ICSC @Florida: Brightline expansion creates new opportunities for Transit Oriented Design

With the completion of Brightline’s Miami-to-Orlando segment later this year and future expansion west to Tampa, Central Florida will see a wave of new mixed-use development being built in and around transit stations.

Brightline President Patrick Goddard told an audience at the ICSC @Florida conference that the Sunshine State is playing catch-up to areas of the country with mature mass transit systems.


“We have to embrace culturally, this concept of a car alternative lifestyle,” he said. “I used to say a car-free lifestyle, and then I remembered I was in Florida and no one’s ever gonna give up their car — at least not for a while. But I do think we can offer a car alternative lifestyle … You know people will use the train are used alternative transportation once or twice a week. That’s how we start to win. And and and in order to make that happen. What we believe is the experience needs to be great. The technology needs to be great. It needs to be as easy to book a multimodal trip.”

ICSC brought together a panel of experts on Transit Oriented Design for the Florida conference. Seated left to right are Peter LePointe, president of Grass River Porperty, Shaz Mirshahidi, senior project manager with RSP Architects, Brightline Trains President Patrick Goddard and Rod Castan, Principal of Metro Commercial. Jillian Bandes with Bandes Construction moderated the discussion.

For the panel on Transit Oriented Design (TOD), Goddard was joined by the developer and architect behind the 1-million-square-foot multimodal Grove Central development in Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood. The mixed-use project embraces Miami’s Metrorail station and incorporates bus and shared ride transfers into a dynamic assemblage of retail, hotel, and transportation.


RSP Architect’s Shaz Mirshahidi said that mixing housing, retail, recreation and employment into one cohesive development brings a layer of complexity beyond a typical mixed-use project. The development needs to draw car traffic and pedestrian traffic to be successful. At Grove Central, the project also includes a 23-story residential tower with over 400 units.

Circulation within the TOD development is critical to the overall design. “Whether you are a resident of the project or you’re a visitor, you need to be able to locate and navigate through every use of the project at your own convenience,” Mishahidi said. At Grove Central, the design team paid special attention to the pedestrian experience by creating covered walkways throughout the project linking the rail station to the retail uses.

“The other thing that is another topic that not everybody wants to talk about is trash and service area in TOD projects. So how do we address that?” she said. “Where do we locate so you don’t interrupt the pedestrian paths? Or where you have a residential component, you don’t want to have units overlooking trash or service area.”

The other key to successful TOD developments is providing plenty of parking for commuters, retail customers and residents. Rod Castan, principal at Metro Commercial said Grove Central built a 5-story parking garage with 1,250 spaces. “So one thing the developer did here that was very useful — they didn’t forget about cars,” he said. The first two levels are connected to retail anchors Total Wine, Target and Sprouts. Level three serves the fitness center and other retail uses. Level four is for residents, while level 5 is designated long-term parking for daily commuters.

Finally, Goddard said that successful TOD projects will rely on interconnectivity among transit systems. In South Florida, Brightline has expanded its rider network by allowing Miami-Dade and Broward county’s commuter rail systems to utilize its tracks.

“Similarly here in Central Florida, we have an active dialogue with a number of partners, including SunRail, about how SunRail today runs north-south and doesn’t connect to the airport or the theme park areas or the convention center. And that’s a problem that they need to solve,” he said. “We, on the other hand, they’re going to be traveling east-west from the airport across to Tampa, and we’re going to be able to provide that connectivity. So this is an opportunity for the state to leverage investments that we’re making to be able to enable mobility for their community. And those are the kinds of conversations need to happen.”

Brightline, SunRail and Universal reached a consensus in May to join forces to create a $1 billion east-west line from Orlando International Airport west to the convention center area. Universal and I Drive Partners pledged $125 million for rail and station construction, 13 acres for a station site and guaranteed annual ticket sales and maintenance funding for the “Sunshine Corridor.”

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