Construction lag may cost Greater Miami's new performing arts center a full season
By Frank Norton
Construction of Greater Miami's $370 million performing arts center is behind schedule, possibly delaying the opening season from 2004-2005 to the following performance year.
Summer rains and late steel shipments are blamed for the slowdown. Project Director Gail Thompson said the latest work schedule is based on statements by the Performing Arts Center Builders, a partnership of Odebrecht Construction, the Haskell Co. and Ellis Don Corp., that construction is six months behind schedule.
That setback could cost millions to Performing Arts Center Builders or to Miami-Dade County - depending on who ultimately gets blamed for the delay.
Alina Hudak, assistant county manager overseeing the center, was not available last week for comment.
Until late September, the center's three-year building phase was expected to be finished for an Oct. 15, 2004, opening. But that date is now doubtful and opinions vary as to how late the opening will be, top project officials say.
While builders estimate a six-month delay, Ms. Thompson said completion is only about 90 days off target and still on schedule for the 2004-2005 season. She said double work shifts by building crews could make up for losses, caused mostly by the late steel shipments.
"We're not in complete agreement with the way our builder is representing the schedule," Ms. Thompson said, referring to the partnership. "They don't believe we can recover that lost period but we feel we can," she said, adding that county officials have been informed of the delays.
Ms. Thompson blames the delayed steel shipments on errors in planning on the part of the construction partnership.
Performing Arts Center Builders declined to comment, deferring comments to Ms. Thompson.
Cesar Pelli, renowned Argentine-born architect who designed the center, said he is unaware of any significant delays and is pleased with the project management.
Others, like Ms. Thompson, remain hopeful that stepped-up building efforts could mitigate delays and save at least part of the originally slated 2004-2005 season.
"I am aware of different opinions about how long the delay is supposed to be but no one is sure of it yet," said Michael Hardy, president and CEO of the planned arts center, considered the largest public-private partnership undertaken by Miami-Dade County.
"There is still plenty of time to fix it and by May, June or July we should have a better idea of completion time," he said.
With building costs previously forecast at $255 million, the entire project, when approved by the county commission, was estimated at $370 million.
Additional costs resulting from construction delays would have to be assessed for fault, Ms Thompson said, and eventually absorbed by either the Performing Arts Center Builders or Miami-Dade County.
In the meantime, production and performance companies, which book concert halls about two years in advance, say they can roll with the moving completion date.
"We were told to plan for the 2005-2006 season," said Judy Drucker, who heads the Concert Association of Florida, one of five arts companies signed up to book events at the complex.
"As far as I know that's what most of us are planning on," she said.
Directors at the other performing organizations said construction delays would not disrupt bookings.
"Since the very beginning of construction we've been planning with a great deal of flexibility because construction delays are well known," said Justin Moss, spokesman for the Florida Grand Opera.
"It wouldn't be optimal," he said of a late opening, "but we can do it."