Rock of Ages crew

As casino debate consumes Miami, careful growth keeps connecting its downtown

Everybody’s talking about the potential impact of casinos and gambling on downtown Miami, but progress in the city’s urban core is already happening around the Adrienne Arsht Center.

As Florida lawmakers hotly debate a bill that would allow up to three multi-billion casinos, the once-derelict downtown Miami neighborhood this decision could impact continues to percolate with life and art.

The latest development: A roofless 1926 former firehouse just west of the Adrienne Arsht Center is slated to be restored into office and restaurant space and a nearby old school warehouse is being converted into a film and sound studio, sparked by the filming of the movie Rock of Ages in the area last year.

The long-awaited resurrection of Fire Station No. 2 is part of an Omni Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) plan to incorporate the nearly deserted Fourteenth Street into the Arts & Entertainment District, a promising new section of downtown that took root when  the Arsht Center opened in 2006 and breathed new life into its surrounding vacant lots, abandoned buildings and parking lots.

The historic firehouse will have its twisted columns, wrought-iron window grilles, balcony and barrel-tile roofing restored in a $3.5 million project funded by proceeds from the CRA’s special Omni taxing district, which includes the Arsht Center. By October 2012, the CRA plans to move its offices into the firehouse’s second floor and lease the ground floor as a restaurant.

A CRA-funded reconstruction of Fourteenth Street, now under way, will mean new water lines and wider, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks connecting the firehouse to the Arsht Center’s New Town Square efforts to the east.

Also along Fourteenth Street, the CRA has purchased a 90,000-square-foot warehouse with accompanying office space, and is ready to hire a design-build consultant to convert the buildings into a multi-purpose film, entertainment and media facility. The agency hopes the conversion will serve as a catalyst for private development in the area, which served as a set for the film adaptation of the Broadway musical Rock of Ages, starring Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin. Last summer, a six-block section of Fourteenth Street was decorated to look like an early 1980s version of Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, complete with a Whisky-a-Go-Go and Tower Records, among other “landmarks.” The movie is scheduled for a June 1 release.

Ken Harris, the Arsht Center’s Vice President of Operations, served on a city advisory board for the warehouse’s development. He applauded the film studio project because it promises to bring more activity and businesses to the area, contributing to a vibrant corridor between Overtown, a historically black neighborhood, and the Arsht Center.

“In the next 10 years, this is where change in the city will be,” Miami City Commissioner and Omni CRA Chairman Marc Sarnoff told the Miami Herald.

 

 

 

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