Miami Beach

Opponents launch campaign against Miami Beach Convention Center hotel

A rendering of the proposed headquarter hotel for the Miami Beach Convention Center. The hotel has to be approved by 60 percent of Beach voters before moving forward.
A rendering of the proposed headquarter hotel for the Miami Beach Convention Center. The hotel has to be approved by 60 percent of Beach voters before moving forward. Provided to the Miami Herald

Opponents of a plan for an 800-room headquarter hotel to be built next to the Miami Beach Convention Center have begun campaigning against the project.

Beach voters will decide on the proposal to lease the public land behind the The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater to a developer who will build a privately financed 25-story hotel. The proposal requires 60-percent voter approval.

The developer, Portman Holdings, has already teamed with local tourism officials to launch a campaign in support of the plan.

But those opposed to the proposal are speaking up as well.

Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez has said a hotel in that location would worsen an already awful traffic situation and create an eyesore that would dwarf the surrounding area.

“I feel like an 800-room hotel is too big for the location that they’re proposing,” she told the Miami Herald. “It’s like plopping Las Vegas in the center of Miami Beach. We love Art Basel. But I don’t think the residents want Art Basel every week of the year.”

Former City Commissioner Jonah Wolfson, who opposed a previous hotel plan in 2013, thrust himself back into the conversation last week when he paid for a mailed advertisement urging voters to say no.

Wolfson is a big reason why the hotel deal needs to reach the 60-percent threshold. He successfully ran an opposition campaign in 2013 that was partly funded by the Fontainebleau. Wolfson took the city to court that election season to stop the plan and also helped pass a referendum that changed the vote needed to approve the land lease from a simple majority to 60 percent.

“If people can make their way through the traffic to get to the polls, I hope they vote no to this 800-room and 288-foot-high behemoth that will worsen our traffic problem,” Wolfson said Monday.

Back in December 2014, when Wolfson was still on the commission, he disagreed with the findings of a traffic study done by AECOM that said a headquarter hotel would reduce traffic. He felt that the study was done at an inappropriate time, during three weekdays in April 2013.

That report did say that three nearby intersections would probably have more congestion if the hotel were built.

Supporters of the plan maintain that it would alleviate traffic in the area because the hotel, with a renovated convention center, would attract industry meetings where visitors would drive to the hotel, park there, then walk around for the duration of the event.


The goal is to book more of these types of conventions and fewer consumer shows that attract day-trippers commuting to and from the island for events such as the auto show.

“Unlike conventions, which draw interstate and international visitors via airplane, trade shows attract regional day-trippers and their cars,” Commissioner Michael Grieco wrote in his endorsement of the hotel plan. “Unlike conventions, which include travelers who do not rent cars and generally stay off the causeways, trade shows clog the roads and parking spots with hundreds and thousands of cars.”

Voters will decide during the March 15 presidential primary.

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech

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