Two Megaprojects Compete for Site Next to Freedom Tower

Downtown's iconic Freedom Tower will soon have new neighbors. The only question is who? 

The tower's owner, Miami Dade College, also owns a 2.6-acre lot next door. The primo space on Biscayne Boulevard is currently used as a surface parking lot for the school's Wolfson Campus. Last year, the school received an unsolicited proposal from a group fronted by art dealer Gary Nader to build the Nader Latin American Art Museum. The school then decided it might as well open formal bidding to others. 

This being Miami in the midst of a major building boom, no lot in downtown will go underdeveloped after all. 

Four proposals were submitted, and now the competition is down to two: the Nader group and one of Miami's most active mega-condo-developers, Related Group. According to the Real Deal, all proposals were rated by a committee on four components: project concept; the companies’ background, financial strength, and business success; business terms of the proposals; and small-business utilization.

Related came out slightly higher than the Nader group, but the school will enter negotiations with both before making a final choice. The third-place bid, by Gregg Covin Development/Oppenheim Architecture, will be considered if either of the first two groups' plans fall through. 

Both projects are quite different, but both try to pull off that trick of combining cultural incubation with condo development. Let's take a look. 
The Related Group's proposal is dubbed "ACME," which, despite the name, will not be the new headquarters of the world's number one roadrunner-hunting supply company. Instead, it's an acronym standing for "Arts, Culture, Museum, Education." Miami's favorite local architecture firm, Arquitectonica, was brought on to design it. 

The project would include:

  • A cultural center featuring a performance hall, a small museum space, a multifunctional space, and a rooftop sculpture garden. 
  • A 75-story residential tower with 350 condos.
  • A 39-story office tower.
  • A boutique "art" hotel with 100 rooms. 
  • A 9,000-square-foot restaurant.
  • A collegiate club with free membership for MDC students. 

Nader's proposal centers on the Latin American Art Museum. He has brought in Roberto Rocha, CEO of Sofran Group, as a partner, and FR-EE Architects is handling the design. 

The 400,000-square-foot museum would include exhibition space, a 1,600-seat theater, a small conference center, an outdoor vertical monumental sculpture garden, and parking. The museum would be the third major art museum in City of Miami limits and would be located just blocks from Pérez Art Museum Miami. 

To compete with the other project, Nader's plan now also includes two 50-story condominium towers with 250 units each, a 16,000-square-foot restaurant space, a 26,000-square-foot culinary market, and additional parking. 

Both projects' cultural components would be given to MDC. Nader, however, promises to kick in $60 million worth of museum-quality art to stock the space. 

MDC would also receive a share of the profits derived from the private development elements. 

MDC will hold meetings with both before deciding which to choose. Nader is stressing the more major cultural implications of his plan, while Related believes its project better suits Miami's real-estate market.

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