Miami is in dire need of park space.  The City was ranked dead last in park and recreation spaces out of 27 medium density cities and we continue to cover our public spaces with buildings and parking lots.  For decades, Miamians have cried out for a showcase park, a “Central Park” for Miami.  Well, there’s an opportunity right under our noses.  The Old Miami Arena site, currently a blighted five acre area of rocks, offers this possibility.  The current owner is open to sell, and there are no other sites in Miami that could offer such radical urban transformation.

Old Arena now

Imagine transforming the entire downtown area by turning this dilapidated parcel into a green, multi-use neighborhood space including community gardens, a nursery, a football field and a bandshell for outdoor performances and events.   With the construction of Museum Park, the City will need to relocate important events such as the Cirque de Soleil, and music events.  Moving them to the old arena site will activate a non-utilized area and create economic opportunities for Overtown residents.   The purchase of this site could also house the “Grand Central Station” for downtown, a perfect location for the upcoming commuter rail and/or Tri-Rail downtown expansion.  Utilizing this site for the public benefit offers the perfect combination of green, public facilities, urban transformation, and quality of life improvement for long suffering residents of the area.


So how do we pay for this?  Aren’t the City and County undergoing a budget crisis?  Enter the City of Miami Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA).  Flush with $50 Million in cash, the CRA is planning on issuing $100 million in revenue bonds in upcoming months, primarily to finance large scale development projects debatable benefits.  Why not use a portion of these bonds to create Miami’s Central Park, which could have major benefits to everyone in the community?

Miami, its time to grow up.  We have the potential to have a world class, pedestrian friendly city if we could efficiently spend public funds for the greater good.  Let’s not miss one of the last opportunities for a “Central Park” in downtown Miami.

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29 Responses to Imagining Our ‘Central Park’

  1. Quato says:

    While I do believe something should be done with this space, I do not think there should be a football field there, as is Gibson Park on 12th St and 3rd Ave only 4 blocks away.

    Brad you fail to mention that you own property directly across the street and this would serve you very well. Please mention how you stand to gain in future articles, as disclosure is a key to good journalism and even blogging.

    There are many ideal locations for a central park or several grand parks, such as Miami Ave and SW 8th St on 3 out of 4 huge parcels.

    I would like to see a park here, as it would be a huge improvement to the large rubble pile that has been left exposed for months. I do not know how this is not a code violation. It would also be ideal to have NW 7th Street continue to NW 1st Ave.


  2. Prem says:

    but camillus house is right there! although probably not for long. gentrification!

    Anyway, central park? that seems awfully small to be anything like Central Park, Golden Gate Park, or what have you.
    However it can definitely be a great improvement to the area the way small parks help make San Francisco one of the coolest cities around.


  3. cb says:

    Your plan should include 10 policemen at all times to keep out the crackheads. I could also picture the nearby homeless shelter emptying into the park every morning.


  4. Kesley says:

    I really like this idea!
    Also, right in front of it would be the Miami World Center, so this would be perfect!


  5. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, that Camillus house is being relocated by 2010 to a new location.


  6. Joe says:

    Is not CRA money going to the tunnel?


  7. Brad K. says:

    Sure I own property and actually live across the street from the site, hence the interest. Living across from a 5 acre dilapidated pile of rocks is a powerful motivator for a citizen to get the government to do something! I really don’t see any problem with trying to improve the neighborhood in which you live and own property. Neighborhood associations around the world do it all the time. Something is going to happen there and, like my colleagues in Coconut Grove and Brickell, want to see something with positive community benefits go there, not another home depot!

    Granted the old arena site is not even comparable in size to Central Park, but it is the single largest parcel in the downtown area (5 acres) The Brickel parcel on 8th and N. Miami is a great choice as well and should be considered for a park but it is not comparable in size and visual impact by any means. Since we are losing Bicentennial Park to parking lots and museums, there will be a need for open space and outdoor event space etc. The proper way to design this is to hold a public charette with someone like Project for Public Spaces to gain community input and ensure proper design and connectivity to the surrounding neighborhoods. Maybe the 4-5,000 people living in park west are afraid to go into overtown at night to play football at Gibson Park. Maybe its a soccer field, not football. Maybe we need to incorporate a dog park or track, all to be decided (hopefully this time) by the community.

    The homeless problem (until the neighborhood evolves) in the park is easily solved in the same way as great parks in Paris, London and around the world do it - by placing a decorative security fence and closing the park at sunset. Although this is controversial and undesirable to some, this could be a solution for several years until the security and crime risk is reduced.


  8. TransitDave says:

    Great idea, I drive by others often…What happened to Tibor Hollo park on Brickell Bay Drive? Perhaps a timely update by Commissioner Sarnoff is in order, to see if he has any park plans in the works….Betcha he does…..


