Commissioner Floats Idea for Miami Beach Arts and Culture G.O. Bond

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Commissioner Floats Idea for Miami Beach Arts and Culture G.O. Bond:

First step, inventory of City facilities needing upgrades

Miami Beach Commissioner Ricky Arriola says the City is unable to fund necessary improvements to its cultural facilities and, with a new push to focus more on arts and culture, needs to find a new way to pay for them. Arriola is floating the idea for a General Obligation (G.O.) Bond, a taxing mechanism that would have to be approved by voters like the G.O. Bonds for instrastructure, public safety, and parks and recreation approved in 2018.

Citing needs such as the Byron Carlyle Theater, the Fillmore, and the new cultural space proposed for the ground floor of the new Collins Park garage, among others, Arriola said, “We’ve got a great opportunity right now with a low interest rate environment to invest in the future of Miami Beach which will be about arts and culture. Many of our performance spaces were built in the 40’s and 50’s and need to be brought up to 21st century standards and we’ve got a really great opportunity with the City’s credit rating and low interest rates to do that now.”

The idea is starting as a referral to the Commission’s Finance Committee, an item on the City Commission agenda this week. In a memo to his colleagues, Arriola wrote, “Miami Beach is fortunate to have many cultural assets and organizations benefiting its community. Many of these assets require capital funding to take our cultural organizations and community to the next level, but unfortunately, our annual capital budget is limited to make this happen. As Miami Beach aims further to define itself as a serious art and culture destination, I ask the Finance and Economic Resiliency Committee to consider issuing a general obligation bond to nurture our arts and culture community and drive quality tourism.”

If the referral is approved, Arriola wants the Committee to request an inventory of all City-owned cultural facilities. “I want to see what it would cost to bring those up to modern standards particularly around audiovisual equipment, soundproofing, bringing it up to Code, seating, all of that. We want to get a good inventory and assessment of what it would cost.”

Arriola expects that “the bill would be around $100M to bring all the City-owned properties up to competitive levels… We know the bill for the Byron Carlyle is going to be around $15 to $20M.” The City-owned theater has been closed since October 2019 when it was declared unsafe due to numerous electrical and structural issues. Last week, after a strong push from local activists and Commissioner Mark Samuelian, the Commission approved up to $400,000 for further structural analyses and conceptual designs once a resident survey is complete and potential cultural partners weigh in on best uses.

Asked about voter appetite for a new bond offering, Arriola said, “I think it’s very strong. Look, the Byron Carlyle is proof that the community wants the City to invest in a theater and performance space… I think we just need to make the case, spell out exactly what we think we’re investing in and how much and I think a strong case can be made to voters to make the investment.”

“The Byron Carlyle is the most drastic in terms of the state of disrepair but the Fillmore (photo above) needs a freshening up and the new performance space [in Collins Park] will also need some financial help to get that to be a really world-class space.”

Arriola wanted to raise more money from the 2018 bond referendum but, politically, the support wasn’t there. “We didn’t do enough, clearly. Had I had my druthers, we would have included this in the G.O. Bond [in 2018]” but the majority of the Commission wanted to keep the offering well below $500M, settling on projects totaling $432M.

“We’re all very clear now that we would have benefited from going a little further but I think a lot of people were nervous that voters wouldn’t support the G.O. Bond” which, ultimately, received around 70% support, proof, he said, that “Voters very much want us to invest in things like infrastructure, public safety and parks and we underinvested in the G.O. Bond in terms of cultural facilities and I want to rectify that.”

“If we can show that a dozen different cultural institutions will get enhanced, I think voters will overwhelmingly support it,” he added. “The same way they got excited about parks, infrastructure and safety, they’re going to be excited about seeing our cultural facilities improved.”


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