Eric Katz, MURP ’13, Named Winner of Our Miami Public Space Challenge
Eric Katz is a 2013 graduate of the Master of Urban & Regional Planning program and a grant specialist and urban planner at Millennial Planning and Development, LLC. Just after graduating in the summer of 2013, Eric submitted a project proposal to the Miami Foundation’s Our Miami Public Space Challenge. His submission, The M-Path Park Project, was named one of 10 winners to receive funding from the Miami Foundation. Learn more about the project and make a contribution to it at its ioby.org crowdfunding page.
Eric took time from his busy schedule for a Q & A with his alma mater:
Can you describe your winning proposal? What is your driving force, inspiration and vision for the space?
The M-Path Park Project is a proposed public space enhancement that will occur on an open piece of land that resides underneath the Miami-Dade metrorail. The space is located in between the Dadeland North Metrorail station and Dadeland Mall, with the M-Path cutting right through the space. The M-Path is a 9 mile bike lane that rides underneath the Metrorail from Dadeland to the Brickell station. It was originally built as a service road until the past few years when the space was re-imagined as a lush green-way for bikes and other modes of mobility. When considering the multitude of necessary ingredients needed for a true Transit Oriented Development (high density, mixed use zoning, strong commercial presence, two nearby light rail stations, bus-way, busy US-1, and a range of socio-economic backgrounds in the vicinity), I felt Dadeland was in severe need of a green space that can serve as a community center for recreation, leisure, programs and events. A Pop-Up Park event is tentatively scheduled for March 31, 2014, National Take a Walk in the Park Day. I still need approval from Miami-Dade County and will announce when the date is official.
- At what moment did you first realized that this space needed a change? What kind of impact do you think your project will have on the community?
I grew up in this area, and it was witnessing Kendall’s suburban sprawl before my eyes that served as my greatest inspiration to learn urban planning. For years the M-path sparked my curiosity for its untapped potential to the South West Miami community. My goal is for M-Path Park to be a self-sustaining multi-modal park that can serve as an entertainment and recreational venue for Dadeland, Kendall, South Miami, Pinecrest and anyone else who would like to visit. Because it’s so interconnected with public transit, literally anyone from Florida City to Jupiter can come to this park without a car! Kendall is where I consider home and I would love for this community to have more of an opportunity to showcase its rich culture to the rest of South Florida.
- How did your educational background play into your proposal?
My educational background with FAU was invaluable and there is absolutely no way I would have won this competition if it wasn’t for the knowledge, skills and tools that the School Urban and Regional planning provided me. My MURP education provided me with the theoretical foundation, research techniques, GIS tools and graphic skills I needed to make my ideas tangible and communicative to others. It was no secret throughout my graduate experience that I was fascinated with the Metrorail and my professors and advisors continued to help me tailor my curriculum track to achieve these personal goals.
- What are the next steps to making this proposal a reality?
I'm happy to announce that my grant agreement with The Miami Foundation was signed and turned in today. The grant will soon be donated through the ioby.org crowd-resourcing website https://ioby.org/project/m-path-park-project. I still have a few thousand dollars more to raise on my own before we can have the pop-up park event. Between now and March 31, the proposed dated, I will be fundraising, planning, designing, coordinating community meetings, and meeting with government agencies and non-profit organizations. I have an amazing team of family, friends and colleagues helping me in this effort. I formally invite FAU SURP and Planning Society to partner in this endeavor at any capacity.
- What advice do you have for the current and future students in SURP to get their ideas and voices heard?
Take your academic experience seriously. Read everything, write the best papers you have ever written, challenge yourself to learn something new (whether it be GIS software, graphic software, quantitative analysis, anthropology, history, architecture, engineering, grants, government, non-profit organizations, economics, etc.). Your class presentations may be the most important skill you gain. And finally, get involved with your community and think big!