Tampa City Council votes to support new Art Museum

02/23/06

The Tampa City Council today approved the first step towards the spending of over $20 million of taxpayers dollars to create a new Art Museum in downtown Tampa.

The vote was 5-1 in favor, with only Councilmember Rose Ferlita dissenting. Gwen Miller did not attend.

The deal calls for the city to purchase the Pavillion Building, better known as “the Cubes�, at the corner of Ashley and Kennedy. The City will also temporarily use the first 2 floors of the structure known as The Beer Can Building, until a new building is constructed. Mayor Pam Iorio says that will be built where the original designed museum was to be situated at (roll tape#1 o.q.�for the Museum�)

The city will spend $20 million dollars of the Community Investment Tax on the project. That was approved by the City Council at former Mayor Dick Greco’s request back in 2001. Another $5.7 million will be used to buy the Cube buildings from America’s Capital Partners, and another $10 million will be used for renovations. And 1 and a half million dollars will be spent on “modifying� Kiley Gardens, the small park that has fallen into disrepair over the years.

The Mayor has previously said that she increase the amount the Museum will have for its endownment. Currently, that stands at only a million and a half dollars…The Mayor says that the Museum has to raise that to $4 million, and at that point, the City hopes to break off its relationship with the Museum and allow it to go it alone (roll tape#2 o.q.�the city wants�)

Iorio: "Once they reach that four million dollar endowment, and once they are moved intot he pavillion, we will come before you with a new operating and lease agreement that gives the new museum greater automony. This is something the museum wants and, frankly, it's something the city wants."

Mitch: "Part of the project includes fixing the Parking Garage that sits below the new Museum site and Kiley Gardens, which means temporarily tearing down the park. Mayor Iorio said Kiley Gardens will come back, but not as it is currently structured (roll tape#3 o.q.� years to come�)

Iorio: "When we're talking about the Kiley Gardens, we recognize that the original design is not something that we can put back. However, we have made a commitment that will will number all of those concrete pieces. When we talk about hardscape, you know, they've got all those different stones there and we will put them back in the same order. Now, we know we can't just take those cells and fill them with the same dirt. This is going to be an engineering decision that's made as to how much weight the Kiley can sustain. That's not so much a policy decision as it is an engineering decision that the Kiley can sustain a certain amount of weight for the future so that it does not adversely effect the parking garage in years to come."

Mitch: "Several members of the group Friends of Kiley Gardens, were in attendance at the Meeting. Sue Thompson from the group said the group supports the current proposal, but does have concerns (roll tape#4 o.q.� capriciously�)

Thompson: "Our surprise that we're finally getting around to seeing the garage photos for the first time today when we've been asking for them since August, um, and also been asking for the national register application be sent, which she agreed to do. We ask that you leave the design by Wolf, Kiley intact as it was designed as the piece of artwork that it is and not remove it capriciously."

Mitch: "Most of the Council members spoke out in support of the deal, well aware of the long and winding road that the Iorio Administration and Museum officials have gone thru to get to this stage. Last week the Art Museum Board voted 30-1 in support, with only former County Commissioner Jan Platt not in favor.

But Councilmember Kevin White – whose district is home to the current and proposed new museum – told the Mayor he wants to insure that Blacks are part of the contacting out of the Project , as he related this anecdote (roll tape#5 o.q.� able to stay�)

White: "I was interviewed earlier this week, uh, by one of the local tv stations about an article that was recently published in a publication about why wasn't Tampa on the map for the top 20 most listed cities for attracting minority businesses. I won't delve into that, but a lot of what happens is we need viable opportunity. And after opportunity, we need sustainability to be able to stay."

Mitch: "Later, Black businessman Joe Robinson also brought up the issue of African-Americans sharing in working on the museum or its related projects (roll tape#6 o.q.�that’s the reality�)

Robinson: "I'm here to echo what Mister White said. First of all I'm not talking about minorities anymore. I'm talking about African-American firms, professional engineers and architects that are going to be needed on this project are not being utilized in the past on projects with the city of Tampa. That is the reality."

Mitch: "But not everybody thinks the plan to move the Art Museum into the Cubes and The Beer Can is a great idea. Citizen Sandy Reef (roll tape#7 o.q.�to spend�)

Reef: "this project is more about expediency than art and Tampa's cultural image. If the balance of the money that has been allocated for the CIT is spent doing this, I think we should defer this decision so that there can be an open, public discussion. In my opinion, two hundred and four dollars per square foot for a building that has not had a tenant since John Travola left town is too much for the city to spend."

Mitch: "The lone Councilmember to say nay, Rose Ferlita, also said that even though the Council’s vote was non-binding, she thought the City and Museum people could do better (roll tape#8 o.q.� not there yet�)

Ferlita: "We all are excited about the possiblity of a museum. But do we take less instead of more because we go too fast? Um, I can't in good concience say the best use of tax dollar monies is going to be directed to rehabbing some cubes. I think if we look at what's coming down the tubes at so many documents, so many documents that we just haven't looked at. That's not how I do business. I can't tell you it's a good plan until I see everything involved in the plan." -30-

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