Buena Vista residents oppose changes to Design District special area plan

Institute of Contemporary Art Miami: ICA Miami was designed by Madrid-based Aranguren & Gallegos Arquitectos.
Institute of Contemporary Art Miami: ICA Miami was designed by Madrid-based Aranguren & Gallegos Arquitectos.

A proposed modification to the Design District special area plan involving the Institute of Contemporary Art’s new home drew skepticism from homeowners in neighboring Buena Vista late Thursday. Despite the protests, Miami city commissioners on first reading unanimously approved the change, which removes two parcels where the museum is being built, from the special area plan.

The city’s Planning and Zoning Department and the Planning Advisory Board recommended approving Miami Design District Associates LLC’s request to take off the two properties located at 53 Northeast 41st Street and 61 Northeast 41st Street because the sites are no longer part of the commercial redevelopment project and are now owned by the Institute of Contemporary Art. Associates is a partnership between Craig Robins’ Dacra and L Real Estate.

Homeowner Wendy Stephan complained that Associates and their attorneys never discussed with neighbors the possibility of removing parcels from the special area plan whenever it suited them. She claimed taking off the museum site properties could allow the institute to build a taller structure.

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“What is the true purpose of removing the parcels?” Stephan said. “We believe it is so they can build a larger building adjacent to our neighborhood and that is a concern.” Stephan is one of two Buena Vista homeowners who appealed the city’s decision last year to grant zoning and land-use change in order for the institute to build a 37,500-square-foot building with an accompanying 15,000-square-foot backyard sculpture garden.

While the appeal is still pending, the institute already has a building permit and has already broken ground. Miami planning and zoning director Francisco Garcia disputed Stephan’s assertions that the city and Associates were hiding the true intent of the special area plan change. “Everything has been very deliberate,” he said. “Everything has been very transparent.”

Designed by Spanish firm Aranguren & Gallegos Arquitectos and local architect Wolfberg Alvarez, the ICA’s new home will have a southern facade, where the entrance is located, that features a layer of interlocking metal triangles and lighted panels that will change color. A curtain wall system of windows to allow for natural light makes up the northern facade and the interior space will include multipurpose gallery spaces and workspaces.