Miami agrees to alter Museum Park blueprint by reducing parking spaces, easing height restriction
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
The blueprint for the planned Museum Park to revitalize Bicentennial Park got a few tweaks after the city commission agreed to an increase in the museums' height and a reduction in required parking.
The City of Miami sealed a development agreement last week with Miami Art Museum and the Miami Museum of Science & Planetarium, which is to also accommodate in its building the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, to build the complex.
The city commission in December approved 99-year land leases for the construction of the two park facilities on eight acres of downtown bayfront parkland. Each lease has a 30-year term with two 30-year renewal periods plus nine additional years.
At that time the city approved a height limit of 90 feet for each structure, but the Miami Museum of Science requires more altitude to incorporate a higher roof.
The city agreed to set the height increase 90 feet above grade level.
Gillian Thomas, president and chief executive officer of Miami Science Museum, said the museum's main roof is 70 foot above the plaza but a space to house wildlife such as birds and butterflies requires a taller exhibition roof.
The focal point of the 250,000-square-foot science museum building is its living core, which showcases South Florida's natural environment and an aquarium to feature sea turtles, sunfish and hammerheads sharks.
Commissioners also agreed to reduce the parking required from 480 to 440 spaces.
The loss of 40 spaces is to accommodate building a turnaround that was originally to be located on a Florida Department of Transportation property adjoined to the art museum but the cost of leasing the land was too high to absorb, said Roger Hernstadt, assistant city manager.
In the event only one museum is built, a total of 300 parking spaces have to be built, provided that the city leases the remaining museum additional land to expand parking.
The city commissioners also OK'd an environmental remediation agreement with the museums that holds the city responsible for covering up to $2 million for any necessary environmental cleanup through the course of construction.
City officials say the $2 million would come from the Omni Community Redevelopment Agency, which at the meeting received approval to expand its boundaries to include the Museum Park site.
But because the finding of necessity report also requires the Miami-Dade Board of Commissioners' approval, Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said it was risky to commit $2 million from the Omni redevelopment agency without knowing if the county will approve the expansion.
"We could approve the finding of necessity study, but the county may not agree," he said. "We could vote on this, commit to $2 million, but the county may not agree."
Jim Villacorta, the redevelopment agency's executive director, said based on current budget projections the agency can cover the expense if the county OKs Omni's boundary expansion and redevelopment plan.
The study contemplated expanding the boundaries to Watson Island, but the report determined that the prime bayfront lot didn't make the cut.
The land is slated for Flagstone Property Group's $600 million mixed-use development with hotel, retail and mega-yacht, but project plans have moved slowly and the site has remained vacant for close to a decade.
Museum Park's bayfront parcel — once home to the Port of Miami and oil storage tanks —was cleared for construction some months back after initial soil and environmental tests revealed no major contamination.
Assessments were handed to the Miami Art Museum and the Miami Museum of Science so they can do added environmental tests.
The future of the current museum sites are yet unknown.
Miami Art Museum's home in the central business district belongs to the county as does the science museum building.
Commissioner Tomás Regalado said the science museum site was "one of the best sites in Miami," adding "it would be a sad page if this becomes a site for county equipment."
But Ms. Thomas, of the science museum, said preliminary plans are to use the property as exhibition space for the historic Viscaya estate across the street.