Response to Ms. Sousa's Article in the Miami Herald
Thanks Ms. Sousa for your opinion piece, and for reaching out to Mr. McKnight for his thoughts. I agree that job creation has to be what we focus on every day in the redevelopment area. Something that your article could leave readers thinking is that Grand Central Park is another "mega project" or "white elephant" - which by definition it is not. Grand Central Park is a non-profit venture by a 501(c)(3), the Omni Parkwest Redevelopment Association. It's temporary, economically self sufficient, and a grass roots effort rather than a top down mandate. It's also important to point out that Miami has one of the lowest rates of park space in the U.S. and one the highest rates of vacant lots (most of them concentrated in the redevelopment area). Grand Central Park is a light weight (i.e., inexpensive) way to generate activity in the neighborhood and improve Miami's image around the country which today is as a city full of vacant lots and devoid of parks. Let's show people that we are innovative and will get behind new ideas!
The park eliminates a large swath of blighted land replacing it with a greenspace that will improve the quality of life for residents. There are dozens of vacant lots in the redevelopment area that collect trash and debris and this could also be a model for low-cost "gap fillers" to beautify the neighborhood (an effort that will generate jobs) between economic cycles. It will also bring activity to the neighborhood -- it's up to the community to take advantage of that. It's a tough nut to crack - there are no jobs, and almost zero economic activity in Overtown. If a relatively modest investment can bring people WEST from Biscayne Blvd and into the redevelopment area, that activity will support new local businesses. Mr. McKnight is right to point out that this project is not going to create hundreds of jobs, but it will create some and will generate activity that could support new businesses. Finally, the non-profit behind the project, Omni Parkwest Redevelopment Ass'n is also working with local community leaders to incorporate apprenticeship programs and encourage hands-on job training for local residents at the park.
At the end of the day decades have passed and Overtown has only gotten worse. This is an innovative idea that incorporates a lot of modern contemporary thought on sustainability, community building, and economic revitalization. I think its one of the smartest investments that the city could make and encourage people to learn more about it and ask questions or make suggestions.