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Groundbreaking for downtown Miami park to be held Tuesday

Thirty days from now, a vacant lot that was once the home of the former Miami Arena will reopen as a park, adding a green space to park-starved downtown Miami in an effort to beatify the area and improve its reputation.

The groundbreaking ceremony for Grand Central Park will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 18 at 5 p.m. right on site, at 700 N. Miami Ave. amid City of Miami officials and park sponsors.

“Grand Central Park will bring activity and jobs to the neighborhood,” said Mark Lesniak, executive director of Omni Parkwest Redevelopment Association (OPRA) , a non-profit that spearheaded the project, in a released statement.

“It can also serve as a pilot project for other temporary uses of vacant land in downtown Miami.”

The city has already granted the final permits for the park's construction. OPRA received a $200,000 grant from the Miami Community Redevelopment Agency to cover construction and part of rent costs of the land, which is owned by Palm Beach County businessman Glenn Straub.

Straub agreed to lease the land for three years to OPRA at $200,000 per year.

The park will be used for concerts and other events in order to fund the its day-to-day operations and rent.

Grand Central Park will be owned by the OPRA and will be private. Residents of the CRA district, whose tax money was put up to make the project possible, will have free access to the fenced park, while everyone else will be required to pay for admission.

According to Brad Knoefler, a local activist and president of OPRA, they still haven't determined the admission price, but he said it could be around $50 a year.

OPRA Spokesman Grant Stern said the policy will help keep homeless people from living on the park’s grounds. 

Knoefler, who owns a nightclub bearing the name of the future park across the street, had already spent $65,000 to hire local workers and indigents to remove debris and gravel, and install lighting and fencing for the park.

City of Miami District 2 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who has sponsored the construction of parks in Palm Grove and Brickell, will be at the ceremony along with District 5 Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones.

"Every corner of the City of Miami deserves to have public park space that residents can utilize. Grand Central Park will not only serve that purpose but it also will begin to alleviate the blight this area has suffered under for far too long," Sarnoff said in a released statement.

Open Media Miami will continue to report on the progress of this project.

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