County No Longer Negotiating Purchase Of Freedom Tower
By Samantha Joseph
Owners of the Freedom Tower have dropped negotiations with Miami-Dade County for purchase of the historic building.
The building manager, Ofelia San Pedro, said discussions have ended between the county and the Mas Canosa family, which owns the building. She would not comment further other than to say the family wants information about the failed deal to come from the county.
County spokeswoman Hilda Fernandez said the Mas Canosa family "is looking at other options" and apparently has found another buyer.
"We don’t know if at some point in the future the discussions would pick up again," Ms. Fernandez said. "What the family has indicated to the county is that they have another opportunity."
Miami-Dade officials and the building’s owners earlier this year were in discussions about a county purchase of the tower at 600 Biscayne Blvd. to house the Historical Museum of Southern Florida.
Freedom Tower served as a processing center for about 400,000 Cuban refugees in the 1960s and ’70s, housed immigration records and was a health-care and relief center for refugees. Built in 1925, it was the home of the Miami News, a daily newspaper, until the 1950s.
The county appraised the tower property in March but refuses to release its most recent value despite two requests from Miami Today.
Robert McCammon, interim president of the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, said last week that his museum now plans to move to Bicentennial Park, where it would share space with the Miami Museum of Science & Space Transit Planetarium in the planned Museum Park Miami.
He said he was told the tower’s owners have a buyer in the private sector.
Plans to include funds for the tower in a $2.75 billion General Obligation Bond issue slated to go before voters in November apparently have been rescinded.
A preliminary list of projects that would be included in the bond issue mentions the Historical Museum but not the tower. The list does include a $20 million allocation for "historical preservation" but provides no details.
Ms. Fernandez said the list of projects for the proposed bond will not be been finalized until July and would not say if the tower is likely to be included.
"Right now, the discussions are on hold while the Mas family pursues other options that will also ensure the future of the Freedom Tower for historic preservation," Ms. Fernandez said Friday. "That’s really been the goal of the county all along.
"Whether or not it’s going to be in the [bond], all that’s happened is that everything is on hold," she said.
County Manager George Burgess last week issued a memo to commissioners and Mayor Alex Penelas that said the Mas Canosa family’s "strategy to ensure preservation" of the tower "may obviate the need" to include it in the bond issue.