From the beginning, there were skeptics. Says Ted Baker, a Miami-based fellow at the American Society of Landscape Architects: "It didn't seem to me that [Nelson] had a very strong understanding of what he was getting into." Truly dastardly, in Baker's eyes: Nelson, who calls himself a "garden designer," isn't a licensed landscape architect in Florida. "I look at people who call themselves 'landscape artists' or 'garden designers' as the parallel to those guys who are shooting people up with steroids and calling themselves doctors," Baker grumbles.

Excepting all that, Nelson's background doesn't scream suitability for public works. Since 1988, he's been sued at least six times in Miami-Dade County for allegedly not paying suppliers, subcontractors, and other debtors. He was recently the target of a suit by insurance provider Rain and Hail, LLC, for a bill topping $16,000. That was later dismissed. And in 2008, Nelson stiffed Larry's Cap Rock & Stone with a bounced check, the subcontractor claimed in court. The company sued for $30,375, but the squabble was privately settled.

Nevertheless, at the beginning of 2010, Nelson got to work on the midtown project — or not so much. His workers, along with unpaid volunteers attracted through the World Gardens website, ravaged the green plot in preparation for Nelson's masterwork, which never materialized.

Harry Sickle Nelson on the land where his masterwork was to go.
Silvia Ros
Harry Sickle Nelson on the land where his masterwork was to go.

Then came the accusation — likely unsurprising to Morningsiders — that Nelson was using midtown's land as an unlicensed commercial hub by peddling foliage to nearby businesses. "I think the guy is more interested in selling plants to Sugarcane," one resident, Greg Walton, commented on the Midtown Miami blog. "I believe this is his nursery, rent-free." (A Sugarcane manager said she knew nothing of the purchase.) In February 2010, Nelson took to midtown's website to announce he had "suffered a personal tragedy" — his sister died, he said — which had caused the delay. He published a schedule that would have the gardens finished by 2010's Art Basel.

Little progress followed. The land is now marred by ravines of dirt, piles of gardening equipment, half-sawed trees, and the one finished aspect — a lily pond — that acts as a mosquito magnet in the summer. It was not until this publication inquired that Midtown Equities announced it had scrapped the project.

Nelson was in a testy mood during his conversation with New Times. He declared he finally gave up on the project, even after spending $400,000, when Midtown Equities recently told him the garden might be replaced by construction within a year. The rumored addition is a movie theater. It's a development locals have been clamoring for but a sleight to Nelson's potential artistry. "Maybe it's a good thing that my sister had issues," he declares. "It would have been a shame to have created something beautiful and then have them plow over it."

He then asked when this story would be published. "Good," he responded smugly. "I'll have my [Miami] Herald piece run the same day. They're doing a story on all of my accomplishments, and it will overshadow your hatchet job."

Nelson would not pick up New Times's four subsequent calls or a note left in a mailbox at his Morningside home — where the grounds are still in disarray. It appears that renovation remains in the works.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
All
 
My Voice Nation Help
4 comments
Guavajune
Guavajune

As a midtown resident, I still prefer the garden-in-progress to another commercial building and more concrete.

js
js

This thing is a disaster.. Was optimal when it was only grass and at least it could be used by members of the community. it completely cuts off all visual access from one side of Midtown from another. It could be a great urban park that Miami is sorely missing.

Robert J. Crowley
Robert J. Crowley

I blame the Samuels. They were involved in Nirvana Condos. If they can cut corners or do anything for cheap they will. So there you go. Good for Nelson for sticking it to people who've been sticking it to everyone else for years in Miami. Call Marc Sarnoff see if he can help you - hopefully he's not busy performing felatio on a new Developer who wants to screw over the little people.

Carolann
Carolann

I miss Pierce (Pat) Mullally everyday. Not a day goes by that I don't think of him...

 
Loading...