Port tunnel debt handcuffs Miami film studio plan
By Catherine Lackner
A selection committee for Miami's Omni/Midtown Community Redevelopment Agency will recommend that Bermello Ajamil & Partners get the contract to evaluate the possibilities for the Miami Entertainment Center at 29 NW 13th St., which is intended for a film facility.
But no action will be taken until the agency has resolved a crucial bit of business, said Pieter Bockweg, agency director.
"The design criteria selection process has been completed and the committee has made its recommendation," he said. Bermello Ajamil was chosen in part because the Miami city commissioners who act as the agency's directors expressed a preference for a local firm.
The entertainment complex will have to wait, however.
"Our focus now is purely on a sound financial position; we want to make sure we can meet our obligation to contribute to the PortMiami tunnel project," Mr. Bockweg said. The redevelopment agency is paying the debt service on the entire $50 million obligation.
Bermello Ajamil will come up with uses for the 89,000-square-foot building, formerly called the Miami Skills Center, which the redevelopment agency bought for $3.1 million from the county public school system last year. The original plan was to have two state-of-the art sound stages of 10,000 to 12,000 square feet, office space and facilities for digital imaging.
But city officials have also said they might abandon that plan and put the property back on the market.
"We can still sell the Skills Center at a profit," said Miami commissioner Marc Sarnoff in January. "A lot of people have contacted us."
For the design criteria, the selection committee originally chose California-based Bastien & Associates, based on its oral presentation. Bermello Ajamil won the first round of judging, which was based on the companies' written proposals.
After agency directors said they wanted a more local focus, a new request for qualifications was issued. Upon review of responses to the second request, the selection committee chose Bermello Ajamil.
Assuming agency directors confirm its selection, Bermello Ajamil will submit the design criteria but by state law is ineligible to bid for the reconstruction work. "They cannot be the primary architects for the renovation," Mr. Bockweg said.
If after hearing the recommendations, the agency decides to keep and develop the film facility, "we're looking at all options," he continued. "We'd like to attract a public-private partnership and see how we can move forward with this redevelopment."
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