No one disagrees that Peacock Park in Coconut Grove needs a facelift.
Miami City Commission Vice Chairman Marc Sarnoff has a solution and it involves a prominent private school.
St. Stephens Episcopal Day School, which neighbors the park, has offered to shell out $500,000 for new Astroturf soccer fields, a CrossFit surface, fresh landscaping and improvements to the basketball court. In exchange, Miami would extend an existing arrangement that gives St. Stephens exclusive access to the upper portion of the park during school hours.
The parks soccer fields and basketball courts, both in that upper section, would be open to the public at all other times.
Sarnoff says the partnership with the school makes sense, particularly in a tight budget year.
But the commissioner is getting pushback from some Coconut Grove community leaders, who have concerns about private entities getting special rights to use a public park. Moreover, they say Sarnoff should have sought more public input when crafting his plan.
Peacock Park could be the jewel of Coconut Grove, said Glenn Terry, who co-founded a civic group called the Friends of Peacock Park nearly a decade ago. It could shine. But in order for it to reach its potential, the public has to be part of the decision-making process, and nobody was consulted.
Sarnoff said he spoke with parents of the schools students.
I met with the people who occupy and use the park, he said. There were parents involved in the conversations.
He sees the partnership as a way for a private school and the city to help each other.
We have a small budget and they need a place for their children to play, Sarnoff said. Its a home run for everybody.
The renovations, Sarnoff said, are part of a larger plan to revitalize the park. He would like to see the office building known as the Glass House transformed into a recreation center with a trendy café. The café would help finance park programming, including adult soccer leagues, and a full-time city staffer, Sarnoff said.
All park projects would go through the competitive bidding process, he added.
Those ideas, however, are at least a year away from becoming reality. The renovations that St. Stephens has offered to finance could start as early as this year.
Peacock Park sits on 9.4 acres of waterfront property in downtown Coconut Grove.
Longtime Coconut Grove residents remember Peacock Park in the 60s, when hippies played music by Biscayne Bay and the kilns in the Glass House, then a neighborhood center, fired handmade pottery.
It was really something special, Terry said.
But over the next five decades, the park fell into disrepair. The shuffleboard courts cracked and were never fixed. The mangroves grew tall enough to block the view of Biscayne Bay. The Glass House was converted into office space for the Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce and the citys Neighborhood Enhancement Team.
In recent years, a skate-park operator set up shop off of McFarlane Road. Operator Gregg Hinds pays the city $550 in monthly rent.
St. Stephens Episcopal Day School has been using the park for physical education classes for more than a decade. The school pays the city about $2,600 annually, based on the number of instructional days in any given year, city officials said.