Follow by Email

Monday, July 31, 2017



Paused to take a picture of a bakery opening to sell special loaves for Ramazan, when I saw this 60s-looking street art.

Wish I could share the back story, but I don't know it.

Certainly, in times of Trump and other leaders who corrupted elections to deny democracy while edging toward dictatorship, a poignant piece of art.

Ironic that it's on a street, named for a general who fought both for the Ottoman Empire and in the war of Turkish Independence.

Wonder if the artist did that on purpose, or if was just a blank wall big enough to host his political message in the form of eye-catching street art.

Sunday, July 30, 2017



PlusUrbia Design proud to lead this visioning workshop.

Stay tuned for an action plan to improve the commercial core and beyond.

Thanks to the BID for its support.

Thanks to partners Perkins+Will and Metric Engineering.

Great turnout -- packed house for half a day!

Wonderful to see so many old friends and to make so many new ones.

Very diverse group at the workshop.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Hialeah TOD selected for APA Florida Award of Merit


PlusUrbia Design’s vision for Transit Oriented Development (TOD) in South Florida has been selected for an American Planning Association (APA) of Florida Award of Merit in the Neighborhood Planning category.

The prestigious statewide honor recognizes the studio’s collaboration with the City of Hialeah’s Planning Department to create more than 300 acres of compact, walkable, mixed-use development connected to a pair of commuter rail stations.

The plan, unanimously approved by the City Council and fully implemented, crafted guidelines that transition two warehouse districts into vibrant communities.

The 24-hour communities create civic space, jobs and affordable/attainable housing for young professionals, empty nesters and families. Developers are already entitling land within the new guidelines.

“This couldn’t have been accomplished without the visionary leadership of Hialeah’s Mayor, Council Members and Planning Department,’’ – Maria Bendfeldt, Project Director.

“We look forward to exporting the innovations created for this project to hundreds of Florida cities that could benefit from TOD regulations and urban design for main street corridors.”

The TOD is anchored by Tri-Rail’s Market Station and Transfer Station, which also connects with Metrorail and Amtrak – enabling commuting to regional employment hubs. These new districts will increase city tax base while featuring some of the best rail connectivity in all of South Florida.

The award will be presented during APA’s statewide conference in September, in Daytona Beach – where PlusUrbia’s Juan Mullerat and Megan McLaughlin will be key presenters on healthy urban design and revitalization.

Friday, July 28, 2017


DOs and DO NOTs


Go to Kadikoy -- the best port to visit on the Asian side.

Walk less than a kilometer, to the blocks and blocks of open air markets. 

Get meze (tapas) or Lahmacun, a very flat crispy dough with minced meat on it.

You roll it up with fresh basil and salad….kinda like folding over a slice pizza in NYC. 

While in Kadikoy, find the nostalgic tram and take it to MODA. 

Moda is upper middle class families – like Park Slope and hipsters – like Williamsburg….expect everything is 1/4 the cost of NYC.  

Shop for vintage clothes, go to the tea gardens overlooking the point where the Bosphorus Straits spill into the Sea of Marmara.


Confuse Karikoy -- the waterfront part of Galata, which has both touristy restaurants on the water, then some of the best young chef-driven restaurants toward the former industrial port -- with Kadikoy on the Asian side.

Though both are top 12 spots to visit via ferry.

Thursday, July 27, 2017


DOs and  DO NOTs


Go to the Eminonu docks.

Your transportation smart card works at every ferry station.

Ferries are still a major source of transportation.

It’s like 50 Staten Island ferries all in use at the same time, honking, ringing bells, belching smoke - -what cities are about. 

The destination and time of departure is clearly listed.

You really don’t need English speaking assistance.


Get conned into going to the modern malls in the suburbs.

Unless your shoes break beyond repair and you really need to get a new pair at a familiar chain, there is no reason to go to the rich kid, European-leaning mega malls that start in Nisantasi, Sisli and continue halfway up through condo canyons to the Black Sea.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


DOs and DO NOTs


Expect a lot more from Turkish cuisine that pita, doner kebap, hummus and similar Mediterranean/Middle East fare.

Fish, caught in the nearby Black Sea and Sea of Marmara, is divine.

Go for Turbot.

It’s not like Mediterranean Turbot.

It has sharp disks on its outer skin -- and is served whole.

But it is superior because the black sea is less salty, so the meat is more succulent.


Go home without going up to a (city licensed) street vendor selling street food.

Best bets:

Simits -- wider, flatter sesame seed bagels without cream cheese.

Misir -- corn on the cob, roasted or boiled.

Kestane -- chestnuts, roasted, best at night when the cool breezes drift in off the Bosphorus.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


DOs and DO NOTs


Go to a hamam.

You will do no better than Kılıç Ali Paşa. 

For about 50 bucks, you will get a full treatment. 

