Freedom Tower opening set; foundation offices delayed
By Paola Iuspa
The historical Freedom Tower will be opening its doors a year later than planned as the original May date looms closer and the 17-story building keeps proving to be in need of more repairs than expected.
The formal opening will be on May 20, 2002, coinciding with the 100-year anniversary of Cuba's independence, said Jose Puig Sr., president of JGP Engineering Group, which manages the renovation project at no charge.
The building's owners, Cuban American National Foundation, had expected to move their offices into the 76-year-old tower by early March and have a grand opening on May 20 this year. But plans have changed.
"This year we will just hold an open house on May 20 for the public to see how things are going," said Mr. Puig, a director of the Cuban American National Foundation. "We will have some events that day."
He said the outside lighting could be ready for the open house.
He said the foundation hopes to move to the eight, 1,600-square-foot floors earmarked for office space by October.
Mr. Puig said designing an air-conditioning system for a building not designed for it was one delay.
Some "unforeseen structural problems" also took more time than expected, he said.
"We were doing the third-floor ceiling lap, where the library is going to go, and a part of it collapsed," he said. "We had a similar problem in another corner of that floor so we decided to redo the entire roof lap.
"For instance, when we opened some ceiling we had not inspected before we found the wiring corroded and so on."
Adapting the indoors for safety and to the current building codes was not easy, he said.
Freedom Tower, on Biscayne Boulevard at the edge of downtown Miami, was built in the early 1920s.
"You have to be very creative," he said. "Especially when you have to come up with space to locate mechanical equipment where there is no space."
Mr. Puig said the foundation had recently submitted the tower's electrical and plumbing designs to the City of Miami's Building Permit Department.
Once the reconstruction of the building and the installation of the mechanical equipment are complete, he said, the foundation will start outfitting the museum and the library.
Mr. Puig said the foundation had managed so far to overcome the problems without exceeding its $20 million budget.
"We are right on target with the budget," he said.
The Mas family bought the Mediterranean-style structure in 1999 for $4.2 million in honor of Jorge Mas Canosa, the prominent Cuban businessman who died in November 1997.