Tourism & Cruises

First look at new design ideas gives Miami Beach Convention Center a wave for the future

The Miami Beach City Commission saw the schematic design for the planned renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center at Wednesday’s commission meeting.
The Miami Beach City Commission saw the schematic design for the planned renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center at Wednesday’s commission meeting. Fentress Architects/City of Miami Beach

A wavy white façade dresses the outside of the future Miami Beach Convention Center in an initial round of renderings presented Wednesday to the City Commission.

The city’s elected leadership got its first glimpse at schematic designs of the upcoming $500 million renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center, which would add about 70,000 square feet of ballroom and meeting room space, create a 5.8-acre park across Convention Center Drive and feature nearly 900 parking spaces on site.

“We’ve really opened up the space,” said Maria Hernandez, special assistant to City Manager Jimmy Morales.

Fentress Architects, a Denver-based firm, was awarded an $11 million contract to serve as the design criteria professional on the project. It is preparing 30 percent of the plans for the project, which will be the foundation for the work that will be done by a “design-build” firm, which will be selected in November.

On Wednesday, the designs from Fentress impressed commissioners.

“I thought it was amazing,” said commissioner Michael Grieco. “I’m incredibly proud of the work they’ve done.”

The designs include a park across the street that will feature a black granite memorial to Miami Beach’s military veterans and a small cafe, along with shaded areas and a large lawn. A long, 1.8-acre park along the Collins Canal on the north side of the convention center will have more than 1,000 feet of renovated space.

The curb cutout on Washington Avenue would be removed so buses, taxis and cars would drop people off on Convention Center Drive, which would have a landscaped median.

The design phases of the project are on-track and on-budget, according to Hernandez. She said staff aims to have a recommendation for the design-build for the City Commission by the Nov. 19 meeting. The city’s Design Review Board will consider the schematic design, as well, and any major suggested changes will be brought back to the commission in November.

Looking down the road, the first shovels would hit the ground after Art Basel in December 2015. The convention center would be completed in 2017, and the park would be done in 2018.

The commission also directed Morales to negotiate a deal for New Jersey-based firm Hill International to oversee the day-to-day progress of the upcoming renovation. The construction consulting firm was ranked highest among firms who responded to solicitation.

Four firms have submitted bids for the design-build of the convention center. An evaluation committee made up of city staffers and local business people will review and rank the bids. The proposals themselves are not yet available to the public due to the “cone of silence” law that seals details from solicited proposals until a formal recommendation to the City Commission has been made.

The firms are:

▪ Clark Construciton Group, LLC, based in Bethesda, Md.

▪ Tutor Perini Building Corp., based in Sylmar, Calif.

▪ Hunt Construction Group, Inc., based in Miami.

▪ Hensel Phelps Construction Company, based in Hollywood.

Commissioners also touched on the possible convention center hotel behind the Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackson Gleason Theater. A traffic study is underway to look at the impact a hotel would have, but the commission decided to consider revising existing hotel parking requirements and height restrictions at future committee meetings before the study is completed. That’s expected to be done in December.

“I understand the need to move forward,” said Mayor Philip Levine. “But we’re not saying how many rooms yet. We need to understand the impacts before we make that decision.”

Commissioner Jonah Wolfson said he is open to seeing the results of the study and would support a hotel if it had minimal impact on traffic.

“It’s no secret I’ve been opposed to this,” he said.

For the city to lease the site to a private developer, 60 percent approval would be needed from voters in a referendum. It is likely if the hotel concept moves forward, Beach voters would have their say on the deal in November 2015.

Follow @joeflech on Twitter.

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