lincoln road: where will the kids play?

Lincoln Road

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

lincoln road: where will the kids play?:

euclid oval is getting a redesign

The Euclid Oval on Miami Beach's Lincoln Road with its artificial turf has been a popular attraction for families with kids to take a break from shopping and dining. Under the new Master Plan for the iconic street designed by James Corner Field Operations, the Oval gets a makeover, going from the softer surface to a colorful tile. And that has left the Historic Preservation Board and at least one City Commissioner asking where children will play if the Oval’s character changes.
Earlier this week, the HPB reviewed the last refinements still to be approved on the Master Plan. Alejandro Vazquez presented for James Corner Field Operations, focusing on the reasons behind the brightly colored tiles. “It’s the only place in the refurbishing of Lincoln Road that we have color,” he said. “Everywhere else the palette is black, white and grays.”
But it wasn’t the colors Board members objected to. Instead, it was the hard tile surface which has a rough texture to prevent the area from being slippery.
“I appreciate everything you said about adding color to the street. That’s fine,” said Nancy Liebman, “But I’m just concerned – upset – about the fact that we’re taking a place that has been used historically, forever as far as I can remember, and turning it away from children’s ability to play there.”
Vazquez responded, “It’s not a soft surface. It’s not a natural playground. This is something a lot of stakeholders said that perhaps it was not the right place for a playground.” Instead, the area is proposed as a place to sit and watch performances on the nearby stage or other types of events.
City Preservation and Design Manager Debbie Tackett said the Master Plan involved a lengthy process of community input including neighbors, local businesses, and the general public. The proposal to use the Oval as a flexible space with seating for the Euclid Stage was a direct result of that process.
Liebman was not convinced. “A lot of people came to Lincoln Road because of it,” she said. “It’s the tile on the floor that’s going to drive away that kind of feeling and the atmosphere will change,” though Vazquez reminded the Board  “The area was never specifically designed as a playground.”
Another Board member, Wyn Bradley said she would also like a softer surface for the Oval saying it’s not an inviting surface for any activity there including yoga mats or blankets for picnics or watching performances.
Vazquez responded, “We don’t feel that astro turf has the qualities that it should have for one of the jewels of tropical modernism in this area.” Besides the aesthetics, the architect said using a soft surface requires a lot of maintenance and would tear easily when equipment or chairs were set up on it.
Options for the Euclid Oval surface are very limited Tackett said. A soft surface would either be artificial turf or the rubberized surfaces used in City parks or a hard surface. “We could look at tile, terrazzo,” she said, “But they’re all going to be about the same amount of hardness
Liebman added, “I think this is trying to be too beautiful. Too adult and just forgetting the whole family scene that we’re trying to bring back to South Beach.”
Kirk Paskal agreed the surface is “uninviting for children” and he said the coarse texture on the tile will make for “a lot of skinned knees “ but he said, “I also feel a rubber surface would not be up to the standards of Lincoln Road in terms of the aesthetics.” Regarding the process for developing the Master Plan, he said,  “I’ll respect what the consensus has been from the community and the stakeholders. If the consensus has been to go with the hard surface that’s not so conducive for children then I respect that but I was not involved in that process, unfortunately.”
Vazquez indicated the architects have about two months left on design development and will continue to think about options for the Oval.
Earlier this month, Commissioner Micky Steinberg looked for other options to introduce a component for families and children within the Lincoln Road redesign. Steinberg, who has young children, told her colleagues on the Commission if there was a place for kids to play, you would create a reason to extend time spent on Lincoln Road with another activity to complement shopping and dining. “For instance with the Maurice Gibb Park,” she said, “you go there, you play with the kids and you walk over and maybe get a pizza at Lucali or one of the other restaurants. I think it would be a good synergy and another addition, another layer to the Lincoln Road experience.”
As Tackett reminded the HPB of the public consensus in the plan, Commissioner Michael Grieco said at the Commission meeting, “This went through a lengthy public process and that option was actually tossed by almost every business owner and resident.”
Steinberg said she did not remember a play area being discussed in the community workshops but that she had reached out to representatives of the Lincoln Road Business Improvement District to let them know she was going to raise the issue. “They seemed to be okay with the idea except that they didn’t want to delay things further,” she said. She proposed moving her discussion item along with continued progress on the plan. “Residents actually reached out to me and said ‘Wouldn’t it be great? You know, sometimes I want to get things done. I want to be able to go to my local place on Lincoln Road, my husband can watch the kids on the playground, I can get things done, and we can all go for a bite.'”
Mayor Philip Levine liked the idea. “You see this all over the world in places like this… it’s good for business.”
“It’s really good for business,” agreed Steinberg. “And I think it creates a great different layer of patron as well. It layers it.” One option for location may be an area on Drexel Road just off Lincoln that is being explored as a pedestrian area. Another would be the recently redesigned Euclid intersection, south of the Oval. “We’re not married to an idea,” Steinberg said. “And I do not want to disturb what they have going in Euclid. I know that’s special there. Keeping that in mind, how can we make this work?”
City Staff and Steinberg will look further at the option and report back to the Commission on ideas.

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