New park brings greener grass to downtown Miami

Nestled in the concrete heart of downtown Miami, a new environmentally-friendly green space is scheduled to open by the end of October or the beginning of November.

Grand Central Park, as the location is called, is expected to attract locals and tourists alike to an outdoor space designed for public events, festivals, farmers markets and frequent wandering in what was once the space of the Miami Arena, an institution that was demolished in 2008.

Originally, the park was meant to beautify a decaying neighborhood and eventually improve the quality of life for its residents. However, Grand Central Park will perhaps be a larger facet of the Miami community, drawing visitors from areas outside of downtown.

“We designed Grand Central Park to serve as a platform for sustainable design concepts and as a catalyst for community activation of the Overtown and Park West neighborhoods,” said Mark Lesniak, executive director of the Overtown Park West Redevelopment Association (OPWRA), in a statement.

In addition to green space, there will be a sloping plaza with a berm, a man-made shelf, and a “no mow” lawn, a blend of six slow-growing grasses meant to thrive with little attention and reduce the growth of weeds. The plaza itself is also anticipated to be a hub for many public events, including concerts, movie-nights and mini-fairs.

“Looking at the design for it, the native plantings and this green oasis in the middle of the city, I think that it’s a really good idea and a way to get more green into the city, which I feel is an up-and-coming movement,” said Lauren Baron, president of Sustainable U, an on-campus organization devoted to educating the UM community about how to live a more substainable life.
Grand Central Park was given the green flag in January, when the Miami Community Redevelopment Agency awarded OPWRA $200,000 to be spent on its creation.
Though the grant helped to boost the progression of the park’s opening, it is unclear how long it will remain open due to problems with funding and revenue.
For now, funding will come from events and entrance fees, while residents of the nearby downtown area will enjoy the park for free.

“As a pilot project we’re jumping through all the hoops,” said Bradley Knoefler, president of the OPWRA, in an interview with The Miami Herald. “We see this as a project that can be replicated.”