Voters fail to approve land lease for $405 million Miami Beach Convention Center hotel project

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A proposed privately-funded $405 million hotel for the Miami Beach Convention Center has failed, following the defeat of a vote to approve the land lease required for the 800-room structure.

The majority of voters supported the project but it didn’t reach the 60 percent needed to move forward, coming up six points short at 54 percent. Among them was former City Commissioner Jonah Wolfson, who paid for a mailed advertisement urging voters to reject the plan, according to the Miami Herald.

Wolfson had opposed an earlier 2013 convention center expansion opposition campaign partly funded by the Fountainebleau. The Herald reported he took the city to court that election season to stop the plan and also helped pass a referendum that changed the vote needed to approve the land lease from a simple majority to 60 percent.

“If people can make their way through the traffic to get to the polls, I hope they vote no to this 800-room and 288-foot-high behemoth that will worsen our traffic problem,” Wolfson said more recently.

“Today, a solid majority of Miami Beach residents cast their votes in favor of the Miami Beach Convention Center Hotel, but we unfortunately came up short of the very high 60 percent threshold required for the project to move forward,” Portman Holdings vice-chairman Jack Portman said in a statement through the South Florida Business Journal.

“From the outset Portman crafted a proposal designed to benefit the people who live here, in addition to those who visit,” he continued. “Our proposal would have been 100 percent privately funded and provided for specific public benefits. While we are disappointed in this outcome, we wish the city and its residents only the best going forward, and we thank them for their consideration.”

The 800-room project was expected to make Miami Beach more attractive to company conventions that require the accommodations of a headquarter hotel.

“Miami Beach is a very sought-after destination, and the improvements will bring significant benefits. It will no longer be halfway there, in terms of attracting high-end conventions, like those in the medical technology and sciences sectors,” said Ambrish Baisiwala, CEO of Portman Holdings in an interview about the hotel last year. “Those conventions are looking for high-end centers that are a certain size with the right amenities. There are meeting planners around the country who will not even consider a center without at least an 800-key hotel.”

The convention center is currently undergoing a $600 million renovation.

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