The convention center concerns boil down to four topics: The Jackie Gleason Theater; how the massive project and impacts historically designated neighborhoods; added gridlock to Miami Beach’s already clogged streets; and whether we need an 800-room hotel even, though it has the support of the hotel association.
The city has given specific inclusion requirements to the two development teams selected. Many residents voiced their concerns and now the teams must meld the two into a beautiful project that will lure both residents and tourists to come.
The hotel is easy. Place a 500-room hotel with an expansion plan for 300 additional rooms that can be added immediately or never.
The city has never really concerned itself with the access points into the heart of the city and now they must. There is nothing pretty or iconic about entering the heart of Miami Beach’s Cultural District even though developers are spending hundreds of millions of dollars restoring, renovating, and adding onto almost every hotel on Collins Avenue north of 23rd Street. In 1998 he City presented an Indian Creek Greenway Project. Do you see even a hint of this project today? There is a broken down boardwalk along Lake Pancoast built over 40 years ago that is a dangerous eyesore. There is no record of a building permit for this boardwalk along Collins Avenue from 26th to 24th streets. The city must create a transportation plan at the same time we build the convention center or it will fail.
The teams heard how the current convention center blocks the connectivity with the surrounding neighborhoods. The roof is an eyesore to all the surrounding taller buildings and breaking it up with green space or a park setting would be welcome. All edges must be soft and appealing with all the docks hidden from the public view.
Everyone danced around art and cultural components saying the best thing that happens every year is Art Basel. Well, lets have a little art and culture planned year round in the master plan. That is the reason for giving up the 52 acres.
Finally, the Jackie Gleason: If it doesn’t fit into the master plan, then plan for its memory.
Ultimately that is really what we want. Be creative.
Ray Breslin, Miami Beach
Residents must be involved in convention center’s future
The recent community meeting with residents developers and city administrators reflected the personal agendas of the stakeholders and participants in this gathering. The city is fortunate in the selection of the two highly respected and world-class developers, one of which will be chosen to build this new city center.
The Miami Beach Convention Center Advisory Board initiated a referendum to renovate the center and build a necessary ballroom. The Convention Center is admittedly out dated and is in need of the renovations that can once again establish our center as the place to hold conventions, trade shows and special events.
The Miami Beach City Commission included a proposal to re-create Miami Beach using the 52 acres of city property surrounding the center to build condominiums, retail stores, a hotel or entertainment venues.
The important considerations are how disruptive will this be to our economy the connecting neighborhoods and institutions, including: the New World Center, Botanical Gardens, Holocaust Museum, Temple Emanuel and Lincoln Road.
Also, what about all of the present bookings scheduled at the center? This includes Art Basel. The possibility that Art Basel would change the location to another city during construction would be disastrous to our economy and the cultural oasis that is now a wonderful part of Miami-Dade County.
The convention center is not in deplorable condition. Statements indicating this is part of the “spin” to change attitudes and to reflect the need to renovate the convention center. Sales efforts need to continue to bring conventions and trade shows and cannot have a wait-and-see attitude, during the several years of the building process. The tourism economy depends on the business created by these events.
The residents cannot just “drink the Kool Aid” and go along with all of the, both, positive and negative aspects in the recreation of our city. The developers should include green space in their vision, and the city needs to have in place plans on solving the added inconvenience of congestion, traffic and parking. As residents, we are concerned with quality of life issues and we will be active in protecting our tropical paradise.
Roger Abramson, Miami Beach Convention Center Advisory Board