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Front Page » Arts & Culture » Calls for Miami museum site unrealistic, mayor says

Calls for Miami museum site unrealistic, mayor says

Written by on October 22, 2014

County leaders may have their hopes set on city-owned property for building a black history museum, but Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said their choice of sites is not realistic.

Two weeks ago, Miami-Dade commissioners approved legislation to begin planning for a black history museum. County staff was directed to outline the logistics of constructing the museum, and only two sites were identified: Watson Island and Museum Park, both under the jurisdiction of the City of Miami.

Both City Manager Daniel Alfonso and Mayor Regalado told Miami Today that no one from the county has approached them about building a black history museum on either site.

Beyond that, the county’s narrow focus – looking only at Watson Island and Museum Park – simply is not workable, according to the mayor.

Watson Island is already spoken for, Mayor Regalado said. Miami Children’s Museum, Jungle Island zoological park, the Island Gardens mega resort from Flagstone Island Gardens LLC, the Port of Miami tunnel and other contracted ventures have gobbled up all the available real estate on Watson.

“I am the chairman of Miami Sports and Exhibition Agency [MSEA], who runs the area of Watson where the Children’s Museum is located. Recently MSEA entered a new lease to enhance the former Chalk’s seaplane base and also the heliport next to Flagstone. There is no more space on Watson Island,” said Mayor Regalado.

The same could be said for Museum Park, the city’s brand-new passive park opened just this summer between the Pérez Art Museum Miami and the FEC Slip and AmericanAirlines Arena.

“As to the Museum Park component, as you know, we are furnishing all the open spaces. I can’t see a fit there,” he said.

The mayor mentioned there might be space on another island.

“It has been suggested in the past to direct them to Virginia Key, since the trust there has already a plan for a black museum,” Mayor Regalado said. Virginia Key is a barrier island owned by the city, and a trust board governs a park and beach on the island.

But some county commissioners have balked at the idea, saying the black history museum should to built on a high-profile site and not tucked away in a remote location.

“I will not support isolating the black history museum in a corner,” said county commission Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa at the Oct. 7 meeting.

County Commissioner Dennis Moss, prime sponsor of the legislation, is also pushing for a visible site for the new museum.

“I supported the Cuban exile museum. I believe the Cuban community has a story to be told. But I am talking about folks who were here in the 1890s, who were part of the incorporation of the City of Miami,” Mr. Moss said, referring to black residents who came from islands in the Caribbean and the US South as early as the 1890s.

“It’s important that their story is told as well. And it needs to be told in a place where everybody is going to be able to see it,” Mr. Moss said.

Although the Oct. 7 vote mentioned only the two city-owned sites, other locations were mentioned during the commissioners’ discussion, including behind AmericanAirlines Arena, where a Cuban exile history museum is to rise, and Virginia Key. A move to also consider PortMiami as a possible site for the museum was made but ultimately not pursued.

According to the county’s legislation, The Black Archives, a nonprofit, is to operate and curate the museum. The Black Archives, founded in 1977 and formally called The Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida Inc., preserves black history in South Florida.

The decision to back a black history museum came about two months after the county commission authorized planning for a Cuban exile history museum on county-owned bayfront land behind AmericanAirlines Arena.

8 Responses to Calls for Miami museum site unrealistic, mayor says

  1. DC Copeland

    October 22, 2014 at 11:24 am

    As predicted when our elected officials gave their blessings for a Cuban Museum, their actions would open a Pandora’s Box. Now everyone will want a museum to their ancestry. What a joke. In fact, I’d like a museum to my Anglo-Saxon ancestry, you know for the guys and gals like Flagler, Brickell, and Tuttle (to mention a few).

  2. sean

    October 22, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    As a native Miamian and whose family have been residents for over 100 years, I find these museums appalling and a waste of money. Please tell me who is going to visit these places? We have so many needs in Miami and the last thing we need are money pit buildings dedicated to a segment of the community. Why not add this to History Miami?

    I do believe that our community was shaped by many, however their story is really not museum quality. I drive through the black community every day. Use any money for a Taj Majal Cuban and Black museum to clean up the decrepit parts of Miami.

  3. Stephen Herbits

    October 23, 2014 at 10:06 am

    Message to complacent Mayor Regalado: not so fast. The County commission is quite correct to consider Watson Island a viable future site for the African American Museum. Miami’s decision, yet again, to allow Flagstone to control Watson Island with a huge tax-payer subsidy and in violation of the City’s Charter and its own previous agreements, is under litigation. The lawsuit raises serious questions of the City’s illegal approvals and has been widely reported. Good government and fairness to the citizens dictates more openness on this question. More, much more to come.

  4. Loren Shapiro

    October 23, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    Thirteen years of this nonsense, and still the City can’t get it right. I am intrigued about what Herbits promises as “much more” to come. In the meantime, I have found the information at the Coalition Against Causeway Chaos to be frighteningly detailed. If any of this wins in court, it’s time for some replacements in City Hall — politicians as well as bureaucrats. See

  5. Mr. Realist

    October 24, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    No to another useless museum. Who the heck is going to go see “Black History” is there even such a thing? It’ll be a money pit, funded and supported by public money.

  6. IvoSan

    October 27, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    Put it in Overtown.

  7. MiamiHurricane1

    October 27, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    Mr. Realist, if you mean who else than the African American population that lives in Miami and comes to visit, maybe the waspy Yankee transplants and tourists from up North who got over segregation will.

  8. WhyNotNow

    October 29, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Why not on NW 27 ave and 41 street where they are reconstructing the historic Hampton House? This is close to major public transportation routes and that community could use the jobs and money generated by tourist coming into the area.