Perfoming arts center to have $690 million impact, study forecasts
By Paola Iuspa
Besides broadening Miami's cultural stage, construction of the performing arts complex downtown is projected to add millions of dollars in tax revenues, create jobs and jump-start redevelopment nearby, according to a report partially paid for by the center's foundation.
The purpose of the $75,000 study by Hamilton Rabinovitz & Alschuler, a New York- and Los Angeles-based consulting firm, was to forecast additional benefits of the $370 million investment - a cost which includes the center's two buildings and professional services needed. In all, the report predicts the project will have an impact of $690 million by the time it's finished, including services, building materials and labor.
According to the study, the 570,000-square-foot complex, when operating, should bring the City of Miami about $4 million a year in taxes. It would generate $6 million to $8 million for Miami-Dade County and $5 million to $8 million for the state, the study says.
The Performing Arts Center Foundation contributed $25,000 for the study released late last year and the Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust, a private-public group created to promote development in low-income areas, donated the remaining $50,000, said Nancy Herstand, executive director of the foundation.
Ms. Herstand's group represents the center's five future tenants and raises funds for the project. Sherwood 'Woody' Weiser of Continental Cos. chairs the foundation's board.
Assumptions in the study are based on an annual attendance of 617,000 if the center opens when expected in fall 2004. The center is to be home to the Concert Association of Florida, the Florida Grand Opera, the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, the Miami City Ballet and the New World Symphony.
The county-owned project is expected to generate 6,300 jobs during construction, according to the study. The Performing Arts Center Trust, a citizen-based group headed by Parker Thomson and representing the county's interests, is to oversee the center's operation.
Construction is about to start and workers are preparing the site to lay the foundation, Ms. Herstand said.
City and county officials have agreed to a labor strategy meant to help area residents benefit from the center as a source of employment, according to a county document. The agreement calls for county's subcontractors to hire primarily Overtown and Park West workers to build the center.
But area residents aren't ready to celebrate.
"We have to wait and see if they hire people from Overtown," said Bill Mauzy, executive director of Bame Development Corp. and a nearby resident. "If there is no federal money involved, they may not feel obligated to hire people from the neighborhood."
He said he wasn't aware of the pact between the county and the city.
"The only economic impact Overtown will have is if they use many of the skilled construction workers we have here," he said.
Overall, the economic impact and creation of most future jobs predicted in the study hinges on successful redevelopment of an area that extends about 10 blocks to the north of the arts center, which will straddle Biscayne Boulevard between 13th and 14th streets.
To that end, the Performing Arts Center Strategic Planning Committee and Hamilton Rabinovitz created a master plan for a proposed Miami Performing Arts District. The plan was done in conjunction with the consultants' economic forecast.
Mr. Thomson, with the law firm Hogan & Hartson, leads the committee, which includes Mr. Weiser, government officials, developers, business and community leaders, and art and education experts. They envision a flourishing commercial area from Northeast 11th to 20th streets and from North Miami Avenue to Biscayne Bay.
The suggested 25-year master plan calls for 4,000 new residential units to be spread among high-rise buildings, 2,000 new homes in courtyard complexes and about 300 new townhouse apartments.
The district would become home to 70,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 1 million square feet of middle- and high-end office space and about 800 new hotel rooms. The entertainment industry would use up to 300,000 square feet around the center, according to projections by Hamilton Rabinovitz.
The plan also calls for building parking space and street-front retail and improving traffic flow along North Bayshore Drive corridor, the road behind the former Omni Mall, and the 14th street corridor, connecting the area to Overtown.
Tibor Hollo, chairman of Florida East Coast Realty Inc., a pioneer in the development of the Omni area, said the city will use the master plan to zone sites in the district for specific uses such as hotel or residential. Mr. Hollo sits on the area's strategic planning committee.
"It means the city has to set the zoning according to this master plan," he said.
All these real estate developments would be needed for the projected economic impact to materialize, Mr. Hollo said.
Consultant John Alschuler of New York, president of Hamilton Rabinovitz, said his firm produced its revenue estimates for the arts center and Omni area based on portions of Miami's growth in the past 20 years.
"We considered the growth rate along Brickell Avenue," he said. "This is a downtown property adjacent to the water. It has an excellent location."
He said he shared his projections with the strategic planning committee and members agreed on the role the arts center would play in fostering economic development.
Mr. Hollo said developers should start focusing on the district once the center's completion nears. He said they would be able to move right in with their development plans as long as they match the newly designed blueprint.
"This is a guide for developers and investors," said Miami Commissioner Johnny Winton, also a committee member.
Since the county approved the arts center project, developers have announced plans for at least two high-end residential towers around the previously idle Omni area, east of Biscayne Boulevard and across from the venue. For example, The Finger Companies of Houston and Florida East Coast Realty and BCOM Inc., both of Miami, plan mixed-use and residential rental complexes feet away from each other north of the Omni.
"Construction of office and residential buildings and shopping districts is what will give people jobs," Mr. Alschuler said. "You need to view the center as you view any important piece of infrastructure, like an airport or convention center, that generates employment."
The hired consultants supplied pages of documentation about why the Miami project is positioned to become a catalyst for nearby private development.
They based their optimism on results in other US cities where an art center of similar magnitude was built downtown. For example, a development explosion followed the construction of the Lincoln Center in New York City, the Newark Performing Arts Center in New Jersey and Cleveland's Playhouse Square, they wrote.
Another example might be found much closer to home.
William Farkas, former president and CEO of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts who played a key role in building that facility, said he witnessed the change it brought to a once-rundown area of downtown Fort Lauderdale.
From dilapidated buildings and areas infested with drug dealers around the far western end of Las Olas Boulevard, he said, that area of downtown blossomed into an entertainment district in less than 10 years. The $70 million center was completed in 1991 and was quickly followed by the construction of the Fort Lauderdale Riverwalk, a series of landscaped walkways that twist for a mile along the river, connecting attractions, restaurants and shops.
"What happened in Broward was a simple kind of redevelopment cycle," said Mr. Farkas, now executive director of ArtCenter South Florida on Miami Beach. "The primary forces behind the transformation was the performing arts center and The Riverwalk. Another phenomenon was when Las Olas Riverfront complex got developed, capturing the theater population before and after performances."
"You just need to get people excited about the area. If they see a reason to come, investment should follow."