The Underdeck – and Overtown – needs our support

A VPN is an essential component of IT security, whether you’re just starting a business or are already up and running. Most business interactions and transactions happen online and VPN
The proposed design for The Underdeck shows a one-mile, 33-acre open space landscape beginning in Overtown near Gibson Park and extending to Biscayne Bay. (Courtesy of Hargreaves Jones)

    I am proud to say that I was born in Overtown. Though my journey through life may have led to places beyond that vibrant community, Overtown is and will always be part of who I am.

    As a product of Overtown, I was gifted with roots of resilience and blessed with branches of community relationships that have kept me connected to the people and places that make this my forever home. I remain a member of the historic St. John’s Baptist Church, serving as an associate minister and having served as the chair of the St. John Community Development Corporation for 22 years.

    The spirit of Overtown has shaped my sense of community, and the lifelong relationships that originated there have transcended time and inspired me and many to value the importance of connections.

    There is an almost philosophical irony that the history of Overtown’s disconnection provides the most valuable lessons as to why keeping communities connected is a logistical imperative, economic driver and cultural benefit.

    A new connective green space currently referred to as The Underdeck is in its planning phase. As a collaborative municipal project integrating both the city of Miami and the Florida Department of Transportation, this 33-acre multipurpose green space will be developed as part of the reconstruction of I-395 as a 1-mile linear landscape connecting Overtown in the west to Biscayne Bay in the east.

    For many Overtown residents, the prospect of highway reconstruction adjacent to their community conjures up a dark history of urban removal disguised as urban renewal. The memories of the initial I-95/I-395 construction of the 1960s is not far removed from area residents of the time – and the subsequent generations who continue to be negatively impacted by that project. With that history, skepticism of this new project is expected and for most, warranted.

    This is exactly why I got involved.

    As The Underdeck project took shape, there was a concerted effort to ensure that community voices would be heard – and that community engagement in its planning would be encouraged and facilitated. The Underdeck Committee was formed through an MOU with the Miami City Commission to empower a group of community advocates and activists to facilitate public advocacy for project funding, and to activate community stakeholder engagement.

    As the chair of the Stakeholder Engagement Working Group, my passion for the Overtown community has fueled my purpose in this role: to be a conduit of public interaction in the project planning, and an enabler of project activism to ensure the voices of Overtown and beyond are heard, considered and valued. We need this project to reconnect our city, and we need our city to connect with this project.

    Through a vibrant, well-programmed and well-maintained public greenway that connects Overtown to the bay, we invite opportunities to interact and engage as a cohesive community of diverse cultures. Through this unifying linear public space actively supported throughout its planning by residents, business owners and community leaders, we send a message to each other and visitors alike: This is our project.

    By taking ownership of this project through active civic engagement, we liberate ourselves from lamenting helplessly over the sins of past community devastation by empowering the city and FDOT to rectify a history of intentional disconnection with purposeful reconnection.

    Along with engaging with the committee through attending community meetings and joining committee working groups that address future governance, management and funding, we must actively support the city of Miami and FDOT in their securing of additional federal funding for The Underdeck.

    The Reconnecting Communities Program was announced in June of this year by Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. This program is the first of its kind that dedicates federal funds to projects that reconnect communities previously cut off from economic opportunities by transportation infrastructure. For The Underdeck project, that would mean a $26.5 million federal contribution to the 53 million required, as per the consensus budget.

    Nelson Adams, Underdeck Stakeholder Working Group Chair (Circle of One)

    The availability of these federal funds specifically for a Miami-based project so befitting the eligibility criteria of the Reconnecting Communities Program goes beyond coincidence. In some ways, this program represents an opportunity to repair, reclaim and restore what Overtown lost during the 1960s.

    The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once stated that the “time is always right to do what is right.” This is the right time to do the right thing for the city of Miami. Get involved with the committee and engage with elected officials and community leaders regarding the project. It’s my time, your time and our time to be part of a process that leads to progress.

