Miami Beach

Miami Beach voters will decide in March on proposed convention center hotel

This rendering shows Portman Holdings’ vision for a proposed 300-foot tall, 800-room headquarter hotel next to the soon-to-be-renovated Miami Beach Convention Center.
This rendering shows Portman Holdings’ vision for a proposed 300-foot tall, 800-room headquarter hotel next to the soon-to-be-renovated Miami Beach Convention Center. Portman Holdings

The fate of a proposed headquarters hotel for the soon-to-be-renovated Miami Beach Convention Center now rests with the city’s voters.

Miami Beach commissioners on Wednesday unanimously voted to hold a public referendum in March whether the city should lease the land behind The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater.

The lease needs 60 percent approval, which proponents felt was too high of a hurdle to clear in September, as the 2015 election season was heating up.

Atlanta-based Portman Holdings would lease land to develop a privately financed $400 million, 800-room hotel rising 30 stories. Vice Chairman Jack Portman is leading the project.

After some initial polling earlier this fall, Portman requested the item skip the November municipal election and instead be placed on the March 2016 ballot during the presidential primary. Some residents have expressed concerns over the 300-foot height of the hotel.

60% of Miami Beach voters would have to approve the public land lease for a convention center hotel

Portman CEO Ambrish Baisiwala thanked the commission and said he wants the public to understand how the hotel will benefit the local economy.

“We look forward to engaging with the community,” Baisiwala said.

If approved, the hotel would open March 2019. The city expects to substantially finish the renovation by Art Basel in December 2017. The whole project, including the park to replace the parking lot across Convention Center Drive, would be done by summer 2018.

Local tourism chiefs have insisted that a hotel is crucial to the success of the renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center, which will begin this month, a couple blocks north of Lincoln Road. Officials from the Greater Miami and The Beaches Hotel Association, the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce support the hotel.

Commissioners have echoed this, saying the renovation of the center and construction of a park across the street, which has a total price tag of $600 million, will only attract lucrative citywide conventions if a headquarter hotel is built next door.

“To have to build a convention center without a convention center hotel would just be foolish,” Commissioner Joy Malakoff said.

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech

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