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18 June 2019

Van Alen Institute and the City of North Miami Announce Finalists of Design Competition that will Transform Flood-Prone, Vacant Lots

Three Finalists Have Been Selected to Develop Transformative, Accessible, and Well-Used Community Spaces that Support Well-Being in North Miami

New York, NYJune 18, 2019 Van Alen Institute, in collaboration with the City of North Miami, announced today the selection of three international firms that will advance to the final stage of the KEEPING CURRENT: Repetitive Loss Properties design competition. The competition, which launched in April 2019, invited architects and designers from around the globe to submit proposals that reimagine public uses of the City of North Miami’s current and future portfolio of flood-prone vacant lots, known as repetitive loss (RL) properties. Over the one-month submission period, the RFQ attracted 128 interdisciplinary applicants on 29 teams from 16 different cities on three continents. The finalists are: Department Design Office, Office ParkScheerbarth and Resolve.  

“Of all applicants, the following finalists presented the strongest qualifications to promote social and financial change in communities experiencing the strain caused by sea level rise,” said Van Alen Institute’s Director of Strategic InitiativesJessica Lax. “We aim to create a pilot that can position North Miami as a global model for communities and governments affected by climate change — particularly in respect to Repetitive Loss properties.”

Finalists will receive a $5,000 award and travel stipend. The three teams will join Van Alen in North Miami for a three-day program in early July featuring tours and discussions with the community. Over these three days, the finalist teams will be asked to develop a high-level proposal for a pilot activation of a RL site, located at 901 Northeast 144th Street, North Miami. The 18,101.81 SF site is in a residential neighborhood, adjacent to three single-family residences and a street. The proposals will be presented to a jury and a winner will be announced in July.

The winning team will have five months to develop a master plan for RL sites in North Miami and to fully flesh out designs for the pilot project’s implementation. The winning team will be awarded $80,000 for master plan development, design, and construction. A pilot project ribbon-cutting will take place early December 2019.  Van Alen will collaborate with Urban Impact Lab and local stakeholders to ensure that the design of this treasured public space will genuinely serve the needs and desires of the North Miami community.

“The design solutions advanced through this network of finalists are rewriting the rules of disinvestment in favor of ecologically sensitive investments in people and places,” says Jesse Keenan, Faculty of Architecture, Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Keenan is chair of Keeping Current’s Advisory Committee.

Repetitive Loss Properties builds off both Van Alen’s work through Keeping Current, a multi-year initiative to identify and implement innovative solutions to sea level rise in the Greater Miami region, and the organization’s previous competition Future Ground, a project to activate vacant lots in New Orleans. For Repetitive Loss Properties, Van Alen is focusing on the management of flooding impacts to inland communities through the innovative use of vacant lots.

The jury— comprised of local and national leaders in climate change, design, and community engagement— will play a critical role in selecting finalist and winning teams and in helping to shape their concepts.

About the Finalists

Department Design Office, Adler Guerrier, Andrew Aquart, Forerunner “Our team is comprised of four entities: Department Design Office, Adler Guerrier, Andrew Aquart, and Forerunner. Together, we form a multidisciplinary team with both local and expert knowledge of design, planning, and ecology. As landscape architects, urban designers, architects, artists, and policy experts, we bring several key areas of expertise to the issue of Repetitive Loss Properties in North Miami. First, we have hands-on experience with South Florida’s unique ecology and environment. Our team has three Florida locals whose art and design practices have been built around the region’s coastal environment as well as its political ecosystem. This experience ranges from exhibiting art work in Miami’s Perez Art Museum to designing public parks and buildings across Miami. Second, we have an in-depth understanding of coastal policies. Forerunner brings expert knowledge about FEMA’s Community Rating System to the team along with a nuanced understanding about how CRS might tie new design proposals into existing floodplain management and planning efforts. Third, we have worked in community engagement and public art—particularly in arenas of environmental consciousness. Adler Guerrier’s art practice offers socially grounded and communally imagined projects as a response to the specific cultural and ecological context of Miami; Department Design Office’s recent work at the Radcliffe Institute engages issues of environmental degradation and the politics of maintenance and care. Finally, because our professional experience ranges from the scale of a building detail to the scale of municipal policy, we have the ability to think and design across scales while remaining sensitive to both broader policy objectives and local community needs.”

