Guide To Trashing Taxpayers: South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center
As we reveal each one of these boondoggles on Riptide, we're asking readers to send us their suggestions of the most asinine things local government has built in your neighborhoods. We'll pick the best one and send the winner a seven-day pass to try out the wonderfully terrible public bus and rail system provided by Miami-Dade Transit. Leave your best suggestions in the comments field or email it to Banana Republican. Enjoy!
Today, we present a cultural palace in Cutler Bay that faces stiff competition from another taxpayer-funded facility, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center
Year built: 2011
Cost: $51 million
What's dumb about it: Miami-Dade County already spent $483 million to build a performing arts center in downtown Miami.
Why it got built: A South-Dade politician with grandiose dreams.
Soon, the county hired Arquitectonica International, one of the nation's best known design firms, to come up with a plan for the performance hall and activity center. "This is a very exciting project," gushed principal Bernardo Fort-Brescia in a Miami Herald article shortly after his firm was hired. "For us to do a building that represents culture in our community, it's a real treat." Yippie for you Bernardo! Pretty sure the $2.9 million Arquitectonica made on the deal was a huge incentive too.
When Moss introduced his plan, the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center was only going to cost taxpayers $31 million. But the county didn't have the funding in place. Officials were more focused on what would become of the Adrienne Arsht Center of the Performing Arts, which was plagued by cost overruns and delays. Finally in late 2007, the county hired a contractor, The Tower Group, to build the south Dade center.
By then, the project's cost had almost doubled to $51 million. Worse, an investigation in 2009 by the Miami-Dade Inspector General concluded Tower was responsible for $2.3 million in cost overruns and delays. The builder blamed the county's Cultural Affairs Department, which oversaw construction. Tower and county officials are still haggling over repayment.
The center finally had a soft opening this past April. County commissioners allocated $1.25 million to the center's programming budget this year. But the place will have a tough time filling up seats considering the flagship downtown is still struggling to pay for itself. For the past year, the Arsht Center has only sold 82 percent and 66 percent of its tickets for the Broadway Across America series and Arsht-exclusive events, respectively.
Resident companies such as the Miami City Ballet, Florida Grand Opera and the New World Symphony haven't fared well, selling 65 percent of their tickets, a decrease from the 2006 season when the Arsht Center opened. During that time, the Concert Association of Florida also went bankrupt. The place drains more than $8 million annually from Miami-Dade's coffers to operate.
Watchdog Report Publisher Dan Ricker, who has monitored the construction and operation of both cultural facilities, believes it will be impossible for the county to continue to subsidize the venues. "In a down economy, will there be money for programming for all the smaller cultural center and the mothership in downtown Miami?" Ricker ponders. "I'm worried."
Guide to Trashing Taxpayers:
Marc Sarnoff's Circle
Interstate 95 Flyover
Hialeah Okeechobee Road Landmark
The Metrorail M-Path
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