MIAMI – Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Monday at the Freedom Tower he is supporting $25 million in his proposed budget to restore the historic Miami building. The project will include structural repairs, restore Mediterranean-style architectural components, and add museum-quality features.
Cuban-American activists welcomed DeSantis and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, whose late father, Victor C. Sanchez, was born in Cuba and left the island after Fidel Castro took power. DeSantis said the building represents “freedom’s last stance” in the western hemisphere.
“It’s a beacon of inspiration to so many families that call Florida home,” Nuñez said.
The announcement comes after Cuban Americans organized a caravan from Tamiami Park to the Freedom Tower area on Sunday to show solidarity for the Cubans on the island who are finding creative ways to demonstrate against the regime amid the repression.
“You had people flee the communist revolution starting in the late 1950s. Hundreds of thousands of people came right through here, the Freedom Tower in Miami, to be able to have a chance at freedom, and that’s something that we need to make sure that we commemorate,” DeSantis said.
The 15-story tower, at 600 Biscayne Blvd., was built in 1926, according to Miami-Dade County property records. It was the home of the Cuban Assistance Center from 1962 to 1974 and for this role became known as the “Ellis Island of the South.”
Historic photographs show an encampment of refugees in the area that is now home to the FTX Arena. They waited for days to apply and receive resettlement assistance.
The late Jorge Mas Canosa, the founder of the Cuban American National Foundation, bought the building for $4.1 million in 1997. His family sold it to Pedro Martin Terra and 600 Biscayne LLC in 2005 for $26 million. The former partner at the Greenberg Traurig law firm and his family donated it to MDC in 2008.
The U.S. designated the building as a U.S. National Historic Landmark. Today, the building houses the public college’s Museum of Art and Design and MDC special collections, which include the Cuban Legacy Gallery and the Exile Experience. It also houses the offices of the book fair, the film festival, and MDC Live Arts.
To make the much-needed renovations happen, DeSantis said he counts on the support of the Florida legislature to pass his proposed budget.
Watch the news conference