Sketches for two small parks on the north and south side of the Kennedy Causeway got mixed responses from North Bay Village residents over the need and feasibility of the project.
Known as Bay Walk Plaza, the proposed project would convert two unused grassy areas on the eastern edge of Treasure Island and connect them with a walkway that would run under the Kennedy Causeway bridge over the water.
“This is going to be a place for families, and it’s going to provide access to the water,” said village Commissioner Jorge Gonzalez. “The concept is something the residents need.”
Manny Cetner, a village resident, said he doesn’t think the village needs it.
“There is no room for it, and nobody will use it,” he said, adding that he thinks policing the area will be difficult because there is no vehicle access to the walkway.
Others were less critical, but still skeptical.
Two residents asked whether a walkway extending out into the water in a similar way has been built in the county, and if the village was likely to obtain the permits.
George Puig, a landscape architect with Kimley-Horn and Associates, said he doesn’t know of a similar project, but that the firm would accommodate the design to what the village wanted.
“We are here to get public input,” Puig said. The walkway “doesn’t make or break the project.”
Approved about two years ago by the Village Commission, the project has sat mostly dormant. A grant obtained by the village to cover the design phase expires in September, and while the village is applying for a one-year extension, it is also rushing to meet the deadline.
The grant is coming from the Florida Inland Navigation District, and will match the village’s $50,000 allocation for the design of the project.
During the public-input meeting, residents pressed for an approximate cost of building Bay Walk Plaza, but neither the design firm nor village staff were able to provide it.
Village Manager Frank Rollason said that once the project is designed, staff will work on determining a cost and bring it up to the village commission for a vote.
Gonzalez said uncertainty over the cost shouldn’t deter the village from exploring the project.
“We are at a point that where if we don’t move forward, that question is going to be moot and we will never get the answer,” Gonzalez said.
Rollson said that despite some negative feedback, for now the village is planning to move ahead with the project.
He said the land was given to the village by the Florida Department of Transportation. “They gave us the land to do something with it, and if we don’t, we are going to lose it,” Rollson said.
Al Colleta, who owns property in North Bay Village, said he supports the project and thinks it would enhance a side of the village that gets a lot of traffic.
“We are already behind other cities. The more people you can get in here, the larger the tax base,” Coletta said. “We have to go forward, not put our foot down on every plan.”