Right now, it’s the tale of two halves in the $600 million renovation of Miami Beach Convention Center.
The two exhibition halls fronting Washington Avenue are air-conditioned cavernous spaces with fresh new floors four inches higher than they were a year ago, upgraded utility hookups and a revamped outside entrance featuring a wall of glass windows and doors.
The two halls on the west side are skeletal dirt-floor rooms buzzing with construction workers and equipment, hot and humid as crews focus on pouring concrete slabs during the next month.
Miami Beach officials gave a tour of the convention center Tuesday to show reporters progress on the project, which is being funded by a series of city and county bonds backed by property and hotel taxes. Maria Hernandez, project director for the convention center district, said she and contractor Clark Construction expect the project to be substantially complete exactly one year from Tuesday, on Aug. 8, 2018.
In the meantime, the mostly finished east half has already started hosting events. A festival for fans of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game was held in July.
“We are hosting shows, and we are open for business,” Hernandez said.
The work includes a new 60,000-square-foot grand ballroom on the second floor of the north end of the building. Rows of metal beams and other construction material filled the unfinished ballroom Tuesday as the tour wove between workers. In a corridor that will have windows overlooking a new small park space along the Collins Canal, Hernandez pointed to a short, old building with a tiled roof.
The historic 1916 structure known as the Carl Fisher Clubhouse is being restored as part of the convention center makeover. Named after the early 20th century entrepreneur who is widely known as the father of Miami Beach, the clubhouse will be restored so it can be used for special events and receptions.
“We should start construction on that at the end of the year,” Hernandez said.
Officials say all four exhibition halls of the convention center will be available for Art Basel Miami Beach, the annual art fair held each December and known as the premier event for the facility. The city recently signed an agreement with Art Basel to keep the fair in the convention center for up to 10 years, a deal that was offered after the city agreed to add an elevator and escalator connecting ground floor exhibition halls to the second-floor ballroom — worth an additional $2.8 million — to the renovation. Art Basel officials wanted the upgrades.
The convention center hasn’t been updated since the late 1980s. The current renovation includes upgraded meeting rooms with up-to-date technology hookups, new exterior facades and parking on top of the building.
A new 5.8-acre public park will be built across the street from the west entrance, the current site of a parking lot where construction crews park and have office trailers.