Island Gardens In Redesign, Underground Parking Garage Planned

With revised plans submitted to the city August 12, the developers of Island Gardens say they will build an underground parking garage on Watson Island:

August 5, 2016
Narrative Regarding Proposed Changes to Island Gardens

Since the last approved modification to the Zoning approval for Island Gardens, ownership and their design team have spent a great deal of time analyzing the program to understand how best to meet the current needs and desires of the Miami area. An equal effort has been spent in attempting to modify the design so that its impact on its surroundings is improved, and the overall project is more pedestrian friendly.

The most significant revision to accomplish this is the reconfiguration of the parking garage component of the project. Because Island Gardens has a significant retail and food and beverage component, the amount of parking, and the ease of its use by patrons is of paramount importance. The goal in these revisions has been to present a much friendlier presence to its surroundings. Because of its site, Island Gardens is viewed from all directions: certainly from the mainland and downtown Miami across the bay, but also from the cruise ship terminal, as well as from MacArthur Causeway. There really is no hidden back part to the project, where it would be natural to locate the necessary service components.

Therefore, the decision was made to re-think the parking component completely. ln the previously approved plans, there was a seven story parking garage that faced MacArthur Causeway. Therefore, the initial and predominant presentation of the project to the public was that of a tall, very large garage. There really was no attractive, inviting facade along the route that anyone approaching by land could experience. It was only from the bay that the project presented an attractive face, with its low rise scale, and the public areas of the hotel towers and the retail exposed. .

Therefore, this garage was removed. All the parking has now been located in two unobtrusive levels below the retail pedestal. One of these is located below grade, so that it is-effectively hidden from the user experience. The upper level is only one story tall, so that the entries and exits to the parking are apparent to the patrons. The retail has been elevated to sit above this. The large open public plazas, the retail shops, the open air spaces that function as streets through the retail component, all have greatly improved views of the beautiful surrounding vistas: the cruise ships, the bay, and downtown Miami beyond. Now the introduction of the project for people coming by car is that of a low building, with its facades detailed so as to break down its scale, and present a much more inviting presence.

This move comes at great expense for the developer, as locating a significant portion of the necessary parking below grade requires construction of a watertight basement level. However, ownership decided it was the right thing to do.

The remainder of the project’s primary components remain unchanged. The two hotel towers sit in their same location, and are still the same height, taking advantage of the spectacular views. The retail component remains the same size, with two levels that are oriented as much as possible to the views of the bay. The end result of this is a project that is much more aligned with the goals of Miami 21, and presents a much more desirable experience both to the patrons of the project, as well as those passing by it.