Miami Beach Convention Center proposal from developer South Beach ACE (OMA with UIA, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Raymond Jungles, and Tvsdesign).

Miami Beach Convention Center proposal from developer South Beach ACE (OMA with UIA, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Raymond Jungles, and Tvsdesign).

Credit: ©


On Wednesday, Miami city commissioners voted on two proposals for the Miami Beach Convention Center District. Both proposals promised a dramatic new convention center for the city, complete with new cultural space, public space, retail, and residential units, plus improved circulation. With one proposal led by developer Portman-CMC and firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and the other proposal led by developer South Beach ACE and firm OMA, Miami Beach is bound to add to its architectural clout.

The City Commission went with OMA. And before they brought the issue up before a vote, they made a number of changes to the commission. On Friday, July 12, after developers South Beach ACE and Portman-CMC presented their respective final proposals to the city, Miami City Manager Jimmy Morales and the City Commission asked for a number of changes to the master plan. Now, for instance, the restoration of the Jackie Gleason Theatre will be delayed. Despite the late changes, the City Commission went through with the vote, even after representatives from one of the teams asked for more time to tweak their proposals, according to a source familiar with the deliberations. Some details of the master plan have yet to be determined—for example, the precise number of residential units to be added.

One thing is clear: The Miami City Commission chose the more expensive option of the two. Although the eleventh-hour instructions in the July 12 memo complicate some of the findings from the final May 15 letters of intent (LOIs) from both development teams, the numbers nevertheless show that the ACE proposal, featuring a Miami Beach Convention Center designed by OMA, is the more expensive proposition.  

The final LOIs from both development teams outlining various features and costs for their respective proposals are available on the City of Miami Beach government website. A comparison of the two proposals follows, with updated figures based on the July 12 memo received by ARCHITECT. 

  • Credit: Jessica Rubenstein

  • Credit: Jessica Rubenstein

The convention center designs differ greatly from one another in the renderings. But by the books, their program space is similar. Both proposals would create 502,000 square feet of exhibition space, 150,000 square feet of meeting space, and a 100,000-square-foot ballroom. Both proposals initially included 2,700 theater seats, too, but that aspect of the master plan has been scrapped.

From there, the differences are more apparent. As the LOIs show, the Portman-CMC plan requires a shorter runway (30 months to develop versus ACE's 36 months). In the original plans, the Portman-CMC proposal yielded more cultural space for the Convention Center District (61,000 square feet versus 18,000 square feet).

The July 12 memo did not include updated construction costs for the proposals. In the original LOIs, total construction costs for the Portman-CMC plan were higher: $1.475 billion versus $1.363 billion for ACE.

Credit: Jessica Rubenstein

However, the LOIs showed that the Miami public will pay a larger share of the costs for the convention center, public amenities, and increased parking. As of the May proposals, all of the public costs were higher in the ACE plan.

Credit: Jessica Rubenstein

The final decision does not belong to Miami's City Commission, but rather with Miami voters. The OMA-led proposal approved by commissioners this week will be put up for an up-or-down vote on Nov. 5. It will ultimately be Miami that decides how Miami plans to move forward.

Miami Beach Square proposal from developer Portman-CMC (BIG with West 8, Fentress Architects, and JPA).

Miami Beach Square proposal from developer Portman-CMC (BIG with West 8, Fentress Architects, and JPA).

Credit: Courtesy BIG