make them more expensive and unpredictable,” The FBCI’s
Goldsmith said. The Miami 21 code goes beyond the
typical scheme by incorporating streetscape design and
green infrastructure, view corridors and preservation of
historic districts. It also incorporates a “public benefits”
aspect, granting developers additional density for affordable housing or contributing to an open space fund.
While noting that the transformation the code envisions
is “slow because it emerges a building at a time,” Plater-Zyberk said, “We are seeing things that make us feel good
about the code. A CVS or an auto store on the commercial corridors would have been built behind a parking lot,
but now it’s not. Buildings are coming to the street now.
Downtown the parking garages are being lined with useful space, residential or office.”
Redeveloping outmoded suburban districts
After seeing the success in expanding the traditional walk-
able, urban form within cities, some much younger local
jurisdictions that never had such neighborhoods have
In some areas, such as the traditionally car-oriented Col-
fax Ave., the code is guiding redevelopment of strip-style
businesses to create a walkable street, by moving build-
ings closer to the street and parking lots farther away.
Elsewhere, the codes are being specially tailored to take
advantage of existing buildings and urban form to cre-
ate unique districts. One of those is another warehouse/
industrial area north of downtown called River North,
known locally as RiNo. Driven by adaptive reuse of older
buildings — though new construction is popping up, too
— RiNo has become a favored location for art galleries,
furniture makers, illustrators, authors, wineries and brew-
eries and studio spaces. A form-based overlay is driving the
recreation of Arapahoe Square, set between the high-rise
development of the commercial core and the lower-density
neighborhoods of Curtis Park and Five Points.
Miami in 2010 adopted a citywide form-based code and
“became a national, groundbreaking model because city
officials completely replaced the existing zoning code,”
according to the Form-Based Codes Institute.
“The intention was to make a city that was booming
become a walkable, transit-friendly city, where the growth
would be managed with some predictability that the old
use-based code could not provide,” said Plater-Zyberk,
whose firm led the Miami 21 planning process that tailored the “Smart Code” for Miami. “There was desire to
incorporate historic preservation, additional open space
and affordable housing. … The commercial corridors
often barred housing, and at the same time the strips
were molting into high-rises, though not in a walkable,
urban fashion and they were impinging on the neighborhoods behind them.”
Where the existing zoning code prescribed the possible
location of 46 different uses, the new code concerns itself
with eight, and many can be mixed, depending on the
area of the city: residential, lodging, office, commercial,
civic, civil support, educational and industrial. The code
is rendered in an illustrated atlas that has 11 “transect”
zones, from natural to sub-urban (up to two stories) to
low-rise urban, urban center plus 7 levels of urban core
intensity. It provides illustrations of the transition from
one zone to another.
“If an applicant complies, the project can be approved without the discretionary reviews that can delay projects and
The Miami 21 code incorporates streetscape design and green infrastructure.
Courtesy of Visit Denver