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Miami Beach convention center troubles

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.


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%.

MIAMI — Florida East Coast Railway again is running direct rail service into PortMiami, where containers are loaded directly onto trains. >> City commissioners approved plans for two one-block developments in the city’s Overtown neighborhood, near the Lyric Theater. Developers R. Donahue Peebles and Barron Channer plan a $100-million development called Overtown Gateway, which will include a hotel, retail, parking, affordable housing and other residential components. >> Passenger railway company All Aboard Florida plans to build its headquarters, other office space, retail and parking near the site where it plans its Miami train station. >> Voters approved an $18-million development Plan for the main waterfront parcel in the Coconut Grove neighborhood, which allows Grove Bay Investment Group to begin building restaurant locations, restore a pair of historic Pan Am airlines hangars, build a promenade and a pier and overhaul the Grove Key Marina. >> Melo Group opened 22 Skyview, a 280-unit rental apartment building in Edgewater that is the first market-rate rental completed since the recession. >> Dallasbased Mill Creek Residential plans to develop a 262-unit rental apartment complex connected to a Metrorail stop, on Bird Road close to Coral Gables. >> Swire Properties paid $64 million for property on Brickell Avenue in downtown’s Brickell district. The company plans an 80-story tower with retail, office space, a hotel and condominiums. The property will serve as the entrance to its Brickell CityCentre project. >> Miami World Center Holdings, which plans a 20-acre mixeduse high-rise development just north of downtown, paid $12 million to acquire two properties northwest of the American Airlines Arena. The seller was Miami-based Equipment Leasing of Florida.

MIAMI BEACH — Car Charging Group purchased the Blink Network from ECOtality for $3.35 million. Blink’s more than 12,000 charging stations make Car Charging Group the largest electric vehicle charging company in the world.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY — The county commission moved its urban development boundary westward, which will allow development in previously protected areas. >> Voters approved an $830-million bond to renovate and expand Jackson Health System, the county’s public hospital system. >> Miami International Airport received a $101-million grant from the Transportation Security Administration to fund 90% of a project to double the speed of the airport’s current baggage screening systems and cut down on the number of mishandled bags. >> Tobacco company Liggett Group and its parent company, Vector Group, agreed to settle thousands of class-action smokers’ lawsuits from Florida residents for $110 million. They are the first companies in the state to try to come to an agreement with the plaintiffs, who in 2000 won a $145-billion verdict against several major cigarette makers.

NORTH MIAMI — Aventura-based Advenir paid $44.45 million to buy the 400-unit Berkshires at Walden Lake apartment community from Bostonbased Berkshire Property Advisors. The community, which is required to rent 20% of its units to households with income of at or below 80% of the county’s median income, was 95% occupied at the time of the sale.

Condo Pipeline

Sunny Isles Beach-based Dezer Properties and Miami-based Related Group plan the two-tower Armani Residences by Cesar Pelli on an oceanfront site in Sunny Isles.

Lionheart Capital announced plans for the seven-acre, 126-unit Ritz-Carlton Residences, Miami Beach, which will include an onsite marina, on the current site of the Miami Heart Institute.