News: MBCC Public Amenities Push

A Look at One Companies Attempts to Educate the Public.

A day after opening their model showcase room on Lincoln Lane, the principals of Portman CMC stalked around another model reservoir two floors beneath the commission’s chamber. The first floor conference room took the appearance of a bunker- stockpiled with toy-like renditions of the Miami Beach Convention Center District, and oversized posters depicting the new life both teams hope to bring to the 52 acres. In between monitoring the commission meeting above, the principles were eager to speak about their plan’s public amenities and happy to share a 50-page glossy booklet they produced that listed the top reasons to choose their plan.

While the genesis and ultimate reason for the development project is the MBCC and its’ improved economical bearings, the teams engage in a complicated juggling act where they must please many interests, and ultimately the general public.

“Ours is a better plan, not just in a financial point of view, but it will work better,” said

Jack Portman, the name sake figurehead of Portman CMC. “And more importantly it will create a more dynamic urban experience for the residents of Miami Beach.”

Portman CMC recently spoke with the SunPost about their attempts to “educate” the public on what they offer culturally. South Beach ACE was invited to a similar talk, but scheduling problems have prevented it so far.

The Portman group is banking on a town square and is eager to show off the differences between the two finalist’s master plans.

“The town square becomes the community’s living room,” says Portman.

In early June they rented a store front on Lincoln Lane to house various models, and welcome an interested public. Members of the PR team have boasted to the SunPost over the foot traffic the storefront sometimes get. The opening did attract a capacity crowd.

Simultaneously they also published a chunky glossy booklet entitled “Top reasons to choose Portman CMC.” It features flattering charts and bar graphs that illustrate the differences in both plans, always with the advantage going to the home team. As an example in one bar graph the cost of the public is depicted; the scale starts at $580 million and increases in $20 million increments all the way to $700 million, the cost of South Beach ACE’s MBCC plan to the public. Graphically Portman CMC’s price-tag bar is tiny compared to ACE’s which takes up the entire chart, $624 million has never looked so small.

It should be noted that the figures in the booklet mirror that of the city’s own comparisons, but these charts make a heavy-handed point. Nowhere is it more pronounced that when discussing the cultural side. A massive green bar dwarfs an orange one by two thirds. It represents Portman CMC’s claim of providing 3 times more cultural venue, around 61,000 square feet, than South Beach ACE’s 18,000.

That 61,000 is spread out over different elements. The crown jewel of the plan is a 38,100 sf museum for Latin American Culture. Portman speaks glowingly on the possibilities of this museum, even going on to wonder if it can reach maybe reach the significance of other music institutions like the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in Ohio.

The cultural building that houses the museum would also house retail, city offices, and a broadcast station and recording studio. The last two, although seemingly private endeavors are counted towards the final cultural square footage garnishing 10,000 sf for the recording studio and 1,600sf for the broadcast studio.

The SunPost had asked Portman if it would be reasonable to say that only the museum counted as public space, to which he answered yes. In the most current communication from the company to the paper, both the recording studio and broadcast studio are listed as part of the roughly 61,000sf of cultural space. The company communication describes both studios as a way for the “general public to use in pursuit of their hobbies.” The studios and museums account for about 50,000sf, the rest are attributed to the west end addition to the Jackie Gleason Theater.

Where once the Portman CMC plan called for the demolishing of the theater, it now has additions. The west addition would be a Center for Performing Arts.

“The Center of Performing Arts will include specialized spaces for orchestra, dance, general music rooms, and theatrical performances rooms,” a release says.

The Portman group confirmed to the SunPost that they will no longer create a Miami Beach specific Cirque Du Soleil show. Although Cirque could offer shows Live Nation, the theater’s content manager, to bolster the theater’s lineup.

“We wanted to create a new facility that was state of the art,” said Portman Holdings CEO Ambrish Baiswala, “bring in more content in addition to[Live Nation's].

Baiswala says people only picked up part of their intentions and made it a hostile take over that simply wasn’t so.

Another chart has Portman CMC besting its’ opponent by investing in the arts. The company will pony up $25 million to change the art installation on top of the convention center every two years. Another $18.5 million will go to the Jackie Gleason Theater. In the Letter Of Intent, Portman specified that upgrades would include the facade , and any Cirque related upgrades.

South Beach ACE has told the SunPost’s Michael Sasser that comparisons between each company has been like comparing apples to oranges. ACE on the other hand has been collecting endorsements like if their running for president. They are quick to point out endorsements from experts as well as current and possible MBCC customers. When the SunPost asked Jack Portman what he made of these endorsements and the possible momentum they represent, he was less than threatened.

“That’s pretty much bull,” said Portman. “We know that business. We own trade shows, lease spaces in Vegas, Chicago New York, we know that business.”

“They are talking to experts,” he said. “we are experts.”

The SunPost asked Portman to respond to skeptics that believe with all the established amenities the city already has, no one will show up to the revamped Convention Center District.

“They are speaking in the abstract,” he answered. “They have no idea what we are creating. “

“Everywhere we put something in this magnitude it’s been an absolute success for people,” said Portman.

“This is our day job.”

About Frank Maradiaga

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