Miami Beach

Miami Beach Convention Center redo set to start in December

An artist’s rendering of the renovated Miami Beach Convention Center as seen from Washington Avenue.
An artist’s rendering of the renovated Miami Beach Convention Center as seen from Washington Avenue. FENTRESS ARCHITECTS/ARQUITECTONICA/WEST 8

With a contractor and price in place, Miami Beach is set to break ground in December on the long-delayed renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center.

On Wednesday, commissioners unanimously approved the $515.4 million price tag for renovating the 58-year-old building. Local tourism officials have long called for the facility’s makeover to attract more lucrative conventions, and even though the price came in about $15 million higher than anticipated, the stage is set for construction to begin after this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach in December.

Although this is as far as the city has gone in getting the project started, convention center district project director Maria Hernandez said the real work begins now.

“Although this feels like the end of the two-year legacy together, it’s really only the beginning,” she said.

After negotiations with the contractor, Clark Construction, the city agreed to purchase some construction materials directly to save an estimated $6 million on sales tax. This means that $509 million is the net maximum price for the revamp of the convention center, construction of a six-acre park across the street and drainage improvement related to future installation of storm water pumps that will drain the neighborhood.

Commissioners also approved a 1 percent increase to the city’s hotel tax to secure bonds to fund the expansion. Voters approved the increase in 2012.

Once work begins, the city expects the renovation to be substantially done by Art Basel, 2017. The entire project should be completed by summer 2018. Denver-based Fentress Architects is designing the project, collaborating with Arquitectonica.

During construction, Art Basel will continue to be staged in the convention center every December.

The convention center project has seen its twists and turns over the years, including a controversial public showdown between two teams with world-renowned architects vying to redevelop 52 acres that included the convention center and its surrounding neighborhood.

In early 2014, a new mayor and commission scrapped those plans and started over. They decided to scale back the area being redeveloped and split up the renovation of the facility from developing a new headquarters hotel.

The proposal for an 800-room, 30-story headquarters hotel — which tourism officials insist is necessary to attract big conventions to Miami Beach — calls for a lease of public land next to the center, at 17th Street and Convention Center Drive. That lease requires 60 percent voter approval.

The hotel question is expected to be on the ballot during the March presidential primary.

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech