MIAMI BEACH

Marquee architects still interested in convention center overhaul

 

cveiga@MiamiHerald.com

Miami Beach’s long-stalled renovation of its convention center still has the attention of big name architects —including some who participated in a year-long bidding war that was recently scrapped by the city’s new commission.

More than a dozen firms showed up Friday to a mandatory meeting for anyone who may ultimately bid on a $500 million renovation of the city’s meeting center, giving the public the first indication of which companies may be interested in the deal.

The Office for Metropolitan Architecture and Fentress both had representatives at the meeting. OMA, headed by Pritzker prize winner Rem Koolhaas, was part of a team that had won the bid process for the project before the new commission dumped it. Fentress, an expert in convention center design, was on the team that was the runner-up.

Also at the meeting was local firm Arquitectonica, which was picked to draw up plans about five years ago in a process that was also cut short before shovels got in the ground.

The city has struggled for years to launch a major renovation of the convention center. Clashes over vision for how large and costly the project should be have caused many of the delays.

Now, the city wants to select a design-build firm in a public bidding process. Before a design-build firm can be chosen, state law requires that the city hire a “design criteria professional” — the contract currently out to bid. The professional design team will come up with a bid package, including at least 30 percent of the project’s design plans. The firm that will eventually finish the design and build the project will base its proposals off of the bid package created by the design critera professional team.

According to the city’s schedules, a design criteria team will be named April 9, with a design-build firm designated in April 2015. The deadline for completing the renovation is fall of 2017, before the annual Art Basel in Miami Beach fair.

Jeff Sachs, a consultant hired by the city to handle convention center issues, stressed that sticking to the budget and time line are most important.

“We don’t have time to waste on pretty pictures that we can’t afford,” he told the crowd at Friday’s meeting.

A new commission, elected in November, decided to embark on a new process to renovate the convention center that they say will get the project done more quickly.

Under the proposal most recently rejected, a private developer would rent city land to build a convention center hotel. The leases would have helped pay for the public portions of the $1 billion project, with costs roughly split between the taxpayers and the private sector. Under city rules, those leases would have required a voter referendum. If the referendum failed, the new commission argued, it would set back the project.

Instead, the city is now going forward with a renovation of only the convention center. Since it’s city owned and will remain in city hands, no referendum is needed.

“Those variables are gone,” City Manager Jimmy Morales told potential bidders. “How quickly this gets done is really going to depend on the work of out outside professionals.”

Follow @Cveiga on Twitter.

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