What to do with Miami Beach's aging economic engine? That's the question facing the city’s residents.
The Miami Beach Convention Center and the land around it need a facelift.
Dozens of residents packed a meeting room inside the iconic building and offered their suggestions Tuesday evening.
"52 acres can't just be a whole pile of concrete," said one neighbor.
Another suggested including a hurricane shelter in the project.
Ice cream store owner Robert Warren likes the idea of lots of green space, but he's also in touch with reality.
"Somebody said let's just turn all 52 acres into a park, it would be nice and peaceful and as a resident that would be nice. But that's not why we live in Miami Beach,” Warren said.
The convention center district is 52 acres located in the heart of South Beach. It includes a giant surface parking lot, The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater, the million-square-foot convention center building and a lot of property around it.
Members of two development teams heard dozens of residents offer their vision for the property.
"We are building it for people," developer John Portman said. "If it does not work for the people, then it is not successful, so how we respond to their concerns helps us be successful.”
Developer Dan Tishman is also interested in the project.
"We can't make the great disappearing convention center happen, but we are going to make it fit into the fabric of the community in some way,” he said.
Famous South Beach attractions, like Ocean Drive, look to the convention center to bring events and drum up business.
Beach resident Jane Losson is hoping whatever comes of the project is a good fit.
"So whatever comes here has to serve more than just the tourists, it has to serve more than just convention center visitors, it has to serve the needs of the residents of Miami Beach," she said.
Developers Portman and Tishman are vying for the multi-million dollar project.
City commissioners are expected to select one developer sometime this summer.
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