Arts center funding delayed as county panel puts off vote
By Suzy Valentine
The Miami Performing Arts Center, scheduled to open in October, may need to find alternative funding after a bid to receive as much as $82 million in tax dollars over the next 20 years failed to clear its first hurdle Tuesday.
The money was to have flowed from the proposed extension of the life of the Omni Redevelopment District Community Redevelopment Agency until 2027 and is based on conservative estimates of tax-roll growth over that period, said Executive Director Frank Rollason.
Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess's calculations are more modest. He told commissioners Tuesday that the proposal would have released $34.3 million toward the $446 million arts center.
The future of the redevelopment agency proposal, one of six additional funding sources referenced at the arts center's construction meeting March 8, is uncertain after the county's Community Empowerment & Economic Revitalization Committee deferred consideration Tuesday.
Attendees at last week's arts center meeting heard that the initial intention had been for the full county commission to consider the half-dozen funding options as a bundle March 21. No funding provisions appear in the preliminary agenda of that meeting.
The redevelopment agency proposal, shelved as County Manager George Burgess works out a dispute with City Manager Joe Arriola over funding of Parrot Jungle Island funding, is down but not out.
In the meantime, Mr. Burgess promised Tuesday to help the arts center find alternative sources of funding.
"We have a strong tourist economy," he said. "We have the good fortune of having capacity in our Convention Development Tax, the primary supporter of the arts center, anyway. We have fallback plans."
The funding source shelved Tuesday for the Miami Performing Arts Center would have had the City of Miami contributing millions in property-tax revenue to the venue over the next two decades.
Extending the life of the Omni Redevelopment District Community Redevelopment Agency until 2027 could have released $82 million toward the $446 million venue that is to open in October. That's according to projections from Mr. Rollason.
Calculations are based on two indices: rising property values in the development district and an expanding inventory of taxable buildings as more development takes place. Under the proposed formula, the arts center would receive the greater of $1.43 million a year or 30% of tax-roll dollars from the district.
The initiative became a casualty of a dispute between Mr. Burgess and Mr. Arriola over reciprocal fiscal responsibilities. The tussle Tuesday prompted the Community Empowerment & Economic Revitalization Committee to defer the proposal.
Mr. Burgess said at the meeting that the model allowed the arts center to leverage $34 million - a fraction of the community redevelopment agency's estimates.
Since Mr. Rollason began monitoring three years ago, tax contributions in the Omni district have tripled. The Omni district is bounded by 20th Street to the north, Interstate 395 to the south, the Florida East Coast Railway tracks to the west and Biscayne Bay to the east.
In 2003, taxpayers contributed more than $3 million and by 2004, it was almost $5 million. Last year, taxpayers contributed $6 million and this year the district will generate more than $9 million in tax dollars.
The years 2008 and 2009 promise to be the most economically rewarding, said Mr. Rollason.
"There is a big spike coming up in two to three years," he said. "That's when all the properties on North Bayshore Drive and Biscayne Boulevard are coming on line. After that, it continues to climb but there will be a leveling out. My projections go as far as 2015."
If the life of the community redevelopment agency were to be extended until 2027 and the formula reviewed, Mr. Rollason said it would release $70 million more than the $12 million the arts center had expected from the Omni district.
"It's designed to be a cash cow," he said of a community redevelopment agency's role. "It serves its purpose, then you kill it. The initiative is designed to fund improvements that will bring developers. The only detractors are those who don't want the price of their properties to increase because they don't want to sell but are hit by the taxes. Look at South Beach - that's the product of a community redevelopment agency."
The model, he said, were tarnished by former Miami City Commissioner Arthur Teele Jr.
"We don't have a good history of community redevelopment agencies," said Mr. Rollason. "Mr. Teele's activities gave us a bad name."
The $446 million construction costs for the arts center comprise $315 million in hard costs, about $100 million in soft costs and a more than $30 million acceleration fee that was added to contractor payments in order to complete the center by August.