BY MEG DALY, September 15, 2020

Some people have called the era of COVID-19 “the great pause,” but I’m beginning to think that it’s the great accelerator.

As industry slowed, people became more active. With parks closed, kids home from school and fewer cars on the road, people took to the streets, sidewalks and trails as a way to exercise safely outdoors. On the future Underline, a 10-mile linear park, civic project and trail below Metrorail, the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization documented that people were walking and biking on the “MPath” at unprecedented levels.

Many of us are reflecting: Are we at a moment that will change the way we work, live and play for generations to come? And will this change be equitable, offering the same opportunities and value to all residents?

To explore this question, Friends of the Underline launched a virtual program called Miami Voices. Each Wednesday over seven weeks, we examined a different topic about change during COVID-19. We talked about challenging topics such as equity and diversity. We had promising conversations observing how humans adapt to isolation by walking and biking. We shared how our collective yearning for parks and public spaces will shift priorities in future investment. We wondered if the development of parks can spark equitable development that serves everyone regardless of income.

Our guests’ backgrounds were varied: medical professionals, county park and economic development leaders, the founder of the Miami Marathon, local and national foundation leaders, landscape designers and artists. However, they shared a common commitment to bettering humanity and community.

We are living in challenging times. But history has taught us that from adversity comes opportunity and innovation. Telehealth is treating people from their homes, people are taking Pilates classes in their living rooms and The Miami Ballet is performing in a storefront. We talked about the innovative move to close Ocean Drive to support social distancing while also providing outdoor dining space for restaurants. We agreed that technology will forever change the way we meet, but that it will not replace personal interaction and demand for gathering spaces.

Experiencing these magical virtual salons with Miami’s most progressive thinkers was inspiring and lifted me up during our “groundhog days.”

Throughout our dialogue, it was clear, Miamians are resilient and able to adapt. We will make it through this pandemic, and our community can be better if we listen to the lessons of our challenges. I value so many of the comments that came out of our discussions with 21 of Miami’s leading stakeholders over seven weeks:

“People want to reclaim their streets and give them back to pedestrians and bikers.” Frankie Ruiz, founder Lifetime Miami Marathon

“For the first time, a broad swath of Miami felt like the street was for them.” Azhar Chougle, executive director, Transit Alliance

“Having access to a green public space is paramount to the health of communities, but some people in our community are left out.” Arturo Nunez, founder, AIE Creative

“People of color and lower income communities are feeling less connected. How do we reposition our public assets in a more equitable way?” Lilly Weinberg, director of Community Foundations, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

“Open spaces attract investment. It’s important to employers, employees and creates a vibrant community.” Michael Finney, president & CEO, Miami-Dade Beacon Council

“Public open spaces connect people with the environment and the natural assets of the community.” Kona Gray, principal, EDSA

“Great parks are in great cities. You heard it here first: The Highline in New York, Millennium Park in Chicago, and now The Underline in Miami.” Miami-Dade County Commissioner Dennis Moss.

Solving issues of health, transportation, equitable access, public spaces, housing, green spaces, resiliency and creativity is a heavy lift. It can take time to mobilize around them. However, during the time of COVID, we seemed to solve problems quicker than ever. Could the human spirit be at its best under duress?

One theme surfaced: We must demand more accessible, public green spaces. Residents and elected officials must come together to prioritize not just the construction, but also the long-term maintenance, of parks and trails that improve our quality of life and public health. In terms of transportation, our future is not just one car, one person. We must plan our streets to be flexible public spaces designed for all modes of transportation for all people of all ages.

Miami Voices provided insight into the importance of not only advocating for these solutions, but also creating a forum to allow for this much-needed discussion to take place. To that end, The Underline encourages new and current elected officials to invest in a greener, healthier more equitable and resilient Miami-Dade County.

Click to read more on The Miami Herald here.


City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez toured the progress made on the construction of the Underline’s Phase 1, Brickell Backyard, Tuesday, August 25th, 2020 — a project that will turn the land below Miami’s MetroRail into a 10-mile park spanning from the Miami River to Dadeland South Station. “It should be open in the fall, sometime in October, hopefully,” Suarez said. “It has a beautiful garden, a butterfly garden, and it’s going to have exercise equipment.”

🔗 See and read more here on Channel 10.

