When Meg Daly '78 broke both arms during a fall from her bicycle six years ago, her incapacity and the accompanying inconvenience led to the best idea she's ever had. She couldn't drive, she explained to Upper School students during an assembly in honor of Earth Day, so she traveled on the Metrorail and traversed the walking paths underneath to her doctor's appointments.
As she surveyed the neglected swath of land under the rail line, she imagined a transformation that would turn the humble corridor into park and recreation space. That was the beginning of Underline Miami, set to make its debut next spring.
Daly's "crazy idea," as she described it during her address at the Lewis Family Auditorium April 25, led to a $100 million project for a 120-acre linear park, 10-mile urban trail and a public park and arts destination, whose first stage, the Brickell Backyard, is scheduled to open June 2020. She approached county officials, transportation leaders and architecture students at the University of Miami, who provided her with her first set of plans. She held public meetings and organized bike and road races to generate support and take the temperature of the community.
"We had this groundswell of joy as to what we could do together," she said. "What we ended up with was this bottom-up vision for transforming our city ... This is all about building our community for today and tomorrow."
Daly, the volunteer head of the Friends of the Underline, shared the story of the Underline with the goal of inspiring students to follow their passions and take action. She was introduced by science faculty member Doug Heller '80. Many students asked questions at the conclusion of her talk.
"Each one of you can be a changemaker," she said. "Find your passion and make sure you run with it and stick with it."
As enthusiasm for the project grew, so too did Daly's vision. She decided the Underline couldn't merely serve as an attractive linear park, it also had to serve the city in its areas of greatest need: education, transportation, affordable housing and sustainability. The current plan is designed to do just that. "This is meant to be equitable and inclusive for everyone," she said. From new plantings of trees to solar-powered lighting to art in public spaces, to recreational facilities and sports courts and the intended creation of a "special district" to ensure affordable housing nearby, Daly and her team have tried to ensure that the project – which takes inspiration from Manhattan's High Line – has meaningful reach and value.
"We want to be," she said, "the model for all cities."
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.