Miami commissioners are scheduled to cast two votes Thursday that can make or break plans to build a new Design District home for the Institute of Contemporary Art.
The ICA Miami board, which oversaw the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami until splitting last year with the city, wants to build a new 37,500-square-foot home along Northeast 41st Street next to the de la Cruz art collection, with a 15,000-square-foot sculpture garden in the rear. To do that, the private museum needs the city to change the zoning and land-use for five parcels, including three on the south border of historic Buena Vista East.
The city’s Planning Zoning and Appeals Board recommended last week the commissioners vote against the proposal, worried about the project’s impact on the residential community. There has also been some push-back from neighbors and preservationists who fear a loss of privacy.
But the neighborhood’s association supports the project after coming to terms with the museum’s board on a covenant restricting uses on the site. They say the agreement, negotiated with Norman Braman, whose wife is ICA Miami chairwoman, holds hard commitments by the museum and Design District developer Dacra Develoment protecting the neighborhood from future commercial intrusion.
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They stress that the association wasn’t compensated in exchange for support.
Last week, the museum’s attorneys secured approval to demolish three duplexes that stand on the Buena Vista lots, where the sculpture garden is proposed. The approval included a condition that restricts the institute from loading large sculptures through a gate in the rear of the property, but the museum’s board has chosen not to appeal the decision, according to attorneys.
Some believe the commission is all but guaranteed to approve the rezoning request Thursday, considering that the city is a co-applicant on the request. But after public hearings last week, ICA Miami attorney Steve Helfman said he has no idea how commissioners will vote.
Even with approvals Thursday, museum architects would still have to seek subsequent permission to build the designed museum.