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Front Page » Top Stories » Aquatic Center Sinks But Skateboard Park Rolling Ahead

Aquatic Center Sinks But Skateboard Park Rolling Ahead

Written by on January 27, 2011

By Meena Rupani
An aquatic center planned for Sunny Isles Beach has fallen through as Wometco Enterprises decided to end its involvement, said City Attorney Hans Ottinot.

"After Wometco dropped out of the project, we began accepting bids from others," Mr. Ottinot said.

"There was one bid. However, as a city we decided to go forward with the other capital improvement projects and drop the aquatic center project altogether."

Mr. Ottinot said he’s unsure why Wometco backed out. "The city does not sit in on their financial discussions."

In September 2010, the city commission approved Wometco Enterprises’ letter of intent regarding the building of an aquatic center.

Wometco Chairman Arthur Hertz refused to comment on the failed project. Wometco also operates and owns the Miami Seaquarium on Virginia Key.

The proposed aquatic center was meant to be financed and developed by the corporation and was to include a garage, restaurants, shops, two banquet halls and a three-story aquarium, according to Eduardo Castinera, president and CEO of Axioma Architects.

The city purchased 4 acres for the aquatic center and the subsequent capital improvement projects that include a park, parking garage, pier, pedestrian bridge and skate park.

"We are back to the development state essentially with the aquatic center falling through. Some of these projects will be completed sooner than others," said Jorge Vera, acting city manager for Sunny Isles Beach.

The Heritage Park, said Mr. Vera, is a multi-million-dollar project consisting of a four-story garage and a community park at 193rd Street and Collins Avenue.

"The construction on this park is 80% complete," Mr. Vera said.

The budget for the park and garage was $15 million, said Giovanni Batista, public works director and city engineer.

The garage will have 500 spaces, said Vice Mayor Lewis T. Thaler, and the nearby Ramada Plaza Marco Polo Beach Resort will use 400 of them.

"The hotel will pay the city market rent for the use and upkeep of the garage," Mr. Thaler said. "The rent amount will be more than $300,000 on an annual basis upon completion of the park."

All revenues the garage generates are to go directly to the city.

Non-residents are to pay $10 or more a day and residents will be able to buy a yearly pass at a discount to use the garage’s parking spaces.

The Town Center skateboard park is expected to open by Feb. 12, said Mr. Vera, the date set for a grand opening celebration.

"The cost of the skate park totaled $400,000 after we added two shade canopies to our design. Previously, the cost was $280,000," said Susan Simpson, city cultural and human services director.

The city also plans to reconstruct its Newport pier and restaurant as part of its capital improvement projects.

"Demolition is scheduled to take place tentatively from the end of February 2011 through March 2011 and construction of the restaurant is anticipated to begin after October 2011," Mr. Vera said.

The final project, an emergency pedestrian bridge, is still in early stages.

"We are working with South Florida Water Management and the Department of Environmental Resources Management. The city needs to provide a mitigation plan for their approval before a final permit can be obtained," Mr. Vera added.

"These projects are meant to serve some of the city’s existing facilities. They will add to the quality of life," Mr. Batista said.

"As a city we are dedicated to planning activities and events," said Stephanie DeThomas, the city’s public information officer, "catered to families, children and senior citizens."

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