Letters to the Editor

Mayor: Miami Beach Convention Center project transparent

A recent Other Views article by Stuart Blumberg about our convention center modernization project included a number of inaccuracies that I want to clarify.

The first deals with the transparency of our Convention Center project. Since I became Miami Beach mayor, the city has been transparent with all its deliberations. Each and every item outlined by Blumberg was presented, discussed and debated in open public meetings, none of which Blumberg attended.

We, too, are disappointed that we did not receive more construction-manager proposals. However, industry feedback indicated that the city is simply a victim of a robust construction economy. Others did not have the right team to deliver such a complex and time-sensitive project so important to the city.

In spite of that, the selected construction manager must publicly bid all trade contracts under an “open book” fully transparent process.

Regarding the two hotel proposals we received, to protect residents the city required there be no public subsidy, no gambling and payment of a market land lease. This is unprecedented in other markets, where cities typically give away tens of millions of dollars in incentive packages and free land to entice hotel developers.

On the issue of construction phasing, there were a number of factors considered that balanced construction and operational needs with risk management.

We determined it was best to close the facility for a short period, between mid-December 2016 and April 2017.

During this period, only 39 show days out of 140 are affected, and hotels are already booked as they have limited reliance on these events.

On the issue of room-block agreements, we are not aware of any other city in the country having generic room-block agreements with area hotels.

Room-block agreements typically are executed on a special event by event basis, such as the Super Bowl.

Regarding the new 1-percent resort tax, we must protect the city and its residents and ensure that this new tax is implemented consistent with the adopted voter referendum.

This requires beginning the tax following the contractual obligation to construct the new center, scheduled for this October.

The Convention Center expansion and renovation, coupled with the development of a new headquarter hotel, is important to the city.

The Miami Beach Commission and staff are modernizing the Convention Center in a transparent and fiscally responsible manner toward success.

Philip Levine, mayor

Miami Beach