Miami-Dade Schools

Arsht eyes school district lot for parking garage, arts industry school

The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts needs parking. The Miami-Dade school district needs money.

On that front, they might be able to make each other happy. But when it comes to a desire for a new performing arts magnet school, things aren’t quite as clear.

Negotiations to develop a dusty district-owned lot across the street from the center’s Ziff Ballet Opera House are likely to begin soon, with the school board on Tuesday signing off on discussions between the Arsht and Miami-Dade County. Officially, talks for the one-acre property on Second Avenue and Northeast 14th Street are about constructing a parking garage for the Arsht and cutting in the district on a portion of the money generated.

But the item board members approved Tuesday also mentions the construction of “potentially other public spaces” on the site, which the Arsht’s board of directors hopes will lead to the establishment of a school that specializes in performing arts production.

Arsht CEO John Richard on Tuesday gushed about the “possibility of creating a new performing arts high school in this neighborhood on our campus, literally right across the street from the greatest performing arts center built in this country.” He said the Arsht would find “the necessary resources to make this happen.”

Performing Arts Center Trust Chairman Mike Eidson said the school would be built on the top levels of the proposed parking garage, with retail on the ground floor. Students would then have behind-the-curtain access to the Arsht Center.

“We’re talking Julliard here,” Eidson said, referencing the world-famous New York conservatory.

The general concept of an Arsht-connected school was supported in August by the school board. Board member Raquel Regalado, who is also a member of the Arsht Trust, said using the center to teach students about the industry is a one-of-a-kind opportunity.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, however, tempered expectations during Tuesday’s school board meeting. Earlier in the day, he said he supports “educational space” at the site but isn’t yet sold on a full-blown school.

“That’s a conversation we haven’t even had yet,” he said.

For both the Arsht and the district, the potential of a partnership is part of a bigger redevelopment picture. The Arsht has created a Town Square master plan in the surrounding area, and Carvalho has talked lately about redeveloping at least parts of the more than 300,000 square feet of property the school board holds downtown. Building a parking garage with the Arsht, for instance, would allow the school board to tear down a garage it owns on Northeast 15th Street and rebuild something of better use.

Also on Tuesday, board members:

• Approved $38 million in bond expenses on interactive classroom technology for every classroom in the school district. Carvalho said the district could purchase the roughly 9,500 devices “as early as next week.”

• Re-elected Perla Tabares Hantman as the chairwoman of the board.

• Endorsed a Carvalho initiative to establish after-school literacy program for students and their parents through partnerships with private entities. Carvalho calls the program the Million Dollar Community Literacy Program, and says he aims to raise $1 million through private donations and matching grants. The board also endorsed a study of liability and legal issues around setting up community gardens at a dozen unused district properties.

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