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Miami Art Museum Breaks Ground In Museum Park

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MIAMI (CBS4) – Political and civic leaders turned out Tuesday for the ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Miami Art Museum. It is slated to open in 2013. Now that dirt is turned the museum backers turn their hopes over to architects and, someday, the artists who will transform a piece of barren ground into a new showcase. The new museum will sit on Biscayne Bay, just north of the American Airlines Arena.

The Miami Art Museum president, Gail Meyers, told me, “It (Miami) is the only city in the country of its size without a world class art museum, so we have such hopes and dreams.”

The estimated project cost–$220 million. That includes $100 million in voter approved and taxpayer funded bonds. Private donations are intended to cover $120 million of the cost and museum officials say $45 million of private money has been pledged to date.

The Knight Foundation alone is making a $10 million endowment with a focus on turning the museum into an education magnet. Foundation CEO Alberto Ibarguen said, “Our endowment for the museum is solely for the purpose to bring school kids to the museum.”

Agree with the projects or not, Miami’ facelift goes on. Construction signs hang on a new Marlin’s baseball stadium, a port tunnel project, and now a new art museum that will include a park on the grounds. A new science museum next door is still on the drawing boards too. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez said, “There are a lot of people who just don’t want to do anything and that is not an option if we want to grow as a city. We have to be involved in these type of projects.”

But there are skeptics. Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado was a no show at the ceremonial art museum groundbreaking in his own city. It is not, he says, that he does not support the concept. Regalado says he worries the money is not there for the project.

“I don’t want to be hypocritical. I don’t believe the museum has all the money to do all the construction,” said Regalado. “I think the private part of the funding is not there, only pledges (now). With the economy as it is I don’t think that is the real thing.”

Museum backers though insist private funding is on target. They say they plan to put test columns on the new museum site in December and begin full scale construction in early 2011. Many in the community will be watching very closely for any sign of cracks in the financial foundations.

The groundbreaking was also in coordination with the beginning of Miami Art Week/Art Basel Miami Beach.

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