Beach convention center negotiators ready
Miami Beach’s negotiation team is in place as the city prepares to hammer out the details of several agreements with South Beach ACE to develop a $1.1 billion convention center.
The fine points are numerous, and once the talks start they’ll probably take four to six months to resolve.
“There’s a broad scope,” said city Commissioner Jerry Libbin.
There’s the 800-room hotel, for instance, with 55,000 square feet of rentable meeting space, including ballrooms of 20,000 and 15,000 square feet; 63 guest room suites; 540 restaurant or lounge seats; a spa and fitness center, and pool deck amenities.
There’s also 40,000 square feet allocated for the hotel’s food and beverage service, but planned for an adjacent building near Lincoln Road to encourage guests to walk to that shopping area.
A list of “approved brand/operators” includes Marriott, Westin, Le Meridien, Omni, Hyatt, InterContinental, Hilton and Sheraton — a brand with which the developer has ties in Chicago.
The hotel would require 848 parking spaces under current building codes, so the proposal is for South Beach ACE to develop a 500-space garage south of the property and the city to build a 1,388-parking facility in air rights over the loading docks and adjacent land north of the convention center. The hotel would pay the city for use of 348 spaces.
South Beach ACE’s proposal also includes replacing about 59,500 square feet of the garage on 17th Street with retail and restaurants. The garage currently includes 1,450 public parking spaces. But the developer proposes a redesign that would add about 300, but relocate the city’s fleet management operation.
Also on the table is an 18,000-square-foot “cultural amenity,” set for private sector financing, plus a plan to refurbish the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater to open “the back of the facility to allow for interaction between the outside and inside of the theater.”
The plans even touch on City Hall. Even though that property is not part of the project, South Beach ACE is proposing a facelift for the landscaping to bring it in line with the rest of the development.
And on-site traffic improvements would include creating a landscaped median to calm traffic on 17th Street and connect it to Lincoln Road; adding static signage at causeway entries; installing digital signs to indicate parking lot occupancy, and limiting traffic at Palm View and Bayshore.
And that’s just the first scenario, called the base case. Other parts of the plan propose other public and private amenities, while a future master plan includes all scenarios plus other components.
“What we’re trying to do there is really reposition the center itself to attract the type of meeting groups that stay for four or five days, paying good rates at hotels, patronizing the local restaurants and shopping at local businesses,” said City Manager Jimmy Morales. “We think it may be uniquely positioned to attract high-value meetings because of features like being within walking distance of Lincoln Road, beautiful beaches and significant cultural assets. It’s a unique type of setting for having these high-level convention meetings.”
Mr. Morales is leading the talks. On his team are Kathie Brooks, assistant city manager; Raul Aguila, chief deputy city attorney; Patricia Walker, the city’s CFO; Max Sklar, director of tourism, culture and economic development; Maria Hernandez, senior capital improvement projects coordinator; George Gomez, former assistant city manager and planning director who the city has retained as a consultant for the next six months; and Jeff Sachs, managing partner of Duluth, GA-based Strategic Advisory Group, a firm that specializes in hotel and convention center development deals.
Miami law firm Bilzin, Sumberg, Baena, Price & Axelrod LLP will be representing South Beach ACE, a consortium of Tishman, a hotel developer; UIA, the Miami Beach firm led by Robert Wennett that developed the 1111 Lincoln Road garage project; and OMA, led by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas.
When the talks start, the group expects to batten down and discuss transaction documents, including leases, contracts and the development agreement that covers the overall project and lays out the parameters and timetables. The next step would be putting together a construction package and design plan by next year.
“The idea is to break ground in early 2015,” Mr. Morales said.
The city also intends to hire an owner’s representative — an engineering or architecture firm to work onsite with developer — and a constructability expert to drill down on costs and ensure the project can be built as designed.
But city staffers are holding off on the hires until after the Nov. 5 referendum when voters will decide on whether to proceed with plans for the 52-acre site.
“Neither the developer nor the city wants to spend a significant amount of money before the referendum,” Mr. Morales said. “There will be some effort to limit what we spend upfront, then — hoping the vote is positive — the project will pick up some additional pace.”