Out of the Park

One plan for a new Marlins stadium could be a winner for Miami, which is nice since you're going to pay for it

Without making specific recommendations for designing the park, Wood's general concept is to create a dense cluster of private and public facilities from the Freedom Tower to the Performing Arts Center. Doing so, he argues, enhances the viability of each component. For such clustering to work, however, people need easy access to all destinations. Here in Miami, I-395 represents a literal roadblock to that, isolating the Performing Arts Center complex from everything south of it. Wood's solution: Elevate the expressway on graceful arches that would open up view corridors and encourage pedestrian movement. The expressway, he notes, already is scheduled for major renovation. For this project Ferré and Wood hope to enlist renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, whose sculptural bridge designs have earned him an international following.

There's more. In Wood's scheme the long-contemplated light-rail trolley from Miami Beach to downtown Miami would make a stop at the park before linking up with Metrorail in Overtown. And the Ninth Street pedestrian mall, never fully realized, would be enhanced to accommodate the trolley and tie Overtown and Park West to Bicentennial Park and the waterfront. "This is potentially a very good solution that addresses a lot of urban-design issues," Wood says. "It's motivated by trying to resolve not just the Marlins issue but the Performing Arts Center as well. This will cause some money to be spent to solve some serious design issues."

Jack Luft elaborates: "I think people have always been pitched these things as stand-alone projects -- let's build an arena, or let's built another arena. It's always been one entity trying to convince us their project is good for everybody. But if you can paint a bigger picture and show that all aspects of the community can connect, then wow -- that would be a fun place to go during a game, after a game, during the off-season. If the Marlins were smart, they'd play that up, how they could fit into lots of other things. Then people who don't normally think much about baseball, when they see the whole thing coming together, they'd say, “Yeah, that's the kind of city I'd like to have.'"

Artist's rendering of the Park West plan (the Biscayne Bay fountain is Ferré's brainstorm)Enlarge Photo
Courtesy Wood + Zapata
Artist's rendering of the Park West plan (the Biscayne Bay fountain is Ferré's brainstorm)

Enlarge Photo

Overhead view: The park design, says Ben Wood, is merely an idea, not a comprehensive plan Enlarge Photo
Courtesy Wood + Zapata
Overhead view: The park design, says Ben Wood, is merely an idea, not a comprehensive plan

Enlarge Photo

I must admit the bigger vision does sound appealing, even though the thought of another publicly subsidized sports stadium makes me want to scream. Moreover critics of the Park West plan have a long list of legitimate concerns, among them traffic congestion, unresolved parking issues, further isolation of Overtown, and the unlikely prospect of cooperation among a dizzying array of governmental agencies. None of which discourages Maurice Ferré.

Financing? Between state and federal transportation funding sources, as well as bonding and tax-increment financing through the city's redevelopment zone, money simply won't be a problem, Ferré declares. Logistics? His friends at Florida's Department of Transportation claim that moving Biscayne Boulevard is no big deal, and Miami developer Armando Codina (an avid baseball fan) has promised to use his influence to nudge the various political bureaucracies into action. Underground utilities are always complicated but easier with this plan because the road will be torn up anyway.

Beyond all that Ferré practically salivates at the thought of Miami rebuilding Bicentennial Park and attracting stunning new architecture: a world-class high-rise development on Sopher's property, a uniquely designed baseball stadium, a Performing Arts Center by architectural master Cesar Pelli, a sweeping expressway bridge by Calatrava, maybe even a museum in the park by celebrated architect Frank Gehry.

Yes, it does sound attractive. It's easy to get caught up in the vortex of unfettered imagination. And if it happens the way Wood, Zapata, Ferré, and Luft imagine it could, Miami would shine in the eyes of the world. But given the quality of local political leadership and the boundless opportunities to screw up, I'm afraid I must remain a skeptic.

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