In his first public commentary on the future of the Miami Beach Convention Center, State Representative David Richardson made it clear to the new City Commission that he was “very very supportive” of a “world class” facility in the city.
The legislator broke his silence at the first real meeting presided by the vastly different dais, who rode into power by promising the opposite of their predecessors but have yet to address what they will do with the ancient center.
“I want to say publicly that I am very very supportive of Miami Beach having a convention center that is world class, and that will be state of the art,” Richardson said.
He says he has kept quiet and resisted endorsing or supporting any project out of respect to the city’s officials, and the work they were elected to do. Additionally he is not “wedded” to any contractor or contract and has faith in the city’s leadership to hammer that out.
However, there was a sense of urgency in his statement, a warning against stalling in a project famous for false starts and no gos.
“I do think that , we have been for 11 years in this community talking about getting it done, and 11 years is too long,” said Richardson. “And I think if we are not able to get something done, the conversation is going to shift to Downtown Miami.”
“Now I think they’ll do something anyway, but the scale and scope maybe different,” he said.
No outside project has yet seriously challenged the MBCC’s scale, but that could change if city leaders leave an obvious vacuum in the market.
“I’m sure the City of Miami is going to do whatever they want to do,” said Mayor Philip Levine in response to Richardson’s statements. “They’ll do what they need to do.”
Levine has called for the convention center to be on the January commission agenda.
The mayor has literally said the convention center must be “renovated,” and be “state of the art.” Yet he also publicly questioned whether the city needs “something so mass, something so large.”
Last month he told the business weekly Miami Today that the MBCC could be renovated without a hotel.
That goes against the city’s own commissioned studies, and convention center advisory board. Both of which say a headquarter hotel is necessary for convention business, as area hotels are unwilling to block off the number of rooms organizers look for when inking deals with facilities.
Chairman of the Advisor Board Stu Blumberg says officials have still not answered his question whether the city wants to be in the business of conventions. A question he posed right before the elections when his advisory board warned the city of the millions they would lose if the project stalled.
Simply put: does the city want to be in the business of conventions or that of trade shows. If conventions is the answer, then a hotel is necessary to attract high end conventions.
The board he chairs have been very vocal supporters of the needed renovations. They sparked the 1 cent bed tax initiative.
They are also out of time. Four members have reached the end of their terms. Including Chair Blumberg who has been affiliated with the MBCC for about 50 years.
Appointments to the advisory board are made by the commission. And nothing stops them from appointing members with a sympathetic view towards the 52-acre project.
Those with board nominations this year are Mayor Levine, and Commissioners Jonah Wolfson, Mickey Steinberg, and Deede Weithorn.
Although the advisory board’s recommendations are non-binding, stacking the board with a compatible philosophy would equal one less dissenting voice.
Blumberg said he would like the current board to continue for the sake of continuity and because they were a “good board” with a “good process.”
Levine promises discussion on the convention center will come quickly.
“The one thing that I think that you know about me,” the mayor told Richardson, “speed is probably one of my better qualities.”
Perhaps early next year, the city will know if MB plans on keeping it’s grip on the convention business.
“I would really like to see it here,” said Richardson of the convention business. “I think it’s important for the state, I think it’s important for the county , and city.”