The powers-that-be at the freshly minted Institute of Contemporary Art are quite used to getting what they want. The board, comprised of former m embers of MOCA North Miami, walked away from their long tenure at MOCA with enough art and museum staff to open a new, privately funded museum in Miami's Design District. Now, the ICA Board has been granted permission by the city to bulldoze three historic homes in the Buena Vista neighborhood in order to make way for construction of its brand new building.
Currently functioning in a temporary space, the ICA is gearing up to begin construction of its 37,500-square foot facility and surrounding sculpture garden, designed by Spanish firm Aranguen & Gallegos Arquitectos. The future site sits on two empty commercial lots and one private home donated to the institution by Miami Design District Associates, a partnership between developer Craig Robins' Dacra and private equity fund L Real Estate, as well as two residential properties purchased for $1.6 million by Norman and Irma Braman, who are funding the construction project. The proposed plan requires demolition of the homes.
Homeowners in the Buena Vista East Historic Neighborhood Association originally opposed the site plan, despite the fact that the homes in question aren't considered historic. The plan was initially rejected by the Historic Preservation Board, but in a second vote just a day later, a deciding board member granted the approval, provided the museum doesn’t use the sculpture park gate to bring in oversized artworks.
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Soon after, the neighborhoods’ homeowners association agreed to endorse the museum in exchange for a series of conditions, which include a promise for free lifetime entrance for Buena Vista residents, priority hiring, and a pledge that DACRA wouldn’t encroach into Buena Vista and would help fight any other commercial developers that try. Some members say their endorsement of the ICA was born out of a feeling that the city would approve the museum regardless of their position.
With the approval of the local preservation board in hand, the museum's next step was getting the green light to rezone the residential lots from the city's Planning and Zoning Appeals Board, which last week voted against the project almost unanimously.
But the museum still has a chance for getting the project to move forward, in a crucial Miami commission vote on zoning changes, with plans to open the museum in time for Art Basel 2016. And if history has been any indication, it seems the ICA just might have its way.
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