Saturday, January 29, 2011

Letter to the Editor of the Miami Herald

The Grand Central Park project will beautify nearly five-acres of blight for a multi-year period in less than 30 days.  Using private cash or in-kind donations exceeding $100,000 the Omni Park West Redevelopment Association, a not-for-profit 501 (c)3 corporation, has already cleared the 5-acre site and planned.  The project will create a climate where civic pride and entrepreneurship becomes possible.  Our efforts will restore a site that for many represents broken dreams.  Grand Central Park’s impact on the thousands of surrounding residents will be enormous. 

Downtown residents are in dire need of public green space for the thousands of existing residents, which includes 3,000 new residents in nearby condominiums.  Surrounding local city parks are frequently closed to the public due to events or construction of new venues.   We hope to use our project as an example for other temporary parks on the vacant lots littering our fair City.  Though the park’s existence is finite in term, its impact on the neighborhood, its residents and perception of the area will certainly be lasting.

The stated purpose and legal mandate of the Community Redevelopment Agency is to reduce slum and blight.  Visible improvement to the area is needed to reverse the negative perception caused by empty lots in disrepair.   Redevelopment money is being spent on large projects or on a piecemeal basis.  Few of these projects improve the appearance of the neighborhood to residents or visitors by reducing slum and blight.  However, with the recent replacement of the Executive Director of the CRA and support from our elected officials like Commissioners Sarnoff and Dunn, we are positive that there is finally change on the horizon.

             The “broken window theory” has been proven time and time again in cities around the world.  Improving the streetscapes and providing park space can lure new life, as well as business into the area.  Activity and people create demand, which translates peripherally into investment and job creation.  Although the primary purpose of the park is quality of life and “urban activation”, we envision economic activities such as food concessions, new restaurants opening in adjacent buildings, and jobs created though events and other activities.

Under former Mayor Manny Diaz, the City of Miami attracted a world-class development boom to the Downtown and Brickell districts of Miami.  Three existing high rise residential towers and four new mega-condominiums along Biscayne Blvd. have added nearly 3,000 housing units to the Park West neighborhood since 2007.  With the ongoing construction of Museum Park – expected to last for years – there’s no green space within walking distance of these many thousands of residents. 

To our critics we must quote the Miami Heat’s LeBron James when he said, “"You’re always going to have people who love you and who hate you, I have enough motivation but I can always use a little more.".  The neighborhood’s largest tenant, the Miami Heat, is attracting crowds of up to 20,000 people into Park West.  Many of these visitors haven’t been to the Downtown Miami area in years.  Unfortunately, their first impression of the “new” Miami is blighted empty space and parking lots. 

Though there have been scant incidents of trouble, it isn’t unusual to hear Miami Heat patrons complain of fear for their safety walking through Park West.  The roughly thirty remaining dates represent the neighborhood’s best shot at reversing negative perception today, now. 

Our city of Miami, especially the poorest neighborhoods, needs drastic change, quickly.  We ask you to give us – who have resided in Park West for years now - a chance to change our neighborhood simply one step at a time.  If we try new ideas, we can change this City. 

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