Construction projects create traffic, parking concerns for Adrienne Arsht Center
By Zachary S. Fagenson
The potential impact of three extensive construction projects slated downtown has sparked concern within the Performing Arts Center Trust, policymaking body of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
The urban overhaul includes 29-acre Museum Park at what is now Bicentennial Park, $900 million twin tunnels connecting the Port of Miami to Watson Island and revamp of the 1.2-mile-long bridge that connects I-395 to the MacArthur Causeway.
While the first two projects could tie up traffic throughout downtown, trust members fretted in a Nov. 10 meeting over how the projects together will affect the center's accessibility and what the bridge project could do to the center's acoustics, sightlines and parking.
"The more we look at the I-395 project," said Mike Eidson, a partner at law firm Colson Hicks Eidson and chair of the trust's I-395 committee, "the more we see issues that could adversely affect the center."
The project, which has been under planning since the mid 1990s, looks to replace the bridge, which the Florida Department of Transportation has cited as poorly designed, structurally deficient and a source of urban blight in nearby Overtown.
"The project has potential to accentuate [the center] or cause harm" to it, President and CEO M. John Richard told the trust. It "certainly is going to displace 500 parking spots."
Despite their concerns, the trust and the center have been involved in the planning.
Mr. Richard, according to Alice Bravo, director of transportation development for the transportation department, attended a public meeting at which he expressed concern for the project's effect on the building's acoustics.
"As part of the environmental impact study we do noise modeling and take existing readings at several locations" around the construction site, Ms. Bravo noted. "I think he was satisfied with the information we provided."
The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority gave the trust two seats on its project evaluation committee, Mr. Eidson said during the trust meeting.
But the project's impact on parking, Ms. Bravo said, should come as no surprise to the center's management.
Toward the end of 2004, the department bought the lots between Northwest 13th street and I-395 that stretch one block east of Biscayne Boulevard and a block and a half west of it.
The department "leased those lots so that the performing arts center can use them in the interim" for parking, Ms. Bravo said. "It's always been well-known that that's right-of-way."
While the center has used the lots since it opened, they'll be used instead during construction to maintain the flow of traffic.
And because the center was built without its own parking, the loss could be disastrous for center patrons.
Meanwhile, Mr. Richard said, the department's goal is to "have a shovel in the sand four years from December" and the work would take three to four years.
If construction began in four years or earlier, it might overlap with work on the port tunnel, expected to begin in late 2011, and work at Museum Park, expected to start wrapping up in 2013.