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By Ashley Hopkins
After three years of delays, the South Miami-Dade Cultural Center is finally on track for a December completion.
"We’re still on budget, we’re still going to get a quality building," said Michael Spring, county director of cultural affairs. "It’s just going to take longer than expected."
The building should be open by summer 2011, he said, leaving time to repair odds and ends following construction and to test theatrical technologies, such as sound, acoustics and lighting.
"You want to test everything to make sure it goes well," Mr. Spring said.
The $38.8 million Cutler Bay center, which was originally to open in August 2007, has suffered a string of setbacks dating back to its county approval in 2005.
Last year the building failed inspection and construction deviated from drawings approved by the building department, forcing contractors to dismantle and rebuild part of the structure. County administrators rejected the glass entrance, a number of exterior metal panels and shoddy stucco work. Many of these issues were corrected after the OHL Group acquired the Tower Group, the site’s previous contractor.
According to Mr. Spring, even though OHL joined the team midway through, inheriting many of the previous contractor’s problems, the group immediately put a team of people in place to make all repairs. Officials asked that the group redo the curtain wall, a move that cost the Tower-OHL Group both time and money.
"Shortly after OHL acquired the Tower Group… we detected several construction issues at the project," said Lauro Bravar, president of the Tower-OHL Group. "We stopped the work and did a thorough inventory on what had to be corrected and replaced…. By now we have solved all the problems, regardless of the cost involved."
According to a report last month by the Department of Cultural Affairs, the building should be complete by Dec. 3, 2010, 954 days past the current contractual completion date of April 23, 2008. Delay damages have cost the contractor more than $3 million since the outset.
"Our initial cost budget has been significantly overrun, with OHL absorbing the majority of the extra costs except those related to design or other issues," Mr. Bravar said. "We see this as an investment in the OHL trademark and a contribution to the cultural facilities of the South Miami-Dade community."
The 71,500 square-foot, 966-seat theater includes a fly tower that enables crews to quickly move curtains, lights and set pieces, and a hydraulic orchestra pit that can be moved to accommodate musicians, extend the stage or provide additional seating.
A separate, 7,500-square-foot activities building connected to the theater by an outdoor promenade houses a Lab Theater, a large rehearsal studio and an activity room.
According to the department’s report, workers have begun rough grading the south performance lawn and plaza area, constructing underground irrigation, prepping and pouring colored concrete for the canal walk, constructing retention ponds on the structure’s south side and building foundation for steps at the front of the theater building.
Inside the theater, the group is installing terrazzo flooring, finishing all drywall and dismantling scaffolding. Loose seating has arrived and workers are installing railings at the lobby and auditorium balconies. Final electrical work is going on at the activities building, while ceramic tile is installed in the bathrooms.
"The walls are being painted, the seats are being installed and the floors are being finished," Mr. Spring said. "We anticipate smooth sailing finishing up the rest of the building."