Miami Beach Starts Over In Convention Center Overhaul

, Daily Business Review


The Miami Beach Convention Center
The Miami Beach Convention Center

Acting at a significantly faster pace than experts expected, the Miami Beach City Commission hit the reset button Wednesday on the massive $1 billion Miami Beach Convention Center project.

In a voice vote, new Mayor Phillip Levine and others city commissioners canceled a round of bidding that awarded the convention center redevelopment bid to the South Beach ACE joint venture in July.

The winner of a competitive process had been commissioned to refurbish the convention center, develop new space for retail and commercial use, and build a large convention-focused hotel on site.

South Beach ACE is led by Rem Koolhaas' Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Miami Beach developer Robert Wennett and New York developer Dan Tishman.

Instead of going forward with that plan, the city will float a new request contemplating only the convention center renovation. A separate process will be undertaken to determine where a convention-focused hotel could be built in the city—on city-owned land next to the convention center or elsewhere in Miami Beach.

City planners plans to announce possible hotel sites by April, Levine said.

At the meeting, City Commissioner Deedee Weithorn dubbed the new path for developing the convention center and hotel "decoupled-concurrent processes."

That path is similar to one suggested in a memorandum dated Wednesday, though widely circulated last week, in which the mayor asked to scrap the existing redevelopment plan to be scrapped.

Retail In Limbo

It's not clear if the new plan will allow for the development of the retail component near the remodeled center, an important part of the original plan. The mayor's memorandum made it clear he wanted to drop retail. But one commissioner pushed for a retail segment.

"I think there's these fancy stores that are going on in other neighborhoods that are not great neighborhoods," Commissioner Edward Tobin said before the vote, in an indirect reference to developer Craig Robins' retail plans for Miami's Design District. "I know that Fendi and LVMH would love to be here."

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