The allure of redeveloping 52 acres of prime South Beach real estate, including the Miami Beach Convention Center, City Hall and the Jackie Gleason Theater, is attracting high-profile developers.
Eight companies responded to the city’s request for qualifications, a first step on the path to selecting a developer to partner with the city on the massive project. The development will impact the area north of Lincoln Road between Alton Road and Meridian Avenue that is known as the Miami Beach Convention Center District.
The five well-known local developers are Jeffrey Soffer, a principal with Aventura-based Turnberry Associates; Ugo Colombo, a principal with Miami-based CMC Group Inc.; Russell Galbut, a principal with Miami-based Crescent Heights; Jeff Weinstein, an associate with Miami Beach-based UIA Management, and Mehmet Bayraktar, a principal with Flagstone Property Group.
Monday was the deadline for developers to submit their qualifications and conceptual plans of what they envision for the extensive acreage in the heart of Miami Beach. On Monday afternoon, piles of boxes from the developers filled the office of the city’s procurement department.
Other companies that responded are Houston-based Rida Development Corp., Dallas-based Balfour Beatty Construction, and a partnership among Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle, Canada-based Plenary Group, and New York-based TriStar Capital.
The city and the developers aren’t allowed under the city’s cone-of-silence rule to reveal the proposals for a month.
The next step is for the city administration to make sure each of the request-for-qualifications responses meets their minimum requirements.
Next month, an evaluation committee will meet to review the responses to the RFQ and make recommendations to the city manager. He will present his choices to the Miami Beach City Commission in June.
Following an evaluation, the city will negotiate with the short-listed developers to agree on letters of intent and master plans. Then the city manager will make a final recommendation to the city commission.
The selection process is expected to take months. The winner’s proposed project must be put up for a public referendum, as required by the city’s charter.
The RDQ process looks for master developers with the development and design qualifications to take on the extensive reshaping of the government-and-entertainment district.
As part of the redevelopment, the convention center will be renovated and meeting rooms, ballrooms and multipurpose space will be added. Also, a convention center headquarters hotel, outdoor public spaces, parking, restaurants, entertainment, retail space and residential units will be built and added.
Meet the contenders
Most of the local contenders for the job have already made their marks in South Florida.
Soffer, whose family helped develop Aventura and co-owns the high-performing Aventura Mall, is part owner of the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach.
The Soffer family had a rough patch during the real estate and financial crisis. One of its affiliates lost the partially built Fontainebleau Las Vegas Resort and Casino to bankruptcy and is battling lenders in court over $1.6 million in unpaid construction loans.
Colombo is known mostly for two condominium high-rises on Brickell Avenue, the Bristol Tower and the Santa Maria. He built both projects in the early 1990s, when the country was trying to emerge from a less severe recession. Some of his more recent projects include the EPIC Residences & Hotel, which he co-developed at the mouth of the Miami River and Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami.
Galbut runs Crescent Heights, one of the nation’s largest residential condominium and rental developers. Some of its Miami Beach holdings include rental buildings the Mirador and Ocean Pavilion, and these hotels: the Shelborne, the Alexander, Mondrian South Beach and Decoplage.
Crescent Heights is redeveloping three city blocks at an entrance to South Beach. Galbut plans to build nearly 400,000 square feet of retail outlet space and 200,000 square feet of residential. The project, to be called SoBePark, has yet to be submitted for city approvals.
Weinstein’s UIA Management is best known for the construction of 1111 Lincoln Road. The innovative garage building, with ground-floor retail topped by a restaurant, event space and penthouse, was designed by world-renowned architects Herzog & de Meuron.
Developer Bayraktar has been planning Island Gardens on Watson Island, between Miami Beach and downtown Miami, since before the recession. The proposed project stalled during the economic crisis, and the developer fell behind on rent payments to the City of Miami, which owns the land.
Bayraktar caught up with the rent payments late last year. Plans for Island Gardens include a super-yacht harbor, a luxury hotel, a business hotel, fractional residences and high-end retail shops.
Less widely known are the three other contenders:
??? TriStar Capital, part of the partnership with Jones Lang LaSalle and Plenary Group, is the developer of the W Hotel South Beach.
??? Balfour Beatty is behind the construction of Midtown Miami’s Midtown 2 condo tower, The BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, and the City Place Office Tower in West Palm Beach.
??? Rida Development has made its mark in Orlando, where it built the Sheraton Safari and the Hilton Orlando.