Real estate come-on, or art?

What's the "deal" with that banner?

Was it true? All the hubbub about razing The Miami Herald's waterfront headquarters and putting up condo towers?

Sure, Herald poobahs have said there are no plans to move, and the city has rejected a bid to rezone the bay front property for highrises. But there's a lot of money floating around — at about $200 million, a deal in the works for land surrounding the site is said to be one of the most costly real estate transactions in South Florida history — and things tend to change overnight around here.

And then there's that photograph.

You know, the one on a 40-by-60-foot mesh banner hanging from the building's east side — a gorgeous view of the water, the Venetian Causeway and Miami Beach beyond. "You could have this view for the right price," the image seems to say to Miamians bombarded with real estate come-ons.

Regular Herald readers knew better. The photographic banner, taken by Miami artist Bert Rodriguez, was installed as part of a $15,000 art commission by the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs. It went up November 1, and will come down February 1. Rodriguez snapped the shot from a central office in the building, hoping to give McArthur Causeway drivers and apartment dwellers across the way a kind of mirror. He swears he wasn't thinking about real estate when he proposed the project. "I've gotten that from a few people," he said. "They didn't even know it was a piece. They thought it was a real estate poster."

While real estate didn't figure into his intentions, Rodriguez said he welcomed the questions the image has raised. "I kind of thrive on that kind of stuff." In fact, the artist admitted, there may have been a subconscious connection with his previous gig at an advertising firm in Fort Lauderdale. The firm handled a lot of real estate ads. "I had to get out of there," Rodriguez recalled. "I just couldn't take it any more."- Rob Jordan

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