$648 million Miami Beach Convention Center expansion on meeting agenda
By Zachary S. Fagenson
Top tourism and government officials are to meet Friday to review the final costs and details of the long-sought upgrade to the Miami Beach Convention Center.
In short, upgrading the facility and expanding its overall space by about 1 million square feet will cost $648.2 million, according to a project outline from consultant Arquitectonica.
The 226-page plan, which cost $573,642 according to Max Sklar, director of tourism and cultural development for the City of Miami Beach, expands the center's first floor exhibit halls from more than 500,000 square feet in four halls to 715,000 square feet spread across six halls. The upgraded center's second floor would add an additional 30,000 square feet of meeting room space to the existing 57,000.
The center's third floor, which at the moment is used only as support space, would be expanded to include an additional 55,000 square feet of meeting rooms and 81,600 square feet of ballrooms.
A fourth floor would also be added with another 54,160 square feet of meeting rooms along with lobby space and back-of-house and service space.
The vast increases in convention and meeting space, however, aren't match by parking increases. The plan calls for replacing a 900-space surface parking lot with a 1,498-space garage. Including surrounding City of Miami Beach parking lots, total spaces available for the center would grow from 3,750 to 4,188.
And though a hotel isn't planned for the center's expansion, architects have designated two lots along Washington Avenue — one bordered by Dade Boulevard and another by 17th Street — that could accommodate such facilities.
"In many markets, there are several large hotels adjacent to the center. The lack of such a property to the MBCC represents a competitive disadvantage when competing for high-impact conventions and tradeshows," the report said. "Either of the possible convention center hotel locations would allow Miami Beach to have what many other cities around the country have today, namely a hotel that has a physical connection with the convention center and also has enough rooms (800 to 1,000) to accommodate conventioneers who expect the convenience of adjacency to the convention center."
The benefit of having a hotel adjacent to convention facilities was seen just last month when the National Association of Television Program Executives brought more than 5,000 attendees to the Fontainebleau for entire week and cited the hotel's ability to host conventioneers and the event itself as one of the draws.
Meanwhile, how the improvements would be funded remains uncertain. Owners of the Miami Dolphins have put their weight behind a bill in Tallahassee that would allow county commissions to raise bed taxes, helping fund the center's improvements along with $225 million worth of work on the Dolphins' Sun Life Stadium.
That plan, however, hasn't found widespread support throughout the business community, and the general public still seems to have a sour taste in its mouth after the deal for the Florida Marlins ballpark, which some have labeled as a giveaway.
Dolphins CEO Mike Dee has been canvassing business groups touting the economic impact of improving the stadium to help draw addition Super Bowls in the future.
At the same time, Bradenton Republican Mike Bennett, who once sponsored a bill similar to the one state Rep. Erik Fresen put forth to give county commissions the option to raise bed taxes and spend the added proceeds on stadiums and convention centers, has filed a bill that would require voter approval to use any taxes for professional sports facilities and would strip those on public land of their exemption.
If both bills were to pass and the county commission were to agree to raise the bed tax, it could find itself with anywhere from $16 million to $17 million in annual bed tax revenues that could fund the convention center project.
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