South Dade arts center bidding due by late spring
By Catherine Lackner
County officials "are making good and steady progress" on an arts center for South Dade, said Michael Spring, director of the Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs Department.
The bid package for construction "is not yet ready to go out" but should be by late spring, he said. He declined to discuss specifics until then.
"We're continuing on the final phase of construction drawings, which is the most important thing right now." The drawings should be completed by early March, Mr. Spring said.
"Coordinating the technical work to make sure we have a good set of working drawings is our priority at this point," he said. "The project is coming along well and we're excited about it."
Construction is to begin later this year and completion is expected in late 2005.
A grant from the Knight Foundation, funding from Miami-Dade County and $250,000 from the Safe Neighborhoods Parks Bond allocation will finance the total $33 million project cost. Construction costs are pegged at $26 million.
The Miami-Dade County Commission expressed its intent to fund a performing arts center in southern Miami-Dade in July 1993, but Mr. Spring said his department's interest predates that.
"This is something the community in South Dade has wanted since before Hurricane Andrew," he said. "Our department did a community-wide survey which showed widespread support for the project. We went after the money."
The county paid $1 million for 6.5 acres on Southwest 211th Street, next to the South Miami-Dade Government Center and across from Cutler Ridge Mall. The area is well served by access to US 1, the Florida Turnpike and public transportation.
The new arts center "will be part of the complex of government buildings which includes a regional library and fire and police stations, so the idea that we had was that it would lend itself to a cultural village theme," Mr. Spring said.
One large building will contain a 1,000-seat theater, office space and dressing rooms, while an "activities" building, separate but connected by walkways, will house rehearsal spaces, classrooms and meeting spaces.
The center will have "virtually everything you would want," from the orchestra pit to the big stage, Mr. Spring said. "It'll be a very sophisticated space" that will lend itself to many performing arts venues, from live theater to ballet to symphony concerts.
The architect is Arquitectonica, a firm known for its unusual use of space and form.
"It's a wonderful project and the design is truly exciting," Mr. Spring said. "It's a facility for a community that hasn't had a cultural facility at all."
While downtown Miami has the Gusman Center, Miami Beach has the Colony Theater, North Dade has the Caleb Auditorium and Little Havana has the Manuel Artime Theater, "the folks in far South Dade have not had anything," Mr. Spring said last year. "This center will bring south Miami-Dade into the 21st century."
Now that the center is drawing closer to being a reality, "We have an absolutely amazing design and the building the community really dreamed about," Mr. Spring said.
"There was a standing-room-only crowd and the response was overwhelmingly positive," at a town hall meeting last summer, Mr. Spring said. "I had a person come up to me tears in their eyes, thanking us for doing this is the community in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew."
Arquitectonica "is an exciting, adventurous firm and most people perceive this as a conservative community," he said. "The building meets all needs of their needs and does all the great thing we promised the community it would."
He praised county commissioners. "This could not have happened without the mayor and county commissioners [Dennis] Moss and [Katy] Sorensen, who represent this district. They attended every town meeting and even some of the design meetings and were very supportive without interfering. They have been great with us."