Freedom Tower appraised, but county won't reveal its value
By Samantha Joseph
Miami-Dade County has completed an appraisal of the Freedom Tower as it moves toward purchasing the historic building at 600 Biscayne Blvd.
Appraisal firm Blazejack & Co. completed the assessment March 20, but the county is withholding information on the value of the building.
"The appraisal is confidential," according to county spokeswoman Alison Wealcatch. "It's actually not public record by state statute."
It was the second appraisal of the tower in two years.
In 2002, Integra Realty Resources South Florida assessed the building for Freedom Tower Group Partners, a private company that now owns the property. Ofelia San Pedro, a spokeswoman and consultant for the partners, said in February that the building was appraised at $25 million then.
"It had a very big number," appraiser John Blazejack said of the 2002 appraisal. He said Tuesday that the two appraisals "had different purposes" but would not comment, citing instructions from the county.
"They've said, 'Don't talk about it,' because they don't want to have an article now that puts pressure on their negotiations," Mr. Blazejack said.
Integra representative Michael Cannon said Tuesday that he could not comment on the new appraisal for ethical reasons but said he had discussed the valuation with county officials.
"My analysis went into what's involved if the property is to be maintained as a historic symbol. We're dealing with multiple value components," he said.
He said he worked for a year on the appraisal and prepared a 5-inch-thick report. "You have to account for all those preservation features," Mr. Cannon said.
County property records show that Freedom Tower Group Partners purchased the 17-story building for $4.15 million in September 1997.
Ms. San Pedro said the group has spent $20 million to restore the building.
The 79-year-old tower near downtown has been compared to New York's Ellis Island because it served as a processing center for about 400,000 Cuban refugees in the 1950s and '60s.
County officials hope to purchase the tower for an extension of the Historical Museum of Southern Florida.
In February, the museum's marketing director, Maria Meilan, said early talks between the county and the building's owners suggested that the tower could sell for about $30 million.
County engineers are inspecting the tower as part of due diligence preceding negotiations, Ms. San Pedro said. She said inspections will continue until the end of this month.
"They've got a lot of work to do," she said. "They're really going through this with a fine-tooth comb."