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Front Page » Top Stories » Art Science Museums Form Pact In Bid For Bicentennial Park Sites

Art Science Museums Form Pact In Bid For Bicentennial Park Sites

Written by on August 31, 2000

By Candice Ventra
Officials for two Miami museums are joining hands to seek Bicentennial Park for their new locations.

Administrators for Miami Museum of Science and Miami Art Museum signed a joint resolution stating that the two groups will work together to relocate in the 29-acre park.

Representatives for both institutions have expressed interest in the past to build on the waterfront site but had never acted as a team.

The resolution also states that both institutions will support the efforts of the Bicentennial Park Waterfront Renewal Committee led by Miami City Commissioner Johnny Winton.

The committee, meeting since July, wants to plan the park’s development while maintaining sufficient green space, said Russell Etling, president & CEO of the science museum.

In all, four groups have been contenders for space at the park. The Florida Marlins baseball team and a children’s museum, in addition to the science and art museums have expressed interest.

Directors for the Miami Museum of Science, Mr. Etling said, want to build a Science Center of the Americas on the city-owned park. The proposed project is a 365,000-square-foot, $200 million complex for permanent and temporary exhibitions and educational facilities.

"We thought this was a very synergistic approach," Mr. Etling said, refering to the joint resolution with the art museum. "Both of our institutions have complementary offices."

The Miami Museum of Science is located in 53,000-square-feet of space at 3280 S Miami Ave. In 1999, the museum became an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. In November, it presented its first exhibit there.

The Miami Art Museum, which specializes in work of the Western Hemisphere from the 1940s to the present, is in 30,000 square feet in a fortress-like building at 101 W Flagler St. Officials there want a new complex with at least 200,000 square feet of exhibit space and a sculpture garden, according to Suzanne Delehanty, museum director.

Art officials have not announced how much money they need for a new facility, but Ms. Delehanty said the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco spent $85 million to build a new home.

"This co-location would really activate downtown Miami," Ms. Delehanty said.

She said cities such as San Francisco, Chicago and St. Louis have "cultural parks" that bring museums and other cultural facilities together on public park land.

Independent studies for both museums concluded that the facilities would draw tourists and residents alike and would add dollars and jobs to the community.

The proposed Science Center of the Americas would have an economic impact of $1.3 billion during its first 10 years of operations, Mr. Etling said the study showed, and would employ 1,150 full-time workers.

The Miami Art Museum would inject nearly $700 million into the community, employing close to 600 people within 10 years, Ms. Delehanty said.

Both institutions are planning fund-raising campaigns.

"We are embarking on a strategic five-year plan in building up a fund-raising capacity," Ms. Delehanty said. "We can’t pin that down right now."

The Museum of Science once considered using the park with the 15-year-old Miami Children’s Museum, which is homeless without a site and operates from an office at the Miami Arena.

"The Miami Children’s Museum’s timeframe has them pursuing a site more quickly than ours," Mr. Etling said. "They are independently pursuing."

City of Miami Commissioner Arthur Teele said he thinks the park is an appropriate space for a museum, especially the children’s one, which only needs about an acre for a new home.

"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," Mr. Teele said. "I don’t object to that being Bicentennial Park."

Marlins owner John Henry also wants about 15 acres of the park to build a stadium though the mutual interests may be a conflict. Frank Nero, chairman and CEO of the Beacon Council, has said the science museum and baseball stadium could co-exist at the site. Details: Miami Museum of Science, (305) 854-4247; Miami Art Museum, (305) 375-3000; Miami Children’s Museum, (305) 373-5439.