What kind of A/C do you install in a 78-year-old building that has no useable roof space, no dedicated mechanical room, and limited choices for retrofit? Freedom Tower restoration project director Jose G. Puig, P.E., expected that costly custom equipment would be his only answer, but it proved not to be the case. The Freedom Tower was built in 1924 as the headquarters for the Miami Daily News. After the newspaper moved out in 1955, the building sat vacant until it became Miami's version of Ellis Island from 1962 to 1974. Over 400,000 Cubans entering America for the first time received their immigration papers in the building. The landmark tower symbolized freedom, hope, and the promise of a new life.
The building's usefulness as an immigration-processing center ended in 1974, and it was closed again. Time, neglect, and the caustic sea air brought the tower to disrepair and near ruin. In 1997, the Freedom Tower Foundation purchased the building and began a massive $40 million renovation to transform the 85,000-sq-ft building into a monument to liberty and the Cubans' struggle for freedom. Plans called for a museum dedicated to the Cuban exodus, an art exhibition center, an auditorium, and a library to document Cuban history.