Miami Beach commission approves lease for convention center hotel

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 voted to approve a lease agreement and allocate future rent from a proposed convention center hotel to fund mass transit efforts on Miami Beach’s traffic clogged streets, pay for securing critical underground cabling at risk from sea level rise and increase funding for education, with an emphasis on pre-kindergarten programs.

Commissioners said the city could generate an estimated $2.4 billion in revenue for the city over the 99-year term of the lease.  

Commissioners also agreed to delay putting the hotel measure before voters until March 2016, after they received a letter from developer Jack Portman who asked commissioners to push back the vote from November.  

Portman Holdings’ proposal to build an 300-foot-tall, 800-room hotel on land the city intends to lease on the corner of 17th Street and Convention Center Drive, behind the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater,  needs at least 60 percent voter approval before it can go forward. And it’s not clear if enough Miami Beach voters support the hotel project for it to get to that threshold.   

A poll the developer paid for in August, among 79 percent of residents who were likely to vote, found that only 56.5 supported the hotel plan, with 26.8 percent of voters opposed and 16.8 percent undecided.  JB Research, LLC, which interviewed 400 registered Miami Beach voters, carried out the poll.   

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A letter Portman sent to Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales, in which he asked the commissioners to delay the vote, doesn’t directly address the poll results. But it says postponing the vote until next March, “will give us a greater chance to be successful in obtaining the necessary vote.”  

Supporters of the hotel say it is a critical component of the $500 million renovation of the Miami Beach convention center, and without a hotel to anchor the convention center its renovation plan could fail.

Commissioners are expected to give final approval to the convention center renovation on Oct. 21 when they will review the final bids submitted by Clark Construction, which has pledged to start building the new convention center after Art Basel ends in December.  

Commissioner Ed Tobin told The Real Deal that Jack Portman has the support of a majority of the commissioners, and the city could get as much as $24 million in rent from the hotel over 10 years, based on a ground lease payment of $2.4 million a year.

He also said every poll taken of Miami Beach residents says traffic congestion is getting worse every year, and so the commission vote allocating future rent from the project for traffic and flood mitigation efforts, as well as for education is likely to get support from many Miami Beach voters.