South Beach redevelopment proposals progressing

Two separate redevelopment projects that would transform the inner core of Miami Beach are progressing toward votes.

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Two pricey South Beach redevelopment projects – one to overhaul the Miami Beach Convention Center and another to build an offshoot of the Lincoln Road Mall – are progressing toward key city votes.

Miami Beach commissioners are expected to vote next month to partner with a developer to turn public parking lots on an alley north of Lincoln Road into shopping and entertainment plazas that complement the historic pedestrian mall.

And while a larger project to redevelop the city’s aging convention center and the surrounding area remains in its infancy, frontrunners emerged this month to make the short list of preferred development teams. Teams that make the cut will compete to redesign, redevelop and lease prime, public South Beach real estate under and around the convention center.

Of the seven groups that submitted qualifications for the massive project, only two were recommended by a city evaluation as viable private partners.

They are:

• Portman-CMC, a collaboration between Atlanta-based Portman Holdings and Miami developer Ugo Colombo. The team includes acrobatic entertainer Cirque du Soleil.

• South Beach ACE, led by Tishman Hotel and Realty and Miami Beach developer Robert Wennett. The team includes the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, headed by Pritzker Prize winner Rem Koolhaas, as its main design firm.

The committee ranked teams by developers Turnberry Associates and Crescent Heights a distant third and fourth.

Whichever teams make the city’s pared down list will be asked to design a master plan to expand and update the 55-year-old Miami Beach Convention Center, build 800 hotel rooms, and turn surrounding parking lots, a garage and municipal buildings into shops, parks, restaurants and condos. The scope of the project has been valued between $500 million and $1 billion.

“The project is the most exciting and ambitious redevelopment in the Southeastern United States of this decade,” Portman-CMC stated in its qualifications submittal to the city.

A vote on which teams should be considered for the convention center project was originally anticipated this month. But delays that include the ouster of the city’s purchasing director and the looming July 8 resignation of City Manager Jorge Gonzalez have pushed that date back until at least September.Miami Beach’s city manager will make the final recommendation on which teams the city should negotiate with, and then city commissioners will decide. They are not bound by the committee’s recommendations or the manager’s.

Colombo, the Miami developer from Portman-CMC, told The Miami Herald that much about the project will remain uncertain until a short list is crafted and negotiations begin.

“Right now it’s difficult to see how it will pan out,” he said.

On the other hand, Miami Beach’s project to build out public parking lots on Lincoln Lane, a thin, dumpster-lined alley directly north of Lincoln Road, is far closer to reality.

Four teams unveiled proposals last month to turn three city parking lots on Lenox and Meridian avenues into different arrangements of apartments, shops, office buildings and public promenades. City commissioners are expected to vote on a preferred developer and design July 18.

A recommendation has not been issued by the city manager to commissioners yet. But the evaluation committee that weighed the four proposals last month recommended that the City Commission approve a design by another group from developer Robert Wennett to build out the city’s two Lenox Avenue parking lots and issue a new request for proposal for a third parking lot on Meridian Avenue.

Wennett’s group, which includes South Beach developers Michael Comras and Jonathan Fryd, owns about a half dozen properties around the city’s Lenox Avenue parking lots. The developers proposed building on their own empty properties and leasing space in their Lincoln Road buildings to tenants who will complement the new Lincoln Lane complex.

“The idea is we need to create a strong node here,” Wennett told the committee. “We need to create a neighborhood.”

The group’s $59 million proposal is designed by Snøhetta, the Norwegian firm selected to design the new National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion at the World Trade Center. The plan includes 36 apartments, 76,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, 360 parking spaces and 42,000 square feet of office space. The two main buildings pull back from the street to allow for walkways, green space and a stand-alone restaurant.

Whatever group wins the City Commission’s approval will try to negotiate a long-term land lease for the city’s parking lots.

Wennett’s team has proposed a 99-year lease for the two lots and estimated that combined lease payments would equal $1.8 million by 2015.

Miami Beach’s city charter requires that voters approve leases of city property for 10 years or longer. Assistant City Manager Jorge Gomez said the city’s July meeting is the last possible date to approve a developer and plan in time to bring a long-term lease referendum to voters on the November presidential ballot.

courtesy: Miami Herald


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