Arts center officials still looking for parking spaces
By Suzy Valentine
Less than a year before soft opening and little more than a year before its first booking, the Miami Performing Arts Center is still short 1,500 parking spaces.
The arts center is to be substantially complete by June 4, 2006, and finished two months later. A concert is booked for Aug. 14, 2006.
"The performers will be in that day playing music," said arts center president Michael Hardy.
Arts center officials wouldn't disclose details about the first performance.
The date "would fall in our pre-opening phase," said chief marketing officer Gail Eaton, "and any events we do then are likely to be by invitation only rather than public performances."
The opening gala is slated to take place by early October.
Meanwhile, talks aimed at finding a stopgap solution to the lack of parking continue.
Two feasibility studies have considered parking possibilities for the arts center. An Urban Land Institute study was undertaken last year, and a second report, by Barry Abramson, recommended one parking space for every 2.7 users at the arts center. Its three venues combined offer seating capacity of 4,800 - 2,400 in the ballet opera house, 2,200 in the symphony hall and 200 in the studio theater.
"The ratio is based on the peak load as well as the potential for that happening," said Roger Carlton, vice president of ACS and a representative of the trust's parking task force, "and it factors in an assumption that some people will find alternative spaces."
Five facilities have been suggested as interim parking solutions:
NThe Miami-Dade School Board garages to the north of the arts center at Northeast Second Avenue.
NThe Argent-owned former Omni Mall parking garage at Northeast 15th Street.
NTen acres of bayfront land Terra Group bought from Knight Ridder for development that would be available during the planning and approval stages.
NLand to be acquired by the Florida Department of Transportation from Avra Jain, developer of the failed Opus project at 1237 Biscayne Blvd., which stretches to Interstate 395.
NThe site of a future project by developer Leviev west of the ballet open house and Northeast Second Avenue.
School board officials are preparing to draft a request for proposals a year after an arrangement with the arts center was first touted, a parking liaison said at a construction meeting June 8.
"Interestingly, that's where we were a year ago, and we're trying to push them to do that," said Mr. Carlton. "Their feeling is, not incorrectly so, that the magnitude of the deal that they're talking about is that there ought to be some kind of a public process. They are on fast track to get the request for proposals done. There was a draft prepared as part of the Urban Land Institute study. A more technical version is being put in place."
The school board has other properties that could provide solutions, he said, once the future of the first site is determined.
"They will not move on any of the other properties they have around here until this deal is settled," said Mr. Carlton. "The reason for that is this deal solves their parking needs as well as ours and others. Once this deal is put to bed contractually, then they have all this other property around here we can start to do all these other things with, whatever that happens to be.
"They are more than willing to sit down with us and start talking about utilization of the school board garages," he said, "so we could begin to put together the interim parking plan soon."
The former Omni Mall has more than 2,000 underused spaces. "We're going to meet with Argent representatives next week," said Mr. Carlton, "when they're next in town. They're still trying to figure out what they want to do. At one moment, they're going to tear down the whole garage, sell off some sites and break up the complex into sections. At another point, they're going to tear down half the garage.
"In terms of interim parking, they're willing to sit down and negotiate something with us with a clear understanding that there could be very short notice that we need to give up."
"It's pretty much empty," said Mr. Hardy.
Bicentennial Park, before it is developed, could also provide temporary respite, Mr. Carlton said.
Arts center officials are looking to a $500,000 streetscape project to complement a hunt for permanent parking spaces.
"The City of Miami has selected a consultant this week," said Mr. Carlton, "and that project is moving forward. Having nice sidewalks that link together with a parking space will give the public confidence in the area."
Bookings have been taken for the opening day.
"We'll have performers in playing music," said Michael Hardy, president of the arts center. "A gala will be arranged for the last week in September or first week in October."