Vision Of Homestead Art Hub Fueled By Exlincoln Team
By Marilyn Bowden
A team that revitalized Lincoln Road as a center for the arts plans an encore in Homestead’s historic district.
Attorney I. Stanley Levine has assembled a 3-acre campus on Krome Avenue between Second and Fourth streets that includes a 6,500-square-foot, 350-seat historic Baptist Church, two classroom buildings with about 23,000 square feet and the Green Stone Motel at 304 Krome Ave.
He says Ellie Schneiderman, founder of the South Florida Arts Center, is turning the site into a center where artists can live, work, teach and exhibit.
The pair say they hope the complex, tentatively named ArtSouth, will become the hub of an arts district that could revitalize Homestead’s downtown core.
To that end, Mr. Levine says, he’s also buying retail properties along Krome that could house arts-related businesses.
"In a sense we are tracking the Lincoln Road experience," he says.
Mr. Levine chaired the Lincoln Road Task Force in the mid-’80s, at a time when the city was ready to open the dying pedestrian mall to traffic.
"It was a desolate place where nothing was happening," he says.
Mr. Levine, who was on the board of the South Florida Arts Center run by Ms. Schneiderman, was influential in bringing arts and businesses to the area. He brought Miami City Ballet into a building owned by his wife, he says, and through the Concert Association of Florida helped reopen the historic Colony theater.
"One thing I tried to do with South Florida Arts Center," Ms. Schneiderman says, "was to provide a permanent, affordable place for artists."
Fifteen years later, she says, the center is still there, but many of the original artists are gone, outpriced by the gentrification of the area.
"It doesn’t really belong to the artists working there," she says, "but to artists in general. One of the buildings was sold this past year. That made me nervous."
About $3 million in grants funded the Lincoln Road center, Ms. Schneiderman says. For the Homestead center, "there’s no money yet," she says, "but it will come. It’s in an empowerment zone. The city will benefit economically from what we are proposing."
The Homestead center will be run as a cooperative, she says, "where there is ownership and pride of ownership for the artists.
"Our intent," Mr. Levine says, "is to sell the studio space as condos. There is a great deal of interest in that."
Ms. Schneiderman says she plans to begin with six artists capable of helping with the conversion. These original six "will get a really good incentive on their spaces," she says. "They not only will have to be juried in by their artwork but also must have ancillary skills such as carpentering."
She says she already has a small waiting list for space.
The studios look out on a large parcel of green space, she says, where she envisions a sculpture garden.
The complex will include a strong educational component, Ms. Schneiderman says "not only for people who are serious about art but also to provide training for those who might want to learn skills native to the countries they came from, such as ceramics or furniture-making."
Students and tourists would stay at the Green Stone Motel, she says, where she plans to have each room decorated by a different resident artist.
The partners say they’re convinced their timing is right.
The Homestead Sports Complex brings throngs of auto-racing fans to the area, Mr. Levine says. The Rockefeller Group is building an industrial park in a recently designated foreign trade zone. A Canadian group has announced plans to develop a water theme park and redevelopment of Homestead Air Force Base seems imminent.
"This is an exciting place for artists to work, to live, to teach, to sell," Ms. Schneiderman says. "All the elements are here. There are campuses for Florida International University and Miami-Dade Community College. Right behind us is Pioneer Village, a new affordable housing development."
The arts complex "will be a very nice complement to what has begun," says Alicia Schreiber, assistant city manager.
She says the property lies within an historic overlay instituted in 1994.
"That was one of our focuses in restoring downtown and doing a Main Street," she says. "Our jewel in the heart of downtown is the Seminole Theatre."
Almost half of an estimated $3.2 million needed has been raised to rehabilitate the historic art deco theater, she says. Once restored, she says, it is expected to become a major cultural resource and economic stimulus.
In addition, Ms. Schreiber says, the historic district supports about 30 antique shops. Old City Hall, 43 N Krome Ave., is under renovation and will house a museum on the ground floor.
The city is seeking proposals for development of a piece of property at Campbell Drive and US 1 where city hall sits, she says.
"We’re looking to relocate city hall and the library on a 7-acre parcel just behind Main Street," she says. "We would have a trolley system to take people back and forth and give it that quaint downtown feeling."
Ellie Schneiderman, (305) 247-9406; City of Homestead, (305) 247-1801.