Miami Beach seeks interest in running one of oldest buildings
It’s one of Miami Beach’s oldest buildings. Now, city commissioners want to drum up ideas for use of the Carl Fisher Clubhouse.
Mayor Dan Gelber and the city commission discussed the clubhouse’s potential Jan. 15 and agreed the city will seek letters of interest to attract potential ideas for the site.
However, a letter from City Manager Jimmy Morales to the mayor and commission provided to Miami Today said the administration has found it best to instead request proposals, in part to avoid any future award requiring a bid waiver. Proposals are due Feb. 25.
Considered the oldest public building in Miami Beach, the Carl Fisher Clubhouse was built in 1916. It was designed by August Geiger, who worked on multiple projects with Mr. Fisher, the father of Miami Beach. It was formerly the Miami Beach Municipal Golf Course Clubhouse.
In 2018, The city approved a clubhouse restoration of more than $3.2 million on its site north of the convention center, near the intersection of Dade Boulevard and Washington Avenue.
According to the city’s communications department, the building interior is scheduled for completion in March, while the exterior won’t be done until August because of seawall work nearby.
Commissioner Ricky Arriola, who sponsored the discussion, said he knew well-known restaurant groups and impresarios have conveyed interest in the clubhouse. He said the clubhouse could play an important role in activating the Collins Park community.
Mr. Arriola argued against awarding clubhouse management to Centerplate, which manages catering for the nearby Miami Beach Convention Center, without first considering other possibilities. Mr. Morales agreed with Mr. Arriola’s statement that the city was going to hand over management of the clubhouse to Centerplate.
“We have an additional job not only to make the convention center successful but also activate the surrounding neighborhood,” Mr. Arriola said. “That is one of our most iconic buildings, and I worry about when the convention center is dark that that building is dark.”
Currently, Service America Corp., doing business as Centerplate, has a catering and concessions service agreement for the Miami Beach Convention Center that runs to Sept. 30, 2022. At the Oct. 30 city commission meeting, a resolution that was withdrawn had called for the city to waive competitive bidding and extend the agreement with Centerplate to include the clubhouse.
Under the agreement amendment, Centerplate would invest up to $750,000 in capital toward the initial infrastructure of the clubhouse. The convention center is managed by Spectra.
Freddie Peterson, the convention center’s general manager, said as he and his team market the convention center they are selling the whole campus, which includes Pride Park, Collins Canal Park and the clubhouse.
Douglas Conner from Centerplate said the clubhouse can’t sustain a stand-alone restaurant; they’ve used the convention center’s kitchen.
“The synergies between the building and the Carl Fisher house are critical…. The facility itself cannot sustain a self-standing restaurant,” Mr. Conner said.
Centerplate’s proposal includes two concepts, one being a petite, old-timey rum room that would have an “old world setting, with deep colors and comfy fabrics,” with a projected $25-per-person check.
The other concept is The Venu, a proposed event space for groups of up to 200 guests from the convention center as well as community members. Billed as a five-star dining experience, it would be designed to harken back to the days of Al Capone and Miami Beach in the 1920s and 1930s.
While the whole of the commission did not favor using the clubhouse as a restaurant, commissioners were interested in seeing what else the site could be used for.
“I agree that we have a beautiful building we spent a lot of money on and we should be using it more,” Commissioner Michael Góngora said. “I don’t know if I like the idea of going out and necessarily privatizing to another restaurant that would compete with the convention center, compete with Lincoln Road.”
Commissioner Micky Steinberg said the clubhouse should be used in a public manner. She recalled when it was home to SoBe Arts, a non-profit that hosted theater plays there.
“I think there needs to be some sort of process where we commit that this is a public building,” she said, “and that we can try to find the best way to activate it.”