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U/C: Performing Arts Center of Greater Miami


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Related Urbanplanet.org topics: [ South Florida P&C: Performing Arts Center of Greater Miami |



Deadline looms over arts center



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It's crunch time at the Miami-Dade Performing Arts Center. By the end of this week or early next week, the county vows to make the center's builder and architect agree to a final price for the oft-delayed, overrun-plagued project -- or they might be fired.

The builder's contract with the county calls for the center to cost $254.6 million, but the builder has asked for $47 million more and estimates that its final extra costs could run as high as $61 million, the county said.

The architect's contract is for $25.35 million; it wants more, but won't say how much.

County Manager George Burgess vows to hold the line. The county has offered the builder an additional $8.9 million, rejected $26 million and is negotiating over the rest.

''I want to make it brutally clear we will not tolerate the kinds of large costs being claimed,'' Burgess said.

On the plus side, the crisis has focused the county, builder and architect, and all say they believe they can resolve the issues on time and work together to produce a brilliant new landmark for South Florida.

''These will be two splendid, incredible structures that will be the pride of Miami for generations to come,'' said architect Cesar Pelli.

The county, builder and architect also agree that the center will be completed by May 31, 2006, in time for a gala opening that October. That's almost 20 months late.

And whatever the extra money needed, Burgess promised not to tap residents' property taxes. He said he will seek it from the tourist-development tax or elsewhere.

Meanwhile, those who will use the center anxiously await a final deal. Such as Florida Grand Opera director Bob Heuer, so he finally can put on Carmen without having to store the props for the gypsy mountain camp scene outdoors under a tarp, as he does at Dade County Auditorium. Or fundraiser Sherwood ''Woody'' Weiser, so he can reassure potential PAC donors that the nearly $55 million they have promised so far won't be in vain.

Or Miami community leaders, so they can hail their city's arrival as a capital of world culture with its state-of-the-art 2,200-seat symphony hall, 2,480-seat ballet/opera house and 200-seat studio theater -- largest in the country since the Kennedy and Lincoln centers opened nearly 40 years ago.

''We're all dismayed with the cost and the time,'' Heuer said. ``But once people actually walk into the space and see the intimacy and yet the grandeur, they will be happy.''


Dreamed of for 25 years, the Miami-Dade Performing Arts Center was approved by county commissioners in 1997 and begun in October 2001 -- originally to be finished on Oct. 15, 2004. But delays cropped up quickly, and the new May 2006 completion date will be 591 days later than promised.

Chosen as architect was the Argentine-born Pelli, now 77, who designed the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo; the Reagan National Airport expansion in Washington, D.C.; the world's tallest twin towers in Kuala Lumpur, plus performing arts centers in Charlotte, N.C., and Cincinnati, Ohio.


A prestigious choice. But in the builder's view, some of Pelli's architectural drawings were so vague they couldn't tell how much steel to buy, couldn't figure out where to run electrical lines and air-conditioning ducts.

(At least that's the description of the builder's view by county officials, and what they say is indicated by some of the nearly 1,000 change orders the builder has filed. Luiz Rocha, president and CEO of Odebrecht U.S., the lead company in Performing Arts Center Builders, a joint venture with The Haskell Co. and EllisDon Construction, declined to be interviewed -- replying instead in general terms by e-mail to questions from The Herald.)

Rocha wouldn't address specific costs or design problems: ``This is one of the major issues we are working collectively with the county to resolve. It would not be proper to preempt those talks with further public discussion.''

The architect denies that poor drawings by his firm created big delays and costs: ''That's simplistic and one-sided,'' said Fred W. Clarke, a partner in Pelli & Associates. ``Even the most perfect drawings are at best an approximation. If you look at any other performing arts center -- the new Disney Hall [in Los Angeles] is a good example -- you'll find claims. The issue is how they are settled.''


County officials agree the design created some delays and extra costs. But they say they gave the builder $2 million and six months -- before the first shovel of dirt was turned -- to scrutinize Pelli's drawings and work out any questions before the builder signed a ''guaranteed maximum price'' contract for $254.6 million.

''I think the design did impact things, but whose responsibility is it?'' said Gail Thompson, the county's PAC project manager. ``We think they [the builder] way overstated the time and cost impact of it.''

In fact, she said, the builder submitted only about 400 RFIs -- ''requests for information'' -- with the architect during the six-month scrutiny period and more than 5,000 since.

It was after that period, and after the builder signed the guaranteed maximum price contract of $254.6 million, that the builder filed the 991 change orders seeking $47 million in additional money, Thompson said.

Nor does that include an additional $14 million in overruns the county says the builder has estimated due to the project's further delay. The $47 million was based on the center being completed 250 days late; its new completion date is nearly 600 days late.

Rocha won't say if his firm will submit the extra $14 million.

Burgess, who inherited the PAC project when he took over as county manager in 2003, blames some costs and delays on another cause -- legalistic, too-traditional contracts that were signed between the county and the builder and architect.

''We've been producing paperwork, not steel and concrete,'' he said. ``We need to get rid of the adversarial relationships.''

In the current negotiations, Burgess is trying to redraw the contracts to achieve agreement on a final price -- ``not the Rock of Gibraltar, maybe, but pretty darn solid.''

And he means to create new rules so disputes can be settled on the construction site.

''It needs to be a labor of love between the architect, the builder and the county,'' Burgess said. ``We need to get rid of the inherent conflicts so we can fix problems within minutes. If you get it all in court, you might not resolve it for 15 years.''


In this, he finds agreement from builder and architect.

''It's a very good idea,'' said the architecture firm's Clarke.

''A goal we all share,'' said the builder's Rocha.

Burgess' goal is to hammer out a final price by next week so he can present formal new contracts to his County Commission bosses at their June 22 meeting with a firm deadline, price and new dispute-resolution rules -- all agreed upon by county, builder and architect.


If it doesn't work, pressure will soar to fire both builder and architect. Already, the PAC Trust's construction committee has voted twice to fire the builder -- first if a compromise couldn't be reached by May 1, then by June 1.

Trust members realize it would be a drastic step.

''The only thing worse would be to continue the way we are,'' said PAC Trust chairman Parker Thomson.

Asked if he might fire both builder and architect, Burgess said he will do whatever is necessary.

``I don't think any option is off the table.''

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I can't wait for this building to open!  I would love to go to the grand opening celebrations.  I think alot can be said of a city by looking at its PAC (or lack thereof).  This will help bring Miami even more cultural successes.


And if that doesn't work out, we can always convert it into a state prison, as they did to Frank Gehry's masterpiece on The Simpsons. :whistling:
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