    Nelson L. Adams, M.D., is the chair of The Underdeck Stakeholder Working Group. To get involved with The Underdeck Committee and advocate for the project, visit


    Recent Posts

    Follow Us

    Concept Design

    Traffic, Mobility & Utilities

    This group will be convening with all relevant agencies and stakeholders to identify key related challenges and to ensure short-term and long-term cross-sector plans are agreed upon and implemented.

    Funding Strategies

    This group was initially charged with fundraising the match dollars required by the Knight Foundation grant (noted in the approved MOU and City resolution).  All fund-raising goals have been fully met as of December 2021 and are currently funding all planning activities.  The group is now developing a framework for the fund development strategy related to capital, operational and maintenance needs.

    Stakeholder Awareness, Education & Engagement

    This group is responsible for casting the net broadly to create awareness of the project and engage residents in the Underdeck’s development.  A full engagement strategy has been launched and will continue through the summer of 2022.  A monthly newsletter and website will be launched beginning in March, monthly community meetings will be held through the Summer of 2022, and stakeholders will have regular monthly opportunities to inform and engage with the Underdeck Committee Working Groups.

    Construction, Operation, Maintenance

    This group is working closely with the City of Miami and FDOT to ensure that the Heritage Trail, Legacy Walls and other public art components will include stakeholder leadership, participation and input in the exhibits, artists, and content.  This group is also working with the City to identify the appropriate expertise to develop a realistic estimate for the operation and management budget for the long-term sustainability of the public space.  This estimated budget will inform the work  of the fund development working group in the coming months.

    Government, Project Management & Strategic Oversight

    Naming/Branding – Over the last two months community meetings, focus groups, surveys, and interviews have been conducted to gather input from our community. Two engagement and marketing firms, Kivvit and Circle of One have been brought on board to support this process.  A Creative Brief will be developed inclusive of potential names for the Underdeck or Open Space Area.  These potential names will be shared with the community and further input will refine the final recommendations that will be considered by the Underdeck Executive Committee.  The final selected name is subject to the approval of the City Commission.   

    This group has researched best practices on governance of public spaces and has been reviewing various governance structures nationally and locally.  They are currently working on recommendations that would inform the governance of the public space.  These recommendations will inform future bylaws.

    Voice Your Support for The Underdeck!

    Greetings and Many Thanks,

    It is not often that a municipal project with the scale and scope of the Underdeck, is developed with the intentional and valued participation from members of the community. The City of Miami is to be celebrated and commended for empowering the people of Miami through its sanctioning of the Underdeck Committee to provide community-driven recommendations about how the Underdeck should be designed, named, branded, programmed, operated, governed, and maintained.

    In 2022, 124 members of the community served on five Underdeck working groups focused on Stakeholder Awareness and Engagement, Operations and Maintenance, Traffic and Mobility, Funding, and Governance. A total of 129 working group meetings were held during the year. More than 35 community in person and virtual meetings were held in Overtown and Downtown to engage residents, along with survey respondents providing feedback for the Underdeck Naming totaling more than 2000. In addition, two special interest groups were created for Economic Development and Youth Engagement, further expanding the Underdeck Committee’s outreach.

    The anticipation of this 33-acre public multi-purpose green space is enhanced by knowing that the recommendations for development through this community engagement have been submitted for your review and will soon be voted upon. With a vote of “Yes” to these recommendations, the Underdeck will truly be a project of the people, by the people, for the people.

    As a public space positioned to reconnect communities and serve as a destination for families and friends to engage with one another, it is greatly appreciated that the City of Miami has and will continue to value the voices, insights, and recommendations that will ultimately make the Underdeck we can authentically call our own.

    Alan Fein

    Chair Government, Project Management, Strategic Oversight Working Group

    Alan Fein is a Shareholder in Stearns Weaver Miller’s Litigation Department and a member of the Firm’s Board of Directors. For over three decades, Alan has successfully handled complex business litigation in South Florida and in the leading business courts in the nation, including the Delaware Court of Chancery, the Delaware Supreme Court, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Eleventh Circuit and the District of Columbia. At the same time, he has developed one of the region’s most vibrant sports law practices, and brought vision and leadership to a number of community leadership roles.