the performing art center and the expand-o-mam
Post #306 • June 24, 2004, 7:18 AM • 18 Comments
Somebody - anybody - please explain to me how anyone is going to keep this debacle from repeating should the Museum Park (hereafter referred to as the Expand-o-MAM) come to pass. (Holy cow - the Miami Art Museum finally fixed up that dirt-sucking website! Nice job, people! Now, can we talk? Also, your navbar is drifting leftwards, at least in Safari.) Fred Tasker for the Miami Herald: "Outside help may be brought in to finish PAC: After recommending a new project manager for the PAC, the Miami-Dade manager took a beating from commissioners angered by delays and cost overruns."
Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess introduced to county commissioners Tuesday his candidate for the hot-seat job of finishing the Performing Arts Center -- which is $67 million over budget and 20 months behind schedule. He's Ronald M. Austin, a principal with a construction firm that completed two performing arts centers in Ohio with Cesar Pelli -- the renowned architect who also designed Miami's PAC -- on time and within budget.
At the meeting, commissioners spent three hours scolding Burgess and several past county managers for letting the project get so out of hand -- then gave him grudging approval to formally submit his program for completing the center for a July 13 commission vote. Testy commissioners were clearly glancing over their shoulders at testier voters.
"We're going to be blamed, Mr. Manager," said Commissioner Javier Souto. "You people better get your house in order."
"I refuse to admit we were asleep at the switch," said Commissioner Jimmy Morales. "We relied on our professionals. Obviously, they were wrong."
Um, yeah. $67 million worth of wrong. I'm thinking, asleep or not, something like $10 million would be enough of a red flag for the commissioners to question their reliance. But wait, there's more:
Austin's salary, if commissioners go along with his hiring, will be negotiated. Burgess last week spoke of the position as $175,000 to $225,000 a year. Austin would replace the county's current PAC manager, Gail Thompson, who makes $172,000 a year and will take on administrative duties at the PAC.
Burgess and Austin briefed commissioners on a plan Burgess made public last week. It would settle up to $89 million in possible claims from the center's builder and $20 million from its architect at less than 50 cents on the dollar, bring in new management and a professional consulting firm, create a $10 million contingency fund and complete the center by May 31, 2006.
PAC Trust President Michael Hardy told the commissioners that, beyond the $67 million in overruns, the PAC will need $17.4 million in fixtures, furnishings, security systems, phones, computers and other equipment (though he said $7.9 million of it can be deferred) and $10 million in pre-opening operating costs.
It's like nobody down here has ever built a building before. What's the problem?
Rolle [editor's note: Who?], speaking of Austin's new job of getting the architect and builder to work together -- a major factor in the delays and higher costs -- [said]: "This is going to be like two porcupines making love."
Oh. The architect and builder weren't working together. Well, I guess that would be a problem. (Porcupines are able to copulate without wounding each other because the parts of the animals that come into contact do not have quills. Please alert the offices of Cesar Pelli and whoever that builder is.)
Consider Museum Park; it toils, also it spins. How much is it going to cost? It's a big gosh-darned mystery!
Phase one of MAM's new sculpture park ... will include galleries for MAM's permanent collection, international in scope with an emphasis on the Western Hemisphere, as well as galleries for special exhibitions, an educational complex with space for hands-on workshops for children, caf bookstore, and other amenities. ... Design, construction, furniture, and fixtures of this phase are estimated at $87 million based on prevailing national standards. This is one component. Other cost considerations are:
- Landscaping and art acquisitions for MAM's four-acre public sculpture park
- Planning and building up MAM's current operations to support the museum's growth and the capital campaign
- Creating an endowment fund to sustain MAM's future annual operations
The real number has never been pinned down. Celeste Fraser Delgado at the Miami New Times tried to find out for a piece she wrote on the Expand-o-MAM last year, and was rebuffed:
"Unfortunately a lot of those numbers are moving targets," admits the chairwoman of the Miami Museum of Science board, Louise Valdes-Fauli. [The Museum of Science is part of the Museum Park project.] With her perky sorority bob and serious business suit, Valdes-Fauli efficiently ticks off the costs that need to be covered. She gets a little ticked off herself when pressed for more specifics. "We have over a 50-year history," she snaps. "We are not a new museum starting up a huge building. We have seen economic cycles. We've experienced them."
I want a big-ol' art museum down here, really I do. However:
- The PAC's overruns nearly equal (or exceed, depending on how you look at it) the total price tag on the known costs of the Expand-o-MAM.
- The major cause of the overruns was that our civic leaders could not get the architect and the builder to work together.
- The Expand-o-MAM is a public project of similar scope.
- The unknown and unstated costs of the Expand-o-MAM could be anything.
So before I get on board and start cheering for the Expand-o-MAM, I want reasonable estimates for those "other cost considerations" instead of mystery meat, I want a realistic assessment of where that money is going to come from, and I want to know what protections are going to be put in place so that hissy fits between our service providers don't transmogrify into a giant toilet for money.