With Art Basel literally just around the corner, we thought it would be a good time to update our neighborhoods section with a walk through of the historic Collins Park area of South Beach. If you’ve spent any time at all on South Beach, whether you know it or otherwise, you have almost certainly visited the Collins Park Neighborhood, but may or may not have recognized it as being independent from South Beach as a whole. If you were to happen to run in to Ray Breslin, long time resident and the chairman of the Collins Park Neighborhood Association he would be very sure to let you know in no uncertain terms that Collins Park is actually separate in and of its own right.
Collins Park was for a long time the forgotten little brother of the Art Deco Historic District just to the South that made South Beach famous. Collins Park had the distinction of having the methadone clinic, The Roney was an inexpensive rental building, vaguely reminiscent of a Soviet Housing block, Beach High, the fire station, and the well loved but hideously ugly Holiday Inn – all contributing to a not so pretty neighborhood, with a fair amount of random, although rarely violent crime, save for a rash of arsons. On the flip side to all of that, Collins Park was, and still is home to the Bass Museum, the ballet and the public library, the park itself a lovely little strip that led up to the beach, so why shouldn’t it be cared for on an equal basis as its fancier more glamorous sibling to the south.
Round about the exact turn of the millennium, small developers began looking at the general Collins Park area as possibly the best place to rehab and build, South Beach’s success limited its ability to grow being on the National Register of Historic Places means no new mega developments, but just to north Collins park was an easy walk away.
Developers, speculators really, started snapping up property in and around the Bass Museum and the canal area of Collins Park. Allesandro Ferreti purchased more or less the entire block to the west of the museum, Ken Fields purchased the run down Banana Bungalow, once the Ankara Motel, The Roney was in a perpetual battle as the owners tried to convert the remainder of the building to condos and then hotel, led by Joe Chetrit. The W hotel group was trying to purchase and demolish the Holiday Inn and the Dempsey Vanderbilt was slated for the Setai tower. Frank and Andrea Randazzo opened Talula, which for many years was one of the best restaurants on Miami Beach.
Sensing the potential condo free for all, the residents all came together to create the Collins Park Neighborhood Association,