August 10, 2015
Wynwood’s most famous tree, outside Panther coffee.
Written By: Jess Swanson : Monday, August 3, 2015
Wynwood has a lot going for it — art galleries, a booming restaurant and café scene, and, yeah, world-class street art. But there’s one thing sorely lacking in the former industrial neighborhood: green space. There’s that one lovely royal poinciana rooted outside Panther Coffee and a few flimsy palms posted along NW Second Avenue, plus Wynwood Walls’ manicured lawns, but the arts-and-culture mecca is overflowing with selfie-stick-worthy murals, not trees and open, plant-friendly spaces.
That will soon change now that city commissioners unanimously approved a plan proposed by Wynwood’s business owners last month. Among the projects in the master plan: rooftop gardens and a wealth of new trees.
“The streets are long, and there’s no shade,” Wynwood Business Improvement District (BID) Vice Chair Albert Garcia tells New Times. “We don’t know what type of trees or where exactly they’ll go right now — we don’t want people zigzagging around them. We have to widen the sidewalks too. But, yes, trees are coming to Wynwood.”
The heart of the plan is a change of Wynwood’s strict industrial zoning codes to allow for a “diversification of uses.” The plan is two years in the making, and there are many prongs to it — such as raising building height to five stories and building Dutch-style “woonerfs,” a kind of pedestrian-friendly street.
But one of the quickest fixes is widening the sidewalks and planting more trees. Once commissioners vote again in September to finalize the plan, the changes could go into effect as early as December, Wynwood business owners estimate.
The sidewalks in Wynwood are heavily traversed, Garcia points out. But they’re not very wide and force groups of pedestrians into the street. Planting trees on the sidewalks would work only if the sidewalks are widened. NW 20th and 29th Streets would get the widest sidewalks and would be the most likely to have trees. But they can go on other streets too — like on the woonerfs of First Place, First Avenue, and Third Avenue.
The trees will add some much-needed photosynthesis to the neighborhood, but Garcia and other business owners also want to create more green, open spaces like the lawns at Wynwood Walls. It’s private property, Garcia explains, but it’s free and open to the public. Business owners want to promote developers who come into the neighborhood to create more spaces like that one.
In the Wynwood rezoning plan, there are incentives (such as increasing building height a few stories) if developers donate to a public-benefits fund that would promote more green, open spaces for denizens. Creating rooftop green spaces on their property — as long as they’re publicly accessible — would also count, Garcia says. There’s also Wynwood Greenhouse slated for NW Second Avenue and 29th Street.
“These plans won’t happen overnight, but over time as new developments come in under the new codes,” Garcia says. “We didn’t plan a pancake zoning code. The BID came together to create one thoughtful, shared vision.”
According to sketches and mockups in the BID presentation to the city, there’ll be a lot of trees. Every mockup has one. Some mockups even add medians that are full of trees. Here are some of the mockups from the presentation:
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