Miami-Dade County OKs $5.7 million to keep performing arts center job moving, restore cuts
By Frank Norton
Miami-Dade County commissioners are loosening the purse strings on spending for construction of the Performing Arts Center by nearly $6 million, hoping to defend against more delays on the massive public-private project and replace details that were cut from the budget.
To block further delays, commissioners Thursday authorized up to $3.3 million to be drawn from the project's contingency fund to boost work crews and OK'd another $2.4 million for upgraded interior work, project managers said.
The center is now expected to open sometime in the 2005-06 performance season, one calendar year later than what was planned in 2001, when the center was approved.
Regarding the re-ordered interior work, the Performing Arts Center Foundation, the project's fundraising arm, and future tenant Florida Grand Opera have agreed to roughly split the costs. The upgrades include an industrial grade lift, a soundproof door and a fancy donor wall inside the ballet/opera house building.
Those items were previously cut from the budget in order to bring down building costs, fundraisers said, but later were deemed too functionally and aesthetically important to omit.
The lift and sound-door, for example, would expedite scene changes, enable presentation of more shows and increase the hall's use, said Michael Hardy, art center president and CEO.
As for getting the new features plus the remainder of the project financed, fundraisers say they are concerned about the down economy but remain confident.
"Things are delicate. It's a new project in not a great economic climate," said Nancy Herstand, who heads the foundation's work.
Although the trust has raised $53 million since fundraising began in 1994, it is still working toward its promised goal of $80 million, with roughly three years until its deadline. At that time, slated for one year after the center's opening, the foundation must pay Miami-Dade County the full amount pledged.
Ms. Herstand would not say whether there is a back-up plan in case fundraising comes up short.
The foundation is looking to tap both corporate and individual donors for the remaining amount, she said, though the poor business climate is not helping.
"People of significant net worth are concerned about that."