Miami Beach – New Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has asked the City Commission to reconsider a renovation proposal for the Miami Beach Convention Center that was awarded to South Beach ACE last July.
In a memorandum to the commission dated January 15, the mayor said there is no dispute that the convention center renovation is needed, but said, “I have always had significant concerns with tying that process into the larger private development of city-owned land.”
South Beach ACE is a consortium of developers, designers, contractors, architects and financial consultants led by New York-based Tishman, Miami Beach development company UIA Management and international architecture firm OMA. It won approval to develop the 52-acre site over the competing Portman-CMC plan, which had a lower cost in public capital, lower fees and a shorter timeline. The South Beach ACE plan projected higher tax revenue but from variable revenue streams. The competing Portman plan had received endorsements from several trade show industry companies, including Freeman and Reed Exhibitions.
As approved by the City Commission in July, the proposed project includes renovation and expansion of the convention center, a privately owned 800-room hotel atop the convention center that would include 30,000 square feet of retail space, 90,000 square feet of privately owned retail on public land nearby and a public park.
The private components would be developed by SBACE on city-owned land and leased to the developer for a term of 99 years. That aspect of the proposal requires approval from the voters under the city charter. However, in September, the Third District Court of Appeal (in the case of Let Miami Beach Decide vs. City of Miami Beach) removed the lease approval question from last November’s ballot, saying voters needed to be advised of the “material terms of the leases they were being asked to approve” before such a vote could be held. That action created the possibility of further delays to a project that already has been six years in the making.
Each plan had proponents and detractors among decision-makers and the community at large. Levine was a critic of the overall process last year. He subsequently won election as Mayor in a four-way race. Among his duties in the newly elected administration: making appointments this month to the city’s Land Use Board.
In the January 15 memo, Mayor Levine said the court ruling, along with his own reservations about private development on city land, have led him to ask the City Commission to reconsider the plan. “I believe the City Commission needs to reconsider the current program in a way which prioritizes and expedites the renovation of the MBCC in keeping with the desires of the community,” he said in the memo.
Reach Philip Levine at (305) 673-7035 or firstname.lastname@example.org