There's no better real estate in Miami than the 30 acres of downtown waterfront space just south of the Pérez Art Museum Miami. But in its current iteration, the rectangular block known as Museum Park is pretty much a waste — an exposed, feature-less patch of shrubby grass that's great for dogs and Frisbee but not much else.
It could be different. A consortium is seeking to totally revitalize the space into a new, signature park for Miami — and the process could get kick-started later today, when city of Miami commissioners discuss the creation of new, non-profit Museum Park Conservancy to usher through a revitalization.
"Ever since [Museum Park] was built, it was meant to be an iconic public space on the water," says Javier Alberto Soto, president of the Miami Foundation, one of the groups leading the effort. "What we've done ... is propose that a conservancy come into existence that would basically be the engine that drives creation of this original world-class vision."
Indeed, the area now known as Museum Park has a long, trying history. The space was first envisioned in the early 1970s as an ambitious, world-class waterfront park for an emerging Miami. In 1976, it opened as Bicentennial Park, but politics and funding battles meant the original vision was never realized. The green space was eventually used for high-profile concerts, including Ultra, but for decades, Miamians lamented the lack of the truly great park they had been promised.
Finally, in 2008, city commissioners approved a revitalization: a $46 million plan by famed New York architecture firm Cooper, Robertson & Partners — the group responsible for projects like the Guggenheim Helsinki and the New Whitney Museum — to burnish the lackluster park, by now called Museum Park, into something closer to its original grand vision.
That effort also sputtered. After the recession, the city's budget was downgraded to just $10 million, and the grand plans for a world-class park for Miami were again put on hold.
The idea with the conservancy, explains Soto, is to create an independent nonprofit group to help raise funds and see the original vision through to completion. New York's Central Park is largely funded by a similar park conservancy, as is Millennium Park in Chicago.
The plans for Museum Park's revamp include a grand entry feature, a waterfront botanical element, play spaces for children, art installations, shaded areas, and fountains. Of the approximately $50 million needed, more than $7 million has already been committed from donors, Soto says, and he expects more will pour in if the city formally approves the conservancy.
"It is an extreme makeover, unlike anything that Miami has ever had," he says. "But very much like what several other cities have."
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Below are more renderings of a future Museum Park: