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Wednesday, September 30, 2015



On Sept. 24-25, 2015, Miami-Dade Cultural Arts hosted a wonderful event: the ADA Silver Anniversary Summit.

It was two days of break-out sessions and performances regarding arts access for people with disabilities.

Heidi Johnson-Wright was interviewed by our local NPR station.

You can listen to it by clicking on the link for the 6:47 pm newscast:

Thursday, September 24, 2015


ADA Silver Anniversary Summit

Ongoing as we speak:

ADA Silver Anniversary Summit Presented by the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, Florida Access Coalition for the Arts, and Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County.

Kudos to Michael Spring, Senior Advisor to the Mayor, Department Director, Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs for his leadership.

Thank you to John Richard, President and CEO of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, and his team.

So proud of my wife of three decades, Heidi Johnson-Wright.  She wowed 'em at Arsht CODI panel this morning.  This afternoon, she dazzles the crowd with:

Title III, Title II and You - Understanding Your ADA Obligations How the ADA applies to arts organizations/venues and how to ensure ADA compliance in communications, programming and physical facilities.  Heidi Johnson-Wright, ADA Coordinator, Miami-Dade County.

The program continues tomorrow at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts - 1300 Biscayne Blvd. Miami, FL 33132 SCHEDULE:  Friday, September 25, 2015, 8:30 am – 5:15 pm

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


I could write endlessly to explain all the reasons you should stay with Francesca in her one in a million home and explore the colonial charms of old town Quito.
First, we’ll start with the basics and rate them on a scale of 1 to 10:
  • Clean room, comfortable bed, great writing desk, plenty of drawers and hanging space for clothes – check, 10 of 10.
  •  Full bath – toilet & tub shower right in the room, with endless warm water – again, 10.
  • Quiet room – yes, is in a courtyard building. It is so close to the nightspots and activity on Ronda, Plaza Santa Doming, etc. – that we thought sure there would be noise. But no, even the most neurotic and finicky of sleepers zonked out like babies in the tranquility of this castle. Score – 10.
  • Host better than a concierge at a 5-star hotel. You bet. Francesca had snacks, coca tea (for combat high altitude), a calming before bed tea, warm water, filtered cold water, chocolate and more ready upon arrival. Her resourcefulness and calm demeanor ranks a perfect 10.
  • Breakfast unique and memorable? Humitas, toast (one unique with blueberries in it), cereal in sesame milk, coffee, more tea, other delights – in a warm and super well-equipped kitchen. 10.
  • Location? Honestly, there couldn’t be a more perfect location in all of Quito. Want to look up at Panecillo from the roof terrace – you got it. Need to catch the 25 cent per ride trollebus? It’s crawling distance away? Want to visit some of the best colonial architecture, museums, church interiors, authentic restaurants, theaters, vibrant plazas – they are a few blocks away. Score 10.
  • Want to wake up in a classic home nearly 500 years old, gaze at an ancient preserved fresco in the kitchen, play with sweet Siamese cats, live among antiques and warmth? Pick here – 10.
  • Want a safe place with keyed entrance – both to the main house and your private room? Want to live in a real neighborhood with shopkeepers and bakeries – not tourist traps – this is your base of operations. Want a safe and affable driver for that hour-long airport trip – stay here. 10.
That’s the basics. I must say something about Francesca. She is the best host I’ve stayed with, based on hundreds of B&B and thousands of hotel stays.

She speaks perfect English and Spanish. She has a space heater and extra blankets for the room. If you asked her to find a left handed monkey wrench, she’d roam the streets to accommodate you.
Francesca is an artist. Her nearly 9,000 SF abode is filled with her museum-caliber art. She is a soulful person. You could talk to her from dusk to dawn about any subject – silly to super meaningful – with ease.

She’s an encyclopedia of Quito and Ecuador knowledge – only better, because her hints and suggestions are delivered with warmth that no book or website could duplicate.

You will adore her. Even if you are very private, you will enjoy your time with her more than your time in her UNESCO World Heritage site engaging city.

Monday, September 21, 2015



A diverse group of urban and transportation design experts will make brief presentations, then the audience will have the opportunity to share its vision for calmed traffic and a better pedestrian experience on SW 7th and SW 8th streets.

Speakers include:
Bill Fuller, Barlington Group principal and founder of the Little Havana Merchants Alliance
Juan Mullerat, APA, AIA Assoc., Plus Urbia Design principal and resident of Shenandoah
Carlos Cruz-Casas, PE, Transportation Strategic Planning Group, Miami-Dade County Transit
Francisco Garcia, Director of the Planning and Zoning Department, City of Miami
Cesar Garcia-Pons, Leed AP, Associate Principal at Perkins+Will, will serve as moderator

FDOT will soon launch at $2 million study to redesign SW 8th and SW 7th streets, between SW 27th and Brickell avenues as well as their interchange with I-95. This inclusive forum gives a voice to residents, merchants and visitors.

We want to visualize complete streets that serve pedestrians, cyclists and public transit equally with automobiles.

