Miami Beach chamber scrambles to fill gap in home scheduleBy Sherri C. Ranta
Time is running out for the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce as officials scramble to complete fundraising for a new $1.6 million headquarters and find temporary offices for most of 2001.
The lease for the chamber's site at 420 Lincoln Road expires in April 2001, leaving the group with no place to call home until the new building at 1920 Meridian Ave. is complete in fall 2001, said Bruce Singer, chamber executive director.
The six- to eight-month gap between the end of the lease on Lincoln and completion of the 10,000-square-foot-site possibly as late as December leaves the chamber looking for office space.
"There are a number of good chamber members who are looking out for us right now, to see what that opportunity will be. We're not exactly looking for free, but we definitely can't afford market rate," Mr. Singer said.
The chamber has a few options, he said. Possibilities include putting trailers at Meridian Avenue and Dade Boulevard or at 17th Street and Meridian.
In either case, zoning issues would have to be resolved.
A third possibility could be to move the business offices to the historic Bath Club, Mr. Singer said. That site is also slated for development.
The chamber is being edged out of the Lincoln Road building as demand for office space on Miami Beach outstrips supply. Negotiations are under way to virtually fill all available space in the 255,000-square-foot building, said building manager Sally Baumgartner.
The Lincoln Road building, which covers two city blocks at Lincoln Road and Washington Street, was built by Moses Ginsburg in 1940. It has three floors and a seven-story tower and is undergoing a $12 million renovation by the owners, the Cejas family, Ms. Baumgartner said.
Construction on the chamber's new site began early this month. Workers have demolished a 4,000-square-foot structure built in 1974 and built a sea wall in preparation for the work on the building.
A ground-breaking ceremony will be held in early October, but no date has been set, Mr. Singer said.
In addition to searching for a temporary home, chamber officials continue to raise funds.
Supporters have given about $400,000 to the project and another $200,000 is needed, Mr. Singer said.
The Gumenick family, owners and developers of the Floridian and South Gate Towers on Bay Drive, have pledged $50,000. Charter Communications Corp., Colonial Bank, Jack Penrod's, the Loews Miami Beach Resort and Scott Robins Cos. are also contributors.
"We've been talking about this project for five years," Mr. Singer said. "We really feel that if people see we're off the ground, reality will set in. That will make it easier to raise the balance."
The Miami Beach Chamber has a $1 million construction loan with Colonial Bank with plans to amortize the debt over 15 years. Officials plan to pay it from $60,000 a year in dues as well about $70,000 a year they plan to earn from renting space in the new building to others.
The City of Miami Beach and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau have also contributed a $210,000 grant for the project, Mr. Singer said.
Design-Build Construction Corp. is general contractor, led by longtime Miami Beach resident, architect and President Ira D. Giller. He also designed the building.
Plans call for 16 parking spaces and a 1,500-square-foot visitor information center on the ground floor. The chamber is seeking a tenant for a 2,500-square-foot space on the 2nd floor. Chamber business offices will occupy 4,000 square feet on the 3rd floor.
"We've submitted a proposal to American Express to encourage their participation in the project. We're exploring a number of things," Mr. Singer said.
"No. 1, we'd love to associate the visitors center with American Express. And No. 2, we'd love to have American Express Travel Related Service Office here, as a complement to the visitors' center. That's the type of tenant we're looking for community-minded and benefiting from being located above a visitor center."
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