Tuesday, April 13, 2010

This is what happened at the 8:30 a.m. City Commission/Selection Committee meeting...

Right out of the gate, Commissioner Maxwell, while still expressing his support for the project and the need to make the decision today, put forward a motion to not authorize whoever they chose today to incur any project related expenses before the City identifies how it is going to pay for the project going forward.  He cited the current budget shortfall in the current fiscal year, unresolved audit issues, many contingent liabilities and the current encumbrances in the beach reserve fund.  He put that in the form of a motion, which died for lack of a second.  Commissioner Jennings responded that she couldn't support the motion since she thinks that work with the building may be tied to the timeline for the County's $5 million.  City Manager Stanton responded that nothing they would be doing today would authorize money being spent - that the direction would be to come up with a contract in two or three weeks that they would then have to approve.  She thought by that time they would have a better idea on where the city's finances were and how we will be funding the project.

Then discussion centered around the actual ranking of the firms.  Commissioner Jennings started off and listed her favorites as REG, BRPH and Beilinson.  She then reminded everyone that this takes the place of what would have been a "shopping mall" at the beach - thank you Ms. Cara Jennings for being an elected official that prefers to perpetuate a myth that continues to polarize the city.  She later went on to compare these proposals presented by architectural firms as being much better than the proposals presented by Heddrick Brothers and Greater Bay.  Commissioner Jennings apparently has trouble distinguishing between apples and oranges.  The past proposals were about a public/private partnership that never had an architectural component to them - that would have come later had the city not broken the contract with the private partner in the deal.  Her justification for her favorites were that REG presented the strongest mix of green and historical elements and was the most local.  Beilinson was strongest on the historical aspect of the project, but not so on the green building portion.  BRPH was a big firm and she thought they could do the work cheaper than others due to their size.

Commissioner Golden said that we should respect the past, but look toward the future.  She said that she never experienced the 1922 building and it was there only 25 years so that should not guide the future direction.  She has a problem with "retail behind arches."  (?) "Net zero" is what she is looking at - meaning neutral environmental impact.  She mentioned the names of Beilinson and Living Design Group and wanted to make sure the building represents who it serves and the people that use it.

Commissioner Mulvehill recalled the 'saving of the building" from demolition last year and claimed that there is now consensus in the community to save the building and not build new.  She saw this project as one with a historic experience and a beach experience.  Beilinson went beyond the what was readily  apparent as historic reference of the 1922 building and she appreciated that.  BRPH brought some good things in energy-wise and that they were involved with the tenants in working to save the building.  She thought Living Design Group had a forward thinking design.  The choice is about expertise and creating a destination.  Slattery did a lot of work in Key West on the oceanfront.  She said we are working with an existing building and it won't be all new.

Commissioner Maxwell wanted to "piggy-back" on Commissioner Golden's comments.  He said that it is important to remember the past, but we can also look to the future to make sure it is sustainable.  There is an opportunity to bridge the old with the new.

Mayor Varela pointed out that he started out his college career wanting to be an architect.  He said that architecture helps set the values of a community - not only about age, but in significance.  He thought it was great to be part of a process where they are setting the course for the next 100 years of our community.  His three firms were Living Designs Group - the most green, REG - the most flexible and had the most comments from the public in support and Beilinson/Gomez -  did a good job incorporating the past, present and future.

They filled out their ballots and staff went to tabulate.

Commissioner Mulvehill broke the silence by saying that she would be in favor of putting together some sort of fund raising effort, thinking that it would do a lot to bring the community together about the project.  She called the beach businesses "brave" to stay in a building that was threatened by closure last year.

The result came back and it was:
  1. REG - 13 points
  2. Living Designs Group and Beilinson - 14 points
  3. BRPH - 20 points
  4. Slattery/Song - 22 points
Commissioner Mullvehill attempted to interpret the results as BRPH being third, but was corrected.

They then had another ballot to determine the order of numbers 2 and 3.  Living Designs Group came in second with 7 and Beilinson came in third with 8.

The meeting then adjourned.

I am happy with the choice.  As loyal readers know, REG worked on many projects at the Mar-a-Lago Club and did the design for the golf course clubhouse at Trump International.  As Director of Projects for Mr. Trump at the time, Rick and I worked together navigating the complex regulatory environment.  One of my fondest professional memories is the meeting that Rick and I had with Philip Johnson in his "Glass House" in New Canaan, Connecticut.  

Congratulations to Rick, his firm and the entire team - they will do a good job for the city.