The Real Deal Miami

Miami Beach voters to decide on convention center hotel

Supporters say hotel will anchor renovated convention center

December 10, 2015 11:15AM
By James Teeple

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Renderings of the Miami Beach Convention Center Hotel (Credit: John Portman & Associates)

Renderings of the Miami Beach Convention Center Hotel (Credit: John Portman & Associates)

Miami Beach commissioners on Wednesday approved putting a measure on next year’s ballot that would allow the city to lease public land for the construction of a convention center hotel.

The measure will be put on the March 15 primary ballot.

The ballot measure received unanimous support from the commission. Three new commissioners, Ricky Arriola, John Elizabeth Alemán and Kristen Rosen Gonzalez joined with Mayor Philip Levine to vote in favor of the referendum.

The city is seeking a 99-year lease for a parcel of land at the corner of 17th Street and Convention Center Drive, which will then be turned over to Atlanta-based Portman Holdings for the construction of a $400 million, 300-foot tall, 800-room hotel. The parcel is considered a prime site for development located just behind the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater.

The hotel was supposed to have been approved earlier this year to coincide with the renovation of the city’s aging convention center. But because of earlier opposition to the hotel, at least 60 percent of Miami Beach voters must approve the lease before the hotel can be built. Plans for the hotel were put on hold in September after a poll commissioned by the developer found only 56.5 percent of likely voters supported it.

Since then, Portman has begun community outreach efforts to convince likely voters the hotel will generate jobs. Portman CEO Ambrish Baisiwala told the commission those efforts will continue. “We look forward to engaging with the community,” he said.

Supporters of the hotel project, including the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce, and the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau say the hotel is necessary for the success of the convention center when it fully reopens in 2018 after extensive renovations. The newly renovated convention center will feature a 60,000-square foot-ballroom, which is expected to attract big trade and consumer shows. Hotel backers say a new hotel is needed to cater to that market.

Work has already started on the convention center, which is expected to cost $615.7 million, making the renovation of the 58-year-old building the most extensive project ever undertaken in Miami Beach. The project is being funded by a 1 percent increase in the city’s resort tax, which voters overwhelmingly approved in 2012, three bonds and a parking enterprise fund.

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