  9. Brad K. says:

    The Tibor Hollo Park is stalled due to the position of the City of Miami on the liability insurance. No private property owner will allow public access without the proper indemnification. The City has refused to issue the proper insurance due to an internal policy from the administation. This is an important issue that the City should address as in order to implement ANY public private partnerships for park space / land banking, a framework needs to be set up to ensure everyone is protected. We have explored private insurance rather than the City’s but no news on this front yet.


  10. Tony says:

    There is nothing wrong with Brad trying to improve his neighborhood. Additionally, he is not required to disclose anything as he does not materially benefit from the developmemt of public space. If he were proposing a money making venture that he would directly profit from, that would be a different story.

    Brad and I have gone back and forth about the security fence. I tend to think it is a bad idea, and any planner who holds a community charrette will tell you the same. Very few parks have security fences, even abroad, because the point of parks is that they are open and accessible to all (in this case, even the homeless). The best way to address the problem of security is to have regular police surveilance after dark, and make the park inviting to local residents. There is no substitute for eyes on the street.

    Good job Brad! Keep the articles coming.


  11. Richard R-P says:

    I think this is a very promising idea, but I would be so surprised if something like this were ever to come to fruition. It’s just too valuable a piece of property, located in the heart of the city and in a neighborhood which will, without doubt, turn around sooner or later.

    I don’t think Miami will ever have a “Central Park”-like space. If I’m not mistaken, Central Park was created when upper Manhattan was still a relatively remote wilderness. In other words, the park was in place before the city surrounded it. Therefore, the land was probably cheaper, and there weren’t yet any development pressures.

    We have the reverse here. The city’s already in place, so I think the best we can do is carve out as many small spaces as we possibly can, rather than one large, contiguous space.


  12. brody says:

    This would be a nice park, as well as a park on Miami Av and SW 8 St in Brickell. Brickell is in really bad need of a park. The only parks in Brickell are small pocket parks scattered around the neighborhood. Downtown on the other hand has three major parks- Bayfront, Bicentennial, and Pace Park.


  13. Felipe Azenha says:

    For this park to be successful it needs multiple users that would utilize the park throughout the day. In the morning the exercise crowd and dog walkers would be the primary users. The next wave of users would be the lunch office crowd and in the afternoon you would have mothers taking their children to the playground. In the evening there would be another wave of exercise people and dog walkers. It is important that the park be a destination for different activities throughout the day. Attracting different users, throughout the day is the greatest form of security the park could have; its even better then having police officers patrolling. Unfortunately, this area does not currently have the density to support all these types of uses and activities.

    Brad’s idea of putting a well designed fence is not so bad. At first, I didn’t like the idea too much, but I know that Parque del Retiro in Madrid and Parque Ibirapuera in Sao Paulo both have fences and gates that are closed late at night; both parks are quite successful. The temporary fence can then be taken down once the density develops around the park. The proposed park may actually become a catalyst for development around this area. I think the idea is great. I would also be rightfully concerned and looking for ways to improve the neighborhood where I live and pay property taxes. There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve the amenities of the neighborhood you live in. If you don’t do it, who will?


  14. Vincent Filigenzi says:

    The park concept is based of future inhabitation of the area and what it could be. The immidiate development of the site should respond to current contextual depands. Need for large open area for events, community garden or green market events.

    Park can be built in phases, paved and grass areas first with lighting, then large tree material with other amenities.
    It allows a variety of options for circulation which promotes safty.

    Overall a good idea for use of space.


  15. Tony Garcia says:

    Plan and design spaces for the result you want. Planning for ‘context’ shouldn’t mean reacting to current conditions - that is what urban design is all about, creating the condition you want. I would propose a design that included paved walkways, lots of trees (especially on the street) and benches/street furniture/lighting. If you design it correctly, people will use it.


  16. Brad K. says:

    Felipe you are absolutely right - Muti-use is the key. The conceptual design we have deveopled with Vince Filligenzi, taking into account various community issues included a terraced walkway with a dog run (the site slopes down towards the RR tracks), Large open space area for sports and outdoor events with a bandshell or stage. The stage could double as a restaurant with outdor chairs and tables. Of course there will be trees and benches. A section would be used as a community garden and nursery. Overtown and Park West residents would be given free plots to grow their own food and the nursery would serve a public purpose, providing green for community streetscape and green projects. We could even imagine an organic gourmet market and cafe seling food and vegtables grown on the premises. The right design will definately make this a destination and a usable, working park.


  17. Felipe Azenha says:

    I’d like to see a skate park for the kids too.


  18. Vincent says:

    “The immediate development of the site should respond to current contextual demands.”….This refers to the implementation process.

    Lets face it, on the street where there is shade there are homeless congregating underneath….this we’ve documented.

    In any initial reclamation of an urban area a Street Lighting Program needs to be set up.

    I. Street Lighting Program:
    This prevents the black holes and corners where the homeless congregate at night. very unsafe, inconstant lighted route of travel.

    II. Street Tree Programs:
    Only during the inhabitation of the area can you bring in Street trees. For Parks Purpose we could install permiter trees first. The users function as a layer of security as they move though and occupy the spaces. Street Trees can be introduced during this phase to provide shade for the local residences and promote the use of area.

