Miami Beach

Would-be convention center developers make pitches to Miami Beach residents

Developers on Wednesday presented Miami Beach residents with competing ideas for what the city’s Convention Center could look like after an overhaul.

It was the public’s first glimpse of what could become of the 52-acre site. Two heavy-hitting teams are competing for the project, which could cost up to $1 billion.

Both teams – Portman-CMC and South Beach ACE – stressed that the concepts presented Wednesday were only preliminary ideas.

Both teams’ proposals focus on creating lush greenscapes and ways to connect the enormous convention center with abutting neighborhoods – things that residents at a prior public meeting asked of the developers.

To do that, Portman-CMC, the team led by Portman Holdings, proposed several scenarios. In one, a diagonal plaza would grace the corner of the current convention center property, creating a string of parks to connect the center to the existing Miami Beach Botanical Garden and SoundScape Park.

The design focused on creating shade through both the buildings and landscaping, which is basically nonexistent now.

“This place is a black hole in terms of green, in terms of trees. We aim to change that," said Jamie Maslyn Larson, a Partner of West 8, the company partnering with Portman to landscape the project.

West 8 also worked on Miami Beach’s SoundScape Park, which features free outdoor movies and audio and video feeds of performances at the adjoining New World Symphony.

South Beach ACE, the team led by Tishman Hotel and Realty, proposed an underground parking area to hide idling trucks and buses – an issue that residents have complained about. Above the parking lot would be a rolling greenspace, and views of the now-ignored Collins Canal would be incorporated.

World-renowned architect Rem Koolhaas, part of the South Beach ACE team, called the current convention center a "serious problem" in the middle of the "idyllic" Miami Beach. His team’s design aims to correct that.

Tishman’s proposal also preserves the current Jackie Gleason Theater. Residents have debated whether the theater, which is not deemed historic, deserves to be preserved. The Tishman proposal would essentially remove a back wall of the theater to create a two-stage amphitheater.

Portman-CMC has not made a decision about whether the theater itself would stay, but spoke to preserving the legacy of Gleason himself. The team launched a website to get more resident feedback about its proposal:

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