Cuban Museum purchases opera's Coral Way building
By Charlotte Libov
The Cuban Museum has purchased a $3 million home, buying the Florida Grand Opera's Arturo di Filippi Center at 1200 Coral Way.
The sale, which took place last week, will enable the opera to consolidate its area operations, officials said.
"It's a dream come true," said Ofelia Tabares-Fernandez, president of the Cuban Museum.
Opera General Manager Robert Heuer said he is delighted that it is being passed to another cultural organization "so it remains in the cultural community."
In 2004, Miami-Dade County voters approved a $10 million expenditure in General Obligation Bond money for the museum project, which will include a $7 million renovation.
With the purchase, Ms. Tabares-Fernandez said, planning can begin for the renovation, scheduled to begin in mid-September, when the opera plans to vacate the building. Once renovated, the museum will have rooms for exhibits and will be able to portray the Cuban cultural heritage through music, literature, history, theater and art, she said.
The museum has hired Miguel Bretos, a former Smithsonian Institution employee, to work with Rodríguez and Quiroga, a Coral Gables architectural firm, Ms. Tabares-Fernandez said. She hopes construction will begin next year with completion in early 2009.
The opera, meanwhile, is in negotiations to buy a building west of the airport to serve as a temporary home until it can raise $50 million to build a new facility next to the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, according to Mr. Heuer. Buying a temporary home will enable the opera to consolidate offices in different locations, including the Coral Way building and its leased Coral Gables executive offices.
He declined to identify the Airport West building because negotiations are under way. The opera plans to keep the building even after it is able to move into its Biscayne Boulevard facility. "We keep growing," Mr. Heuer said.
The opera also operates out of the Josephine S. Leiser Center in Fort Lauderdale. The opera will keep that facility because of its proximity to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, where the opera also performs.
The Arturo di Filippi Center has been on the museum's wish list for a long time, according to Ms. Tabares-Fernandez. "We have wanted that building forever. I have always dreamed of it as the site for the Cuban Museum.
"That area has a lot of meaning. The first wave of Cuban exiles came to this country in 1960 and most of those who came at that time, more of less, live in the Southwest area. My children attended the Coral Way Elementary School, which was the first school to establish a bilingual system because the Cuban children didn't speak English," she said.
Like the opera, the Cuban Museum currently operates out of different locations; its administrative offices are at 214 Giralda Ave., in Coral Gables in space donated by Bank of America, and it stages exhibits and holds performances at the Koubek Center at the University of Miami and the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts.
The opera building has a stage and performance center, so the museum will be able to hold its performances there and have ample exhibit space.