On Tuesday, 7/14, Mayor Valdes Fauli and Commissioners Lago, Fors, Keon, and Mena unanimously passed a resolution to match Miami-Dade County’s landmark $22.3 Million Federal BUILD grant secured in 2019 with a $7 million commitment from the City of Coral Gables.  The legislation, sponsored by Vice Mayor Vince Lago, provides a sum certain amount to be paid to Miami-Dade County by 2024 to be used for the construction of The Underline in Coral Gables. 

Read Miami-Dade County’s press release here for more information. 

Our pro-bono attorney, Daniel Balmori, has recently published an article in the Daily Business Review studying the correlation between infrastructure improvement and healing communities.

As Congress works on FAST Act and the INVEST in America Act legislation, both specific to US infrastructure investment, the focus is on new capital projects. What a lot of people don’t realize is that repurposing of existing infrastructure is also valuable. For example, the High Line in New York, Beltline in Atlanta, and The Underline in Miami are new facilities built from either abandoned or underutilized spaces and infrastructure.  

These types of projects are popping around the country, both in large and smaller markets.  While the focus has been on economic return on investment, which is substantial.  These projects are also revitalizing communities that were, in many cases, divided by interstates, railways, and major roadways.  This repurposed infrastructure provides community-building, public spaces and multi-modal options to residents including mass-transit, roads, multi-use trails, and greenspace.

To read the complete article click here.

The Underline has issued an Addendum to Request for Proposals (“RFP”) for Security Services for the first phase of The Underline, The Brickell Backyard.  Please click on the links below to access Addendum 1 and the updated RFP. Please note that the changes made in Addendum 1 are minor and for clarification purposes only.  To access the questions and answers received to date, please click on the link below:

All proposals for RFP 20-02 are due no later 5:00 pm on July 20, 2020.

Click here for Addendum 1

Click here for the Updated RFP

Click here for the Questions and Answers

The Underline Management Organization Issues ADDENDUM 2 to RFP 20-1, the Request For Proposals (“RFP”) For Grounds Maintenance and Porter Services

The Underline Management Organization (d/b/a The Underline Conservancy) has issued Addendum 2 to RFP 20-1 for the RFP for Grounds Maintenance and Porter Services. This addendum makes minor changes for clarification purposes only.  Please click on the links below to see updated information contained in Addendum 1 and Addendum 2:

3) The Updated RFP that reflects both addenda
All Proposals are due Friday, July 17, 2020 by no later than 5pm. Please consult the RFP for all other important details.

Change is in the air—as the world struggles under the weight of a pandemic and social unrest, we are hopeful that there will be positive outcomes.  

Something positive is coming.
Meanwhile, construction of our first half mile in the Brickell community is marching to completion. The native plantings are already attracting butterflies and birds. After seven years of public input, design concepts, construction and preparation for this moment, it is finally happening.  And we are excited and a little nervous.  We are eager to share The Underline with you this fall. 

Bringing The Underline to you

In anticipation of our opening, our partners have joined us in producing “Bringing The Underline to You” videos to offer a glimpse of what you can expect. Our first video, “Walking, together” features Yolanda Berkowitz of Friends of Miami Animals Foundation. Click here to find out all the reasons why you will want to walk your dog on The Underline.


Miami Voices,
Health together tomorrow


Tune in at 1 PM, tomorrow, Wednesday, July 1st for the premiere of Miami Voices, a 20-minute rapid-fire, virtual discussion about COVID-19 and public health. Sign up here now.

Hear from guests Frankie Ruiz founder of the Life Time Miami Marathon, Jessi Berrin of Baptist Health South Florida moderated by Fernanda Kuchkarian of Health Foundation of South Florida as they discuss how we are walking and biking more and if we will continue to do that post-COVID-19?
About Miami Voices.
From a global pandemic to racial equity, the past 4 months have tested the resiliency of communities throughout the world while forcing us to look at critical issues. These issues are wide ranging from public health, to affordability, equity and mobility. How will we respond to these issues? Will we change our behaviors long term? And is there the possibility of a silver lining?

Each week community leaders and subject experts will talk about Miami and change.  The next “Miami Voices, Moving, together” will be July 8th on Facebook Live. Stay tuned for info.

Stay mentally and
physically fit


Join Friends of The Underline, Baptist Health South Florida and the Downtown Development Authority for Midweek Mindfulness tomorrow, Wednesday July 1st at 3 PM (register here). This free 15-minute virtual meditation is led by Breath Specialist, Christina Casado.

