Miami Beach

Miami Beach to consider final approval for convention center renovation

The southwest corner of the soon-to-be-renovated Miami Beach Convention Center is shown in this artist’s rendering of what the new facade will look like.
The southwest corner of the soon-to-be-renovated Miami Beach Convention Center is shown in this artist’s rendering of what the new facade will look like. FENTRESS ARCHITECTS/ARQUITECTONICA/WEST 8

After a decade of talk, a well-publicized false start and about a year and a half of planning, the renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center is approaching reality as the City Commission considers a final set of approvals Wednesday.

The final price for the makeover of the convention center, construction of a six-acre park across the street and drainage improvements tied to future installation of storm water pumps for the neighborhood: $515 million.

If approved Wednesday, construction for the much-discussed project would begin after Art Basel in December. The renovation of the building is expected to be complete before Art Basel in December 2017. The park across the street is supposed to be done by summer 2018.

Even though the city plans to buy some construction materials directly, which officials say will save the city an estimated $6 million in sales taxes it doesn’t have to pay, the $509 million price is higher than the target budget of $500.3 million.

Using construction documents that were 65 percent complete, contractor Clark Construction bid out subcontracts and used the results in negotiations with the city to arrive at a guaranteed maximum price.

Maria Hernandez, project director of the convention center district, said the market is to blame for the price coming in higher than anticipated.

“The market has been difficult to deal with,” Hernandez said. “We’ve had very competitive bidding. But at the same time, with these large subs, there’s not a lot of them in the market.”

According to a city memo, Clark received 194 bids. Three or more companies bid on 97.8 percent of the work.

The total budget for the massive makeover is about $600 million, which includes contingencies, insurance, the final portion of design work and money for public art installations.

Designs for the renovated facility show a wavy white facade dressing the exterior of the 1.4 million square-foot building. Upgrades include about 5,000 square feet of expanded exhibition space, a grand ballroom, junior ballrooms, 874 on-site parking spaces and improved telecommunications hookups.

“The residents are getting what we have always proposed to get,” Hernandez said. “They’re still getting a quality building.”

Denver-based Fentress Architects, the architect of record, would finish designs and have a representative on-site throughout construction.

At a 5 p.m. meeting at City Hall, 1700 Convention Center Drive, commissioners will weigh the price of the renovation, along with agreements with consultants and a deal with the Greater Miami Convention and Visitor’s Bureau for promoting and marketing the convention center.

A series of government bonds will pay for the convention center upgrades, which proponents say will give the outdated building much-needed improvements to attract lucrative conventions.

Tourism chiefs are also vouching for a headquarter hotel next door.

Elected officials are only considering the renovation of the convention center this week. The question of whether Miami Beach should lease public land for a developer to build a headquarter hotel next door will likely be on the ballot during the March primaries.

The hotel needs 60 percent approval from voters to move forward.

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech