Miami Beach tells convention center developers ‘Dream big’
By Scott Blake
Miami Beach city officials want developers to dream big” with plans to redevelop the Miami Beach Convention Center and its surroundings.
About 200 people showed up at the convention center Monday to hear what Miami Beach officials expect from those who will compete to become the city’s development partner at the 52-acre site.
“We look forward to creative ideas,” City Manager Jorge Gonzalez told the group. “We encourage you to dream big and identify the things that make the most sense for this community.”
Jeff Sachs, the city’s consultant for the project, added: “With the development talent in this room, I’m sure you can come up with a great project.”
Mr. Gonzalez said city officials are willing to disregard the 100-foot building height limit on the site to create a “Miami Beach Convention Center district” that will energize the neighborhood. “The idea is to create activity in the area, day and night,” he added.
Still, the main goal remains expanding and improving the convention center, building an attached or nearby large hotel, creating “public and outdoor entertainment space,” and providing ideas for redeveloping or replacing the Jackie Gleason/Fillmore Theater, Miami Beach City Hall, a nearby city parking garage and other property.
The hotel size, Mr. Gonzalez said, will be up to developers to determine, but he noted that a minimum of 800 rooms is the norm for such projects.
“The most important thing is keeping Miami Beach a destination for tourism and the convention business,” he said.
However, a big question looms over the project: Will Miami Beach voters approve it?
Whatever proposal is selected probably will be subject to a local referendum.
“We’ll have to select a [development] team that will work economically and have a plan that will pass the referendum test,” Mr. Gonzalez said.
An audience member questioned whether developers would spend money on a proposal when voters could later reject it.
“I think the right team will be supported by this community,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “We just have to make sure we have the right project. You need to bring together a project that meets all needs, including the community’s.”
The city has set a March 23 deadline for prospective developers to submit their qualifications to the city, providing details on their finances and their team members.
The city wants to minimize public money used for the project, if not completely rely on financing from the developers.
“We want to know: Do you have the money, or do you plan to raise the money? There’s a big difference,” said Mr. Sachs.
The city wants to narrow the field of candidates to a short list by May 9. The project has been years in the making, and it probably will be several years or longer before it is completed.
Those at Monday’s meeting seemed eager.
“I’m a native Miamian, so it’s exciting there’s a possibility of something that could really re-energize the beach,” MacKenzie Ross-Fidler, a consultant for Thornton Tomasetti Engineers in Miami, said after the meeting.
Referring to the Monday’s packed room, she added: “People are hungry” for the work.
To read the entire issue of Miami Today online, subscribe to e -Miami Today, an exact digital replica of the printed edition.