Douglas Road Goes Off the (Metro) Rails

This is not the first time Raul Masvidal has tried to snooker the county into a bad deal

 Douglas Road Goes Off the (Metro) Rails
Filed under: Scanner

In 2003 the Miami-Dade County Commission selected Miami banker and real estate developer Raul Masvidal to build on county-owned property near the Douglas Road Metrorail station. Masvidal and his partners, Pinnacle Housing and Royal Group Investments, promised a parking garage, a hotel, apartments, a theater, and a retail complex.

Three years of haggling later, Masvidal won't be building anything. The developer won't budge from his offer of $300,000 in annual rent, according to a transit agency memo prepared for the commission's October 10 regular meeting. The county's most recent appraisal determined the site could net $135 to $150 per square foot — about one million more dollars than Masvidal's final offer. Masvidal also radically changed his development proposal, eliminating the theater and hotel components.

The view from the Knight Concert Hall's cheap seats ain't 
too shabby
The view from the Knight Concert Hall's cheap seats ain't too shabby

Location Info


Douglas Road Metrorail Station

Douglas Road and US1
Coral Gables, FL 33134

Category: Services

Region: Coral Gables/South Miami

Masvidal, a prominent Cuban-American who helped orchestrate the deal that brought us the American Airlines Arena, declined to comment. Transit Director Roosevelt Bradley could not be reached. This past Tuesday, commissioners were supposed to approve or deny staff's request to end negotiations with Masvidal and rebid the project.

This is not the first time Masvidal has attempted to snooker the county into a bad deal. In 1999 he won a no-bid contract to build on land adjacent to the South Miami Metrorail station. Three years later, the Miami-Dade Housing Agency chose the site for its new office complex and gave Masvidal five million dollars in surtax funds as an "equity investment." Had the new office been completed, the agency would be paying three times the amount of its current rent.

To date, the South Miami project is more than eighteen months behind schedule and an estimated eight million dollars over budget — and still no new office for the housing agency. County Manager George Burgess has since begun efforts to recoup the five million dollars from Masvidal, who blames the delays on the transit agency for failing to inform him about underground utility easements and encroachments on the property. — Francisco Alvarado

A PAC for the Masses
Filed under: Culture

The Carnival Center's opening gala, the "Concert for Miami," went off with only a minor hitch for the nominally best-seated audience members at the oval-shape Knight Concert Hall this past Thursday night. The performances were produced by Miami's crown prince and patron saint, Emilio Estefan; a simulcast of the show was broadcast on screens in the Ziff Ballet Opera House next door.

Emilio obviously considered the audience demographics, assembling the requisite fourteen-year-old Asian musical prodigy flown in from Juilliard to impress the old people who write big checks; Broadway legend Bernadette Peters to delight hordes of gay men via showtunes; and an unending cavalcade of Latin music superstars — Carlos Vives and Arturo Sandoval and Cachao and Albita and, of course, Emilio's wife, Gloria. Even actor Andy Garcia showed up to play bongos. Jackie Gleason's wife told a touching story about her husband filming The Jackie Gleason Show in Miami Beach during the Sixties, long before Miami knew of the Carnival Center or the Asian piano kid or even the royal Estefans themselves. José Carreras then took the microphone, wailed out a few songs, and let everyone know what it sounds like when you can really sing.

So what of that glitch? My blind friend and I were seated in the supposedly prestigious (and certainly expensive) box seats, which were easily accessible for someone with limited mobility — and so close to the stage you could spit your gum into a bassoon. That would seem to be a lucky break, right? Well, no. Because the Knight Concert Hall was designed for orchestral performances, seats go all the way around the stage; speakers hang in the center of the room but point only to the back, away from the stage — away from where we were sitting. Gloria Estefan's opening numbers sounded like they were coming out of an AM radio. Worse, fog machines, attached to noisy generators positioned next to the box seats, ran throughout the show. It was so bad that people began walking out, until frantic Carnival Center managers uprooted the entire section and found open seats elsewhere. Cheap seats.

(This past Tuesday, Riptide attempted to interview Tateo Nakajima, the architect who supervised the tuning of the center's halls, about the sound at the show, but Nakajima's cell phone dropped several calls. Check our blog, Riptide 2.0, for updates.)

In the back, though, way up high in those cheap seats, the sound bounced off the roof, right down onto you — and that much-ballyhooed sound was indeed fantastic for the entire show. Turns out the best seats in the Knight Center are the least expensive ones. Considering the stodgy reputation and high ticket prices performance arts such as ballet and opera have accumulated like so many barnacles to the stage over the decades, Thursday's scene — a jubilant, upbeat display of happy, dancing spectators — was a welcome departure. It would be nice to see the general public buying tickets, and here's a good incentive. If you go to the Knight — which you should — save your money and sit somewhere in the back. Drop the pomp and circumstance; just watch the show. — Dan Renzi

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