special Area Plan development standards submitted to the city of Miami earlier this year, detailed guidelines are given for the creation of the components of the district. These include, among other things: a network of streets activated with amenities and shade trees, public plazas, and interior walkways. A Commons level comprising building entries and public passages. An elevated Campus level in which larger office floor plates and indoor gathering spaces can be accommodated. The Horizon level which will be dominated by an extensive green-roof landscape with outdoor gathering and cultural programming. And the Cloud level, the signature feature of the plan, which will be a floating “mixing chamber” featuring shared amenities such as day care and tech support, informal work and exhibition spaces, and facilities for continuing education. The Cloud will connect each of the district’s towers at a height of about 200 feet above grade. This is the arena in which serendipitous relationships can be made within and between the individual creative enterprises making their home here—a place designed to actively promote the chance encounters from which experience has shown true innovation arises.
The district will consolidate a movement already well under way in the city by making a reality the long-touted “Miami tech hub,” with the facilities, culture, and resources needed to establish a true technology ecosystem at the crossroads of the Americas. It will bring together a synergistic mash-up of start-ups, middle-market, and international corporations while supporting the existing tech community with incubators, accelerators, and shared office space, as well as open spaces and event venues to host tech and entrepreneurial events.

At the same time, the local residents of Overtown and Miami will enjoy the public spaces, find additional avenues for employment and educational resources, and be exposed to cutting-edge creativity for adults and children alike. The Miami Innovation District will bring millions of dollars in much-needed financial contributions to Overtown as well as more than 13,000 high-paying jobs to the city of Miami.

Miami will join other major global cities—Barcelona, Berlin, London, Stockholm and Toronto—which are gaining prestige for their evolving innovation districts. At home in the U.S., these districts are also popping up in underutilized areas in cities like Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit and Brooklyn, to name a few. These innovation districts are driving a wave of local economic development, offering expanded employment and educational opportunities for local populations.

The Miami Innovation District is an engine for the growth of the whole city—a way to ensure that all Miamians are prepared to take advantage of true 21st century prosperity.

The Miami Innovation Tower—A Civic-Minded Icon for the Digital Age

The Miami Innovation Tower is proposed as a new icon for the city and a major public entry-point into the creative life of the District. With its fully-integrated active skin—a global first—the Miami Innovation Tower celebrates the unique flavor and vitality of Miami and announces its arrival as a world-class center for information technologies.

The architecture of the tower is inspired by a variety of forms associated with the identity of the city, ranging from contemporary sculpture and fashion to the taught, wing-like, graphics-covered sails of modern racing sailboats—an homage to nearby Biscayne Bay. The lighting, too, is intended as a continuation of the tradition of building illumination that Miami has taken to a high art. The programming of the tower’s displays will include public service announcements, updates from companies within the district, video art, as well as advertising which, in addition to generating significant revenue for the community, will become art itself as creative directors customize their messages to the special possibilities and parameters of the tower’s unique active skin.

Unlike traditional billboard signage, the mesh-like messaging technologies are in fact integrated completely into the complex, pleated form of the tower’s exterior. The result is an ethereal, highly-transparent surface, open to the slender concrete tower core and views of the city and the sky beyond.

Like the District as a whole, this Digital Age landmark is also a responsible neighbor. At ground level, a public plaza and amphitheater will host cultural events for all comers, as well as providing an inspiring setting for retail. As it rises, the tower hosts several observation decks, one of which, a garden in the sky, will also serve as a demonstration site for the installation of environmental technologies. Two restaurants complete the Tower’s program.

In addition to drawing visitors to the local Park West streets, these programs will drive sustainable economic growth to the nearby Overtown historic community. They will create employment opportunities—a percentage of which are reserved through agreement with the city for job-seekers from a local labor pool. In addition, a significant proportion of revenue generated by the tower’s signage will be channeled every year to the support of the local community. All of these community benefits are vitally important to the developer, Michael Simkins, a visionary whose family presence and philanthropy in Miami spans decades.

Inspiring and responsible, inventive and original, rooted in the traditions of the local community even as it marks its place in global culture, the Miami Innovation Tower signals to the world that Miami is holding on to its special flare even as it catches and rides the coming high-tech wave.
SHoP is an award-winning architecture firm with a staff of over 200 talented architects, designers and engineers. Since 1996, SHoP has set the standard for creative innovation in the field, modeling a new way forward with its unconventional approach to creating built solutions at every scale. At the heart of the firm’s method is a willingness to question accepted patterns of practice, coupled with the courage to expand, where necessary, beyond the architect’s traditional roles. Recent and current work includes the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn, Manhattan’s East River Esplanade, the Domino Sugar and Essex Crossing redevelopments in New York City, and the Botswana Innovation Hub in Gaborone.

West 8 is an award-winning international office for urban design and landscape architecture, founded in 1987. Over the last 25 years West 8 has established itself as a leading practice with an international team of 70 architects, urban designers, landscape architects and industrial engineers. West 8 has offices in the port of Rotterdam and New York. West 8’s recent work includes Governors Island Park, a 172-acre island in New York Harbor, and the community-acclaimed Miami Beach Soundscape Park.