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Front Page » Arts & Culture » Cuban museum targeted near AA arena

Cuban museum targeted near AA arena

Written by on September 4, 2013

Vacant county land beside American Airlines Arena, targeted in the past for many uses, is now central in talks of a Cuban Exile History Museum.

“A series of substantive, detailed and prolonged discussions” of the Cuban museum concept have been ongoing with Miami-Dade County and other officials, a county resolution states.

The use is planned for county commission discussion Sept. 17. It’s the first formal plan for the site since the county studied a Bay of Pigs Library and Museum there in 2008.

When the county, the City of Miami and Miami Heat owners the Arison family cut an arena deal in November 1996, materials seeking voter approval on land use showed the site as parkland, including soccer fields. But the land never became park – or anything else.

The Heat Group retained development rights, paying the county $175,000 a year for the rights as it planned retail stores and an amphitheater and sought a retail partner.

“The plan was for them to develop the land and for us to manage it,” said Jim McMichael in 2001 when he was marketing director at adjacent Bayside Marketplace. “But they decided not to go ahead.”

The next year, though a county agreement called for retail, Heat Group affiliate Calor Partners crafted plans to bring in the Codina Group to develop 20-story, 235-unit rental housing tower. Arena manager Basketball Properties held the right to design, develop and finance any project there. That plan too fell apart.

In 2003, the Heat Group, whose annual rights for the still-vacant land were about to double to $350,000, gave up its rights.

“The county and the Heat are in agreement that this should be a park,” Heat Group attorney Richard Weiss said. By giving up rights, the Heat Group was also relieved of its development agreement duty to build a covered walkway over Port Boulevard to Bayside Marketplace.

Last week, Commissioner Audrey Edmonson asked the county’s Recreation and Cultural Affairs Committee to again look away from park use and add to a cluster of new museums along the waterfront that includes science and arts museums just to the north. The committee, however, did not meet because it lacked a quorum.

She was asking to require the mayor to update a 2008 study of a Bay of Pigs museum on the site, noting that Hialeah Gardens has a $1 million grant from the Legislature to establish a Bay of Pigs Museum and Library there.

“There is no other substantial Cuban history museum, other than one focused solely on Cuban art, in Miami-Dade County” of proper size and scope, her resolution said.

The resolution asked the mayor to analyze development of the museum “to include development… at other sites in the surrounding area” and to ask Basketball Properties if a Cuban museum “may materially impact operation of the arena.”

The county owns the arena but the Heat Group controls it. While the county by contract is to get a share of profits, it never has because profits never hit the payment threshold. The county pays $6.4 million of the arena’s operating costs.

The resolution, if the full commission agrees, would require the mayor to finish a museum use study that includes underground parking and public open space within 90 days.