A last-minute recommendation by Miami Beach’s city manager to dramatically down-scale redevelopment of the city’s convention center district has been met with relief, bewilderment, and — in the case of the development teams competing to land the billion-dollar deal — a mad dash to figure out what it all means.
The two teams learned Tuesday they have until 5 p.m. Friday to crunch new numbers and confirm they still want to be a part of the project as now proposed. This, after City Manager Jimmy Morales on Monday upended more than a year of the teams’ work by proposing to eliminate all housing, significantly decrease retail and restaurant space and allow the city to retain control of the 17th Street parking garage.
Charles Pinkham, vice president of Portman-CMC, one of the two teams, said they’re analyzing the financial impact of Morales’ proposal.
The other team, South Beach ACE, led by New York-based Tishman Hotel and Realty, was on a conference call “non-stop discussing this,’’ Tadd Schwartz, a spokesman, wrote in an email.
While the teams go into overdrive, residents were mixed about paring back the project. Some were pleased the new proposal called for greater control by the city of a 52-acre site in the heart of South Beach. Others closer to the district worried about losing the vitality that comes from people moving into the neighborhood and the restaurant and retail that follows.
“If you look at the convention center now, when there isn’t a convention going on, it is a dead zone smack in the middle of Miami Beach,” said Collins Park Neighborhood Association President Ray Breslin. “To me, adding residential components made all of the difference in the world to activate it.”
Morales did not respond to a telephone call or text message on Tuesday, nor did Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower.
When Miami Beach first sought developer proposals in January 2012, then City Manager Jorge Gonzalez envisioned an iconic site with a renovated convention center, new hotel, public parks and, to help pay for the the project, private development that would generate lease payments to the city.
Teams of the world’s preeminent developers and leading architects answered the call, spending months and millions of dollars designing, tweaking and pitching plans that call for acres of public parks, hundreds of new housing units and tens of thousands of square feet of shops and restaurants. The scale and potential of the site and prominence of the competing teams led observers to call the project one of the most significant in the Beach’s history.
The finalists are:
* Portman-CMC, led by Atlanta-based Portman Holdings along with rising architect Bjarke Ingels.
* South Beach ACE, led by New York-based Tishman Hotel and Realty, along with Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas.
City commissioners are set to pick a development team as early as July 17.
Morales, who joined the city on April 1, has a markedly different vision from his predecessor.
His recommendations, made in a memo to a city committee, would result in less development at a higher public cost. Without the long-term lease payments the city could have commanded from more housing and retail on the site, the price of renovating Miami Beach’s convention center district would fall more heavily on the shoulders of taxpayers. The city has not publicly disclosed how much more the project would cost, or where the money would come from.