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South Beach ACE Wins Commission Vote For Convention Center Revamp

MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) - Miami Beach City Commissioners selected South Beach ACE as their team of choice to renovate the aging Miami Beach Convention Center at a marathon meeting Wednesday night.

The five to two vote marked a culmination of months of heated competition between the two design teams and set in motion negotiation between the city and South Beach ACE ahead of a public vote on the plan in November.

Commissioners Edward Tobin and Jonah Wolfson voted for the competing team, Portman CMC.

City Manager Jimmy Morales recommended the Portman plan, citing lower costs and a shortened construction timeline.

Commissioner Michael Gongora made the motion in favor of South Beach ACE. Commissioner Jorge Exposito seconded.

Before the commission voted, Tobin delivered a 15-minute presentation on why he preferred Portman for the project to revamp the 56-year-old convention center.

Both plans called for an 800-room hotel, tens of thousands of square feet of retail and restaurant space, public parks and residential units.

The $1 billion plan is expected to cost the public more than $600 million in the form of a special taxing district and an increase to the hotel bed tax.

Representatives for South Beach ACE told CBS 4's Lauren Pastrana they look forward to continuing to work with the city and the community on the plan ahead of the November election.

They said they are excited about the public-private partnership opportunity.

"I'm looking forward to negotiating a deal with them," Commissioner Tobin said just minutes after voting against South Beach ACE. "Hopefully I'll be able to contain costs.  Make sure they come in on time, on budget, and come in with a good product."

The Portman CMC team declined to comment.

If voters approve the plan, the convention center and hotel would open in 2018.

Before a decision was made Wednesday, Commissioner Deede Weithorn asked commissioners to disclose whether any of them had received money from either team.

Everyone denied any such financial dealings had taken place.

Commissioner Wolfson voted for Portman just hours after telling CBS 4 News he wouldn't support either plan.

Wolfson told Pastrana the convention center needed to be remodeled, but insisted it didn't need such a large-scale development to go along with it.

He, along with a group named "Let Miami Beach Decide," has led a petition to change the city's charter to require a 60% super-majority to approve the lease of land within the convention center cite.

Current law requires a simple majority.

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