City of Miami ejects University of Miami from 26-year downtown hub
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
After 26 years of the University of Miami leasing and running conference facilities downtown, the university is exiting the city-owned space at the city's behest.
The university is to cease operating the 23,000-square-foot conference space, with event-style auditoriums and 26 meeting rooms, after the city gave it the option to either get out or let the city bring a new partner of its choice.
For years, the city has been losing money on the 5.7-acre Knight Center complex downtown, subsidizing it by $2.8 million this year, about $2.5 million last year and $1.9 million in 2007, the city reports — $7.2 million over three years.
On Nov. 19, the city commission is to vote whether to allow the firm that runs two other venues in the complex to manage the conference space too.
City commissioners are to also vote, tentatively this month or next, on a separate deal to let its main tenant, the Hyatt Regency Hotel, pay $2.5 million upfront to replace the complex's aging cooling system because the Hyatt is interested in expanding operations to eventually take over the conference space, says Daniel Newhoff, assistant director of Miami's department of public facilities.
Under that proposal, the city would reimburse the Hyatt $1.25 million if by December 2010 the hotel doesn't take over the conference space.
For some time, the city administration had contemplated cancelling the university's conference space lease because it saw potential for bigger profits.
The university's lease is to end Dec. 31 and the city's public facilities department is to ask commissioners to accept its proposal for Global Spectrum, manager of the performing venue and convention center, to run the conference space, Mr. Newhoff said.
University officials could not be reached.
The Knight Center complex adjacent to the hotel at 400 SE Second Ave. comprises a performing venue with 4,646 seats, the 23,000 square feet of conference space now run by the university and a 28,000-square-foot convention center.
The performing and convention center spaces are operated by the city and managed by Global Spectrum.
If the city commission, which will include at least two new commissioners after this month's elections, approves Global Spectrum to run the entire property, Mr. Newhoff explained, it will also have to approve conference space rents. Recommended rates, depending on room size, range from $325 to $1,900 a day, he said.
A three-fifths commission vote is needed to allow Global to also manage the almost-former UM conference space on the city's behalf. The city would have to invest $300,000 for staff services, Mr. Newhoff said, in space projected to yield $600,000 a year revenue.
"There's a lot of demand for conference space, especially smaller spaces," he said.
The Global contract is to include a 60-day cancellation clause that would allow the city to offer the management agreement instead to the Hyatt if it reaches a deal with the hotel.