Terms for Museum Park getting look ahead of vote: Chief of cultural affairs says project has reached 'fairly substantial' phase
By Risa Polansky
Should the new art and science museums slated for Bicentennial Park hit cost overruns, Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami would be off the hook, according to a draft blueprint between the governments and the museums.
The county could, however, end up paying more than it now does to help operate the museums. The extra costs would stem from the larger size of the buildings, said Michael Spring, the county's cultural affairs director.
The non-binding "memorandum of understanding" — making its way through the county committee system toward commissioners for a vote — "sets forth the basic business terms of the Museum Park project," Mr. Spring said.
It's the first in a series of agreements needed to solidify longstanding plans to turn the derelict downtown park into a lush public setting for planned state-of-the-art museums.
"This is a fairly substantial moment for the Museum Park project," Mr. Spring said.
The agreement states each of the museums "will be responsible for developing their own projects on their own four acres of property," he said. They are to contract for their own construction services and "own and operate the buildings."
Any costs in excess of government bond contributions, totaling more than $275 million, are to be handled by the museums, the agreement says.
Such stipulations come after spending nearly a half billion dollars to build the nearby performing arts center, which the county subsidized with $8 million for operations last year.
"It's a fundamental change in direction for us," Mr. Spring said. "The primary responsibility for the care of these buildings resides with the museums."
Once the buildings open, "the county will continue to provide the museums with operating support," as it does now, granting it oversight of the museums' budgets and programming, he said.
He acknowledged the museums could request more money in the future but said "we'll have to see what the county's capabilities are."
Still needed to keep Museum Park plans rolling: formal grant agreements, lease agreements and master development and operating agreements.
Grant agreements approving initial bond payouts to each museum are making their way through the county approval process in tandem with the blueprint document.
Grants are to be given "on a reimbursement basis," Mr. Spring said. "We'll have a very strong oversight role in the use of the county funds during design and construction."
Also in the works is another memorandum of understanding between the city, county, museums and the Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority establishing intent to create a lease agreement that would place the city-owned land under the purview of the authority.
The city agency would then sublease the properties to the museums.
The memorandum provides that future formal lease agreements would include details such as rent.
The authority already acts as landlord for the Miami Children's Museum, which pays only $2 a year.