“If you make a place the residents like, the tourist will love it,” said Jeffrey Sachs as he kicked off the first of several public meetings in which the top two ranking developers for the redevelopment of the Miami Beach Convention Center and City officials were listening and taking notes from the input of the community.
Over 200 residents, community leaders, designers, and public officials packed the two meeting rooms in the Miami Beach Convention Center where it’s very own future was being discussed. Those in attendance shared a common goal to turn our class C convention center into a competing class A venue. To achieve this goal Sachs presented a short list of amenities that may be incorporated as part of the facility which was last renovated in 1989.
• 60,000 square feet ballroom
• 100,000 sq. ft. breakout meeting space
• 800+ room hotel
• Replace parking
• Include outdoor parking
• Compatible public amenities
Clearly residents, who became the protagonists of the meeting, favored the redevelopment of the Convention Center only if it comes without sacrifices or concessions from the public’s quality of life. Many reiterated the idea that a redeveloped Convention Center should offer public benefits to the community making it a facility for both visitors and residents to enjoy.
Among the issues taking center stage at the meeting were concerns over traffic and green space. Residents of the neighboring Collins Park, Palm View, Bayshore, and Flamingo Park neighborhoods expressed valid concerns pertaining to traffic congestion. Others used the opportunity to stress the importance of connectivity to other modes of transportation at the redeveloped Convention Center to include bicycle, parking, car sharing, and public transportation facilities.
Among the discussions pertaining to traffic flow, many residents pleaded with the development teams to pursue designs which provide self-contained loading docks and parking infrastructure minimizing its impacts to neighboring public venues including the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, the Holocaust Memorial, and SoundScape Park.
Environmental sensitivity was among the concerns raised by residents who wish for the Convention Center building to be LEED certified. Equally important, residents stressed the need for green open spaces and their reluctance to the full development of the 52 acre site.
Residents made their voices heard loud and clear: quality over quantity; this was especially important for the areas in closer proximity to the perimeter of the residential neighborhoods. Residents deliberated their thoughts on the potential development of the 17th Street Garage, City Hall, and the neighboring Parking Lot. However, no consensus was achieved regarding the Fillmore at Jackie Gleason Theater. While some believe that the site should be incorporated as part of a new 800 room hotel others believe that the building is an iconic part of Miami Beach history. Certainly, this will be an issue for debate and one in which the community’s continued input will be much needed.
Perhaps the most acclaimed comment of the evening came from Collins Park Neighborhood Association President Ray Breslin who urged the City government to hold itself to the same level of commitment and compliance that is expected from its private development partners. I personally could not agree more and will do my part to ensure that the City is realistic in its goals and fulfills every promise made to the public as part of this project.
If you missed the meeting it’s not too late to weigh in. You can follow the development process online at www.miamibeachfl. gov or can email your input to MBconventioncenter@miamibeachfl.gov.
The next public community meeting is scheduled for February 27th at 6:00 pm in the Convention Center, meeting rooms D235/236. During this meeting, the proposers will present bubble diagrams and rough sketches for the development site plan. The following day, February 28th, the City Commission will give their input on the proposed site plan during a Commission Workshop scheduled for 3:00 pm in the City Commission Chambers at City Hall. As we move forward I hope that you may continue to join us at these meetings where everyone is welcome to join the conversation.
Lastly, among those attending the kickoff meeting for the Convention Center development were the applicants for the position of City Manager for the City of Miami Beach. Surely, this will likely be the most important project that the new City Manager will be tasked to oversee and the early observation of the process will prove to be invaluable.
Last Thursday, the City Commission narrowed the list of applicants down to three finalists which include: former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jimmy Morales; Miami’s former Interim &Assistant City Manager Frank Rollason; and, Broward County’s Monica Cepero, an Assistant to the County Administrator. All three finalists bring to the table unique talents and perspectives. I look forward to making a final decision soon so that this community may benefit from the new City Manager’s professional experiences and talents in steering the Convention Center development forward.
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