Take a bow: a new era being ushered in bolsters Miami
By Michael Lewis
Whew! After two decades of struggles, it's finally happening.
It will definitely benefit the entire community, and it will make living downtown far more attractive. After all of the headlines and passed deadlines, it's finally reality.
And while construction costs will end up many millions higher than we'd have believed when this project was first envisioned — and much of that money remains to be raised — this world-class project is going to be worth all of the bickering and backbiting that long impeded a vital boost for Miami.
This could all refer to the new Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, which opens next week, but we've said all that and more in a 20-page pullout this week.
Here, we're hailing another long-term shot in the arm for Miami: the move of Camillus House from the arts center's shadow to a modern and vastly larger 340-bed facility in a far more appropriate home near Jackson Memorial Hospital, a move finally made real — assuming the needed $60 million can be raised — by an enabling vote last week of the Florida Cabinet.
Like the effort to build a performing arts center, since the 1980s we've been covering the Herculean effort to move a growing homeless shelter and rehabilitation operation.
Many locations were targeted for the arts center. In the same years, our files note no fewer than 10 new sites chosen for the shelter, followed by 10 neighborhood outcries that caused city commissioners to cower and refuse to allow Camillus House to expand to a place where it could serve a growing need among the homeless.
Just as everyone wanted an appropriate arts center, everybody knew that a larger and stronger Camillus House was needed. Everyone praised its work. But nobody wanted it next door — or anywhere but right where it was.
And right where it was caused problems for downtown, as lines of hungry and homeless filled streets nearby and businesses complained that the Camillus House was a magnet for people they didn't want any more than any other neighborhood did. Downtown would never blossom, critics said, until Camillus House was elsewhere.
Well, the area around Camillus House has already undergone a boom without a move. Look at the condos rising along Biscayne Boulevard blocks away. It turns out that condomania on steroids coupled with a performing arts center rising nearby were more powerful determinants of the area's future than was the presence of a shelter to aid the homeless.
Still, the shelter doesn't belong where it is — hasn't for a long time. The building is too small and outmoded as well as being in the wrong spot to undertake the necessary rehabilitation that is key to the Camillus House program — an effort to not only get people off the streets but keep them off permanently.
Now, in a complex land swap that also benefits the University of Miami, the operation that began in 1960 as a small soup kitchen to benefit newly arrived Cuban-Americans can spread its wings and its good works free of the acrimony that impeded earlier efforts to do the right thing in the right place.
This is clearly the right time. Everyone involved — including, finally, the city commission — should take a bow. Bravo.