simpsonpark-interior-Apr2018

Column: Viewpoint that Simpson Park could be so much more

By Robert Green, owner of the 1550 Brickell Apartment complex, reflecting on what the Brickell community needs and his concept that Simpson Park could fulfill some of those needs. All viewpoints are welcome to the BHA Editor.

Nearly 30 years ago, we built 1550 Brickell Apartments. It was the first rental community to be built in the Brickell corridor and, while it has been substantially modernized and transformed since then, we continue to operate it as a rental today.

For those of you who cannot remember what Brickell was like way back then, let me simply say that it bears no resemblance to what we see today. In short, Brickell wasn’t yet Brickell. No City Center, No Four Seasons, No JW Marriott and none of the modern condos and rentals which line our streets today. And, there weren’t many restaurants either. In fact, it seems that nearly half of the neighboring properties were completely empty or were utilized by one and two story buildings that have long since disappeared.

Along with all of these stunning buildings has come a huge influx of young professionals, many of whom are married with children. This dynamic of remaining in the urban core after marriage and even having children is consistent with the national trend. But, along with this changing profile has come a set of pressing needs which our community has yet to satisfy. Atop the list of needs is more parks and recreation facilities and, of course, more well located and outstanding schools. Today, I want to address the obvious lack of parks and recreation facilities.

So, where do you and your kids go to play soccer or softball or basketball? And, to what playground do you take your young children to play? And, do you and your children ever go to a Community Center? The answer to these questions is that you either travel significant distances to find such facilities or just don’t partake. How sad, especially since greater Brickell  generates almost 70% of the tax base for the City of Miami.

simpsonparkcommunitycenter2

Simpson Park community center at 1770 South Miami Avenue entrance. Photo taken in Feb. 2018. Photo at top of interior trail taken in April 2018.

The bottom line is that we are sorely lacking in these vital ‘quality of life’ features. Brickell, while amazing in so many ways, has no “soul” and there is no reason why we can’t achieve this. Sure, land prices have gone crazy and there isn’t really enough of it to create the kind of magical places found in some of the great cities but we have uncovered an unpolished gem which could easily meet our needs.

Have you ever heard of Simpson Park? More importantly, have you ever entered Simpson Park? Most of us certainly haven’t but, for your information, this 8.5 acre park is located at the corner Southeast 15 Road and South Miami Avenue and its claim to fame is that it is the last remaining forest in the City of Miami. It is not widely used and it is in major disrepair, including downed trees from Hurricane Irma.

Diplomatically speaking, it is not the kind of place where you would let your children roam. On a positive note, though, this park contains some exotic trees and, undoubtedly, there are some who think that it’s a real treasure in its current form. Sure, in a perfect world, we would keep it as is and find another location to build our playgrounds and Community Center but, sadly, there are no other viable and convenient locations and, importantly, there isn’t any alternate location which could be acquired without spending a veritable fortune.

I, for one, love great parks and beautiful vegetation and would never advocate that we tear down Simpson Park and build another dense project. That said, I do think that THIS park should be re-imagined to include a significant active component, including a Community Center. Yes, we need to preserve trees and we need to pay homage to what Simpson Park has been but, at the same time, we need to sensitively intertwine a vibrant active component into this park so that it can be enjoyed by all. Even Central Park in New York City has both active and passive components and, locally, the Village Green in Key Biscayne is a stunning example of what really works.

Whether we like it or not, Brickell has experienced a monumental change over the past 30 years but, still, there is much more that needs to be done. We can get there if we work together. Lets start with Simpson Park and make it special!

Robert Green is President of Green Development Group, Inc
1550 Brickell Avenue, Suite A503, Miami, FL 33129, Phone (305) 854-9100 ext. 105

Editor’s Note: BHA Executive Board has supported the concept to the City of Miami of looking at ways to re-imagine and re-activate Simpson Park to better serve the needs of the community while still preserving the rare and endangered indigenous species found in this remaining hardwood hammock in Miami. For article from BHA News archives 2011 click here.