Miami Beach Nears Decision on Convention Center Makeover

TSE STAFF

Miami – The Miami Beach Convention Center Advisory Board last week endorsed one of two competing proposals for the redevelopment of the Miami Beach Convention Center site. In a 4-3 decision, the board gave the nod to a proposal from Portman-CMC over another from South Beach ACE. But the final say goes to City Commissioners and the Mayor who are expected to act by mid-July.

The Portman-CMC plan would include a modernized convention center, 800-room hotel, 125,000 square feet of retail and restaurants, 300 residential apartments, refurbished Jackie Gleason Theater and Carl Fisher Clubhouse, more parking and a Latin American Cultural Museum.

The South Beach ACE plan for the 52-acre site included a world-class convention center topped by a convention hotel, a renovated Jackie Gleason Theater, new cultural center, outdoor performance area, retail, multifamily apartments, open space and recreational sites.

The 4-3 decision was hailed by officials from Portman. In response, South Beach ACE — 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 — announced that the Palm View Historic District Association had added its voice in favor of the ACE project. Others endorsing this plan include the Miami International Boat Show and McGraw Hill’s Aviation Week and organizers from American Farm Bureau Federation and Wellesley Information Services, as well as local commercial property owners.

Each plan has proponents and detractors among decision makers and the community at large, leading some to refer to the process as “dueling projects.’

Bob Balsam, general manager of the existing convention center, said between 300 and 500 people attended the most recent meeting with the companies putting forth each plan. Last week’s meeting was the third that included community participation. “I applaud the city for getting the community involved,” Balsam said.

The Miami Beach Sun Post recently published an analysis of the two plans that includes a city study that indicates Portman indeed may have the edge. The Portman plan is said to have the advantage in cost ($73.4 million less in public capital), lower fees, a timeline that would be 19 months shorter than the South Beach plan, and an estimated $81 million more to the city in lease payments. The plan also will pay debt service with a fixed revenue stream as opposed to the ACE program of variable revenue streams.

While South Beach ACE’s plan projects higher tax revenue, Portman officials said that would come from the hotel offered by South Beach that was slated as a high-end luxury product. Portman’s vice president of development Charles Pinkham II told the Sun Post that the Portman’s hotel would be an “upscale convention hotel” in a nod to price-sensitivity present among convention organizers.

The South Beach plan is endorsed by Palm View Historic District Association and a host of others. The Palm View group cites the residential component, green space, open space and recreation areas as reasons for coming down in favor of South Beach ACE.

Portman has also received endorsements from Freeman, Reed Exhibitions and a host of prominent locals.

“I think the developers did a good job in listening to the community,” Balsam said. He said one requirement that either developer would need to address is a city mandate for a “minimum Silver LEED standard’ for the renovation.

The City Commissioners and Mayor will vote in July to determine which developer ultimately will prevail.

Reach Bob Balsam at (305) 673-7311 or bbalsam@themiamibeachcc.com