Establishing a Nexus for Community

Miami’s civic commons 2021 in pictures


The Underline’s first phase opened in February 2021. Image credit: Sam Perzan, 2021.

The past year has served to reconfirm the importance of a robust, nature-rich public realm that is welcoming to all. From health and wellbeing to environmental and economic resiliency, our parks, trails, libraries and community centers are critical civic infrastructure that provide multi-faceted benefits for communities. Today, the eighth in our series of photo essays reflecting on public space efforts in cities across the country, features The Underline in Miami.

The Underline is a 10-mile linear park that, once complete in 2026, will be a 120-acre green space and urban trail that will be accessible to residents across Miami-Dade County. Since the opening on February 26, 2021, The Underline Brickell Backyard has attracted over 2 million visitors, planted 30,000 native trees and plants, hosted more than 50 free events, and unveiled three public art installations. Due to its location beneath the Metrorail, The Underline is easily accessible and not only serves those within walking distance of the park but also a large cross-section of residents throughout the county. Through innovative urban trails and creative programming, The Underline is connecting people to their environment and each other to create a safe, healthy, equitable, and sustainable community.

The Underline hosted its first in-person Community Connection Meeting in October. Image courtesy of The Underline.

Serving as a true public square

At the beginning of 2021, The Underline’s community outreach team began hosting quarterly Community Connection meetings. Throughout the year it convened, informed, and engaged 175 community members from around The Brickell Backyard. In October, The Underline held its first in-person gathering, hosted in partnership with Miami-Dade County District 5 Commissioner Eileen Higgins and Brickell Living social group. As the community outreach team transitions to in-person meetings, it is strategically partnering with organizations who have demonstrated strong community connections so that they may amplify their voice and engage new populations on The Underline. With a Game Night theme, a group of 55 community members enjoyed a hybrid town hall/social mixer featuring: beach ball, Jenga, ping pong, informative community updates and complimentary light bites by a local business Rice Mediterranean Kitchen. Additional dynamic Community Connection meetings are on the way in 2022 with national sponsors, such as GoPuff, a billion-dollar consumer goods and food delivery company, looking to support these efforts.

Phase 2 of The Underline broke ground in 2021. Rendering credit: GSLA 2021. Image courtesy of The Underline.

The next phase breaks ground

In December, local Miami residents joined Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava in celebrating the groundbreaking of The Underline’s Phase 2 and a $5 million donation to support an endowment for ongoing maintenance and management of its walking and cycling trails from Citadel Founder and CEO Ken Griffin. The team is grateful for the partnerships supporting its mission to create a 10-mile linear park, urban trail, and public art destination.

Day in the Dirt is a monthly planting and stewardship program. Image courtesy of The Underline.

Green thumbs at work

Day in the Dirt is a volunteer-led event on the Underline held the 1st Saturday of every month to support The Underline’s plantings. The Underline is managed by a non-profit conservancy that relies on volunteers to help support the operations, programming and maintenance of its park. Get your hands dirty for a good cause. The monthly efforts engage community members to become stewards of The Underline’s native plantings and pollinator gardens.

Ice Cold Youth, one of the businesses supported by Budding Entrepreneurs, a collaboration of The Underline, Miami Dade College and The Children’s Trust. Image courtesy of The Underline.

A platform for encouraging entrepreneurs

In partnership with Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus, The Underline developed a 16-week curriculum encouraging local teens to dream up an idea for a business start-up. Then, 10 business proposals were selected through a “Shark Tank” format to launch over the summer. Through Budding Entrepreneurs, students were tasked with creating a business that would both develop community while providing goods and services in an open space. The winning business owner, Delfina Incani with Bird Box, received a $2,000 college scholarship to support her future. The students were the beneficiaries of an Innovation Grant partnership funded by The Children’s Trust.

Family Day at The Underline is a monthly kid-friendly series. Image courtesy of The Underline.

Family fun at The Underline

The Underline kicked off Family Day at The Underline, an all-day fun-filled, kid-friendly series that takes place the third Saturday of every month. Launched in October, the programming featured multi-disciplinary art classes for children inspired by The Underline’s flora and fauna followed by Building Blocks, a pop-up life-sized LEGO-esque playground in the Brickell Backyard Urban Gym. To date, more than 200 families have participated in the events, which will continue through May 2022.

The Underline Holiday Village supported local small businesses. Image courtesy of The Underline.

A new holiday tradition

In December, The Underline partnered with Florida International University and Bank of America to host the Inaugural Small Business Holiday Village. The focus of the Village was to support local, minority-owned businesses by giving them free space and marketing support to help sell their products on The Underline. To create a festive atmosphere, The Underline provided music and entertainment by local bands, including the Booker T. Washington High School Band.

Reimagining the Civic Commons is a collaboration of The JPB Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, William Penn Foundation, and local partners.