Save Allison Park, Last Mid-Beach Green Space, Building Plan Critics Say

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A petition drive is building steam to stop construction of a wellness center on one of Miami Beach's last oceanfront respites, Allison Park, at 65th Street and Collins Avenue.

The three-acre park is among the city's smallest. The Sabrina Cohen Foundation, a group dedicated to helping people with disabilities, would finance the wellness 10,000-square-foot center. That nonprofit was founded by an athlete who was paralyzed from the neck down. The building's three stories are planned to include a gym, a yoga studio, and aquatherapy facilities. The center would obscure the view from some neighboring condos.

Commissioners will review the plan December 9 and are likely to approve a referendum on the plan for this coming March.

But opponents have created a website and begun circulating petitions that protest "construction of a multistory structure in an area designated as protected for the nesting of three endangered species of sea turtles." So far, more than 300 people have signed to oppose the project. 

"The biggest problem is the lack of transparency on the part of the city," says Sylvia Ospina, an attorney and real-estate agent who has lived next to the park for 16 years. "No notice has been given to most of the owners and residents in the adjacent buildings."

The park is a rare beachfront location with parking on Mid-Beach. Though the Sabrina Cohen Foundation has proposed adding parking, residents are concerned those spots would mostly be taken by visitors to the center. There are also showers in bathrooms "built about ten years ago to replace other bathrooms," she says. "It is a turtle park, a very small one," she says. The structure would eliminate much of the green area.

Ospina points out that a beachfront senior center at 73rd Street would be a far better location. It is underused, she says, and has ramps and facilities for people with disabilities.   

Though she plans to attend the meeting December 9 and has heard rumblings of another meeting to be held in the area, she believes the idea should be shelved immediately. A public referendum should never be held, she says. "We have to kill this much, much before that," she says.

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