Suarez unveils plan for ‘Central Park’ in Gables

By Nancy Eagleton….

A conceptual rendering shows Miami-Dade County Commissioner Xavier Suarez’s vision for a “Central Park” in the heart of Coral Gables.

Miami-Dade County District 7 Commissioner Xavier Suarez recently unveiled an ambitious proposal to expand the Fred B. Hartnett Ponce Circle Park, located in the heart of Coral Gables, into a 2.7-acre European-styled “Central Park.”

Plans for the urban park call for Ponce de Leon Boulevard to be tunneled underground at the east and west access ways, which would allow for easier pedestrian access and more than double the park’s green space.

“For a few years I’ve been tossing around the idea for a ‘central park’ that connects different parts of the city,” Commissioner Suarez said. “Ponce Circle is the perfect location for this ‘vertical’ town square concept, and it would be the first of its kind in South Florida and the southeast U.S.”

Suarez unveiled his proposed vision for the future of Miami-Dade County during a recent meeting and plans for this “central park” concept were included in his presentation. Inspired by town squares in Rome and Madrid, renderings for the park include a majestic “Fountain of Youth” honoring Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon and his search for the famous fountain. The fountain is enhanced by a sculpture of a 70-foot ship’s mast and features a statuesque Ponce de Leon standing in the crow’s nest overlooking the City Beautiful. The sculpture would be illuminated at night, making it visible from miles away.

Suarez said that the park would be the perfect venue for festivals, art shows, concerts, farmers’ markets and holiday celebrations.

“It would become an international epicenter for commerce, entertainment, culture and tourism,” he added.

Suarez’s park concept is still in the costing, budgeting and financing phase and Suarez has not formerly presented his vision at a City of Coral Gables City Commission meeting. Nevertheless, he has garnered support from Coral Gables City Commissioner Frank Quesada.

“This European-style plaza would serve as a wonderful gathering place for our residents,” Quesada said. “It is our vision as elected officials to try and improve our cities. Commissioner Suarez and I spoke about this vision years ago. He decided that the timing was right to introduce the idea to the community and see if the residents embrace the concept.”

The improvement of the Fred B. Hartnett Ponce Circle Park is one of the initiatives of the city’s Neighborhood Renaissance Program, introduced in April during a commission meeting. The program includes several initiatives to enhance the neighborhood settings in which Coral Gables residents live, work and play. Coral Gables city manager Patrick Salerno said that the city has budgeted more than $4 million for Ponce Circle Park improvements. Coral Gables City Commissioner Ralph Cabrera added that design ideas for the park will be considered and evaluated, and then presented to the community.

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