The campaign in support of a headquarter hotel for the Miami Beach Convention Center has begun.
The lease of public land needed to allow Atlanta-based Portman Holdings to build a hotel directly west of The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater will go to Beach voters in a city referendum during the presidential primary on March 15.
The campaign is being run by political action committee Better Miami Beach, which is chaired by Portman’s attorney and has been bankrolled by the company to the tune of about $34,000, as of the most recent filings with Florida’s elections department.
The 30-second spot features comments from local tourism and business figures who have endorsed the hotel project: William Talbert of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, Liliam Lopez of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Collins Park resident and Miami Beach Arts Trust Chairman Harvey Burstein, and Steve Adkins of the Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
The commercial asks viewers to vote in favor of “finishing” the convention center. The convention center renovation, which began in December, was separated from the hotel project in January 2014, when the city commissioner led newly elected Mayor Philip Levine chose to scrap a larger-scale, 52-acre redevelopment of the convention center district and decouple the convention center re-do and the hotel.
During the 2013 election season, then-Commissioner Jonah Wolfson successfully led the charge against that large redevelopment plan in a campaign that was partly funded by the Fontainebleau Hotel. The resulting legal battle is what raised the threshold needed to approve such a public land lease to 60 percent of voters.
Now, Portman wants to lease the land at the corner of 17th Street and Convention Center Drive to develop a privately financed $400 million, 800-room hotel rising 30 stories.
The hotel has been endorsed by:
▪ Collins Park Neighborhood Association
▪ Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau
▪ Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority
▪ Greater Miami and Beaches Hotel Association
▪ Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
▪ Art Basel Miami Beach
▪ Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce
Critics of the hotel say in order for the project to succeed, existing hotels must commit to setting aside room blocks at special rates to accommodate spillover from the headquarter hotel. Some residents have balked at the size of the proposed building.
Proponents maintain the $600 million renovation of the convention center would be an expensive waste of time without a headquarter hotel to house leadership teams of big industry meetings. The hotel, they say, is crucial to attracting large, lucrative citywide conventions.
Voters will decide come March 15.