Despite narrowing the scope of the project, the city of Miami Beach is faced again with a disappointing response to its request for bids for the long-awaited renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center.
Once again, only a single firm — Clark Construction Group — has entered a bid to become the project’s contractor.
The bid follows a similar scenario earlier this year when only one firm — Clark — bid on a design-build contract to complete design documents for the convention center and start construction.
Disappointed with the lack of competition, the City Commission approved a change to the approach where a “construction manager at-risk” firm would be selected through competitive bidding. The selected firm would negotiate a price with the city and put subcontracts out to bid.
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Again, Clark came back as the only bidder for the big-ticket contract.
Maria Hernandez, project director of the convention center district, said that while she’s disappointed in the absence of competition at this stage, on Wednesday she plans to ask the City Commission to allow city staff to open Clark’s sealed bid so it can determine if the price is within a reasonable range of the city’s $500 million budget.
“What we’re hoping is that we’re in a realistic range,” she said Tuesday. “We hope we’re within the realm of possibilities.”
If so, the staff would recommend Bethesda, Maryland-based Clark at a commission meeting on April 29. If approved, negotiations over fees would begin. A proposed contract would go to a commission vote May 20.
Hernandez said the process remains on track for construction to begin in December. She added that she believes Clark is dedicated to the project and wants to work with the city.
Other development firms, including Skanksa USA, Turner Construction, and Coastal Construction, expressed interest earlier but ultimately decided not to participate.
In an April 9 letter to the city, Skanksa executive Andy Allen wrote while it wasn’t an easy decision, the firm couldn’t submit a proposal.
“We realize the importance this project has for the City of Miami Beach, but after an extensive evaluation of the project needs and requirements we find ourselves in a unique position whereby we do not feel we currently have the right team available to meet the needs of the project, and therefore we will not be submitting a proposal,” he wrote.
Hernandez blamed the robust construction market, saying contractors have more options and might not be willing to take the risk and spend on soft costs to bid for such a large project.
Like Hernandez, Commissioner Michael Grieco said he was confident in Clark.
“I think everybody involved would like to see multiple bidders,” he said Tuesday. “But I don’t think the existence of a sole builder is indicative of anything negative.”
Another solicitation for development of the convention center’s headquarter hotel attracted two bidders: Portman Holdings and Oxford Captial Group.
Atlanta-based Portman is familiar with the city’s desire to revamp its convention center in order to attract bigger, more lucrative conventions. The firm led a team that bid on a much larger redevelopment project of the convention center and its surrounding neighborhood. That expansive, 52-acre project was scrapped in January 2014 by a mostly-new commission, who favor the current, smaller-scale idea to decouple the convention center redo from the hotel.
Details for the bids are sealed until 30 days after submission or until City Manager Jimmy Morales makes a recommendation. Administrators plan on taking a recommendation for the hotel contract to commissioners May 20.