"The highest number I've ever heard for the restoration costs of the Gusman Center downtown is about $15 million. The problems with Gusman are both aesthetic - it's ratty, and the carpet's ripped, seats need to be replaced - and structural. The front of the stage is too narrow, it needs to be opened up. You'd have to cut it and expand it, and maybe add a loading dock. But it would make a perfectly good home for the symphony. So even if you take that number and you added five million dollars more for the Colony Theater, the Manuel Artime center in Little Havana, the old Lyric Theatre in Overtown, and the others, you would save $40 million by not building the symphony.
"The way the plan reads now, it's sort of like were going to build the opera and the symphony hall, and after that, if there's money left over, we're going to do all these smaller projects," Gordon says. "But that means it's going to be six or eight years from now. And I suspect that since the money from the private fund-raising isn't going to be there, and the money from the state isn't going to be there, every nickel of the [hotel] tax money will be needed. If I were in charge of building this performing arts center, I'd make sure there wasn't a nickel left over. I'd want to have a higher-quality marble, and I'd want to upgrade the carpet. I'd find ways to spend every dime that was in the revenue stream.
"Decision one: don't build the symphony hall," Gordon suggests. "All of a sudden you have $10 million, $20 million to spend on land if you want to. So you aren't locked into accepting an unacceptable site because it's free. You free up your options. Anybody who looks at it should realize that that's a real dumb way to build a public facility. We don't build anything else that way. What if we only built schools where we could get a free site? Or prisons? That's nuts!