An ill-advised road widening demolished the women’s bath.

So now it’s females sun up till 4 p.m., males 4:30 p.m. till an hour before midnight.

It is clean, comfortable, authentic and designed by Sinan, the greatest Islamic architect of all time.

It’s next to a fabulous mosque and footsteps from the Tophane station of the T1 tram line.

Some very artsy, creative restaurants are between Ali Pasa Hamami and the nearby Bosphorus -- for that limonata and tost after the pampering Turkish Bath experience.


Go to the Turkish Bath on Sultanahmet plaza.

It caters only to tourists.

The cheapest treatment is about 100 USD and it’s over before you know it.

The well-located bath is beautiful inside and out, but skip it.

Also avoid the Galatasaray Hamam.

It is convenient on the Beyoglu side of town, but is a tourist trap.

Staff will rush you, then nail you for a 30 USD tip when a Turk is giving them a less than 30 Turkish Lira tip.

Monday, July 24, 2017


DOs and DO NOTs


Ride the T1 tram across the Galata Bridge to Beyoglu.

Beyoglu is the “new” city across the Golden Horn.

New as in a tower there is hundreds of years old.

But it’s older than the Old City.
Get off at the Karikoy stop, use the underpass and get on the world’s 2nd oldest subway – a one-stop funicular up the hill.

When you get out, if you walk a tiny bit back down the hill past the souvenir shops you will be in one of the youngest hippest areas – Tunel. 

If head north after exiting the funicular, you are on the pedestrian Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue).

It’s about a kilometer long and is the old Parisian style area of the old upper middle class.

It has chain stores, street vendors, pastry shops, great architecture, state run cheap book stores and historic sites all over.

The midpoint of the avenue, where Galatasaray Lycee sits, is a great place to head off on a side alley and walk the back streets of Beyoglu.

It ends at Taksim Square.


Stay in Taksim Square.

Though it is well-located for transit and a public park away from a smattering of chain-flagged hotels, the fringe of Taksim after dark is getting seedy.

Sunday, July 23, 2017


DOs and DO NOTs


Buy a museum card.

It’s good for five days and costs 85 Turkish Lira -- about $25 USD.

Go to two museums and it pays for itself.

It also lets you cut the line.

The pass includes Topkapi, Ayasofya and many other top-drawer cultural treasures.


Engage in a conversation with a man speaking English around the famous museums and Blue Mosque.

He will tell you the mosque is closed (you cannot visit during the 5 prayer times, but he will fib about it being closed all day).

He is a carpet tout.

He will offer you tea (far superior to Turkish coffee).

He will try to sell you a pricey Turkish carpet – even if you tell him you are allergic to the fabric.

For a “free” 1 TL tea, you will get a sales pitch for half an hour.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


DOs and DO NOTs


Explore the informal markets that pop up on streets, alleys in car parks and all over.
The Sunday market in Ferikoy is legendary and can be reached via subway and 1 KM walk.

Ortakoy’s fashion-oriented Thursday evening market takes you to a famous waterside mosque.


Expect to buy anything but souvenirs at the Grand Bazaar.

The only exception is silver, which is sold by weight no matter how much craftsmanship has gone into forging the final bracelet, necklace, etc.

If you pay more than 50 percent of the initial offer, you have likely made a fool of yourself and given the shopkeeper his day’s profit margin.

Friday, July 21, 2017


DOs and DO NOTs


Explore the narrow alleys around Sirkeci.

Sirkeci’s restaurants are half the price and three times the quality of Sultanahment (the area with Ayasofya, Topkapi, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome and Basilica Cistern).

Sirkeci has a T1 transit stop.

In two stops, you are at Sultanahmet.

In three, Cemberlitas and its markets.

In four – the Grand Bazaar.

So in a matter of minutes via low cost tram, you can be at all the historic attractions while sleeping and dining in more authentic Sirkeci.


Stay somewhere way up in the business districts of Sisli or Nisantasi.

Unless you are on a business trip and only will be meeting with multinational companies in those areas, don’t book your stay in these districts.

There is no tram service to them, the restaurants are very expensive and you will not be immersed in the daily life of Istanbul.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


DOs and DO NOTs


Consider staying in Sirkeci vs. Sultanahmet.

Sirkeci is named for the still-standing famous Ottoman train station that used to be the final stopping point of the Orient Express.

The working class area is still tourist-friendly (people will speak baby English to help you figure things out and backup menus in English are available).


Stay or eat, unless starving, in Sultanahmet. 

The 3 star hotels tend to have a flaw in Sultanahmet, be it offering over priced rooms or being too noisy.

Restaurants offer standard Turkish fare, but it’s not the real thing.

Sultanahmet restaurants cater purely to the tourist trade.

A pide will be an airport quality pizza.

A Lokantasi will be a 3rd rate steam table cafeteria.

