At long last, The Underline heads for the Gables
Last month, Friends of The Underline and the Miami-Dade Department of Transportation & Public Works held a second round of public meetings where they unveiled tentative blueprints for Phase 3 of the linear park. Conceived and spearheaded by Coral Gables resident Meg Daly, The Underline’s reimagined spaces will be filled with community amenities through the last 7.36 miles of the path beneath the Metrorail, from Coconut Grove to Dadeland.
Phase 3 is composed of seven segments, three of which are within Coral Gables. The construction timeline for this final phase comprises two waves. The first wave will commence this September (with an estimated completion of October 2024) and includes the first Coral Gables segment between Douglas and LeJeune Roads.
Here you will see The Underline Plaza — consisting of food trucks, art installations, and an urban “beach” — directly south of the Douglas Metrorail Station. A second nearby amenity, which will be best enjoyed by our furry friends, is the Bark Park, located along Ponce de Leon Boulevard between LeJeune and Grand Avenue. It will include shade trees, an agility course, artificial turf, doggie tunnels, and seating areas.
The other two segments in Coral Gables (spanning from LeJeune to Red Road) will have to wait until the second stage of construction, slated to begin next March. The creation of rain gardens and stormwater ponds will improve resiliency and water quality while creating new habitats and outdoor spaces (with lots of opportunities for public art!). Other amenities include an “outdoor fitness room” behind the Gables Fire Station with a half basketball court and fitness stations; a water balcony over the Gables Waterway with waterside seating and kayak access; sport courts near Carrillo Street hosting pickleball, basketball, and soccer; and the Rock Ridge Plaza, an outdoor classroom and performance space just north of Stanford Drive.
Of the 12 amenities presented, eight will be in the City Beautiful. The designs may still be refined according to public feedback, and some are pending funding. Luckily for us, we won’t have to wait for construction to be finished to enjoy Phase 3; as each amenity is completed, it will be opened to the public.
Another key focus is creating safe multi-modal transportation via pedestrian and bike trails. The 10-foot-wide two-way bike path will have paved shoulders and a planted buffer to protect cyclists from US-1. Pedestrians can use a dedicated eight-foot-wide path. The project is improving 25 key intersections as well, including Douglas and LeJeune Roads, by straightening crossings, creating ample waiting spaces, and increasing cross times.
Greenery is at the center of The Underline, with inspiration coming from native plant communities in South Florida, like hammocks, pine rock lands, and sawgrass. The goal is to reintroduce native plants and create new habitats for birds and pollinators. When completed, Phase 3 will have added 350,000 new plants to the corridor and increased trees and palms by 62.5 percent to almost 4,000.
So, what’s next? The Underline team will implement some adjustments and finalize the design, which will be presented to the public during a third meeting, along with a more concrete construction schedule.