Miami Museum Of Science Likes Bicentennial Site Too
By Candice Ventra
After years of searching, board members of the Miami Museum of Science say they have decided that Bicentennial Park is their preferred place to build a Science Center of the Americas.
The museum’s board has been eyeing the waterfront City of Miami-owned property for some time but made the formal announcement just days ago, said Russell Etling, president & CEO.
The Science Center of the Americas is a proposed 365,000-square-foot $200 million complex that would become the new home of the Miami Museum of Science.
Washington Economics Group has just wrapped up a study about the economic worth of the project to South Florida, he said. The study, among other things, led board members to conclude that Bicentennial Park is the best site, he said.
"We have evaluated a number of sites throughout the county and have finally ranked Bicentennial Park as the preferred site," Mr. Etling said. "The valuation took into account visibility, access to the tourist core, resident population, mass transit, synergy with Bayside Marketplace, the American Airlines Arena and the performing arts project and the availability for development."
The study also showed that the projected cumulative economic impact of the proposed science center is $1.3 billion during its first 10 years, Mr. Etling said.
He said by the end of the center’s 10th year the museum will employ 1,150 full-time.
"These two statistics alone show what an extraordinary return on investment developing this international science center could bring," he said.
The Miami Museum of Science, which became an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution last year, is not the only local entity eyeing the park.
Florida Marlins baseball team owner John Henry wants about 15 acres of the park to build a new stadium. He may have to share it with the 15-year-old Miami Children’s Museum, which wants about an acre to build a new home. That museum, which was in South Miami and most recently Coral Gables, is without a site and operates from an office in the Miami Arena.
Miami Commissioner Arthur Teele said Bicentennial Park is not just up for grabs.
"It’s interesting that everybody is announcing where they want to be on city land instead of conferring with the property owners, which is still the City of Miami," Mr. Teele said. "As a matter of policy I am not at all troubled by working with the museums to ensure they have an adequate area for their facility. I don’t object to that being Bicentennial Park."
He said he personally feels the site is appropriate for the Miami Children’s Museum.
Commissioner Willy Gort said although the park is at the top of the list for so many groups, it needs to be developed so that it brings the city lots of revenue.
That may not necessarily include a stadium or a museum but would logically include some type of retail facility, he said.
"Bayside brings 13 million visitors and $1.3 million of direct revenue into the City of Miami," Mr. Gort said. "I would like to see something similar but with a lot of open area."
Although opposed to funding a baseball stadium for the Marlins with a new tax on cruise ship passengers at the Port of Miami, Beacon Council board members declared their support last week for building the stadium on Bicentennial Park, said Frank Nero, president & CEO.
He said the Miami Children’s Museum, even the science museum, could co-exist with the stadium on park property.
"I don’t think it has to be an either-or situation," Mr. Nero said. "I think there is a potential that you can accommodate both."
He said a Downtown Development Authority analysis found that the museums could be built on alternate sites in Miami such as Park West and Watson Island. To be downtown, however, the analysis said the stadium could only build in one place: Bicentennial Park.
Regarding the Beacon Council’s announcement, Mr. Etling said the science museum is standing its ground.
"We have tried to stay focused on finding the best site for our institution," Mr. Etling said. "It’s a long process. We are conducting it with careful planning to make sure that it happens and happens in the best way possible."