Miami takes steps toward downtown convention center study
By Paola Iuspa
City of Miami officials have met with consultants about a feasibility study for a downtown convention center.
The move comes two months after a report commissioned by Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau recommended such a study.
Miami City Commissioner Johnny Winton, who represents part of downtown Miami, met with the city manager, members of the Downtown Development Authority, Miami Parking Authority and Miami Sports & Exhibition Authority about the earlier report which showed Greater Miami could have a demand for a new downtown convention center in four to six years. Prepared by CSL International, it recommended officials start looking for locations and evaluating land acquisition "as soon as possible to prevent viable and desirable sites from being lost" and reported that further study of a downtown center would likely take four to six years.
John Kaatz, director of convention industry services with CSL International in Minneapolis, were invited to meet last week with Mr. Winton's group. Mr. Kaatz, considered an expert in analyses, said Tuesday the group has not yet asked him for a formal proposal.
Christina Abrams, city director of conferences, conventions & public facilities, said the study would try to project the economic impact a 150,000-square-foot convention and exhibition center would have on downtown Miami. It would also try to determine the level of demand, possible locations, construction cost and funding sources, she said.
The previous report, submitted Nov. 5, analyzed use of existing convention centers and trends in the visitor industry on a countywide basis.
Bill Talbert, bureau president and CEO, said he was glad the city and the agencies were acting on the previous report. But he said before any decision was made, the group needed to take into many factors into account.
For a downtown facility to be successful, Mr. Talbert said, it would need to have an entertainment district within walking distance.
Now underused, the Miami Beach Convention Center also needs to attract larger groups to use all of its space, he said. To attract larger events, said Mr. Talbert, whose group is the exclusive sales agent for the Beach's center, it needs to build a 50,000-square-foot multi-purpose banquet hall.
Also, he said, the downtown study would have to weigh the impact on Miami of Palm Beach County's convention center, which is now under construction. That center is to have about 150,000 square feet.
Some officials and community leaders agree downtown would be the right place for the venue because it would be surrounded by newly built high-end hotels, often sought after by corporate meeting organizers.
The City of Miami's inventory of centers now includes the 150,000-square-foot Coconut Grove Convention Center and the Miami Convention & Knight Center in the Hyatt Regency Miami, 400 SE Second Ave. The theater in the Hyatt complex is the only hotel-based venue south of Atlanta that seats up to 5,000 people, Ms. Abrams said.
Art Noriega, executive director of the Miami Parking Authority, said his agency was invited to participate in the project because parking "is a key element" downtown.