When thousands of car hounds descend on the Miami Beach Convention Center for the 48th annual Miami International Auto Show on Friday, they will be among the first auto buffs in the U.S. to get a look at the 2019 Genesis G70, Hyundai’s latest luxury car, and the redesigned Toyota RAV4, the fifth generation of the popular compact SUV.
Auto Show attendees will also be the among the first locals to check out the amenities of the sparkling new Miami Beach Convention Center, which just wrapped the main phase of its three-year, $620 million renovation. The improvements include the addition of 263,000 square feet of space, 10 new meeting rooms and LEED Silver certification, which is granted to environmentally friendly buildings.
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Some of the improvements are immediately obvious, such as the facility’s striking new exterior — a collaboration between Fentress Architects and Arquitectonica — that uses more than 500 giant fins of aluminum and glass to create an undulating facade, reminiscent of an ocean wave rolling onto the beach.
The aquatic theme extends to the center’s refurbished west entrance, with swooping curves, glistening white columns and subdued lighting that make the 60-year-old facility feel brand new.
Officials hope it will also help boost Miami-Dade’s $26 billion tourism industry, helping it to grab a greater share of the U.S. meetings industry, which generated $325 billion in 2016, according to an economic significance study by Oxford Economics.
One critical piece of the project, though, won’t be decided until Nov. 6. That’s when voters will decide whether to approve the construction of an 800-room headquarters hotel, to be built on a city-owned parcel of land adjacent to the convention center.
Miami Beach city officials say the massive upgrade to the Convention Center was critical to making the aging facility competitive in the crowded but lucrative convention industry.
“The old building had become more of a consumer show space which drew visitors from South Florida but not people staying in hotels in Miami Beach,” said Miami Beach city manager Jimmy Morales. “The building was old and lacked some things that could make it competitive for city-wide conventions and trade groups that draw tourists with spending dollars. We didn’t have a big ballroom. We didn’t have enough conference space.”
Ballrooms are no longer a problem at the convention center: It now has five, including a 60,000-square-foot grand ballroom — big enough to double as a cavernous dance club, complete with dramatic lighting — and a 20,000-square-foot, glass rooftop ballroom to host VIP events.
Infrastructure improvements include upgrades to the center’s notoriously spotty Wi-Fi and cellphone reception, the addition of digital signage, and stronger hurricane and flooding safeguards.
Overall, the renovation adds 263,000 square feet of space to the convention center, bringing the facility’s total to 1.43 million square feet. The size of the center’s exhibition space remains the same, at 500,000 square feet.