Miami Beach

‘Political football’: Foundation halts effort for accessible wellness center in Miami Beach

Sabrina Cohen, whose foundation sought a fully accessible wellness center in Miami Beach.
Sabrina Cohen, whose foundation sought a fully accessible wellness center in Miami Beach. Miami Herald file

Months after angry neighbors decried plans to build an accessible wellness center in an oceanside park in Miami Beach, the foundation backing the concept has pulled the plug on the project.

The Sabrina Cohen Foundation notified the city in an email Monday that it no longer is going to pursue a deal with the city to construct a building that would provide therapy and gym facilities for the disabled. In a message sent the day before a community meeting to discuss other possible locations, Cohen wrote that she felt the project was a “political football” and the foundation had lost all faith in the city’s commitment to the project.

“Therefore, to protect the resources and reputation of the Sabrina Cohen Foundation from further loss, I am left with no other choice but to terminate all efforts in partnership with the City of Miami Beach, effective immediately,” she wrote.

The debate surrounding the center had become highly political and adversarial at times, with neighbors forming a group called “Save Allison Park” to rally against the plan to build the center at the North Beach park, 6500 Collins Ave. They insisted they wanted to save the patch of green space where the facility would’ve been built.

They got their way, and after a few meetings at City Hall, commissioners decided to look for another location.

City Manager Jimmy Morales responded to Cohen’s message Monday by maintaining that the city wanted to vet new locations.

“Sabrina, I can assure you that the Administration is sincerely and objectively going through the site vetting process in accordance with Commission direction. While this is not an easy task in a geographically small area that is built out, every site will be given full consideration for ultimate Commission approval.”

On Tuesday morning, the city announced that the public meeting had been canceled.

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech