The Reincarnation of South Pointe Park
“The rebirth of this park is a symbol of the ongoing renaissance of our city. Every aspect of South Pointe Park represents a combined effort of the City and our residents. It’s a gift, really, to residents and visitors alike.” —Miami Beach City Manager Jorge M. Gonzalez
Most aging relics on South Beach opt for a little nip and tuck once in a while, and South Pointe Park is no exception. From July 9, 2007 until March 22, 2009, the neglected 17.5 acre recreation area was cordoned off, as an ambitious $22.4 million project—bankrolled by local redevelopment agency, Miami Beach Resort Tax and Miami-Dade County General Obligation Bond funds—transformed it into a designer’s dream, courtesy of MCM, a Miami-based construction firm.
Joggers, walkers, and rollerbladers, accustomed to being able to circumnavigate the southern side of the island while taking in the breathtaking vistas of the shipping channel, were forced to find other routes during the lengthy renovations.
THE WAY WE WERE
(above) SOUTH POINTE PARK, BEFORE THE RENOVATIONS
Prior to the summer of 2007, South Pointe Park was a much simpler place, a reminder of a time when South Beach was less image-conscious. It consisted of a grove of coconut palms, a walkway, some unassuming restrooms and a few seaside rocks you could sit on to enjoy your Joe’s Stone Crab take-out as the cruise ships moseyed by in the distance. The afore-mentioned joggers, rollerbladers, and walkers mingled with lovers and homeless people along its lawn, while the scent of red meat on the grill wafted over from Smith & Wollensky’s Steakhouse, curiously juxtaposed in the center of the action.
(above) THE PROMENADE PRE-2009
As South Beach became ever-increasingly chic, these non-descript grounds became more and more out-of-step with the latte-sipping world beyond. And so, a posh rebirth was conceived.
The original plan had been to renovate the park in segments; however, Mario Gonzalez-Pola, the City’s senior capital project coordinator, determined the work could be completed more quickly with the entire park closed. While the city had wanted to keep one of the walkways open, according to Gonzales-Pola, the liability was too great. Consequently, the project remained largely hidden from the public until this past March.
(above)THE ROCKS USED TO BE THE BEST VANTAGE POINT FOR CRUISE SHIP WATCHING
So, now that the mystery has been at last unveiled, a question remains: was the money worth it? Or would it have better been used…erm…revamping the city drainage system? You be the judge!
THE NEW “CUTWALK”
(above) WHAT A DIFFERENCE 20 MONTHS MAKES!
The cement walkway of before has been replaced with a 20-foot wide promenade constructed of a tabby-shell aggregate with natural keystone banding. A series of 18 light towers line the thoroughfare, which, paralleling Government Cut, has been dubbed “The Cutwalk“. At night, these towers come alive in an array of different colored lights, especially designed to avoid confusing nesting sea turtles, who use the stars to guide them home to the beaches where they first hatched.
Pathways curve artfully along newly-formed hillsides, providing some texture to the once flat surroundings; they meander across a lawn comprised of Paspalum grass (the same salt-tolerant turf that’s used in area golf courses), over a bridge, and out through a natural dune area close to the beach.
Speaking of foliage, the park has quite an assortment: it features 25 different types of trees, along with various palm species and 34 different varieties of shrubs, ornamental plants and ground cover—a perfect setting for a relaxing picnic.
THE OBSERVATION DECK
A slight deviation along the serpentine pathway takes you up a hill, past some hillside bleachers and out to the roof of the park pavilion, which serves as a landlocked lido-style observation deck, offering unparalleled views of the ships coming and going through Government Cut. This building, designed by Miami Beach architect and resident William Lane, houses park offices, restrooms, and a multi-purpose room for special events.
Sure to keep the kiddies amused, these snake-like jets provide the perfect wet relief for a South Beach summer day. While the decorative fountains in the park use recycled water, for health reasons, these child-specific play areas must maintain a constant flow of fresh water. In light of the current drought restrictions, this feature was a topic of considerable debate during recent elections.
Near the fountain jets is a children’s play area, as well as a few futuristic picnic tables.
PARK DETAILS & DIRECTIONS
Park hours are from sunrise until 10 pm, while the Cutwalk remains open until 2 am. Parking is available in a lot adjoining the park; however, at last report, they were charging $15 to park. If you don’t mind a little walk, it’s easier to snag a spot on one of the streets a few blocks away. Weekdays between 9 am and 6 pm, parking is free on residentially-zoned streets; at other times, metered parking is easily found and costs $1.25 per hour. Get directions to the Park.
After my visit, I was considerably impressed by the park’s ritzy new incarnation, though my visiting friend thought it felt a little sterile and corporate. It certainly does deliver with a sense of aesthetics it lacked before, but it did feel a little like an office park at the same time…a rather expensive one at that! As we move into a homogenized world, perhaps that’s just the inevitable shape of things to come…
You Deserve More Than an Ordinary Vacation.
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"The Reincarnation of South Pointe Park"