Miami Beach Takes Another Step Closer to Convention Center Expansion

SANDI CAIN, NEWS EDITOR
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Miami Beach—The city of Miami Beach took a major step toward its long-awaited convention center expansion this week when it accepted eight bids for the estimated $1 billion redevelopment project.

Among the final bidders: Flagstone Property Group of Miami Beach, whose landmark Island Gardens project includes Miami’s first super-yacht harbor; Dallas-based Matthews Southwest, which has built commercial, mixed-use and residential projects in Texas and Canada; Houston-based Rida Development, which built the Hilton Orlando; and Washington, DC-based Urban Investment Advisors, which manages the Starwood Urban Group’s mixed-use portfolios.

Developers submitting bids were asked to consider redevelopment and financing for a renovation and expansion of the 55-year-old convention center along with a headquarters hotel and development on the 52 public acres that surround the convention center. Shops, restaurants, parks and residential components are possible options for the acreage.

The expansion would add roughly 213,000 square feet of exhibit space, 127,000 square feet of meeting space, and an assortment of pre-function, food and beverage and back-of-house space. A 1,000-room convention center headquarters hotel also is envisioned.

In early 2011, city officials approved funding for the convention center upgrade to help the center remain competitive with other similar-sized convention centers attractive to trade show organizers. In June, city commissioners will narrow the field of development teams and begin work on selecting the winning bid.

The convention center, which opened in 1957, was last expanded in 1989 at a cost of $92 million ($751 million in today’s dollars). It currently has 502,000 square feet of prime exhibit space and 127,000 square feet of meeting space. It is tied for No. 28 among U.S. mega convention centers with AmericasMart in Atlanta and America’s Center in St. Louis, according to Trade Show Executive’s 2011 Directory of the World’s Top Convention Centers. It is managed by Global Spectrum.

Jose Garcia, executive director of MiaGreen, which holds an annual expo in Miami Beach, said an expansion would be welcome for organizers, but updated technology is just as important to the show’s international audience involved in solar and other green technologies. “It doesn’t have to be huge, but it’s important that it be state-of-the-art,” he said. MiaGreen is a mid-size trade show that drew 3,656 attendees from 39 countries this year.

Reach Jose Garcia at (305) 412-0000 or jose@miagreen.com; Bob Balsam, general manager at (305) 673-7311 orbbalsam@themiamibeachcc.com