The Real Deal Miami

New design hasn’t yet advanced Berkowitz museum

Design includes two six-story buildings with about 36,000 sf of gallery space

July 19, 2015 02:00PM

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Bruce Berkowitz

Bruce Berkowitz

Fairholme Capital hedge fund manager Bruce Berkowitz is still struggling to build an art museum in Miami as the city government sends mixed signals about the planned project.

“Either I’m doing something wrong, or the process is broken,” Berkowitz said.

Among other frustrations, Berkowitz said, after complying with one city agency’s request to cut foliage and secure vacant buildings at the development site, another city agency accused him of breaking municipal rules.

The proposed museum at Biscayne Boulevard and 26 Street and would serve as a showcase for two large-scale works of art that Berkowitz bought: Aten Reign by James Turrell and Passage of Time by Richard Serra.

The combined price of the two works was probably “in the tens of millions,” said Dennis Scholl, an art collector and former vice president, arts, of the Knight Foundation.

Announced in October of last year, Berkowitz’s original anvil-shaped museum design violated the Miami 21 zoning code, which applies to the downtown area. Berkowitz bought more land so an Arquitectonica team of architects could revise the building design to comply with the zoning code.

The altered design has two six-story structures with about 36,000 square feet of gallery space. After a four-month review, city officials recently told Berkowitz the building design has an inadequate number of ground-floor doors, among other shortcomings.

Art collector Martin Margulies said the city should be more accommodating: “When a guy like Bruce has the courage to venture into something that the average collector cannot do and give people in this community the opportunity to see these master works, they should seize that moment.” [Miami Herald] Mike Seemuth