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Opa-locka plans for city hall renovation to aid cultural development

Opa-locka’s mayor is well aware of her city’s reputation among Miamians.

“We want to change that image," Mayor Myra Taylor said about her city's reputation of being known as a high-crime area.

Taylor said the city has a lot to offer and that she and other city leaders have a vision of turning their community into a South Florida destination.

"We are now in the process of progressing," Taylor said.

This plan all starts with the restoration of the city’s historic city hall building, located at 777 Sharazad Blvd.

“That is our diamond,” Taylor said. “We are who we are because of the historic city hall. It’s one of a kind.”

The historic city hall building was built in 1926 as the city's centerpiece.

Inspired by an Arabian Nights theme, a Moorish Revival architectural style was chosen, complete with domes, minarets and courtyard gardens.

“That is our showpiece,” Taylor said. “When you have something historic like that, you don’t want it to just die on the vine. You have to keep it up.”

The goal is the restore the building — which now sits empty, as city officials have outgrown it — into an arts and cultural center that could possibly hold a museum and restaurant.

The city has hired Mary Means, a historic renovation consultant, to help with the project and to make plans for the space.

Her expertise, along with input from the community and city officials, will also be taken into consideration to help determine the best use for the space.

To help with restoration efforts, the city was recently awarded a $30,000 grant by the National Endowment for the Arts to undertake cultural programming for the repurposing of the building.

The city was also recently given $2 million from Miami-Dade County’s general obligation bond to help fund the restoration, according to a city official.

Currently, an assessment of the building is being made to determine which elements have deteriorated and which haven’t.

That is expected to be completed by the end of summer, according to architect Jim Piersol of MC Harry & Associates, who is working on the project.

He said the building was in good shape and that he is looking forward to working on it.

“The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and therefore any restoration must be done based on those national standards,” Piersol said. “Working on older buildings is always a treat.”

Primary work on the project remains under way, but construction on the site is slated to begin in 2014.

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