Miami's Museum Park Planning Gets Messy

Democracy can be a messy affair.

After months of closed doors negotiations and planning for Museum Park (a.k.a. Bicentennial Park), the city held a public meeting Wednesday to show preliminary plans and take comments. More than 100 people jammed into a meeting room at the Performing Arts Center, with more spilling out to the hallway.

In a Power Point presentation with lots of nice drawings and pictures, architects and designers with Cooper, Robertson dreamed aloud of a heavily landscaped waterfront park complete with terraced gardens, "rain curtains," waterfalls, manmade islands, and "floating walkways." It would be home to the Miami Art Museum and the Miami Museum of Science, both "world-class" buildings neatly aligned with nearby I-395 along the northern end of the park. There was talk of the park being Miami's ticket to becoming a "great international city."

Then, the balloon popped.

Why so many nonnative species, one guy asked. Why such an apparent lack of hurricane planning? "It feels a little over-programmed," one man said of the multiple garden areas. The overarching concern, however, was open space. The two museums would occupy too-large a concrete footprint in one of this city's last remaining open spaces, several people said.

A citizens group called Neighborhoods United led the charge. In an e-mail sent out earlier this week, group members Judy Sandoval and Steve Hagen, a green space advocate and outspoken head of the obviously broad-based Citizens Against Everything Bad, urged people to speak against the museums. "Notice they are calling it Museum Park," the e-mail stated, "a clear indication that the green park Miami voters supported in 1974 and have being paying for thru (sic) bond debt, will cease to exist if we do not speak up Wednesday."

Upon getting hold of the microphone Wednesday, Sandoval lit into the planners, museum directors, and the mayor. "The public has been hoodwinked," she said, practically shaking. "This is the most formal and contrived (design) that I've ever seen in my life."

What's more, Sandoval said, the whole thing ignores the will of the people who, Neighborhoods United claims, expressed a desire for smaller buildings and more open space in a 2004 charette.

Groundbreaking is set for early 2008, while planners hope to have the park and museums operational by 2011. --Rob Jordan

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