It’s hard to come by any green space in downtown Miami below 20th Street––let alone a park.
But that’s about to change, as plans for Grand Central Park, a 5-acre green space to be located on the site of the old Miami Arena, received the final permit needed from the City of Miami to start construction.
The park, located at 700 N.E. First Ave., is simply designed with only one structure and will have more than 200 plants and trees. Landscape architect Walter Meyer of Local Office Landscape in Brooklyn conceptualized the space, which will also include a garden designed to harvest rain water and a mobile stage.
“We designed Grand Central Park to serve as a platform for sustainable design concepts and as a catalyst for community activation of the Overtown and Parkwest neighborhoods,” said Mark Lesniak, Overtown Park West Redevelopment Association executive director, in a released statement.
Bradley Knoefler, president for the OPWRA, lead the push for the park and said that it should be completed in about 30 days.
“It’s just a big landscaping project,” Knoefler said. “It’s about two-weeks of site work we’re going to try for 30 days.”
A practiced general contractor, Knoefler will be at the helm of the construction of the park plan to ensure the park plan stays on budget.
He has rightfully dubbed the project an “instant park,”due to the quick pace in which he plans to complete the park.
For a long time the 5-acre site where the park will be developed was an object of blight, drawing the ire of some area residents––most notably Knoefler, who owns a two-story event space called Grand Central nearby where he lives on the top floor.
Knoefler, a fast-talking crusader for improving the neighborhood has become known as somewhat of an urban activist. He paid to bulldoze the remains of the Miami Arena, land that is owned by Palm Beach County businessman Glenn Straub because the left over debris became an eyesore.
In September, he was arrested for not picking up pallets of grass quick enough after he celebrated a nation-wide event called Park(ing) Day.
He also sponsored a project called “weed bombing,” a twist on a practice known in New York City called “yarn bombing,” where Knoefler and anyone else spray painted pesky weeds that tend to grow between the sidewalks with vibrant colors.
That’s just another of his efforts to “beautify” the Park West area a little.
Over the span of two years, the 5-acre project garnered support from city officials and was awarded $200,000 in funding from the Miami Community Redevelopment Agency for construction this January.
The grant money will not be distributed directly to OPRA, rather to vendors directly, Mark Lesniak said via email. The City of Miami commission waived a provision that requires the park to obtain 72 two-week permits for temporary use of vacant land, a demand that would have burdened the park plan with about about $36,000 in permits for each year, Knoefler said.
They allowed Knoefler to pay $12,000 in permits each year the park is open instead.
If all goes as envisioned by Knoefler, the park’s day-to-day operations will be primarily funded through events held at the space, while residents within the city’s three community redevelopment agencies will be able to gain access to the park. Everyone else will be required to pay.
Straub has agreed to lease the land for three years at $200,000 per year, Lesniak said.
The first $135,000 will be used for the construction of the park while the remaining $65,000 will go directly to the rental of the property.
After that, the fate of the park is unknown––short-term or permanent––Knoefler wants the park to have a lasting effect while it exists.
The concept will be self financed and will pay its site rental through parking fees concerts while allowing downtown residents to enjoy green space, Knoefler said in a released statement is “sorely lacking in Miami’s downtown core” region.
“As a pilot project we’re jumping through all the hoops,” Knoefler said. “We see this as a project that can be replicated.”
Correction: A previous version of this story said Glenn Straub agreed to lease the land for $275,000 per year, the actual amount is $200,000.