Money Found To Reopen Downtown Park
Written by Risa Polansky on December 20, 2007
By Risa Polansky
Downtown professionals are soon to regain a lunchtime refuge as the City of Miami moves forward with its once-stalled plans to revive the former Paul Walker Park.
City officials closed the popular gathering spot, 46 W Flagler St., in the 1990s and allowed a restaurant to open there.
After more than six months of seeking funding to tear down the restaurant and re-establish a pocket park there, the city has pinned down the $400,000 needed for the project, said Ola Aluko, director of the Department of Capital Improvements: $250,000 from the Downtown Development Authority and $150,000 from Commissioner Marc Sarnoff’s "quality of life funds," money allocated to each commissioner through a bond issuance.
Mr. Aluko said construction on the new park is to begin as early as March.
The intent is to open "a park for those who work downtown to come enjoy," he said, "eat their lunch, read the newspaper. It’s mostly for the business people."
It is to be designed "green" and include recycled materials from the demolition, Mr. Aluko said.
In addition to offering picnic tables and benches, "Eventually, the hope is to provide a wireless connection so that people will be able to not only have their lunch but connect online and work or play virtually while enjoying the outdoors," said Lara de Souza, spokesperson for the city’s parks department, in an e-mail. "There are no plans to put anything other than the benches in the park, as it really (is) just a passive park targeting those who work downtown and are looking for a green escape in the concrete jungle."
Creating such pocket parks is a major component of the city’s recently approved Parks Master Plan, parks Director Ernest Burkeen said in July.
But the city faces an obstacle in finding more land downtown.
"We are pretty much landlocked," he said. "There are not that many opportunities. We have asked our division of asset management to keep an eye on buildings to discover things for sale or other possibilities."
Having pocket parks downtown for residents and workers is critical for the area’s long-term growth, Mr. Burkeen said.
Parks, he said, "add to the health and wealth of any community and certainly downtown."