Did you know California & New York hold 3/5ths of the top parks in the country? South Florida isn’t even near the Top 10 and we think we have some beautiful parks! So we sat down with Mark Schrieber, the head of Brickell Green Space, an organization who’s goal is to bring a beautiful park to the residents of Downtown Miami, at The Village Humidor in Mary Brickell Village and got the inside scoop of their plans and how we all can help.
What exactly is the mission of Brickell Green Space?
It’s a community lead, volunteer initiative to create more park land in downtown Miami and in particular Brickell. Brickell has changed so much in the last few years through the boom, that it’s not just a 9-5 office center anymore but a 24-7 neighborhood. However, one of the key elements that it is missing is great public spaces and park land for the community. Miami unfortunately is one of the worst cities when it comes to park land per resident. Brickell in particular, now with over 30,000 residents, has a lower ratio than the city average.
Now what differences do you think having this park will actually make?
Well our goal is to create permanent park land in Brickell, so we’ve identified some sites that we think would make a good park and we’re going after it building support from the local stakeholders to make the project a reality. 91% of those surveyed in the most recent Parks and Public Spaces Masterplan, completed by the City of Miami in 2007, believe that Miami needs more parks. The masterplan also identified the heart of Brickell (14) as needing a neighborhood park. So the idea is not new but rather we are trying to help the City realize it’s own masterplan. It would provide recreational activities for people, increasing their health and sense of community. Financially, parks help out local real estate values, increase tourism and would increase the livability of Brickell, which could lead to more job attraction. It would definitely be a legacy project for the city.
What areas is Brickell Green Space looking at for this park?
There are a few areas we’re looking at in Brickell but our main focus is a 3.6 acre piece of land on the river located to the left when crossing into Brickell over the South Miami Avenue Bridge.
What is the attraction to the Brickell area?
A main reason we’re looking at Brickell is because we’re on a limited time frame with the next development cycle about to kick in. So this is kind of our last chance to preserve some land and create that park space.
With residents of Brickell, and Miami as a whole really, being a big dog community, would this park allow dogs or at least have a designated area for dog owners?
Certainly. I know there are two types of dog parks; those where you can have your dogs on a leash, which I assume would be most parks and ones that have designated area. So we would definitely want to incorporate something like that. What we’ve been doing the last few months is going out to events, getting out there and getting in front of people and running a petition and a lot of the feedback is from dog owners. There have also been a few pet shops in the neighborhood that have supported it and there seems to be a pretty overwhelming percentage of dog owners in a lot of the buildings around here.
Ok so you mentioned you’ve been to some events locally, what events were they?
We posted an event at Tobacco Road, we were part of the St. Patrick’s Festival over at Brickell Irish Pub and then there’s been a few times where we’ve given presentations at various organizations and happy hours throughout the community. So as much as we can we’re getting out there and spreading the word.
With fiscal responsibility being a huge issue right now (especially during an election year) how is Brickell Green Space looking to secure financing for the development of this area?
Obviously that’s the biggest question about the project. Everybody we’ve talked to is for more park land and recognizes the need but they’re concerned about how we can finance it. There are a variety of ways; the typical way a city would take on a project like this would be through bond financing. Right now in Miami, I don’t know if there is that ability to go down that route. It would take a lot longer and it would probably turn into a much larger bond issue. Another way would be to create a special tax overlay district, similar to what the Miami DDA’s downtown headquarters is funded by, which would act like an impact zone for the park. There’s billions of dollars of real estate in Brickell so it would be a minor percentage increase on people’s real estate taxes to pay off the bonds. The other opportunity is to leverage some of the private development that’s about to take place in the area. There’s Brickell CitiCentre, My Brickell and 600 Brickell that just opened up that’s all kind of adjacent to it. There’s plenty of other properties in Brickell with pending development plans, if we could leverage that private development to help pay for the park, I think it’s a win/win. Not only does the community get great public spaces and parks but those property owners directly nearby will see their return in the rise of their property value, which has been shown historically all over the US.
If and when Brickell Green Space acquires land, how much would tax payers be paying for the upkeep of the park each year?
I sit on the parks and recreation advisory board for the city of Miami and it’s clear that that department is extremely strapped and will continue to be strapped, but we think there’s an ability to set up a park trust, similar to what Bayfront Park has. Whether it’s through fees for renting sports fields or water front dockage or events, there are ways for a park to bring in money. That being said what we’re envisioning for this park is an open green space; which means no buildings, no heavy programming so maintenance would be fairly limited to landscaping.
How can people get involved with Brickell Green Space to help move the effort along?
Monetary donations are always welcome. We already have a team of landscape architects that are helping on the design side to create a better vision for it but we also need as many people as possible to help spread the word and get the online petition signed. There’s also non-monetary ways people can help such as donating their time. For example, if someone is a finance or accounting expert, we could certainly use their help on that side. So there’s really an unlimited amount of ways for people to help us out