Miami Beach

Developers have little to say about how to pay for new Miami Beach Convention Center

 

cveiga@MiamiHerald.com

Miami Beach residents on Wednesday got a closer look at proposals for a major renovation of the city’s convention center and surrounding area.

Two teams are competing for the project, which is expected to cost up to $1 billion. The teams discussed their plans at a meeting with residents Wednesday night at the convention center.

The public got little new information about two hot topics: how to minimize traffic impacts to the surrounding neighborhoods, and how to pay for the public portions of the project.

TRAFFIC

The Tishman – South Beach ACE team has contracted Mobility in Chain, an Italian firm, to analyze both vehicle and pedestrian traffic. The team also is considering traffic both during event times and when the center isn’t being used.

The Tishman plan redistributes traffic to Dade Boulevard, which the company says is now underused. Cars could also enter from the north end of Washington Avenue. Buses would enter from the opposite side of the center, near the current Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackie Gleason Theater.

Trucks would stack along the north end of Convention Center Drive.

The Portman CMC team has enlisted the help of David Plummer & Associates, a Coral Gables firm, to take a look at traffic issues.

Their plan would also redirect traffic to Dade Boulevard. Hotel traffic would be funneled through 17th Street. They’d also close off Convention Center Drive on the north end, creating a pedestrian area.

The firm suggested the use of “smart parking” techniques, with live updates sent to street signs and smart phones about area parking availability. They also talked about enhancing local public transit systems and incorporating the city’s popular bike rental program.

“You need to make it very convenient for people so they will use it and leave their vehicles behind,” said Tim Plummer, who is working with the Portman team on traffic issues.

FINANCING

Little was revealed Wednesday about how the city could pay for the public portions of the project. Those portions include a renovated convention center, additional meeting rooms and a new ballroom.

Both teams have said that those improvements could cost up to $500 million. In interviews with The Miami Herald, neither suggested a public-private partnership scheme to pay for the fixes, saying that the city is able to borrow money more cheaply on its own.

Tishman suggested the city could also recoup its costs through leases and increased taxes from the private development that’s proposed on the site.

The private components of the redevelopment of the 52-acre site, which is wholly owned by the city, include: a hotel, retail offerings, residential units and an entertainment venue.

Miami Beach has a few pots of money potentially at its disposal.

The city already gets county Convention Development Tax funds to support the center.

Voters in August 2012 approved a hotel tax increase of up to one penny to help pay for improvements to the convention center. The new tax would have to be implemented by the City Commission, and would not take affect until the city has an agreement in place for the improvements, according to an opinion by the city attorney’s office.

The tax could generate up to $9 million a year, and could be bonded out to as much as $90 million to pay for the improvements, and then upkeep of the center.

Voters in 2004 also approved a bond referendum which included $55 million for the convention center. The city used about $600,000 of that money in 2009 to pay the architecture firm Arquitectonica for a plan to redevelop the convention center. The City Commission rejected the plan and started a bid process to ask teams to submit their ideas to revamp the convention center and surrounding area.

The city got another $15 million from the county in 2004, also to pay for the convention center improvements. It wasn’t clear late Wednesday whether that money is still available or already had been spent.

Follow @Cveiga on Twitter.

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