Arts center officials still seek parking plan
By Suzy Valentine
Plans to improve lighting and sidewalks near Miami's Performing Arts Center are winning praise for safeguarding patrons' walks to their cars - though no parking facility is yet in the works.
The Performing Arts Center Trust on Tuesday passed a motion to "embrace" a streetscape program being considered by the City of Miami for areas around the center's two rising buildings but board member Ricky Arriola said that finding parking facilities "is like trying to hit a moving target."
"One issue is the parking, be it interim or long-range," said board member Roger Carlton on behalf of the trust's parking task force. "The other part is linking that facility to the two halls so that visitors experience fairly convenient parking with walkways and sidewalks and that it's well-lit. We need to get all of that done by opening."
The center is scheduled to be finished in 17 months.
Plans to build a garage opposite the school board headquarters are under consideration but, if approved, would not be ready in time for the arts center's expected Aug. 4, 2006 completion.
At the trust's Jan. 18 meeting, a vacant lot on Northeast Second Avenue was touted as the strongest alternative.
"I think I told everybody at the last meeting that we were working very closely with Africa Israel Investments Ltd. and the school board," said Mr. Carlton. "That started out as a garage proposal. It's now turned into a much more complicated project. It's still an offer on the table but it's a three- or four-year deal."
It could have provided up to 2,200 spaces in a multi-level parking project with underground space.
Last week Knight Ridder agreed to sell to Terra Group its land adjacent to the Miami Herald building where the trust had been negotiating for parking. The trust heard that Performing Arts Center President Michael Hardy is to meet with Terra to discuss parking possibilities but negotiations would have to start anew. Two other options for parking are under review.
"I don't want to go into a lot of detail, but the Florida Department of Transportation and [Opus project developers] are proposing something where we'd end up with their building as a garage and some underground parking as well," Mr. Carlton said. "It's at a preliminary stage."
Opus, at Biscayne Boulevard and Northeast 13th Street, still needs approval. The site could accommodate 900 parking spaces but would provide only an interim solution until the state begins reconstruction of Interstate 395.
"We met with RJ Advisors, the folks that bought the Omni," Mr. Carlton said. "They've expressed a willingness to work with us for 1,000 spaces in their garage for at least three years, maybe longer."
The Performing Arts Center, he said, has become a victim of the prosperity in the area.
"Every time we focus on a particular major parcel or deal" for parking, said Mr. Carlton, "the next 60-story building hits the ground."