When Bacardi moved its headquarters to Coral Gables in 2009, it left behind two ornately tiled buildings at 2100 Biscayne Blvd. Preserved by historic status, but too pricey for most buyers in a down economy, the structures have sat unused for the better part of the last three years.
That'll change this month, when the National YoungArts Foundation, founded by Ted and Lin Arison, moves its administrative headquarters onto the property after purchasing the buildings for $10 million -- less than half of their market value.
Since 2009, preservationists have supported the idea of a nonprofit moving into the old Bacardi HQ. The YoungArts buy, though it comes later than most had hoped, might be the best possible realization of that vision. YoungArts has been established for three decades now, supporting and mentoring young artists age 15 and up, and counts celebrities like Vanessa Williams and Nicki Minaj among its success stories. Plus, it's bringing big names to its new center of operations, including Frank Gehry, who'll design the campus's master plan.
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Facundo L. Bacardi, Bacardi Ltd.'s chairman of the board, told the Miami Herald that the company had held onto the buildings for so long because it was "looking for somebody to extend the legacy of the property and what it means to us." Money wasn't the driving factor in the sale, the Herald reports, but Lin Arison did sell a few prices pieces of art (a Money and a Modigliani) to help fund the $10 million acquisition.
Plans for events coinciding with the Second Saturday Art Walks in nearby Wynwood, and outdoor "wallcasts" similar to those at the New World Center (also designed by Gehry) are in the works. There's also a plan to turn an adjacent office building into a performing arts center, and a nearby parking lot into a park or green space, both of which fit nicely into the ambitious ;plans proposed in February by the Town Square Neighborhood Development Corporation to transform the downtown stretch of Biscayne Blvd into a pedestrian-friendly, green, cultural corridor.