Thursday September 22, 2005

Who's afraid of a 15-minute walk?

In Miami Today, Michael Lewis takes stock of the Miami Performing Arts Center’s construction and financial situation. An excellent, and very comprehensive, article—go read it. Some notes:

The fourth lesson is that memories are short but major projects are long. Did you remember that this was once a $75 million project? Or that the county commission approved what is now a $446.3 million building cost at $198 million? Or that from the outset, parking was to be a key component? Or that the project was conceived to aid organizations that now find it had to afford the rent? The details and aims of a public project need to be spelled out and held up for scrutiny throughout its course.

But maybe this is a lesson that can never be “learned.” Maybe the only way projects of this size ever get done is through a combination of optimism and lies. Maybe any human endevor, when looked at closely enough, stinks. And maybe that’s ok. Miami’s poor can always use more help, but when we look at how people in some other parts of the world are living, the opportunities even the poorest person in Miami has make commiseration challenging. The taxpayers in Miami-Dade decided to buy themselves a world-class performing arts facility, and if ends up costing a little over a half a billion dollars, what’s the big damned deal? Hasn’t the US been spending that much every twelve hours or so in Iraq for the last couple of years?

Lewis ends on a well-earned positive note (unlike some puff pieces we’ve seen (via MAeX )), and he’s right to. While the project could have been better planned and managed, it’s going to be great, and we’re all going to benefit from it. Interestingly, there’s a very similar project coming down the pike very soon. Maybe the time interval wil actually be short enough that we won’t forget some of these lessons.

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