Symphony seeks $15 million from Miami Beach for new campus
By Charlotte Libov
The New World Symphony is seeking $15 million from the City of Miami Beach to help defray the costs of its new campus, which is to include a Frank Gehry-designed performance center, a 600-space parking garage and a city park.
The request for Community Redevelopment Agency funds, which the City Commission will discuss at its Dec. 6 meeting, was originally pegged at $30 million but was reduced after symphony representatives met with city officials, said Howard Herring, the organization's president and CEO. The meeting is to take place at 9 a.m. in the commission's chambers.
"We are working closely with the city staff and the commission with this request and the entire public/private partnership that invigorate the city center district," he said.
The new campus was to be called SoundSpace, but the name had to be dropped because high-end audio manufacturer Nakamichi owns the name, Mr. Herring said. A new name for the complex is being sought, he said.
The orchestral academy has been low-key about fund-raising for the project and tightlipped about the center's design although a model was shown privately to city officials. It has been shipped back to Mr. Gehry's company in California, Mr. Herring said.
Construction of the 94,000-square-foot project is to feature an innovative see-through architecture and a flexible, open-access configuration of the rehearsal and performance space "to create new ways of engaging audiences and the local community," Mr. Herring said. There will also be large indoor video screens, and a 700-seat performance lab, which is the same capacity as the Lincoln Theater, the orchestral academy's current home.
Jorge M. Gonzalez, Miami Beach's city manager, said the city has provided a long-term $1-a-year lease for the property.
"We told them we were not going to fund them $30 million," Mr. Gonzalez said. In addition to providing the land, the city had also agreed to construct the parking garage and provide the land for the park, he said.
He said the city will benefit from the new building as well.
"They provide a range of public benefits, including free concerts, free admission and cultural enrichment to the residents and the students here," he said. He also noted that Mr. Gehry, the architect, is world-famous and that the model he saw of the new building is "beautiful."
"It's unlike a typical Gehry building," he said, referring to buildings such as the architect's famous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. "It's a new page out of Gehry's book," Mr. Gonzalez said.
The academy's new campus, he said, "is being modeled a lot after Centennial Park in Chicago, which Gehry designed. It's not the same design, of course, but it will bring us a lot from a world-recognition perspective."
According to Miami Beach Commissioner Saul Gross, the amount being sought by New World Symphony from the city was reduced after discussions involving the possibility of putting retail shops along the area between the new center and the parking garage.
Mr. Gross agreed that the project will enhance the city, but he noted that there are a lot of worthwhile projects seeking funding from the city's Community Redevelopment Agency.
"At our last meeting, we asked city officials to make a list of all of the projects in the pipeline to see if we have enough money to accommodate those requests. We had a preliminary discussion at our last meeting, and now the city is going to come back and fill in some of the blanks," he said.
"I think the Gehry project is a great project, and we'd like to do what we can to see it to fruition," he said. "But we also need to make sure, at the same time, that we're responding to all the other needs and demands in the city redevelopment area."