By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Zyscovich is gazing again at one of his favorite pieces of land. He says he hasn't talked to the owners, a Middle Eastern investment group called Zaminco Columbus Inc. that also owns the Freedom Tower. It would be the county's job, not his, to negotiate land acquisition, Zyscovich says. But that would require some new will power. "If the objective is to have the best possible facility for this county for the next 100 years, it's unbelievably ignorant to proceed because we're afraid of losing momentum," he states. "We're not going to lose momentum. The more visible it becomes, the more in the public eye it becomes, in a sense the more controversial it becomes, the more energy it draws to itself. The energy is not going to be in the form of `Let's kill it.' The energy is now in the opposite direction: `Let's see how good we can make it.'"
TOO ELITIST, TOO CORPORATE, TOO SELF-SERVING: ATTACK OF THE ACTIVIST
George Knox, 47-year-old attorney at law, stretches out his incredibly long and bony hands and wiggles them oddly on the axis of his wrists. His booming voice is thick with the Old Testament. A law-firm underling creeps in the door with a message, and is promptly chased away by a resounding salvo. Knox's wife calls. The voice softens. He promises to pick something up at the cleaners.
"We need places for people to perform, but we need so much more than that," he says, hanging up the phone and resuming the booming. "We need a unifying factor. We need something positive to think about in Miami associated with architecture.
"Look out there!" he shouts, swiveling in his chair ten floors floors above Flagler Street and pointing toward the window. "The CenTrust Tower is the one thing that distinguishes Miami. It's a joke, that this is what's lit up in our community at night: a monument to greed that's owned by the feds because of a fellow who's alleged to be a carpetbagger and a fraud."
Knox is explaining why he likes the giant scale of Miami's current performing arts center plan - but not the proposed site. "There are promoters and real estate developers in this community who understand that along Biscayne Bay in the City of Miami is the most desirable place for anybody with sufficient means to live," he explains. "Because the view across the bay is probably the finest view in the United States of America. And people are coming back - we're having a regentrification of the urban area.
"So they say to themselves, `Let's create a city within a city,'" Knox continues. "`Let's look at midtown and see how we can continue doing what's already going on there.' Which is prohibitively expensive residences that people are likely to purchase because everything that's important in this community is readily accessible.
"Now all of a sudden you live on the 44th-floor penthouse of Knight-Ridder Place" - a wicked grin spreads across Knox's face - "and your office is on a 21st-floor penthouse on Brickell. All you have to do is stroll downstairs and get on the Peoplemover and go to work. And you can stay late, because your dinner'll be catered, and then you cruise down the elevator to the opera, you have a cup of coffee, and you go upstairs and go to bed. `We can develop this New Town in the Omni area,' the real estate people say to themselves. `But we really need this performing arts center as one of the components. It'll help us kill two birds with one stone.'
"I think that the package was put together early and quietly," Knox says. "There was either a deliberate or inadvertant strategy to have the package completed by the time it was presented to the public. I object to that because it puts too great a burden on the public body that has responsibilty for debate and dialogue. There's pressure on them to just rubber-stamp something in the name of `We've been working on this a long time,' or `Look, the whole thing is coherent, it's solid, no loopholes. Let's act fast.' As it stands, this an elitist concept to service an elitist crowd of folk.
"You don't use an economic-development magnet in order to populate high-income housing," Knox insists. "You use it to inspire the redevelopmenmt of a blighted area that needs an infusion of that nature in order that it can no longer be blighted. People have spent time, energy, and money in Overtown-Park West. It needs a new boost or it's going to die before it even gets completed. And because people don't see anything happen - as they were promised - they're going to stop renting and leasing and buying in Overtown-Park West. You'll have another idea that just went sour. Meantime, the Omni-Venetia area is flourishing.
"This is a legitimate community issue, and all I'm doing is calling for a public dialogue," Knox says, summing up. "When the decision is made, I'll support it wholeheartedly. I'm still a team player. But don't let the decision get made without a public dialogue. If you do that, your motives have every right to be questioned."