Miami board to review massive Expo Center proposal

Tony Recio
Tony Recio

Members of Miami’s Planning and Zoning Board will get a first look at plans for the $600 million Miami World Expo Center on Wednesday night.

The 54-story Marriott-branded project would total more than 2.2 million square feet, with 350,000 square feet of exhibition space, 1,800 hotel rooms and 1,250 parking spaces. MDM Development Group wants to build the complex on the 4.7-acre former Miami Arena site at 700 North Miami Avenue. The land is adjacent to All Aboard Florida’s future downtown Miami station and the $1.5 billion Miami Worldcenter.

Art Falcone and Nitin Motwani, Miami Worldcenter’s principals, bought the old Miami Arena parcel from Wellington investors Glenn Straub and Sal Spano for $35 million in October 2012. They have a contract to sell the land to MDM.

MDM lobbyist Tony Recio wrote in a letter to Miami planning director Francisco Garcia that Miami World Expo Center would be “one of the most important projects in the city’s history.”

The project “will be the first of its kind in Miami: a regional activity complex providing modern, world class exhibition space and a tie-in hotel to compete with convention hotels in rival U.S. cities,” Recio wrote.

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Designed by the Coral Gables-based architecture firm of Nichols Brosch Wurst Wolfe & Associates, Miami World Expo Center features a “curved building core that allows expansive exhibition halls,” according to Recio. The project’s main exhibition space would have 50-foot ceilings and “relatively few support columns,” which will allow convention organizers “free rein in designing their events.”

Recio claims Miami Expo Center would satisfy a “pent-up demand” for convention space in downtown Miami.

The developers say they will employ 5,500 construction workers to build the complex over the course of 36 months. The project would create 5,400 permanent jobs and generate $189 million in hotel taxes over 30 years in operation.

But before Miami World Expo Center construction begins, the Planning and Zoning Board must approve eight exemptions from the city’s Miami 21 zoning code. Proposed exemptions include allowing the complex to have 30 percent fewer parking spaces than what is normally required for a project this large.

According to Recio, the project would not need more than 1,250 spaces due to its proximity to existing – and future – transit options.

“Given that many [guests] will be visiting for the purpose of attending an onsite convention, only a fraction of those guests will arrive by rental car,” Recio wrote. “A sizable number of local and regional visitors to the Miami Expo Center are also likely to forego parking in the building’s garage in favor of public transit.”