Convention Bureau Nears Last Hurdle For Move To Miamis Watson Island
By Susan Stabley
The final hurdle for a Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau move to Watson Island could come today (2/27) when Miami city commissioners are to act on a 30-year lease with two 10-year options.
Since 1997, the bureau, the Miami Sports & Exhibition Authority and the City of Miami have been in negotiations to build and operate the Watson Island Aviation & Visitors Center. The 5-acre site is part of the manmade island off the MacArthur Causeway, between Miami and Miami Beach.
On Tuesday, sports authority board members OK’d the lease. An arm of the city promoting and underwriting community events, the authority would act as building landlord.
The bureau is to rent the waterfront space at $23.33 per square foot and split costs for a press center with the city. The building cost was based on appraisals of Class A office space on Biscayne Boulevard and from an aviation consultant, according to Laura Billberry, Miami’s director of asset management.
William Talbert III, bureau president and CEO, told sports authority members Tuesday that the lease was "signed and executed earlier this morning" by the bureau’s executive committee. Members split 8 to 6 on that vote and Mr. Talbert said later Tuesday, "There was a difference of opinion."
Among dissenting votes were Miami Beach Commissioner Luis Garcia Jr. and Jorge Gonzalez, Beach city manager, according to Mr. Talbert. Beach officials have asked the bureau to consider making its home across the bay, requiring a serious consideration of Beach sites as part of their last contract to use the bureau’s services.
"It was never a condition of our contract that we move," Mr. Talbert said. "It was only a condition that we take a look."