County Team Set To Endorse Firm For Metrozoo Master Plan
By Catherine Lackner
A county selection committee has recommended the county manager negotiate with one of five firms vying to develop a new master plan for Metrozoo.
Howard Gregg, chief of planning for parks and chairman of the selection committee, said the county’s cone of silence rule forbids his disclosing the firm’s name until county commissioners get the recommendation.
"We’ll be going to the manager very shortly," Mr. Gregg said. "The commissioners will see the item before their August recess."
In the running are Zoo Plan Inc., The Portico Group, CLRdesign Inc., Arden Architectural Group and the Patrick McBride Co.
It’s part of an effort to redevelop the zoo in deep South Dade at the former Richmond Naval Air Station and the adjacent South Miami-Dade area as a tourist destination.
"It’s important for the zoo and the Zoological Society of Florida to get the plan going because it sets the stage for redevelopment of the zoo," Susie Torriente, an executive assistant to County Manager Merrett Stierheim, said last fall, when a snag threatened the process.
Proposals by all five companies were deemed unresponsive because all were missing some elements required by the request for proposals, she said. To avoid having to initiate another request, and wait for more proposals, the county commission waived competitive bidding procedures to allow Mr. Stierheim to negotiate with the bidders directly. A selection committee, headed by Mr. Gregg, was then formed.
Highlights of the five bidders’ proposals:
Zoo Plan Inc., a 27-year-old zoological group, suggested researching the community to draw inspiration for future expansion, including staging a series of local television programs in which viewers could call in with recommendations.
Expansion should be geared to operating within the funds the community could provide, the firm said, and the zoo, not the surrounding area, should be the first focus of renovation.
The Portico Group, which designed the San Francisco Zoo South American Gateway and the Toronto Zoo African Tropical Rainforest, placed its emphasis on creating small, high quality exhibits that would surprise and excite people, providing variety and a quality experience. The firm also suggested more marketing, specifically more signage on the Florida Turnpike and surrounding roads to make people aware of the zoo’s location.
CLRdesign Inc. calls for the development of a "South American Adventure," with visitor-friendly exhibits. The group calls for two- to three-day workshops every 30-45 days to address topics of interest to the business community as redevelopment proceeds.
Arden Architectural Group, a South Florida-based company, recommended an initial study to evaluate market conditions, determine the basis for expansion and pinpoint the type and size of new zoo facilities for maximum effectiveness.
Miami-based Patrick McBride Co., a 20-year veteran zoological design firm, updated the zoo’s master plan in 1988 and also designed the popular South American Rain Forest and Asian River Life exhibits. The firm recommends the zoo create new exhibits that foster visitors’ "one-on-one connection" with the animals.
Additional ideas include a demonstration study, new guidelines for architectural and engineering firms to steer the redevelopment, new physical assessments and incorporating community comments and suggestions into any redevelopment scheme.