I married a Miami guy. Born and raised. I fell in love with him at the same time I fell in love with his city.
Back when we were dating, he excitedly told me about this fabulous little beach and tidal pool where he used to spend long mornings as a child, just south of Coconut Grove. His mom would pack the kids into the station wagon and cook breakfast for them on a grill while they played in the sand and surf. It was called Tahiti Beach. Coral Gables’ founder George Merrick created it for Biltmore Hotel guests in the 1920s, but it was turned into a public beach.
My husband wanted to show it to me, but a security guard stopped us.
You can’t get to Tahiti Beach today unless you own one of the $14 million, three-car-garage mansions in Cocoplum, one of Miami-Dade County’s most exclusive, gated neighborhoods.
In a place with a yawning gap between the haves and have nots, the water is one of our last great shared resources. And we’re losing it.
I’m a huge soccer fan. I’ve played the game since I was 8. I spent most of my adolescence on a traveling team having the time of my life. I lettered in soccer in high school. My brother played professional soccer for the now-defunct Orlando Lions. When we were little, we used to cheer for the Washington Diplomats in a near-empty RFK Memorial Stadium. As a mom, I coached my daughters’ soccer teams for almost seven years. Heck, I even drove a minivan.
I am about as soccer mom as it gets. I still don’t want a soccer stadium on the water in Miami.
I’ve heard all the arguments for erecting a nearly 100-feet-tall, 20,000-seat stadium on prime public land along Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami. I don’t care that filling the city’s deep-water basin – the Florida East Coast Railway slip – as part of the plan could be environmentally sound (which is questionable). I don’t care that it could win us a Major League Soccer team.
I don’t care that much of the current waterfront space is trashy and unused. Just because we’ve mucked it up so far doesn’t mean we should throw in the beach towel.
We have a forward-thinking, nationally-recognized urban plan called Miami 21. It was created with tremendous public input. The plan envisions this space as a renewed public park and open area – a place where Miamians can gather along the water, regardless of income, and enjoy a vast green space with unobstructed views of the bay. If you’ve spent a blissful minute on the patio of the new Pérez Art Museum, you’ve caught a salty whiff of the possibilities.
Would you put a soccer stadium in Central Park or Millennium Park? Don’t aim so low, Miami.
Want to level the playing field? Let’s not give our last public downtown waterfront property away to a private entity for a stadium that will be empty most of the time.
At least 60 percent of Florida’s coastline is now private, offering little or no public access, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. Florida law requires that the state ensure the public’s right to reasonable access to water, but over the last two decades, local governments have routinely ceded public access points to private developers.
Not even a sexy guy in his underwear should be able to convince us to sell out this time.