Miami Votes Down Convention Center Hotel

Rendering of Miami Beach Convention Center

On Tuesday, Miami voters narrowly rejected a proposal that would have brought an 800-room headquarter hotel  to Miami Beach Convention Center, which is in the midst of a more than $600 million expansion and renovation. Although 54 percent of voters voted in favor of leasing public land in the convention center district in order to construct the hotel, a 60 percent majority was required for approval. The proposal fell 989 votes short of approval.

Mayor Philip Levine, a proponent of the plan, joined tourism officials in campaigning for it. However, residents and activists who are concerned about the size of the proposed hotel and its impact on the surrounding neighborhood, defeated it.

“Over the coming weeks, I will work with my colleagues to ensure that the will of the majority of Miami Beach voters is not silenced and that the progress we’ve made with our convention center corridor continues,” Mayor Philip Levine said in a statement after the votes were tallied.

Rolando Aedo, executive vice president of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, said that there was a meeting of the Miami Beach government immediately after the defeat of the proposal. He said that the majority of the city’s governing commission is optimistic it can come up with an alternative proposal in time for a vote this November. He said  the hope is still to complete the convention center renovation in 2018, with a new hotel to open the following year. A redesigned hotel might be lower in height, but would still have the originally-planned 800 rooms.

Is a Miami Convention Center Hotel Needed?

According to the Miami Herald, the mayor, Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce and several local hotels believe a headquarter hotel  that can attract citywide conventions is the linchpin to making the convention center renovation a success.  They point out that the city’s economy would benefit from attracting large-scale conventions.

The proposed site of the 25-story hotel was the corner of 17th Street and Convention Center Drive, across from Lincoln Road Mall. The space currently houses a parking lot and city office building.

Atlanta-based developer Portman Holdings intended to finance the $400 million hotel privately. Developer Jack Portman expressed disappointment with the March 15 vote.  The “yes” campaign went down to defeat, despite $1 million spent in advertisements supporting it.

Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, who was against the plan, is optimistic that a deal can be brokered that will entice another developer to propose a more acceptable design. “This is Miami Beach. This is one of the sexiest places to be in the U.S.” she told the Herald. “There will always be people bidding to build a hotel.”

Opponents suggest that a hotel with a smaller footprint that does not block Miami’s famed beach and create potential traffic jams would have a better chance passing muster with voters.

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