Parcel B was long promised as a green space.
Parcel B was long promised as a green space.
Photo courtesy of Peter Ehrlich

After Miami Heat Ignore Promise To Create Park, Activists Are Dedicating It Anyway

For two decades, Miamians have been waiting for the park that was promised but never came. Tomorrow a group of advocates will gather at the space that was supposed to be lush green but is instead drab concrete — the plot behind American Airlines Arena unromantically dubbed Parcel B.

And they'll hold a ceremony renaming the plot Dan Paul Park, after the famed Miami attorney, government watchdog, and parks advocate. 

"Everyone's invited," says Peter Ehrlich, a board member with the Urban Environment League, one of the groups organizing the event. "We need to bring publicity to this four-acre waterfront site." 

The history of the argument over the little piece of prime Bayfront real estate goes back to the construction of American Airlines Arena: As part of the Miami Heat's bid to convince residents to vote in favor on a public referendum authorizing the new waterfront arena, the team promised — even in now-infamous television ads — to dedicate the four-acre plot behind the stadium into a green park space with soccer fields. The Heat won the arena but the park never happened. The county, says Ehrlich, never really held them accountable for it.

"The spent like $3 million on the ad campaign to with the voter referendum," Ehrlich says of the team. "We've been waiting for 20 years for them to fulfill [their] promise." Instead of building the park, the Heat paved the area, and now pays "hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to keep the public off-site."

For years Parcel B has been a particular sore spot among residents and advocates, but in March new attention was drawn to the land after the Formula E car race — an environmentally-friendly racing series — ended up paving areas of the parcel to use a staging area.

Since then, local groups including The Urban Environment League, Emerge Miami, and The New Tropic began a series of meetings over how to bring attention to the plight of the would-be park; eventually they decided to host the renaming event, choosing to christen the space in honor of legendary Miamian Dan Paul, an eccentric, much-beloved, brilliant attorney who wrote Miami-Dade's original charter and advocated for green space in the city.

Paul "spent decades protecting parks from commercial encroachment," Ehrlich says. "[He was] somebody that's brilliant, that speaks truth to power." 

The ultimate goal with the event, Ehrlich says, is to move closer to finally converting Parcel B into the green space that was promised long ago. Participants are meeting at the site at 11:30. Emerge Miami is also hosting a bike ride to the gathering; the ride meets at 10.

Ehrlich isn't sure how many people will attend, nor is he really concerned. "We're building momentum," he says.

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