July 29, 2015

Miami-Dade

Miami Beach convention center troubles

| 1/2/2014

What was supposed to be a simple majority yes or no vote in November for expanding the Miami Beach Convention Center has turned into a headache for tourism leaders.

In June, after months of work by two major competing bidders, the Miami Beach City Commission selected the consortium South Beach ACE to undertake a $1-billion redevelopment of the city-owned convention center, plus the land around it — a total of 52 acres. The plan included upgrading and expanding the convention center, building an 800-room hotel on site, developing some commercial space and building a park.

The center was last renovated almost 25 years ago, and it has needed an expansion and modernization, as well as an onsite hotel, for more than a decade.

But a citizens group successfully sued to postpone that vote, saying that the city did not adequately communicate the agreement’s details to voters. And in that same election, voters enacted a change in the city’s charter, instituting a requirement that two-thirds of voters approve any agreements tied to the convention center. Adding to the uncertainty, voters also elected a mayor — businessman Philip Levine — who favors a much smaller renovation of the convention center.

It’s not clear what the ultimate fate of the South Beach ACE plan will be. The commission, which will convene this year with several new members in addition to the mayor, could still hold a voter referendum on the original plan. Or it could negotiate a smaller project.

In the wake of all this, the 33,000-member International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans canceled its planned 2016 conference in Miami Beach, and several other major conventions have said they are also considering changing their plans. Trade publication International Meetings Review reported “the future of the city’s events scene clearly remains in doubt.”

Support for a larger convention center is nearly universal among tourism leaders in the area.

Players

Wells Fargo named Scott Coble region president for Florida. Coble, who had been the bank’s north Florida regional president, Coble replaces Shelley Freeman, who is now head of customer experience and the affluent segment for the company. Alan Buckelew Became chief operations officer of Carnival. Howard Frank, who had been vice chairman and COO, will be special adviser to Carnival’s CEO and chairman. Stein Kruse, who had been CEO of Holland America Line, was promoted to CEO of Holland America Group.

Business Briefs

CORAL GABLES — Baptist Health South Florida paid $43.75 million to buy a 276,274-sq.-ft. office building in Coral Gables next door to its headquarters. The non-profit also paid $7.36 million to buy another commercial property in the city. CGI Merchant Group paid $26.75 million to purchase 55 Miracle Mile from CF Miracle Mile. The property includes retail and office space.

MEDLEY — Japanese telecommunications behemoth SoftBank paid $1.26 billion to purchase a 57% stake in mobile phone and equipment distributor Brightstar. Brightstar founder and CEO Marcelo Claure retains the other 43%.

Tags: Miami-Dade

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