Guide To Trashing Taxpayers: South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center

​Next week, New Times is publishing a guide to the eight of the worst public works projects in Miami-Dade, where bureaucrats and elected officials take pride in wasting millions in taxpayer dollars on crap residents have little-to-no use for.

As we reveal each one of these boondoggles on Riptide, we're asking readers to send us their suggestions of the most asinine things local government has built in your neighborhoods. We'll pick the best one and send the winner a seven-day pass to try out the wonderfully terrible public bus and rail system provided by Miami-Dade Transit. Leave your best suggestions in the comments field or email it to Banana Republican. Enjoy!

Today, we present a cultural palace in Cutler Bay that faces stiff competition from another taxpayer-funded facility, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center

built: 2011

$51 million

dumb about it: Miami-Dade County already spent $483 million to

build a performing arts center in downtown Miami.

it got built: A South-Dade politician with grandiose dreams.


1993, one year after Andrew leveled south Miami-Dade, County

Commissioner Dennis Moss insisted the construction of the 966-seat

South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center was an essential part of his blueprint to

stimulate economic development in his district ravaged by the storm.


the county hired Arquitectonica International, one of the nation's

best known design firms, to come up with a plan for the performance

hall and activity center. "This is a very exciting project,"

gushed principal Bernardo Fort-Brescia in a Miami Herald article shortly after his firm was hired. "For us to do a building

that represents culture in our community, it's a real treat."

Yippie for you Bernardo! Pretty sure the $2.9 million Arquitectonica

made on the deal was a huge incentive too.


Moss introduced his plan, the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center was only

going to cost taxpayers $31 million. But the county didn't have the

funding in place. Officials were more focused on what would become of the Adrienne Arsht Center of the Performing Arts, which was plagued

by cost overruns and delays. Finally in late 2007, the county hired

a contractor, The Tower Group, to build the south Dade center.


then, the project's cost had almost doubled to $51 million. Worse, an

investigation in 2009 by the Miami-Dade Inspector General concluded

Tower was responsible for $2.3 million in cost overruns and delays.

The builder blamed the county's Cultural Affairs Department, which

oversaw construction. Tower and county officials are still haggling

over repayment.


center finally had a soft opening this past April. County

commissioners allocated $1.25 million to the center's programming

budget this year. But the place will have a tough time filling up

seats considering the flagship downtown is still struggling to pay for itself. For the past year, the Arsht Center has only sold 82 percent

and 66 percent of its tickets for the Broadway Across America series and

Arsht-exclusive events, respectively.

Resident companies such as the

Miami City Ballet, Florida Grand Opera and the New World Symphony

haven't fared well, selling 65 percent of their tickets, a decrease

from the 2006 season when the Arsht Center opened. During that time,

the Concert Association of Florida also went bankrupt. The place

drains more than $8 million annually from Miami-Dade's coffers to



Report Publisher Dan Ricker, who has monitored the construction and

operation of both cultural facilities, believes it will be impossible

for the county to continue to subsidize the venues. "In a down

economy, will there be money for programming for all the smaller

cultural center and the mothership in downtown Miami?" Ricker

ponders. "I'm worried."

Guide to Trashing Taxpayers:

Marc Sarnoff's Circle

Interstate 95 Flyover

Hialeah Okeechobee Road Landmark

The Metrorail M-Path

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.