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Front Page » Top Stories » Firm Named To Redesign Plan For Zoo Richmond Base

Firm Named To Redesign Plan For Zoo Richmond Base

Written by on July 13, 2000

By Jennifer Miller
Seattle-based Portico Group has secured the nomination by a county selection committee to create a new master plan for Metrozoo and the former Richmond Naval Air Station in South Dade.

Portico, which has designed exhibits for zoos across the country, is recommended for a contract not to exceed $2.07 million to update the zoo’s 24-year-old plan, said Susie Torriente, an assistant to the county manager.

She said the company competed against four other developers to land the job.

County commissioners must act on the appointment. They’re due to consider it July 25.

"The firm will conduct a study," said Howard Gregg, chief of planning for the Park & Recreation Department and chairman of the master plan selection committee, "to specify the kinds of outdoor attractions compatible with the zoo. Examples might be things like a family aquatic center that would have swimming pools and spray pools for kids. We would seek private funding and financing to make that possible."

He said development plans should begin in September, with a final plan document for the 740 acres involved expected in April 2001.

According to Portico’s proposal, the team will focus on small, high-quality exhibits to surprise and excite people. Representatives suggested more marketing, specifically adding more signs on the Florida Turnpike and surrounding roads to make people aware of the zoo’s location.

Mr. Gregg said the master plan is covered by $12 million in Safe Neighborhood Park funds approved by voters in 1996 through a bond issue.

Kevin Asher, supervisor of planning for Parks & Recreation, said the Safe Neighborhood Parks bond was specifically to fund a new master plan.

Mr. Asher said through both development and reconsideration, the zoo’s old master plan was deemed dated by 1995.

Glenn Ekey, executive director of the Zoological Society of Florida, fund-raising arm for the zoo, said in the ’80s attendance averaged 850,000 visitors a year. Now, 420,000 people come each year, he said.

"We’re looking at opportunities for the zoo to take on world-class status over the next 20 years," Mr. Ekey said. "We’re working on the zoo, but it’s better to do it with a plan. The vision is there. We just need to get it down on paper and get ourselves in synch with the community."

Mr. Ekey said the zoo has been undergoing a slow recovery since Hurricane Andrew wrecked it in 1992.

Even with 8,000 shade trees, mist sprayers to cool people off, new animals and fanfares such as Dr. Wilde’s World — a meerkat exhibit opening this month — Mr. Ekey said the zoo is not yet back in shape.

An unfinished aviary, he said, is a symbol that restoration is incomplete.

The aviary, however, is well into the design phase, Mr. Ekey said. The projected opening is 2002 and promises a huge free flight enclosure and air-conditioned educational center, he said. It will be called the American Bankers Family Aviary.

Mr. Ekey said a master plan will facilitate zoo growth as both a recreational facility for residents and tourists and as a contributor to wildlife conservation.