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MIAMI-It has been about 22 years in the making, but Miami-Dade County appears close to authorizing a $255 million contact to build a Performing Arts Center on five acres Downtown.

Administrative staff is urging the Miami-Dade County Commission to quickly approve a contract with a consortium of commercial builders led by Coral Gables, FL-based Odebrecht Construction Inc. in partnership with Jacksonville, FL-based Haskell Co. and London, Ontario, Canada-based Ellis Don Construction Inc.

Following competitive bidding last year, the commission authorized County Manager Steve Shiver to initiate negotiations with the consortium that is operating as Performing Arts Center Builders.

County commissioners were scheduled to review Shiver’s recommendations at the regularly scheduled Sept. 11 meeting, but deferred a final decision of the matter to Sept. 25.

Last fall, the county received two initial guaranteed maximum price proposals on the project–a $332 million bid from Dallas-based Turner Construction Co. and a $280 million bid from the builders’ consortium.

Following negotiations with both bidders, Shiver and his staff recommended an estimated budget cap of $255 million.

In December, the commission approved an increase of $68 million to $255 million in the Performing Arts Center budget, as well as an $18 million increase in the budget for project contingencies.

Late last month, the builders’ consortium submitted a $255 contract, relying on a variety of cost-reduction methods including value engineering, building savings options, a fee reduction, savings in the buyout of construction subcontracts and other amended terms.

In a memorandum to the commission, Shiver is expressing a sense of urgency about the need to authorize a final guaranteed contract with the builders’ consortium.

“First, over these past two years, construction industry activities in South Florida have not softened,” Shiver argues. “Costs are increasing, and the market continues to tighten. That coupled with the fact that the project has undergone several phases of bidding has only served to drastically erode subcontractor interest in the project.”

If the commission approves the contract, Shiver says, construction could begin as early as Oct. 1 on the two parcels separated by Biscayne Boulevard at Northeast 13th Street.

“The prospect of the PAC’s development has also already created renewed interest in economic development activities in the area surrounding it,” Shiver writes in the memo.

“The PAC is the key element of an urban revitalization strategy being developed for our downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods.”

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