    III. Additional supporting site amenities would follow.
    Retail(park cafe) and alike, Kiosk, receptacle, etc.

    We have existing waterfront park space along Museum park & Bayfront park. These parks provide an entirely different role and experience from from what we are talking about here. There are not that many opportunities for green park space in this urban area. This proposed design is a mixed use approach which will take into the needs of the neighborhood. if a skate park is something deemed desirable it can be configured. Arena Park as I call it, is a good use of the current space during the areas growth and will also continue to be in the future as the city develops around it.


  19. Tony Garcia says:

    I agree about street lighting, but street trees need to be part of any initial implementation. The homeless using trees as shade is hardly a reason not to plant them - that very shade is what people need to be able to walk around under the hot Miami sun. Street trees are vital to the creation of walkable, pedestrian friendly urbanism - the stuff that will actually make the park viable.
    The importance of street trees in making streets walkable has been thoroughly documented and is widely accepted as best practice when designing public spaces.
    Check out this good primer from walkability guru Dan Burden:

    “#4. Increased security. Trees create more
    pleasant walking environments, bringing
    about increased walking, talking, pride, care
    of place, association and therefore actual
    ownership and surveillance of homes,
    blocks, neighborhoods plazas, businesses
    and other civic spaces.”

    Any development of this site without this basic first step will remain incomplete, and hinder the redevelopment of this area.


  20. Vincent says:

    Believe me if there is anyone who wants to add more trees its me. ‘Urban Tree Hugger’ Lets do vertical gardens and green roofs. But for now I will settle for an effort to green up the street level.

    If we can get the CRA to implement a capital improvements program, I would do both street trees, street lighting & park space at once; along with increased patrol program.

    If there was funding of a few hundred thousand dollars for a capital improvement, I believe I would spend it on crime prevention in the initial stages of revitalization.

    Street Trees are essential to any successful urban condition, I agree 100%. The new ‘South Point Park’ South of fifth, was completed first and then bid South Point Phase I, II, III & IV. all which focus on street improvements.(paving/drainage/Street trees & planting, curbs & sidewalks)

    Did someone say build it and they will come….


  21. Tony Garcia says:

    lol…Fair enough ‘urban tree hugger’. Thanks for your work on the renderings btw, they look good.


  22. Alex Devoto says:

    That site would make a great park. It does not even need any amenities. It could just be a visual park for all the new residents and for all the people who drive by. Great idea. The City desperately needs more green space. There is far too much concrete.


  23. TransitDave says:

    RE: Hollo Park; Putting on my commercial-realtor-of-14-years-experience-hat…..Nothing is more common that a triple net lease, where the owner gets a lease payment, and the tenent pays all taxes, insurance and maintenance costs, so I’ll speculate that the City of Miami probably needs the RE tax $$$$ so bad that the land will sit there, fenced off………. Damn shame, I was looking forward taking my kids there (full disclosure, I live a block away)


  24. TransitDave says:

    And, as far as Mr. Hollo is concerned, he’s built some massive, but ugly buildings, and the project planned for the site before the bust, Villa Magna, was a similar monstrosity. Hollo park would be a much better legacy to leave the city.

    (although the office project he’s planning for Biscayne Blvd looks pretty impressive. Like Hollo Park, I hope we all live to see it)


  25. Egutierrez says:

    The Tibor Hollo Park site which is the failed Villa Magna site has not become reality because Mr Hollo’s attorneys made too many demands. In the meantime Tibor Hollo refuses to add sod or take any action that might make that waterfront site look better. At the moment it has old debris and it looks disgusting. Code Enforcement should take notice.


  26. Dreams do come through says:

    There is study taking place right now at UM School of Architecture to acquire 5b in land for parks. So anyone who has something to say of potential sites that can be assembled for park projects…speak up. Report has to be turned in by Dec 20th, 2009. It is now or never. And this dream of a central park may come through.


  27. Fabiano Porta says:


    I live in Parkwest area since 2003 and own a property right front to the old Arena.

    I’d like to know something about the projects to this area.

    Anybody has any info?


  28. […] Bayfront Park and Bicentennial combined equate to approx. 60 acres of open space. Miami COULD use more park space as it currently ranks quote low in park space per capita. Not trying to single out Miami (as my hometown of LA) is in worse condition than Miami on this score. Central Park in NYC and Golden Gate Park in San Franicsco are a key PART of what make those iconic urban areas so superb and livable. The idea is being floated to make the old Miami arena into a major uban park. Imagining Our ‘Central Park’ | Transit Miami […]


  29. Anthony says:

    This whole situation is testament to the graft and corruption in America. It’s a great idea, howver don’t you think the current site of the American Airlines Arena would have been a better site for a “showcase park”. Why was Miami Arena torn down in the first place ? It was 10 years old. Why build an entertainment arena on prime waterfron property? How often do you find yourself looking out the window at the beutiful waterfront views during a Heat game?


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