Hopes for a Byron Carlyle cultural center rise

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Written by Monica Correa on March 8, 2022

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Hopes for the advancement of a possible Byron Carlyle cultural center are up as the city of Miami Beach gets closer to coming up with a conceptual design.

After the city agreed to budget a placeholder sum of up to $400,000 for conceptual design for the Byron Carlyle movie theater cultural center last September, in late January Commissioner David Richardson announced he would bring an item to the commission March 9 proposing a plan for the historic theater. The proposal he said, would have preliminary budgets and proposals for an architectural design, “with a maximum outlay of $5 million by the city.”

“We’re working with consultants under our architectural and engineering rotational firm which we already have pre-negotiated contracts on,” said Adrian Morales, city director of Property Management, during the Jan. 20 commission meeting. “We’re working on proposals on conceptual design including public outreach. We’re still in the process of finalizing those and we will have that option available should we receive direction to proceed.”

The city is also analyzing zoning requirements and land use restrictions to make sure a cultural center can be built at the site, Mr. Morales said.

So far, $400,000 has been allocated from resort taxes for a conceptual design, a move sponsored by Commissioner Mark Samuelian, seconded by Commissioner Alex Fernandez and passed unanimously.

“The Byron Carlyle is an important asset in our efforts to try to activate North Beach. It is so terribly unfortunate that we have let our own city property go into such conditions,” said Mr. Samuelian, who then offered a resolution to direct the administration to initiate the process for the conceptual design. “So that’s where we’re at.”

In terms of the conceptual design, Mr. Samuelian said, “what’s most important to me are two things: that we have a state-of-the-art cultural center, and that we have a community-driven process, which I believe is the lesson learned from the last RFP.”

In December 2020, Menin Hospitality and KGTC presented after a request for proposals (RFP) a plan to build 151 workforce units, 9,000 square feet of rental space and a 10,500-square-foot cultural center, which the city voted down due to opposition from both the commission and residents.

“We are closer than we were,” Mr. Samuelian said. “For the first time, the city has committed funding – we didn’t have that in place – and number two, we have a vote by the commission directing the administration to start that process. We’ve never done that either before.”

The hope, he said, is that the city would maintain some ownership of the property.

Mayor Dan Gelber, in his 2022 State of the City Address, championed Commissioner Ricky Arriola’s idea for a cultural general obligation bond to fund cultural capital improvements throughout the city, including a reimagined Byron Carlyle theater.

“We need to harden into our city DNA this commitment to arts and culture, because it is unquestionably the best version of Miami Beach,” Mayor Gelber said. “It defines who we want to attract, and it gives our residents the kinds of unique amenities you can’t find anywhere else.”

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