Portman team expos Miami Beach Convention Center in final push for $1.2B bid

A kaleidoscope of colorful dress, painted Styrofoam models and life size renderings made the street-level, all-glass space off Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road like a fishbowl full of tropical fish.

Portman CMC, a group of developers and architects vying for Miami Beach’s $1.2 billion convention center project, opened an exhibit space off the Lincoln Road shopping district late on Tuesday, the first stage of a final push for the bid.

The city plans to announce a winner in mid-July.

Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, whose design firm BIG is part of the Portman team, was on hand for Miami Beach residents to quiz about “living walls,” the architect’s term for the jungly effect of interspersing vines and other plants into concrete.

Ingel’s rival for the bid is a consortium led by his former boss, Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas, and his Office for Metropolitan Architecture, the Rotterdam-based firm where Ingels, 38, worked in his early 20s.

“From the top down and the bottom up, there’s been a flourishing art scene, Art Basel, from the top down, and all kinds of urban interventions, which makes it a vibrant place,” Ingels told The Real Deal on Monday.

“You definitely feel that Miami has become the capital of the United States of Latin America and I think that influx of affluent Latin Americans has a positive impact on the whole region.”

Behind Ingels is an aerial view of the project plotted in Styrofoam, spongy colorful stacks demonstrating the curves in his proposed convention center and vibrant life size renderings.

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Portman executives argue the 52-acre project – in which the city will cover the cost of the convention center and some landscaping, while leasing the land for private development – will generate Miami Beach $80 million more in revenue than their competitor and be finished 19 months sooner.

Ingels’ hyperbolic design is centered around a public town square, intersected multiple ways by lush pedestrian walkways and parks.

South Beach ACE, the other team up for the bid, offers a project equal and enormous in scope.

Miami Beach developer Robert Wennett, who commissioned Herzog & de Meuron to design the striking parking garage at 1111 Lincoln Road Mall, brought in Koolhaas when he joined Tishman Hotels and Realty, the New York developer erecting the tower at the World Trade Center site.

Portman chairman John Portman, Jr. designed Atlanta’s enormous indoor space, the Peachtree Center, and myriad hotels built in the 1970s and 1980s across the U.S. with his signature atrium, including New York’s Marriott Marquis.

“Where we really nailed it was in creating the right kind of urban experience,” John “Jack” Portman II, the company’s vice chairman, told TRD.

Ironically, South Beach’s design has more in common with those buildings than the Portman project, with a unified space centered around a plaza connected to atria.

Koolhaas and OMA are also involved in Argentine developer Alan Faena’s multi-use project surrounding a Roman and Williams redesign of the Saxony Hotel in South Beach and a new Norman Foster condo tower.

Landscape architect Jamie Maslyn Larson, a principal of New York-based West 8, which is currently designing a 30-acre park on New York’s Governor’s Island, said the Portman project will reduce environmental impact by using native plants, such as gumbo limbo, live oak and mahogany trees; buttonwoods and coco plum shrubs; Fakahatchee grass and leathern ferns, and by keeping “almost everything in the ground.”