Green Engineering: Building Developer Promotes Non-Car Behaviour

In the United States, the transport sector pumps out 28% of greenhouse gas emissions. But by providing a rent rebate to the residents of a new development in Miami, one development company is pushing residents to cut car usage and use public transport or car sharing instead. By Pratik Vatkar.

 Melo Group’s Square Station complex makes rentals uniquely cheaper for non-car owners. Courtesy Melo Group.

Melo Group’s Square Station complex makes rentals uniquely cheaper for non-car owners. Courtesy Melo Group.

Miami, US, October 12. 2018. The BBC reports that there are currently around 600 million cars in the world, and this number keeps increasing. According to one 2017 Survey, the US ranks second in the world for per capita car ownership - with 910 cars per 1000 people. That’s a whopping total of 255,009,283 vehicles. To satisfy the need to park all these cars, US car parks take up as much space as Puerto Rico (8,959 sq km). According to Eran Ben-Joseph, the scientist behind this research, these are conservative estimates, with the real area perhaps closer to a staggering 12,170 sq km.

 Melo Group president Dr. Jose Luis Ferreira de Melo and his sons Martin and Carlos Melo are keen to promote car-usage reduction in their developments. Courtesy Melo Group.

Melo Group president Dr. Jose Luis Ferreira de Melo and his sons Martin and Carlos Melo are keen to promote car-usage reduction in their developments. Courtesy Melo Group.

But some people are bucking the trend. The Melo Group is a family -owned real estate development firm based in Florida. President of the Melo Group is Dr. Jose Luis Ferreira de Melo; his two sons Martin and Carlos Melo also work for the company.

Rethinking car use

The company says its main aim is to provide an intelligent approach to development, design, construction and management of its properties. Most importantly, this includes rethinking the place of city-clogging cars in daily life.

The Square Station development consists of 710 new apartments as well as nearly 1,400sq m of retail space. Located in the heart of Entertainment District of Miami, right next to the School Board Metromover light rail station, it boasts easy access to Margaret Pace Park and a major entertainment Arena. It is also extremely close to the Performing Arts centre, the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), and the newly opened Museum Park. In other words, right at the heart of town.

While Square Station is centrally located, it is also set amidst dense urban clutter. Right where poorly planned increases in urban density – and consequent car use – could contribute to further degradation of the quality of life for its residents.

Adding to the developers’ challenge, the development policy of Miami requires any builder to provide 1.5 off-street parking spaces for each unit. Which indirectly promotes the increased use of cars and contributes to further urban clutter and pollution.

 Younger renters today use ride sharing more than they drive their own cars. Courtesy Amazon.

Younger renters today use ride sharing more than they drive their own cars. Courtesy Amazon.

As this car-centric development policy applies to every residential building in Maimi, Square Station will have to abide by it too. So the project has a total of 946 car parking spaces.  But as Carlos Melo says, “The younger generation, especially people who live near their work, are noticing that they don’t need their own cars”.

“What we want to see for Miami is people not using their cars to get to work,” says Carlos. He adds that ideally, everyday trips should be made by public transportation. He adds that with Miami becoming more urban, the company wants to reward residents who use non-car alternative forms of transportation, and to encourage people to ditch their cars.

 The new Square Station development is right next to the Metromover light rail station. Courtesy Melo Group.

The new Square Station development is right next to the Metromover light rail station. Courtesy Melo Group.

Innovative

As a result, the Melo group has adopted an innovative strategy. They are offering the residents of the buildings a $100 reduction on their rent per month for not using their allocated parking space.

Square Station’s ground-floor retail section will also help to create a walkable sense of community, says Carlos, “… while the project’s transit-friendly location will promote the everyday use of public transit and reduce traffic congestion during the workweek.”

As the group says, just two years ago, living in Miami required a car and was a pure drivers' city. “With residential and retail (buildings) matched with the advancement of ride-sharing platforms [and public transport] offerings Miami is now a city you can live without a car. There is now a definite push to appeal to the non-car owning renter or buyer.”

While this transition to reducing car use in our cities could be a slow one, the Melo Group is taking a small step towards decreasing urban congestion, with the hope that the local regulations will evolve as the legislators realise they can help solve a future congestion crisis created primarily by cars.