FUTURAMA - 1637 Calle Ocho, Little Havana

Light refreshments provided by Toasted Bagelry & Deli

Monday, September 14, 2015



By Heidi Johnson-Wright

I began learning to play the piano in elementary school at the insistence of my parents. I found it a miserable chore. My sister and I would dutifully take our piano lessons each Saturday morning. I’m not sure whose bright idea it was, but our lessons commenced at 8am, and it was a 20-minute drive to get there. Sleeping in on Saturday mornings became a mere fantasy.
Our teacher was Mrs. S. She lived with her mother in an old, musty-smelling house near the lake. That her mother was still alive was inconceivable, given that Mrs. S herself was older than dirt. She was stoop shouldered and slow moving. Her face bore a distinct resemblance to the faces of the folk art dolls my mom carved from apples and set out to dry in the sun. On days when I was less charitable of spirit, I would describe her visage as, well, simian.

Mrs. S’s voice was thin and reedy and came forth from her throat like a long, silvery thread. If you went to Egypt’s Valley of the Kings and dug up the mummy of Nefertiti, opened her tomb, unwrapped her bandages and chanted an incantation that could make her speak, the voice that came forth just before her head collapsed into a cloud of dust would probably sound like Mrs. S.

Mrs. S never answered the door when we arrived at 8am each Saturday. It was always a man at the door whose identity remains unclear to me to this very day. I would beg my sister to have my lesson at 8:30 so I could make her go first while I sat on a wooden bench with a braided seat cover in the foyer, reading Mrs. S’s trove of comic books. Laura never hesitated to pull older sister rank on me, so I perpetually had the 8am slot.

Mrs. S neither liked nor trusted her students. She did not bother to climb out of her sarcophagus until she actually heard us arrive. I pictured her putting a giant, antique ear horn to her head, letting out a sigh, then getting out of bed. I had to sit on the piano bench for another 15-20 minutes waiting for her, studying precisely where the wallpaper pattern began repeating.

As if that weren’t bad enough, Mrs. S had the disposition of an irritated pit viper. She barely greeted me before shuffling over to her chair beside the piano bench. Once I began playing the pieces she’d given me to work on, the least little thing set her off: the clumsy grace note, the missed key change, piano instead of pianissimo. She was a shriveled, gnarled mummy who could utter only scoldings. Worst of all, she gave letter grades for each lesson, and appeared to savor the withholding of praise and approval. Had my parents purposefully searched far and wide to find a teacher who could turn off a child to playing the piano, they could not have made a better choice. Bravo!

I worried myself sick until the lesson was over and the grade was finally doled out. A bad grade (anything below an A-) would result in a second scolding at home. If I didn’t tell my parents how my lesson went, my sister would be sure to fill them in.

Once Mrs. S allowed me to escape from her lair, I traded places with Laura on the bench in the foyer. Now it was my turn to relax and thumb through the comic books that Mrs. S must have bought at a rummage sale years before. I didn’t read them for the comics themselves. Was there ever a Caspar the Ghost storyline that wasn’t lame? Who could possibly identify with Richie Rich and Scrooge McDuck?

No, I read them for the ads.

I was fascinated with two different types of ads. The first type was the more obvious: ads for practical joke novelties and “spy” gadgets. I never actually sent away for a pack of exploding cigarettes or chewing gum that smells like farts, but I got plenty of joy imagining who I’d torment with them. Even better, I pictured myself in a tableau of Cold War intrigue, secretly photographing my sister’s diary with a mini spy camera or staring through her boyfriend’s clothing with a pair of X-ray specs.

The other type of ad was for posters and accessories that gave me a glimpse into a world utterly despised by my parents. They considered anything that even vaguely promoted drug use or anti-establishment/hippie culture to be Satanic. I was endlessly fascinated by black light and Op Art posters and dreamed of papering my room with them. In elementary school, I wasn’t really into the Doors or Jimi Hendrix. But I was pretty sure I could send my God and country, Paul Harvey-loving dad into orbit if I sewed a patch on my jeans that said: “War is not healthy for children and other living things."

I’d been taking lessons from Mrs. S for about a year when my mom told me that Mrs. S was very ill and in the hospital. She’d apparently had a stroke. (Or a legion of carnivorous scarab beetles had finally eaten through her sarcophagus.) I wouldn’t be going to piano lessons for several weeks. Pity.

About three weeks later, my mom said that Mrs. S had been called home. I figured that either meant heaven or Luxor. Half of me felt joy, and the other half of me – the hard-working, Midwestern, Protestant half – felt guilty that I felt joy. I kept all of my feelings to myself. Nothing could set off my parents faster than even the mere perception that I was being disrespectful to an adult. (Or to the memory of one.) 

Ten-plus years later, my mom, sister and I were taking a stroll down memory lane. Mrs. S’s name came up, and I said that the nasty, old harpy should not have been allowed in the same room with children, let alone giving them piano lessons. As if on cue, my mom leapt to Mrs. S’s defense, citing her Julliard pedigree. As if being formally educated makes one a decent person.

