Aqua Nova

Will a starry-eyed proposal for renovating Monument Island burn out before its time?

Behar and Marquardt admit they would need to find engineering, construction, and landscaping experts to manage the project. But they insist that wouldn't be a problem if only the City of Miami Beach or Miami-Dade County would rally behind their vision. "It would be very, very simple," Behar maintains. "It's surprising that a politician hasn't taken it."

Behar even has clever ideas for raising most of the five to seven million dollars he estimates it would cost: Convince the area's biggest art collectors to sell one piece from each of their collections. "One work of art from the [Norman] Bramans, the de la Cruzes, Craig [Robins], and the Rubells would build the island," he says. "Which would be an incredible contribution to their memory, really, and to their participation in the invention of Miami."

School kids could be involved in a penny collection project. "Not because of the monetary importance of the money that we can raise from the kids, but because of the symbolical importance of everyone in town collaborating to make The Star of Miami," Behar adds. "A kind of collective enterprise that we can all, despite anything, participate in. It wouldn't be hard to include everyone's name, even if you donated ten dollars. The list can be as long as needed for people that in one way or another contributed to make this dream possible."

Some folks see how Monument Island went from 1922 
(top middle) to 1969 (bottom middle) and ask, why? 
Behar and Marquardt imagine it as it could be and ask, 
why not?
Photos Courtesy of Florida Photographic Collection
Some folks see how Monument Island went from 1922 (top middle) to 1969 (bottom middle) and ask, why? Behar and Marquardt imagine it as it could be and ask, why not?

Once built, The Star of Miami would be managed as a public park. In this part of the fantasy, maintenance workers actually take care of the park daily. "A couple of people will cut the trees a little bit every so often, make sure that the plants are growing well," Behar suggests.

"Or take the garbage out," his wife adds.

"We would like the project really not to be ours but to be a kind of community endeavor in a way, where kids may come and schools may come and plant a tree," Behar continues. "We really think it's possible, that it's not far-fetched by any means. Mainly because the land is there already, and right now it looks really bad."

While some Miami Beach officials are intrigued by the idea, William Cary, the city's design and preservation manager, is certain the Star proposal will never get past the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board, which would have to approve any project to alter the island. And, ironically for Behar and Marquardt, Miami Beach officials are in the early stages of a complicated bureaucratic process to decide whether to spend several million dollars to make the island perfectly round again. A star shape is simply not in the equation. "If it's not both environmentally and financially feasible to restore the island to the original plan conceived of by Carl Fisher -- to its pristine circular shape -- I'm sure that the board would opt to maintain the island in its current configuration," Cary insists. "It would be very contrary to the intent of the man who actually conceived of this wonderful memorial to Flagler and used all of his money and genius to develop this and have it designed. I'm an artist myself, and as much as I love public art, it would not be the appropriate thing to do to create an eight-pointed star there."

Moreover, city officials hope eventually to apply for a designation on the National Register of Historic Places. Which means Behar and Marquardt will have to move like wizards in a magical realism novel to get The Star of Miami on Monument Island. Or perhaps they will envision the Star farther west, in waters ruled by the City of Miami, where historic preservation tends to be a hallucination.

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