The Baklava will be a week old.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


DOs and DO NOTs


Plan on using public transit.

Loading 50 Turkish Lira of a smart card will give you enough rides to use the subway, tram system, and ferries on the Bosphorus.

The smart card even covers the 1 Turkish Lira entry fee to a clean public restroom.

All mosques have public water closets.

They are spotless clean. 


Pay 40 euros for a car service from Ataturk Airport to your hotel.

Even if you are splitting it 4 ways, you are spending about 13 bucks each, plus driver tip, for a trip that will take twice as long as the train.

The subway is connected to the airport.

You can load up a smart card – with English directions – before entering the train.

You make one easy stop to the subway line that goes into the old city.

It’s about 1 USD for a one way subway ride.

Plus, you get to see neighborhoods, as the trains are above ground about half the ride in.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


DOs and DO NOTs


Stay at a mom and pop hotel.

The old city if flush with 50 room, family-operated 3 to 3.5 star hotels.

The room will be small but super clean and efficient.

Most have a terrace with views of Bosphorus, City, Sultanahmet Square, etc.

Some have very good Turkish breakfast – olives, peppers, cheeses, French bread, jams and my favorite – simits.

Hotel Niles is a favorite. It’s a 10-minute walk to the Grand Bazar and more important – the Beyazit Square T1 tram. 


Stay at a chain hotel.

With the decline in American and Western Tourism, there are plenty of flagged hotels with $100 USD rooms, which is tempting.

But you will have a cookie cutter building, lobby, room, common areas – yuck.

You want to stay like a Turk at a mom and pop place. 

Monday, July 17, 2017


DOs and DO NOTs


Fly Turkish Airlines.

The carrier is consistently voted the best in Europe.

Coach has decent leg room and a video screen with hundreds of movies and more – including subtitled Turkish cinema to get in the spirit of your journey.


Try to save a few hundred bucks roundtrip by doing a connecting flight.

From the Eastern Standard Time zone, you already are in the air 11 hours and losing 7 hours of time zone

Why prolong it another 4-6 hours with a stop, layover and change of planes in Paris, Frankfort, etc.?

Sunday, July 16, 2017



Fill out this survey to let us know more about your vision for Coconut Grove.

Visit PlusUrbia Design's website to begin the survey.

Attend the visioning workshop starting 9:30 a.m. July 29 at CocoWalk.

Saturday, July 15, 2017



A Glamour Hotel single room is small -- about 150 square feet. The bathrooms are extremely small.

But you're not in one of the world's greatest cities to linger in the room.

You simply want clean, quiet, convenient, well-staffed and efficient.

Glamour gets at least 4.5 stars of 5 in each of those categories.

A stay during Ramazan was about $60 per night -- taxes and breakfast included.

The area is amazingly quiet -- and Istanbul is a pretty noisy city.

The bedding was excellent -- comfortable as a 5-star palace and 3-star prices.

The AC worked fine and there was an empty mini fridge, which came in handy for storing bottled water, soda and gourmet chocolate.

The best thing is the restaurants are far less expensive than the more touristy Sultanahmet or Beyoglu areas.

The food is even better and you will be eating among locals in Hocapasa Mahallesi.

I'd venture to say that locals outnumbered visitors 4 to 1 on the narrow, pedestrian streets around the Glamour Hotel.

Friday, July 14, 2017



The Glamour Hotel is footsteps from the Sirkeci tram stop and very close to the Marmara Subway in the old Sirkeci Station that was the terminus for the famed Orient Express.

The Eminonu ferry docks are 5 minutes way.

The Glamour has a rooftop terrace with views of the Bosphorus and city.

The breakfast buffet, included with the room, is amazing.

Tons of breads, fruits, olives, cheeses, dips, salads, jams, pastries and more.

They actually have a real chef that oversees the 50+ item fresh buffet.

Wonderful Turkish tea is made to order. Juices and coffee also are included.

The front desk staff speaks excellent English and can give tips on what to pay for a taxi (so you don't get overly upcharged) and where to head on a rainy day.

Service is outstanding and rooms are spotless.

Thursday, July 13, 2017



Sirkeci is one of my favorite places in Istanbul.

You can walk five minutes and be at the many terminals that launch ferries to the Asian Side, the Princes Islands, up the Golden Horn and to many ports along the Bosphorus, all the way to the edge of the Black Sea.

There must be nearly 100 small hotels, almost all 3 star, family-operated places that have clean, quiet, well-located rooms for about $50 USD per day including breakfast and taxes.

There is a tram stop in Sirkeci that will take you to Topkapi Palace, Sultanahmet Plaza and just about anywhere you want to be in the old city.

It also crosses the Galata Bridge and takes you as far as Kabatas in Beyoglu.

The subway line is close by as well.

Glamour Hotel is an excellent budget hotel in Sirkeci.