Miami Beach

Commission picks lone bidder to manage Convention Center project

This rendering shows Portman Holdings’ vision for a proposed headquarter hotel next to soon-to-be-renovated Miami Beach Convention Center. Beach commissioners voted to allow city staff to negotiate terms for a land lease for the hotel.
This rendering shows Portman Holdings’ vision for a proposed headquarter hotel next to soon-to-be-renovated Miami Beach Convention Center. Beach commissioners voted to allow city staff to negotiate terms for a land lease for the hotel. Courtesy of John Portman and Associates

The Miami Beach City Commission has awarded Clark Construction Group, the sole firm to bid for the $500 million renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center, an $18 million contract to manage the final planning phase for the massive project.

The commission voted to name Clark as the city’s construction manager for the renovation project. That means Clark will get $18 million to work with the city and its architect, Fentress Architects, to create construction documents and price them during the next five months.

The city staff wants a guaranteed maximum price of $500.3 million to build the project.

That $18 million is more than the city had initially budgeted for this phase of the process by about $3.7 million. The difference is coming from the $45 million in contingencies built into the overall project budget.

Maria Hernandez, project director of the convention center district, said Fentress has completed the designs and now the city has to figure out whether it can build that design within its budget. The city staff wants a guaranteed maximum price of $500.3 million to build the project.

“We have to determine once and for all if the design that we have can be built in the $500 million budget we have set,” she said Wednesday. “We have every reason to believe it will be, but we have Clark to confirm that.”

If all goes as planned, Clark would become the city’s contractor in the fall and put subcontracts out to a public bid. The city wants to break ground on the renovation after Art Basel this December.

The commission also voted 6-1, with Jonah Wolfson dissenting, to allow city staff to negotiate terms for a land lease for a proposed headquarter hotel next to the convention center. Wolfson has said in the past that he believes a hotel next to the convention center would worsen an already-bad traffic situation in the heart of Miami Beach.

The city will work on a lease with Atlanta-based Portman Holdings, which presented grand plans to build a 800-room, 300-foot tall hotel in the city-owned parking lot behind the The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater. The firm is proposing to privately finance the $405-million project, with no public subsidy, and lease the land for 99 years.

Such a lease would need final approval from Beach voters. The deal would need 60 percent approval from voters in November.

Jack Portman, vice president of Portman Holdings and John Portman and Associates, said after the vote that the project attracted him because Miami Beach, particularly the city center, is an “exciting place to work.”

“This building screams Miami Beach,” he said.

Portman was the only firm to make it to the end of the bidding process after another firm was disqualified because it proposed using public money. Portman was also involved in a previous round of bidding when city leaders at the time were pursuing a larger, billion-dollar redevelopment of the convention center and its surrounding neighborhood.

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