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Miami planners want more public art in 2018

Hoping to increase Miami's growing cultural heft further, town planners are proposing enactment of a far-reaching public-art program that could require private developers to set aside a percentage of project budgets because of the setup of creative works in areas across town where regular people can appreciate them.

The strategy, which goes to the city commission on Thursday, would build on Miami-Dade County's long-running Art in Public Places program. Considered among the very successful in the nation, the county program has put hundreds of sculptures, installations, murals, paintings and photographs in websites ranging from Miami International Airport to PortMiami, transit stations, libraries, housing improvements and parks.

The city's proposal, initiated and drafted by its planning department, is to take over the direction of this county program -- which necessitates financing set-asides from public jobs only -- in Miami boundaries, and also to expand the requirement to private development projects of over $1 million. Personal developers would need to spend 1.25 percent of a project's hard construction costs to the commission or obtain artworks to be installed on site, or, rather, pay one percent of costs into a brand new city arts trust fund.

To gauge the quality, significance and appropriateness of this artwork, the town would also, like the county, create a panel of specialists in a variety of fields, such as fine arts, design and architecture in addition to real-estate development.

The proposal comes as Miami-Dade was pushing municipalities to take over management of public artwork within their boundaries from the county, '' said Miami helper planning and zoning director Luciana Gonzalez. Many municipalities have done so, while at the same time also adopting similar requirements for personal participation, such as Doral, Coral Gables and Homestead, '' she said. Miami Beach has its established program as well, but it is limited to people jobs.

A Miami town planner with expertise in public art programs, Efren Nuñez, spent a year creating the new ordinance, consulting county and municipal officials here and in other cities with programs regarded as national models, in particular Los Angeles. Towns and some 1,000 cities now have apps as the thought has mushroomed throughout the country, the partners said.

The plan has obtained some pushback from the building industry amid worries it may make construction more expensive. Gonzalez stated the town allayed some concerns laid out by the Builders Association of South Florida by limiting the percent to challenging costs, rather than "soft" costs such as design.

However, the association also asked "at the last moment" to get a dollar cap on how a programmer would have to pay, something planners have not had an opportunity to evaluate, she said. Association executive vice president Really Burton was in meetings Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.

Developer and art patron Craig Robins, who has made public artwork integral for his extensive projects in Miami's Design District, said developers and elected officials would be sensible to confirm the proposal. Public art, he said, raises the worth of development as much as it benefits the general public.

"Having intriguing art and design all around is positive," he explained. "It's amazing at the Design District -- every single day that I see people doing selfies all over the layout items. It gives people a feeling of location, and ultimately it's a frontier where humanity advances."

The city proposal requires the creation of a master plan that would guide choice and placement of art in centers and neighborhoods. This would also include taking stock of public art the town already possesses -- a former city public-art program went dormant in 1988 -- but doesn't have a reliable accounting of, in addition to a strategy for restoring some deteriorated works and keeping up its stock into the near future, Nuñez said.

In a novel twist for miami offer sunny isles public arts to people, the town's program would also allow artwork trust-fund money to underwrite performances in public places, he said. Projections would be the city fund could raise $13 million from private developers annually.

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