My mom said Mrs. S shouldn’t be judged so harshly, especially given the gruesome circumstances of her death.

“Gruesome? What’s so gruesome about a stroke?” I asked.

This elicited howls of laughter from my sister.

“Oh, my God, after all these years – you never told her?” she asked my mom.

My mom shook her head.

“Heidi, you goofball,” said Laura, “Mrs. S went down to her basement, stood on a chair, stuck her head in a noose, and shot herself! She was really depressed over her mother’s death -- or maybe she just couldn’t take your playing!”

Friday, September 11, 2015


Wynwood, Miami’s former garment district, has become a globally-recognized destination for art, food, and one of Miami’s most desirable areas for creative industry.

However, the neighborhood’s evolution has been slowed by existing land development regulations. After commissioning a master plan, the Wynwood business Improvement District and the City’s Planning Department have put in motion the Wynwood Neighborhood Revitalization District, an overlay zoning district designed to incentivize redevelopment while retaining Wynwood’s unique industrial chic character and mural arts component. 

This Session highlights the collaborative planning process between stakeholders and the innovative tools used to achieve planning goals and objectives.

Presenters: Steve Wernick, Esq.; David I. Polinsky, Ph.D; Juan Mullerat, AIA Assoc., APA, CNU

                                                                      Juan Mullerat


Monday, September 7, 2015



PlusUrbia Design championed relaxed parking for Little Havana and other core areas of Miami where small infill development was stalled because of existing Miami 21 structured parking requirements. wrote about our concept being adopted by a City Board:

This is the editorial, published more than half a year ago, where PlusUrbia's Juan Mullerat made a case for waiving parking for infill development on small, infill lots.

The average American uses 900 square feet for parking each day. The average apartment is 982 square feet. That means North Americans use almost as much room for cars as for homes. Miami’s gluttonous parking habit, and the way the city’s zoning code deals with this problem, discourages small-scale development that could greatly improve its many neighborhoods.

Miami21, the city’s zoning code, regulates development with sequential intensities assigned to zones. Simply put: The less intense the zone, the smaller the development allowed — Zone 3 allows only single family houses, while Zone 6 is assigned to areas such as Downtown and Brickell. Miami21 allocates all the ingredients for development: density, open space, building size, street frontage and green space sequentially depending on its zone. But it does not do this with parking.

Parking requirements are determined by building uses, not by a zone’s density/intensity. That means that generally, a five-bedroom home in Morningside (Zone 3) has the same parking requirements (1.5 spaces) as a studio apartment in Brickell (Zone 6). However, the Morningside mansion can typically accommodate six cars in driveways and garages, while the Brickell studio may use only one or none.
While Miami21 encourages urban infill redevelopment, we currently see few small-scale buildings that long defined the city. Few neighborhood-scaled mid- and low-rise projects are being developed, largely because of their parking demands. Intense super-block developments dominate the real-estate market because they can exploit their super size to cover their parking structures’ building costs.
Miami’s code rewards these behemoths by applying a use-based sharing ratio that exponentially reduces required parking as the building gets larger.

Additionally, a required driveway consumes about 25 percent of a small parcel’s frontage. On a superblock, it may be less than 1 percent. This difference alone can kill a small-scale project. Small property owners will often wait to be bought out by developers assembling land for mega developments, as it is rarely feasible to develop small buildings because of their parking requirements.

The result is dozens of neighborhoods blighted with vacant lots and dilapidated small buildings. There is no incentive for small-scale development, which arguably weathers real estate’s cyclical booms and busts better than mega developments that crash to a halt when the economy slows.
Cities are living, breathing organisms made up of distinctly unique neighborhoods. They cannot survive on a diet of superblocks.

To promote the healthy evolution of diverse places, the Miami21 code requires constant attention. Surgical amendments to the code address local conditions and enable growth addressing land use, open space, accessibility and infrastructure conscious of its context.

Wynwood, for example, a warehouse district undergoing significant change, has required district-specific code modifications to facilitate its transformation into an arts hub. Every district and neighborhood requires different calibration to remain unique. The code needs to be adjusted to address the different nuances and shifting market trends of each area. Zoning must be an enabler, not a hindrance to the evolution of a city.

Miami21 establishes a strong framework code for the city of Miami to guide growth. But its parking requirements must be revisited to build human-scaled developments on thousands of vacant lots that should be brought to life with housing, jobs, services and activity.
Miami’s parking blues can be fixed by applying several methods at the city’s disposal, including better public transportation and especially the expansion of the fee-in-lieu program that allows developers to pay into a parking fund.

That system, already used in parts of the city, builds garages that serve multiple developments — in lieu of the burden of creating onsite parking. Miami needs to revisit, with precision, ways to encourage development opportunities for these small urban parcels.

The first major fix should be to base parking requirements and sharing ratio reductions by both land use and its increasing density and intensity (from the suburban Zone 3 up to the Brickell skyscraper Zone 6) allowed in the Miami21 code.

Juan Mullerat, an urban designer with two decades of international experience, is principal at PlusUrbia Design in Coconut Grove.