CEO says visitors bureau will make a decision on its home 'sooner rather than later'
By Susan Stabley
The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau will decide where its headquarters will be "sooner rather than later," CEO William Talbert III said Monday.
The bureau has hired real-estate consultant CRESA Partners of Miami to search for office space. CRESA previously has worked for the bureau, Mr. Talbert said.
The bureau was forced to search for a new home when plans to build an $11.7 million center on Watson Island fell apart in September.
Developer Scott Robins said last week that he is "cautiously optimistic" that the bureau could move into his Miami Beach building, The Lincoln, on 17th Street at Michigan and Jefferson.
Miami Beach has been considered in the past as a home for the bureau, mostly because of the city's ties to the tourism and convention industry and the revenue it brings.
"We went through the process last time with the bureau, and it didn't turn out very good for us," Mr. Robins said.
He said his building is ideal because it offers enough space on one floor for the bureau. He also boasted about the building's signature appearance and its address.
"Their job is to sell the destination," Mr. Robins said, referring to the convention and visitors' bureau. "Putting them in the Lincoln would put them in proximity with the hotels and Ocean Drive, which is the premier tourist destination."
Miami Beach is in the final year of a two-year marketing contract with the bureau, and Mayor David Dermer has suggested that the city hire a firm to sell Miami Beach exclusively instead of the city being part of a Miami-Dade countywide campaign.
Earlier this year, Miami Beach officials balked at signing a long-term contract with the bureau when it appeared that the bureau would move to Watson Island.
Under consideration for bureau headquarters are an Art Deco building at Washington Avenue and Fifth Street and property at 420 Lincoln Road.
Another Beach site backed by City Manager Jorge Gonzalez, who sits on the bureau's board, is in peril. Mr. Gonzalez has pushed for the bureau to move into Miami Beach Convention Center, but a planned expansion of the facility is jeopardized by Miami-Dade County's plan to use funds from its Convention Development Tax to help build a baseball stadium for the Florida Marlins.
Mr. Talbert said moving to the convention center is a long-term option that wouldn't work now.
"With our lease ending in July, we need to move forward."
The bureau could renew its lease at 701 Brickell Ave.
The Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce has also emerged as a suitor for the bureau.
"When you come into the city, it's a big city," Karen del Valle, executive director of the Grove chamber, said Monday. "When you come into the Grove, you get a flavor for the community."
Bureau Chairman Don Peebles is slated to speak Tuesday at the Grove chamber's monthly luncheon, but Ms. del Valle said the event is not connected to the chamber's lobbying efforts.
Businessman Monty Trainer has been appointed to lead a site search for the Grove chamber. Under consideration are the Spanish Broadcasting System Tower on Bayshore Drive and Mayfair Shops on Grand Avenue.
The bureau requires 22,000 square feet for its offices. The bureau wouldn't necessarily need space for a visitors' center, Mr. Talbert said, as was planned for the Watson Island project.
- Shannon Pettypiece contributed to this report.