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.
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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.