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New Miami Beach Officials Vote to Start Over on Convention Center Plan


Miami Beach, FL – The Miami Beach City Commissioners unanimously voted on January 15 to terminate the proposed $1 billion redevelopment plan for the convention center district that was approved under previous city leadership last July. The commissioners, some of whom were newly elected in November along with new Mayor Philip Levine, will issue a new bid for the renovation of the city’s convention center and pursue development of a headquarters hotel for conventions separately. Those bid proposals are expected to be ready in March and April, respectively.

Under the previously approved plan, a consortium of development-related companies under the name South Beach ACE (SBACE) was set to proceed with renovation and expansion of the convention center along with a privately owned hotel and retail space that were to be developed by SBACE on city-owned land and leased to the developer for a term of 99 years.

The private component required a 60% voter approval of leases for city-owned land. But the leases with SBACE were not negotiated in time for last November’s election. That led the Third District Court of Appeal (in the case of Let Miami Beach Decide vs. City of Miami Beach) to remove the lease approval question from that 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. By separating the convention center renovation from hotel development, a vote is not required.

In November, Miami Beach voters also ousted commission incumbents who had supported the SBACE plan. But starting over could have other repercussions for the city’s ability to land convention center business. Bill Talbert, CEO of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, has repeatedly noted that organizers often cite the city’s need for a headquarters hotel. That includes the American Institute of Architects, which held its 2010 convention in Miami Beach, and already indicated it would not return with its 16,000 members because of the outdated convention center and lack of a convention center hotel.

The Miami Herald reported that the SBACE team sent commissioners a letter stating that the city is “contractually obligated to proceed” with last summer’s plan. The letter also noted that the consortium was willing to work with the new administration on changes but was not given the opportunity to do so.

Levine called the action a “tough, challenging decision” that would help get the project done “fast, on time and on budget.”

Reach Philip Levine at (305) 673-7035 or; Bill Talbert at (800) 933-8448 or

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