Institute of Contemporary Art clears another hurdle

Miami city commissioners authorized zoning and land designation changes

Jun.June 11, 2015 07:00 PM

The Institute of Contemporary Art on Thursday won a key preliminary nod from the city of Miami Commission in its quest to build a new home.

By a 3 to 1 vote on first reading, city commissioners authorized zoning and land designation changes on four properties in the Design District and the Buena Vista historic neighborhood to make way for a 52,500- square-foot museum and sculpture garden.

The city commission is scheduled to take a second and final vote on the land designation and zoning changes later this month. But the institute, or ICA, still needs to get separate approvals for a site plan that details the actual layout of the project.

Commissioners Frank Carollo, Willy Gort, and Francis Suarez voted in ICA’s favor, despite a request from their colleague, Keon Hardemon, whose district includes the properties, to delay the matter because he is out of town.

“This is a minor step in a very long process,” Suarez said. “The applicant still has to submit a site plan where they will lay out how all this is going to look.”

Added Carollo: “It is still very, very early in the process. It’s definitely not the final decision.”

However, Commissioner Marc Sarnoff voted no in deference to Hardemon. “I am not comfortable when the district commissioner is not here and requested a delay,” he said. “I don’t know what Commissioner Hardemon is thinking, who he has met with and what questions he has.”

Since ICA’s main benefactors — billionaire auto dealer and his wife, Norman and Irma Braman, and Design District developer and DACRA President and CEO Craig Robins — unveiled plans for the Aranguren & Gallegos Arquitectos-designed project last year, the museum has met stiff resistance from homeowners and residents in the historic Buena Vista neighborhood.

To accommodate the sculpture garden that would front the entrance of the new museum, ICA plans to demolish three duplexes located on Northeast 42nd Street between Northeast First Avenue and North Miami Avenue that were purchased by the Bramans and Robins between December of last year and January for a combined $1.6 million.

“My quality of life is being impacted for the first time in the 15 years I have lived in Buena Vista,” said Antonio Giron. “It is very clear this sculpture garden is an intrusion to the neighborhood.”

Last week, the city’s Historic and Environmental Protection Board gave ICA the green light to tear down the houses, but Miami’s Planning and Zoning Appeals Board recommended that city commissioners reject the land designation and zoning changes.

However, Miami’s planning and zoning department joined ICA as a co-applicant in its request to approve changing the residential properties and a commercial parcel from “duplex” and “commercial” to “civic institutional” use.

Stephen Helfman, a land use attorney representing ICA, told city commissioners he and his client have been working with the Buena Vista East Historic Neighborhood Association since November of last year to reach a compromise. “We have done the best we can to strike a balance,” he said. “We still have a long road ahead of us. Let us move forward.”

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