North Miami - NMB

North Miami council approves MOCA settlement, downtown plans

MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art at 770 NE 125th St., North Miami.
MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art at 770 NE 125th St., North Miami. Miami Herald File

North Miami moved a step closer to redeveloping its downtown area at Tuesday’s meeting, passing a trio of resolutions in support of the Museum of Contemporary Art and approving a conceptual plan for the city’s downtown redevelopment area.

The MOCA resolutions passed almost exactly as proposed but with some amendments. The council approved an item to establish a board of trustees for the museum made up of members of a steering committee that formed in September.

However, they specified the board would only serve as “transitional” for a period of four months. In the meantime, the city and MOCA will work out the specifics for City Council appointments to the board and finalize the new rules governing the museum board.

Additionally, the council approved a $500,000 loan to the museum to assist with programming and other expenses. They amended the original resolution by making the loan a line of credit and giving MOCA four years to pay it off instead of two.

The settlement agreement between the city and the former board was also unanimously approved by the council ending the lawsuit between the two sides and distributing the remaining artworks, assets and grant funding between the two sides. The council thanked staff and their outside legal counsel for their work and for bringing the situation to a resolution.

“I'm so grateful that we're going to put this case to rest,” Vice Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime said. “One thing that was extremely important for us is that MOCA stays in North Miami and stays in North Miami as a museum.”

The settlement will gift about 70 percent of about 700 artworks to the city while the Institute of Contemporary Art — formed by the former board in the Miami Design District — will keep about 200 pieces. MOCA North Miami will also keep the rights to the MOCA name, the nonprofit organization Moca, Inc., and receive about $1 million in grant funding.

The former board will keep about $424,000 in grant funding and the two sides will split the cost of inventorying and inspecting the collection and moving the pieces to the respective museums.

The council also approved the conceptual action plan for the city’s downtown development area, after delaying the vote at the Oct. 28 meeting. The plan has been discussed since last year and over several community meetings this past summer including meetings of the downtown action plan advisory committee.

State Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, attended the meeting and said he would support the city’s plan when he returns to Tallahassee.

“These are the types of plans, these are the types of things that move us into the next generation,” Braynon said at the meeting.

Some concepts in the plan include facade improvements on the Northeast 125th Street corridor, previously discussed plans to upgrade City Hall and the MOCA Plaza area as well as building a multistory parking garage with retail and office spaces in the downtown area. The plan also places a focus on developing public art, open spaces and outdoor restaurant areas.

Planning manager Tanya Wilson-Sejour presented the plan at Tuesday’s meeting and said the estimated costs for the capital improvement projects will be about $8.5 million, based on an economist’s estimate. She also emphasized that the plan is intended to be a guide not a final plan.

“The plan is certainly not written in stone, it’s not engineered, it’s not signed and sealed,” Wilson-Sejour said. “It’s strictly conceptual in nature.”

The meeting was also the first regular meeting presided by newly elected mayor Smith Joseph. He joked with council members and the audience and thanked the staff for helping him smoothly transition into the position.

“I want to thank the staff, you guys have been very welcoming to me and make me feel like I'm walking into my own home,” Joseph said.

The council also honored Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jean Monestime, a former North Miami councilman, on his election as the chairman of the board of county commissioners. They declared Nov. 25 as “Jean Monestime Day” in the city.

The next City Council meeting — the final meeting of 2014 — will take place 7 p.m. Dec. 9 at City Hall, 776 NE 125th St.