Wear The Underline, together!

Wear The Underline and support our mission.

Can’t wait for The Underline to open this fall? Why not wear it now? You can buy an Underline mask, shirt or cap and also support our mission and vision. Plus if you make a $125 donation to The Underline through August 1st, we’ll send you one of our cool masks.

Buy Underline merchandise here.

The new positions, funded by the Knight Foundation, provide additional organization and structure as the project nears opening

Friends of The Underline (FUL), a 501C3 non-profit organization advocating to transform the underutilized land below Miami’s Metrorail into a 10-mile linear park, urban trail and public art destination, announced it has hired a new chief operations officer and chief technology officer to support the administration activities for the project. Both positions included an extensive hiring process and hundreds of applicants.

Patrice Gillespie Smith was appointed as COO and brings more than 20 years of experience as an urban planner working to build communities that are walkable, livable and resilient.  Prior to joining The Underline, she served as the Sr. Manager of Planning, Transportation and Resilience for the Miami DDA; led Neat Streets Miami and developed the Safer People, Safer Streets Action Plan and the Miami Dade Complete Streets Guidelines. Patrice also has executed transportation solutions in Seattle, St. Louis and Columbus, OH.

The role of CTO will be filled by Breanna Faye who has spent over a decade working at the intersection of architecture, design and technology throughout in the U.S., South America, Asia, and the Middle East.  A trained architect turned technologist, she has worked globally with organizations such as IDEO, MIT Media Lab, Dubai Future Foundation, and most recently Museum of Ice Cream where she was VP of Experiential Technology. She has overseen projects spanning the future of work, IoT, smart mobility, buildings and cities.

Funding for the positions comes from a grant that was awarded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in September 2019.  The foundation has been one of The Underline’s earliest and most active supporters donating nearly $2 million since 2015.

“As we near the opening of Phase I and prepare for facility operations, Patrice and Breanna add a new dimension of experience, knowledge and organization to our efforts,” said Meg Daly, President and CEO for Friends of The Underline.  “Building our capacity will help us leverage the momentum the Board has created and start delivering a world-class park for all of Miami to enjoy.”

The first phase of The Underline, The Brickell Backyard, is scheduled to open this fall.

About The Underline

The Underline is a planned 10-mile urban trail, linear neighborhood park and public art destination that will span from the Miami River, north of Brickell Metrorail station, to Dadeland South. The Underline project will feature dedicated bike and pedestrian paths, amenities, art, programming, lighting, native vegetation as well as safety features and improvements at road crossings. The Underline will be built in phases, the first of which will begin in the Brickell area. For more information visit, and/or follow them on social on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @theunderlinemia.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit

By Meg Daly, Friends of The Underline CEO/President

With cars off the roads, we have taken to the streets and sidewalks walking and biking in droves. Bike sales have surged with The Guardian declaring “Bicycles are the new toilet paper: bike sales boom as coronavirus lockdown residents crave exercise.” A recent Reuters article says that US bike sales have boomed with bikes being considered essential transportation. And, back home in Miami on the MPath, the future Underline, neighborhood residents have doubled their use of the current narrow trail to get outdoors alone and with their families.
With the global shift to walking and biking during the coronavirus crisis, cities like Paris have added miles of new temporary bike lanes to build capacity, and cities from Bogota to Oakland are closing streets to make room for pedestrians and bikers.A flurry of articles explore a larger question: Could this crisis create an opportunity to remake our cities? Many experts think we would be healthier if our cities had more room for bicyclists and pedestrians. “Urbanists see a chance to save city dwellers not just from the sweep of a pandemic, but from the auto-centric culture that has dominated urban life for decades. They want to prioritize the movement of people, pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, and their ilk-over cars,” says Wired Magazine.

And what does this mean for Miami? Certainly, projects like The Underline provide a large swath of safe, off-road, navigable trails for all ages and levels of ability. It provides a spine that connects to other off-road trails including Ludlam Trail and Miami River Greenway––and also connects to the popular Rickenbacker trail. In other words, we have an opportunity to be a city that embraces walkability and bikeability to ultimately be more resilient for future generations.

Let’s do this, together.

Photo courtesy Carl Kafka Photography 2020