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Developers Pitch Plans For Miami Beach Convention Center Overhaul

MIAMI BEACH (CBS4) - With a touch of special effects, even a Congressman pitching one plan, two competing companies revealed their visions for the tired Miami Beach Convention Center Tuesday.

In packed rooms inside the convention center the South Beach ACE/Tishman Group and the Portman Group laid out renderings and models for all to review.

"Our mission here very simply is to bring Miami Beach back to the convention center," Architect Bjarke Ingel with the Portman Group told the audience

In the other room, Developer Dan Tishman told the commission;  "Miami Beach must get this right."

The public displays were the public's final opportunity to ask questions of both firms that are competing for a billion dollar convention center makeover.  The money would be split between a public funding and private investment.  The private investment would have to pass a public vote in November though to go through.

The Portman group is proposing something called Miami Beach Square.

The massive green space would connect a stand-alone ballroom, museum, convention center, and shops all together.

"The whole concept is based on a community space.  A community space that can be used by the convention goers but really can be used all the time by the residents," Developer John Portman explained.

The competition, South Beach ACE, started their presentation calling Portman's group copycats.

"Imitation is the finest form of flattery." Tishman told the audience.

He quickly moved on with a slick plan that includes a lot of underground parking.  One portion of the plan calls for a lot that will bury 44 semis and a 1000 car spaces under a park.

Just like Portman they proposed an 800 room hotel.  But instead of next to the convention center, it would sit on top.  The South Beach ACE plan also contained an element that opened the convention center walls out to the outside.

"Our mission is to continue, as you have for so many years, to elevate the brand of Miami Beach,"  Tishman said.

Some residents enjoyed the presentations and welcome the change.

Ray Breslin is one of 14 neighboring associations that met with the developers.

"I think it's a fabulous plan.  You have to have the residential and additional retail component otherwise it's dead at night," said Breslin. "It's dead at night now.  If I walk down the walkway on the Collins canal I will be only one there."

Some residents though were put off.

"Why should we be spending $135 million dollars when we have people sleeping on Miami Beach that have no place to live.  They have no food," resident Edward Oberly said.

The price is actually quite steeper.  If the plan were to go forward as proposed the Beach would have to come up with some $500 million dollars.  Where that would come from has yet to be revealed.

The decision on which proposal the city goes with ultimately lies with the city commissioners.

"No matter what we pick it's going to be a good thing." Mayor Mattie Bower said.

The commission will vote to pick a plan in June.  Then it's on to the voters to decide whether it's ok to use the public land for something private, like a hotel.

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