Miami's city-owned film studio in reruns to find consultant
By Catherine Lackner
Citing their wish to give preference to local companies, directors of Miami's Community Redevelopment Agency have rejected a selection committee's recommendation to hire California-based Bastien & Associates Inc. to evaluate the possibilities for the Miami Entertainment Center at 29 NW 13th St.
Instead, the agency will issue a new request for qualifications for a design consultant for the planned filming hub and will instruct the selection committee to consider the firm's business location.
Whoever wins will advise the agency about the 89,000-square-foot building's potential. The original plan was to have two state-of-the art sound stages of 10,000 to 12,000 square feet, office space and facilities for digital imaging. Recently, city officials have said they might abandon that plan and put the property back on the market.
A selection committee had evaluated seven firms that responded to the previous request and tapped three to make presentations: Bastien & Associates and local firms Bermello Ajamil & Partners and Architects International. While Bermello Ajamil & Partners won the first round of judging, which was based on the companies' written proposals, Bastien & Associates was ranked first — and was ultimately the committee's choice — based on its oral presentation, the second phase of the judging.
Miami city commissioners, who serve as the agency's directors, questioned whether enough weight in the judging had been given to the firms' locations. "There's a strong feeling that we should have local preference," said Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones.
"Part of a CRA is to promote local businesses," said Commissioner Francis Suarez. "If it's not a local firm, who's going to be checking?"
"My decision to put the request for qualifications out nationally was based on getting the best possible product," said Pieter Bockweg, agency director, as the agency voted last month. "I was focused on getting the best available company for a specialized use."
"Bastien & Associates is No. 1 in the world for this type of thing," said Mike A. Shehadeh, senior vice president and chief operating officer of CES Consultants Inc., which would have been the local partner to Bastien & Associates. "They have built more than 150 sound stages and they have 90% direct client contact. They have the experience and relationships with producers and operators of studios and can bring them to Miami."
But "Bastien is not here today," said Willy Bermello, a principal of Bermello Ajamil & Partners, an award-winning Miami company that has landed such high-profile projects as a Port Miami makeover. The company's projects in the entertainment sphere include the Univision Network offices, television and radio broadcasting studios for the Spanish Broadcasting System in Miami, and the G-Star School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, the largest motion picture sound stage in South Florida.
Mr. Bermello said the selection committee's recommendation should have been based on "a review of the proposals, not on how flashy we are or on a dog-and-pony show."
He also said there was a misunderstanding with agency staff about the requirements of the job. With the impression that the redevelopment agency had allotted $1 million for the design criteria phase, Mr. Bermello said in an email after the meeting, his company proposed a process that would create a highly detailed and tightly specified set of documents. Bermello Ajamil & Partners estimated this process would take 18 weeks.
By contrast, Bastien & Associates submitted a far less detailed plan, with a timeline of five weeks.
"When you hear that one firm finishes in five weeks and the other finishes in 18, it throws a cloud of doubt and confusion into the process, and that is what happened here," Mr. Bermello said. "The CRA was comparing apples and oranges."
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