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Miami Beach starts new process to redevelop Convention Center

Miami Beach on Wednesday officially started a new process to overhaul its convention center — a project about a decade in the making.

Commissioners want to use a “design-build” process for the project, meaning the same firm would plan and build the project.

But before the city can select a firm to do so, state law requires the city to hire a design criteria professional, according to a city memo. So commissioners on Wednesday agreed to solicit bids from design criteria professionals for the convention center project.

“The major players, the kind of companies that could do this, are interested,” said City Manager Jimmy Morales.

The professional is usually not one person but a firm, according to the city memo. The firm creates at least 30 percent of the preliminary design documents for the project, and bid documents that the city will then use to select a design-build firm.

“We’re actually going to design the building with them and then hand off the plans to a builder down the road … so it’s going to be a very intimate process,” said Maria Hernandez, special assistant to Morales.

She added: “We plan to show the design during the process.”

Morales said the new process will allow the city to tap into a new hotel tax more quickly. The penny tax, passed in 2012, requires the city to have a development plan in place before kicking in.

The city hopes to have a contract with a design criteria professional negotiated by the end of June, and to have a design-build team contract in place by the end of July 2015, according to city documents.

The new approach is supposed to expedite the long-stalled project, though no new estimates have been given regarding when the city expects to see a completed renovation.

Citing concerns about the project’s scale and $1 billion price tag, a largely new commission voted in January to scrap a previous redevelopment plan that was years in the making. The commission also decided that the addition of a headquarters hotel will be part of a separate bid process. However, that process has not started and commissioners have so far only decided to scout possible locations for a hotel.

Industry leaders have said that a new headquarter hotel is crucial to the success of the convention center because the Beach’s rates are too high and there aren’t enough rooms close to the center, making booking inconvenient.

According to the new bid, the convention center “is to be renovated and upgraded to ‘Class A’ standards in a manner that best meets the needs of the target market, within the available funds.” Those funds total about $500 million for all hard and soft costs, according to the city. More money is available for the parts of the project that specifically deal with parking.

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