Miami Beach Convention Center Competitors Line Up Their Pros, Cons

In the latest round of the high-stakes competition to masterplan and redevelop the 52-acre Miami Beach Convention Center, the South Beach ACE team yesterday laid out the key points of both proposals and contended not only that its plan is better but that the Portman-CMC plan is shifting to resemble its own.

 In the latest round of the high-stakes competition to masterplan and redevelop the 52-acre Miami Beach Convention Center, the South Beach ACE team yesterday laid out the key points of both proposals and contended not only that its plan is better, but that the Portman-CMC plan is shifting to resemble their own.

 

Last week, Commercial Property Executive reported on a letter of intent that Portman-CMC had sent to the City of Miami. That letter described the business and financial terms of the group’s proposal and of course emphasized what Portman-CMC believes are the advantages of its plan.

The exchange might be the last before Miami Beach commissioners decide which development team to choose for the $1 billion-plus project, though apparently no firm date has been set for that announcement. At that time, a public referendum will be scheduled to approve the plans or maintain the status quo.

Portman-CMC consists of a master development team (Portman Holdings, CMC Group, Bal Harbour Shops and Cirque du Soleil) and a master design team (BIG/Bjarke Ingels Group, John Portman & Associates, West 8, Fentress Architects and Revuelta Architecture International), along with engineering, construction and finance consultants.

South Beach ACE includes Tishman, UIA, architecture partnership OMA (led by Rem Koolhaas and Shohei Shigematsu), MVVA/Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Raymond Jungles and tvsdesign.

As to the competing plans, in broad strokes:

* The South Beach ACE plan calls for a taller facility with a smaller footprint, intended in part to free up more than 28 acres for green space, but also to improve pedestrian access through and around the site. Portman-CMC contends that its lower structure (124 feet versus 194 feet of height) won’t take views away from neighboring properties or risk casting a shadow on the nearby Holocaust Memorial.

* The Portman-CMC proposal will cost the public less, and the group will charge the city less in design and development fees. South Beach ACE counters that its financing package carries only 50.9 percent debt and that MetLife has tentatively committed to signing on as a partner, while Portman-CMC has proposed 61 percent debt and has not announced an equity partner.

* South Beach ACE touts its better integration of the convention center and hotel in one building, while Portman-CMC contends that it can build its version 19 months faster, saving the city substantial money.

The two plans will be displayed side by side at Miami Beach City Hall, Mondays through Saturdays through June 21.

The convention business is mature enough that any municipality aiming to increase its share has to wrestle the business away from someone else, Hank Staley, senior vice president at the Jacksonville office of PKF Consulting USA, told Commercial Property Executive. He contrasted Nashville’s convention center, now nearing completion and enjoying substantial presales, with Philadelphia’s new convention center, which has significantly underperformed.

Whichever proposal is accepted for the Miami Beach Convention Center, Staley said, the center is likely to do very well indeed, as the area remains extremely popular as a destination. He noted that the metro Miami hotel market has “roared back” since the worst of the recession, and in 2011 regained its 2007 peak RevPAR, one of the few major cities so far to have done so.