September 2, 2014

Public Space

A Paucity of Parks

David Villano | 2/1/2006

SPACE JAM: The lack of public space is “an embarrassment,” says Steve Hagen of Miami Neighborhoods United, a coalition of homeowners groups.
By any measure, Miami's park system is the nation's skimpiest, ranking last among major cities in parkland per capita and in the percentage of land devoted to parks. Civic groups blame a long record of poor management and a pro-development mindset in city hall. Downtown Miami's sprawling Bayside Marketplace, for example, sits within the city's historic Bayfront Park; and the adjacent AmericanAirlines Arena occupies public land many hoped would be preserved as urban green space.

"It's an embarrassment," says Steve Hagen, parks committee chairman of Miami Neighborhoods United, a citywide coalition of homeowners groups. Hagen worries that an unprecedented building boom will draw tens of thousands of new residents to Miami's high-density urban areas, overwhelming its meager park system.

City officials are responding by increasing the impact fee on residential development projects -- the first increase since 1987. Much of the fee will be used to acquire land for parks. Another ordinance, if approved, would allow high-rise developers to avoid open space set-aside requirements by paying into the parks fund. But with local real estate prices in the stratosphere, Hagen says the fees will have little impact.

By the city's own estimate -- which Hagen calls overly optimistic -- only 11 acres will be added to the park system over the next five years. Hagen's group is lobbying for higher impact fees. Others say the focus should be on converting existing public lands to green space rather than lease them to the highest bidder.

Tags: Politics & Law, Miami-Dade, Government/Politics & Law

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