The High Line effect is well documented. Since Manhattan’s elevated park’s instantly successful opening in 2009, admirers have been converting former train lines into green space in Philadelphia, Chicago, Rotterdam and even farther afield. Importing this phenomenon to a more punishing climate like Miami’s, though, doesn’t require obsolete rail service to come true.
Which is just what Meg Daly realized a few years back as she traveled the Metrorail from University station to Coconut Grove with two broken arms. Going to and from physical therapy via elevated transit, the professional marketer and longtime High Line devotee recalls, “I was wowed by the width of the land underneath, the fact that it was lightly used and that it wasn’t hot.” Daly immediately imagined the Metrorail’s underbelly as a green refuge filled with paths, spots for lounging and public art. The Underline was born, and, just last week, announced James Corner Field Operations as master planner—the very same firm responsible for the High Line.
Despite picturing a linear park between Brickell and Dadeland South stations so sumptuously, Daly acknowledged the limits of a one-woman cause. “My career has prepared me for pushing hard to get something done, no matter how unrealistic the timetable may be,” she says, adding, “I also know the power of surrounding myself with people who know more about things I don’t know about.”
Indeed, since her epiphany, Daly has achieved twice the milestones in half the time. She created Friends of The Underline; populated the nonprofit with experts across disciplines; forged partnerships with Miami-Dade County Parks and Recreation and the Knight Foundation, among others; earned a powerhouse of endorsements; and produced concept designs for the 10-mile project with students from the University of Miami School of Architecture, overseen by professor and Friends of The Underline committee member Rocco Ceo.
Last month, the campaign took yet another step forward by selecting James Corner Field Operations as a design consultant to the Friends. The team’s master plan, which will incorporate the University of Miami’s ongoing visioning efforts, will be finalized by summer.
When The Underline itself is ultimately completed, it will be the largest below-rail trail in the nation. Daly wouldn’t mind being surpassed. “As city infrastructure dominates the landscape, we have to think about green spaces with a new, nontraditional lens that creates slivers of park in the most surprising places.”