Bicentennial Park renovations to cost about $60 million, within norms for 'world-class' park, consultant says
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
Bicentennial Park's makeover is to cost about $60 million — or about $2.5 million an acre based on the 24 acres of park space that will be left after erection of a pair of museums.
That sort of price sounds high but is within the norms for a "world-class" signature park for a major city, said Alex Cooper, founding partner of Cooper Robertson & Partners, the New York-based urban planning and consulting firm hired to transform underdeveloped Bicentennial Park into a Museum Park.
The 24 acres are to have such features as pools, lawns, themed gardens and a restaurant. The city has budgeted $50 million for the park component and $10 million for a 200-space underground garage.
The difference of Museum Park from other Miami parks is that it's the city's first 21st-century park to be characterized by a modern and more interactive design, Mr. Cooper said,
After the new Grapeland Water Park on Northwest 37th Avenue, this is to be Miami's biggest and most expensive park construction, said Ola Aluko, director of Miami's capital improvement programs, who is completing his first year as director.
Mr. Cooper said it's hard to put a precise number on landscaping and pavement costs for the new Museum Park, "but we are certain $60 million will pay for everything."
"The site is very special, is right on the bay and surrounded with gardens and museums," Mr. Cooper said. "This is the combined vision of a lot of people including the mayor (Manny Diaz)."
In March, city commissioners approved Cooper Robertson's crafted master plan to include 8 acres of parkland for the Miami Art Museum and the Museum of Science and a remaining 24 acres for the park's many elements.
But commissioners asked Cooper Robertson to reduce the plans' complexity, cutting down on the number of themed gardens and settling for cheaper plants and fewer hillocks as they did not want the development to exceed its budget.
The approved plans include an entry plaza with a shallow pool with palms growing out of it, a village area near 10th Street that is to feature a restaurant, park pavilion and an information booth, said Michael Jasper, partner architect for Cooper Robertson.
Another element is a terrace that allows park goers to walk from the entrance plaza toward the bay and also serves as a buffer between the museums and lawns.
The more traditional park components are open lawns for recreational activities and themed gardens as park plans call for the placement of about 600 trees and 1,000 palms.
A final piece of the park puzzle is a baywalk along the edge of the bay and river.
But could rising construction expenses hike costs?
Mr. Cooper said most park elements are landscape-related and those costs are not as volatile as construction costs, so he expects the project to stay on budget.
But a lawsuit filed by auto dealer Norman Braman, who hopes to overturn the city and county's $3 billion mega plan, which includes funding for Museum Park, could trigger a change of plans.
"Our contract is to design, if the lawsuit is successful, the city has to think of what to do with it (the project) because we have been hired to carry on," Mr. Cooper said.
Mr. Aluko said if the mega plan goes kaput, the city is to seek other funding sources, but it plans to move forward with the park.
A key source could then be the Sunshine loan, he said.
The Sunshine State Governmental Financing Commission is issuing the city a $27 million, low-interest loan to help support capital improvement projects.
Next on the project timeline: Cooper Robertson is to begin working on construction documents in August, a process that is to take about eight months.
The city is paying the firm $5.9 million for its architectural and engineering services.
Once the city has construction plans in hand, it could take an estimated five months to bid the project.
"That's a complicated thing because commissioners will have to agree on the contracts," said Mr. Jasper, the Cooper Robertson architect.
The city is to hire two construction companies, one to construct the park and another to build the underground parking. Both should be ready to break ground about a year from now, Mr. Cooper said.
Then, the construction phase is to take about 18 more months.
Mr. Cooper said his firm is to oversee the construction until the ribbon cutting, he said.
"Will be out there observing the site to make sure the building drawings are being followed."