Miami Beach plans to expand convention center, build symphony sound studio
By Paola Iuspa
The City of Miami Beach is moving forward with plans to expand its convention center and build a sound studio for the New World Symphony.
City commissioners recently amended the master plan that guides redevelopment of the 17th Street corridor to include a 50,000-square-foot expansion of the Miami Beach Convention Center. The project will incorporate a 2,000-space garage and about 40,000 square feet of infrastructure such as kitchens and bathrooms to support the new multipurpose space, said Stuart Blumberg, president of the Greater Miami & the Beaches Hotel Association.
"They amended it to include the potential of the expansion," Mr. Blumberg said. "That is the first step to be done in the process. It is a good sign."
Miami Beach City Manager Jorge Gonzalez said he is working on the next step, which is to issue an invitation for companies to bid on the expansion work.
The City of Miami Beach wants to be ready to start work in case Miami-Dade County releases $50 million in convention development taxes. Those funds are now committed to go toward construction of a baseball stadium, but could go to the convention center if the county does not go forward with stadium plans by Dec. 1, 2003, Mr. Gonzalez said.
Elected officials last year commissioned a master plan to improve 17th Street, home to the Miami Beach Convention Center, Miami Beach City Hall, the Jackie Gleason Theater of the Performing Arts, two surface parking lots and a garage, often used by those visiting Lincoln Road one block to the south.
City staff is analyzing each of the plan's components, including a new 600-space garage at city hall and a park, with plans to bring each to the city commission for approval, said Christina Cuervo, assistant city manager.
"Now the city has to decide plan by plan what they want to do," said Bernard Zyscovich, an architect, master planner and urban designer hired by Miami Beach to conduct the 17th Street Redevelopment study.
The study's goal was to find uses for the two central blocks in the convention center district across from the center, an area now used for parking.
The master plan proposes a sound studio for New World Symphony in the western lot. The 35,000-square-foot broadcast building would have an outdoor video screen fronting a proposed park. The eastern surface lot would be turned into a park where people could see concerts on video.
The 506 parking spaces lost would be recovered by building new parking next to New World's newest building, behind city hall and in the expanded portion of the convention center, Mr. Zyscovich said.
Ms. Cuervo said the city already started negotiating a lease with New World. Howard Herring, New World Symphony president & CEO, said he expects to wrap up negotiations by late September. He said that while construction costs were estimated at $30 million two years ago, costs would now be higher. He said his group is now raising funds to pay for the proposed building. Construction is planned to begin by late 2005.
Miami Beach Commissioner Richard Steinberg said because some of the proposed changes, excluding the sound studio, would be funded using Miami-Dade's convention development tax, the county's endorsement would be required.
Another revenue source for some of the proposed projects is the Miami Beach Community Redevelopment Agency and its tax increment financing district. Property taxes generated by development go to this agency to be reinvested in the area, in this case the "City Center Historic Convention Village Redevelopment & Revitalization Area."
Created in 1993 to revitalize the area around the convention center and Lincoln Road, the agency, along with public and private partnerships has given birth to the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, the Royal Palm Crowne Plaza Resort, the Anchor Shops and parking garage and an $18 million renovation of Lincoln Road.