One of the largest redevelopment projects in the history of Miami Beach is a step closer to becoming reality.
The Miami Beach City Commission on Wednesday approved by a 6-1 vote two teams to come up with competing plans to redevelop the 52-acre Miami Beach Convention Center district.
The rival teams are Portman Holdings, which includes Miami developer Ugo Colombo and Cirque du Soleil, and South Beach ACE, which includes Miami Beach developer Robert Wennett. The city hopes to determine the winner in six months.
The city followed the lead of interim City Manager Kathie Brooks, who submitted her recommendation to the commission last week.
The city wants to create a public-private partnership in which a developer would, among other things, help pay for the expansion of the 53-year-old convention center and construction of a convention hotel.
“This will be [your] legacy, and I hope you will move forward with this because it is very necessary for the community,” Key Biscayne developer Martin Margulies said. He was a member of the city evaluation committee that reviewed and ranked eight development teams interested in the job. The committee gave Portman and South Beach ACE the top ranking.
The Portman CMC development team consists of Miami-based CMC Group, led by Colombo, Atlanta-based Portman Holdings, Bal Harbour-based Whitman Lanzenby Properties and Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil.
South ACE includes New York-based Tishman Hotel & Realty LP and Miami Beach-based UIA Management, led by Wennett.
At the City Commission meeting, both teams received backing from a variety of groups, including the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Plans to expand and modernize the convention center have been in the works for more than a decade. Its size and dated technology have kept large conventions away, tourism advocates say.
Stu Blumberg, the former president of the Greater Miami & The Beaches Hotel Association, applauded the decision.
“This is a defining date,” he told the commission. “Let’s get started.”
The next step is for the city to sign a letter of intent with each team and for the developers to come up with detailed plans to transform the district north of Lincoln Road.
Developer David Edelstein asked commissioners to include his third-ranked group in the next step. He said the group was the only one with experience in developing a convention center. The commission did not act on his request.
Edelstein is president of TriStar Capital, a New York-based real estate investment firm. TriStar owns the 475,000-square-foot Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas and the W South Beach hotel in Miami Beach. He is to close on the purchase of the Raleigh Hotel on Collins Avenue on Monday.
As part of the process, the two development teams will have to conduct community meetings next month to obtain public input.
The winning proposal may ultimately be approved through a citywide referendum.
Miami Beach voters on Nov. 6 approved an increase in the resort tax of up to 1 percent to help pay for the convention expansion. The increased resort tax, also known as a bed tax, could generate about $8.5 million to $9 million in additional revenue a year.