Thursday, April 23, 2009
Carmel on the Case: Sour Note
The City of Aventura is spending almost seven million dollars on a new performing arts center, and it could end up costing tax payers for years. Will it leave them with a sour note? Seven's Carmel Cafiero investigates.
WSVN -- When it comes to world class performances, South Florida has a number of options. Now the City of Aventura is getting in on the action.
City official: "The City Commission hereby supports the creation of a performing arts center for the City of Aventura."
The city approved the construction of a seven million dollar, 325-seat theater two years ago and recently broke ground, but some residents are questioning if now is the right time to do it, even though the city says it is not having financial problems.
Lele Retelny: "With the economy the way that it is, I think it's really bad timing."
Flory Ward: "It's too expensive today, with the economy."
Local arts activist Perry Johannesburg says residents have a right to be concerned.
Perry Johannesburg: "Even if the economy wasn't in such bad shape, I still think this is such a foolish business plan."
Johannesburg says big theaters like the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami have struggled to turn a profit, and this theater is just too small to be viable.
Perry Johannesburg: "You won't be able to get big name acts, you won't be able to put on the 'Les Miserables', the 'Chicago's."
Carmel Cafiero: "We wanted to talk with Aventura's Mayor about the project. First, she said she would do an interview and then she said she wouldn't."
Aventura Mayor Susan Gottlieb: "I think it's great."
Mayor Susan Gottlieb was clearly pleased when the council approved the project in 2007, but she is not pleased with our questions. Now, in declining an on-camera interview, the mayor said, "There is no story and I don't need to respond."
Carmel Cafiero: "And the Mayor isn't the only one who didn't want to talk with us about the project. Not one council member, nor the city manager would agree to an interview."
The city manager would only communicate through e-mails. He admits the center will require public support writing ,"We never said the facility will make a profit. Our goal is to provide quality entertainment for the community at a reasonable cost to our residents. Initially, this may require the city to assist with operating costs."
Perry Johannesburg: "This is probably the reason why a lot of cities, counties and states are having a problem because they spend their money in these foolish ways when they already anticipate a loss, that just doesn't add up to me."
It's not like folks from Aventura have to go far to find the arts. The Adrienne Arsht Center in Downtown Miami is just 12 miles away and Broward's Performing Arts Center is only 16 miles away.
Johannesburg says, with so many larger centers nearby where big shows are big draws, local residents aren't likely to support the theater. Most of the ones we talked with agree.
LeLe Retelny: "There's plenty of venues, they just made that beautiful one in Miami Beach. There's two beautiful theaters."
Tony: "Probably not."
Flory: "I support something else, but not the arts."
The city is looking for other funding for the center, including selling the naming rights, but for now the prospect of having to subsidize the facility is hitting a sour note with some of Aventura's residents.
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