The redevelopment of the 52-acre Miami Beach Convention district could be shaped by a team that includes Cirque du Soleil or by the group that helped revive New York’s Times Square area.
Kathie Brooks, Miami Beach’s city manager, Wednesday sent a report to the City Commission ranking the two groups vying for the ambitious project. The commissioners will weigh her findings at a Dec. 12 meeting.
The city wants to create a public-private partnership in which a developer would help pay for upgrades to the public facility.
The top-ranked team is Portman Holdings, which includes Miami developer Ugo Colombo and Cirque du Soleil, edging out South Beach ACE, which includes Miami Beach developer Robert Wennett.
As part of the redevelopment, the 53-year-old convention center would be renovated and meeting rooms, ballrooms and multipurpose space would be added.
The city wants to add 213,000 square feet of exhibition space to the 898,390-square-foot center.
Miami Beach officials also want a convention headquarters hotel with up to 1,200 rooms, outdoor public spaces, parking, restaurants, entertainment and retail space, and residential units to be included in the plan.
The area to be redeveloped includes the convention center, City Hall, the Jackie Gleason Theater, a municipal parking garage and a parking lot north of Lincoln Road and west of Washington Avenue.
Brooks’ rankings were based on ratings of five development teams in June by an evaluation committee, which included Key Biscayne developer Martin Margulies and former Miami Beach City Commissioner Saul Gross.
If the commission accepts her recommendation, the city will next sign a letter of intent with both groups to come up with a detailed proposal. That would include a master plan for the site, an expansion plan for the convention center and a convention hotel, a plan to enhance public open spaces, a proposed 30-year plan to fund the project and a traffic impact analysis.
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.
Portman would be the master developer. Colombo would develop the residential component and Whitman Lanzenby, a subsidiary of the company that owns Bal Harbour Shops, would do the retail element. Cirque du Soleil would create a permanent facility in the district for shows and performances, according to a city report.
Portman and CMC would be the primary investors while all the team members would provide a “significant and meaningful proprietary equity capital,” according to the report.
Portman CMC is considering different financing options. One calls for the development group to own and finance the hotel, retail, residential, entertainment and parking components; the city would own and finance the convention center expansion and the civic facilities. Part of the financing would come from bonds backed by the Miami Beach Resort Tax, tax increment funding and $55 million to be provided by Miami-Dade County.
Miami Beach voters on Nov. 6 approved an increase in the resort tax by up to 1 percent. The increased resort tax, also known as a bed tax, could bring the city about $8.5 million to $9 million in additional revenue a year.
Times Square Ties
South ACE includes New York-based Tishman Hotel & Realty LP and Miami Beach-based UIA Management, led by Wennett.
Tishman was active in the revitalization of Times Square. It brought the Westin New York hotel, the E Walk retail complex and the InterContinental New York Times Square hotel to the once hard-scrabble crossroads of Midtown Manhattan.
UIA’s portfolio includes the acclaimed 11 11 Lincoln Road project.
Tishman and UIA would be the primary equity investors in the project. Additional equity would come from institutional investors like MetLife, Prudential, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs.
They would seek to finance each project independently “to maximize ground rent to the city,” according to the city report.
Tishman has institutional partners in its hotel developments that hold on to their properties for a long term rather than build and sell.
Goldman Sachs would provide advice on public financing.
Portman CMC’s Roger Zampell and South Beach ACE’s Paul Diamond could not immediately be reached for comment..
Initially, eight companies responded to the city’s request for qualifications in April. Two later dropped out of the race. The three other companies were CConnectMB, comprised of the Plenary Group, Tristar and Jones Lang LaSalle; Turnberry Village, including Aventura-based Turnberry Associates, Los Angeles-based Canyon Capital and Simon Property Group, and Houston-based RIDA Development Corp.
Shortly after the committee ranked the companies in June, the selection process was put on hold over a potential Sunshine Law violation. With that issue resolved, the process is moving forward.