Miami-Dade leaders consider Parcel B
Written by Lidia Dinkova on June 18, 2014
Miami-Dade County has moved forward with examining two competing uses for the same piece of land, a nearly 3-acre vacant area behind AmericanAirlines Arena.
Known as Parcel B, the land is now generally used for staging of arena events.
For years, the nonprofit Cuban Exile History Museum Inc. has wanted to build its museum there. On the other hand, some nearby residents have said they want the area, which might be the last open waterfront space in Miami, to be developed as a park.
Last Thursday, a county committee moved forward two items that, if approved by the full county commission, would call for staff to look into both uses separately – a museum and a park.
Commissioner Esteban Bovo sponsored an item calling for Miami-Dade to negotiate with the Cuban Exile History Museum about constructing its facility on Parcel B. Commissioner Audrey Edmonson’s item calls for the county to look into building a park on Parcel B. Another item, also sponsored by Ms. Edmonson, directs county staff and museum representatives to examine alternative sites for the museum.
Three county commissioners, sitting as the Economic Development & PortMiami Committee, moved all three items to the full commission with a favorable recommendation.
The issue, which caused some contention among committee members and residents who spoke on the item, should be discussed by all 13 county commissioners, committee members decided.
Parcel B is county-owned and was meant to be developed as a park since the county struck a deal in the 1990s for the development of AmericanAirlines Arena.
Those promises never came to fruition and today a fence blocks public access to Parcel B.
Commissioner Lynda Bell, sitting as the committee’s chairwoman, said that a park and a museum don’t necessarily have to be competing for Parcel B.
“I am wondering if they couldn’t co-exist,” she said.
Preliminary plans for the Cuban Exile History Museum show a 65-to 75-foot-tall structure that takes about a third of Parcel B.
“A structure would block the view from the AmericanAirlines Arena,” said Commissioner Edmonson, who doesn’t sit on the committee. “Once that’s there, we’ve lost every view from our waterfront.”
While a county study has reported that the museum would block some waterfront views, Nicolás Gutiérrez, vice president and director of the Cuban Exile History Museum Inc., said plans are for the structure to have a publicly accessible park. The structure, he added, would only partially block unappealing views of PortMiami.
About half a dozen residents spoke at the committee meeting. Most wanted the area to be developed as a park.
“Why can’t this museum work their exhibit into a portion of the Freedom Tower or locate it in Little Havana, the heart of the Cuban-American community?” said Gregory Bush, a University of Miami professor and vice president of the Urban Environment League.
Commissioners Jose “Pepe” Diaz and Juan Zapata took issue with that and other comments made at the committee meeting.
“I don’t remember any other group to come out to oppose any of the two museums out there,” Commissioner Diaz said.
Just north of Parcel B, Museum Park opened on Saturday. The park is the home to the Pérez Art Museum Miami as well as to the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science.
In addition, people haven’t spoken up about Parcel B serving as an arena staging area instead of a park as promised until the Cuban Exile History Museum proposal was brought forward, Commissioner Zapata said at the meeting.
“I have an issue with that,” he said. “This is a great story. It’s a Miami story.”
Mr. Gutiérrez, of the Cuban Exile History Museum, has told Miami Today that the nonprofit wants to have its facility at a “high-visibility” location. Building the museum in the suburbs, he said, would be like “preaching to the choir” as Miami-Dade residents are aware of the Cuban-American community’s contributions to South Florida.
The museum is estimated to cost about $100 million and private funding would be secured, Mr. Gutiérrez said.
But the nonprofit can’t begin to secure funding until it has a definite location for its facility.
Robert Chisholm, of RE Chisholm Architects Inc., designed the museum’s facility with Parcel B configurations in mind. Plans are for a structure to include a public plaza with a restaurant, exhibit space, a 300-seat theater, a research library and a 291-vehicle parking area, records show.
The full county commission is to consider the three items likely at its July 1 meeting.
Miami-Dade County is to soon become home to the Cuban Museum, designated the Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, which is to open in 2015 at 1200 Coral Way, as well as to a new facility for the Bay of Pigs Museum and Library in Hialeah Gardens.