Miami Beach City Commissioners End Negotiations With South Beach ACE on Convention Center Project

Newly elected Mayor Philip Levine asked commissioners to start from scratch

The $1 billion project to give Miami Beach's convention center a facelift was scrapped in a matter of minutes Wednesday.

City commissioners voted unanimously to kill negotiations with developer South Beach ACE.

"We want to do it ourselves with our own money, we'll get great design, great construction company, we'll bid it out competitively," said newly elected Mayor Philip Levine.

A businessman, Levine ran on a platform to fix the city's finances – promising to re-evaluate the existing convention center plan. He asked commissioners to start from scratch.

"In order for us to move forward very quickly, decoupling it is the fastest way to go," he told commissioners when the item came up on the agenda.

The process has already been in the works for years.

Last July, South Beach ACE won the bid to redevelop the convention center – a plan that would have included a hotel. Ultimately city leaders chose to reopen the bidding process by decoupling the bids, a separate bid for the convention center renovations, and one for a hotel. The previous plan would have required a public referendum, and 60 percent voter approval. The new plan will not.

"The deal as it stood was too complicated. The public wasn't going to get quality time and price. We were going to end up sitting around for a while," said City Commissioner Edward Tobin.

On Tuesday South Beach ACE sent out letters to both constituents and city leaders, saying in part, "South Beach ACE was induced to spend millions of dollars to produce a grand, iconic master plan for the Convention Center site with the expectation that the city would proceed in good faith.”

"I just know that the commission voted unanimously to cancel all bids and that's the voice of the people," the mayor said.

Some applause followed the big decision, and some locals seemed relieved the brakes have been put on the high-dollar development.

"Really the convention center I've been doing business there for 10 years and to me, it serves a purpose all that money should be invested somewhere else," said longtime resident Kariza Fernandez.

Levine emphasized the project will move full speed ahead – with a new plan that he says will fit the needs of the residents.

"We want to do what's right for Miami Beach, Miami Beach is about Art Basel, culture, Miami Beach is not about attracting conventions that don't fit with who we are,” he said.

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