Office ParkScheerbarth, Omar Davis, TJ McCourt “Our team combines international and native perspectives to identify local level solutions to this global issue. Collectively, we—Moojin Park, Benjamin Scheerbarth, Omar Davis, and TJ McCourt—believe our group combines and represents the range of skills needed to conceive, design, and implement a contextually sensitive masterplan and pilot project for Repetitive Loss Property sites in North Miami. Our complementary expertise in urban planning, architecture, and landscape architecture finds its common ground in professional experience with community engagement, concern over climate change and urban vulnerabilities, and a desire to transform today into a more equitable and resilient future.”

Resolve, Brooks + Scarpa, Brizaga “Our team was assembled with industry experts in the fields of urban design, landscape architecture, architecture, climate science, coastal and civil engineering and stormwater management. The interdisciplinary team members were sought out and assembled to target the skills and work experience necessary to address the Keeping Current: Repetitive Loss Properties project and its unique challenges. Team members and key staff all have specific expertise on similar projects and are highly involved in organizations and initiates that include the promotion, education, outreach and implementation of programs and projects that seek to proactively address climate challenges in vulnerable sites and at risk communities. Resolve & Brooks + Scarpa’s specific expertise with major materplans and private clients gives them insight into both the higher level and day-to-day economics functions which must exist to support these initiatives, and the need to incorporate existing and burgeoning industries to sustain and create jobs, education, and training. In addition to Brizaga’s experience with stormwater masterplans, higher level climate science and infrastructure implementation, their experience with public policy and grant writing also gives them unique insight into the strategy and funding of such projects. As landscape architects, architects, scientists and engineers, our team members have an in-depth understanding of natural systems, built infrastructure, and its optimal function to protect and improve the site, ecosystems, and human experience.”

About North Miami, FL North Miami, Florida (pop. 60,000+) is a diverse community, located midway between Miami and Fort Lauderdale.  As the sixth largest city in Miami-Dade County, North Miami is committed to growth in its business community, while also focusing on issues such as education, the arts, leisure activities, and sustainability to provide a viable future for its residents and to preserve the City’s rich history since incorporating in 1926. For more information, visit www.northmiamifl.gov.

About Urban Impact Lab Urban Impact Lab enables clients to drive positive change in their communities through civic research, creative placemaking and social impact initiatives. Through strategic, tailored projects, Urban Impact Lab bridges clients’ goals with a data-driven approach for measurable impact while strengthening their relationship to their city.

About Van Alen Institute At Van Alen Institute, we believe design can transform cities, landscapes, and regions to improve people’s lives. We collaborate with communities, scholars, policymakers, and professionals on local and global initiatives that rigorously investigate the most pressing social, cultural, and ecological challenges of tomorrow. Building on more than 125 years of experience, we develop cross-disciplinary research, provocative public programs, and inventive design competitions.

Keeping Current: A Sea Level Rise Challenge for Greater Miami is a project of Van Alen Institute that encompasses a series of initiatives seeking innovative solutions to protect South Florida’s 6 million residents from the potentially catastrophic consequences of sea level rise. To fund the initiative, Van Alen raised $850,000 from The Rockefeller Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, The Miami Foundation, Target, and Terra. Van Alen employs its expertise and network to help South Florida residents gain a better understanding of sea level rise and new ways to respond to their changing environment. This initiative builds upon Van Alen’s leadership in organizing projects that generate innovative solutions to complex climate change problems. After Hurricane Sandy, we worked with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to develop nearly $1 billion worth of infrastructural improvements in the Northeast region. We also recently worked in Lower Mississippi River Delta, where we collaborated with dozens of stakeholders to make the New Orleans region more sustainable over the next 100 years.