Imagine a world-class community gathering space — a destination reflective of the city’s character — where residents, families and visitors can enjoy tropical gardens with native plants, impressive fountains, abundant shade trees, free performances, art installations, nature education programs, waterfront dining and children’s play spaces.
For almost four decades, since its days as Bicentennial Park, Museum Park’s 30 waterfront acres have been envisioned as our city’s iconic public space. But a myriad of local challenges, from government budget cuts to the recession, have derailed that plan.
Now, we have a unique opportunity to make this long sought-after vision a reality. The Miami Foundation and a number of civic leaders and philanthropists have joined together to propose a public-private partnership — the Museum Park Conservancy — that will fulfill the promise for Museum Park and Miami’s waterfront.
It will be an arrangement between the city of Miami and the Conservancy, which will be tasked with enhancing and managing the park. Above all, it will be a partnership with Miami’s residents, who will continue to own Museum Park and help determine the final design and use of the space. The conservancy concept is also supported by Knight Foundation, which provided funding in this effort to explore the best ways to create a world-class Museum Park and has seen the conservancy model work successfully elsewhere in the country.
To design, build, operate and manage a signature park at the level that our residents deserve requires substantial financial investment. Public-private partnerships such as the proposed Museum Park Conservancy are well-equipped and nimble enough to secure an array of funding sources to not only maintain a park of this kind, but also offer diverse, free public programming year-round. It is a proven model that is used for our nation’s most prominent parks.
A 2015 report from The Trust for Public Land shows that about 50 percent of big cities have at least one conservancy. It credits programming and design developed and implemented by conservancies for generating substantial annual visitors: 42 million for Central Park in New York and 4.75 million for Millennium Park in Chicago.
The Museum Park Conservancy has already secured $7.5 million in pledged funding from local donors. Significant private resources will complement the park’s public funding, allowing the Conservancy to design and construct an exceptional park based on the Cooper, Robertson & Partners plan approved by the city of Miami in 2008. It will tap the public for input to update the design and inform the program development process, seeking insight from residents in all corners of the city. It will ensure Museum Park preserves its prized waterfront location as an open and accessible park that offers cultural events and fun activities for all Miamians.
The goal is to create not only an iconic space, but also one that helps advance a countywide, vibrant parks ecosystem to improve the quality of life for everyone who calls Greater Miami home.
With the Perez Art Museum Miami’s enormous success and the upcoming launch of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science in 2016, now is the time to transform the open space that surrounds the two museums into a signature park worthy of Miami’s status as a world-class city. We encourage Miami commissioners to approve this plan for the Conservancy and help turn Museum Park into the premier community gathering place that Miamians deserve.
Rebecca Mandelman is The Miami Foundation’s vice president for strategy and engagement.