The developer pushing to break ground in downtown Miami this year on a privately financed convention center topped by an 1,800-room hotel could clear a major hurdle Thursday.
MDM Development’s $600 million Marriott Marquis Miami World Center is going before the Miami City Commission, which will weigh crucial zoning exemptions that the developer needs to pursue its plans on the site of the old Miami Arena at 700 N. Miami Ave.
Designed by Nichols Brosch Wurst Wolfe & Associates, the complex includes a curved, three-level convention center with 350,000 square feet of exhibition space, including a ballroom, junior ballroom, and a ground-floor hall the developer says is large and tall enough to fit a Boeing 747 inside.
On top, there’s a pool and event deck. And on the back end, a 1,250-car garage. A hotel built atop the convention hall juts into the sky in four tiered, glass-facade columns like fingers on a hand, the tallest of which stands at 54 stories.
“This is a pretty unique development in and of itself, under any code,” said MDM attorney Tony Recio.
With exhibition space crucial, the project is designed so that the convention center takes up most the 4.7 acres of the parcel, beyond what is allowed by Miami code. And because plans space structural columns out wide to create a large and uninhibited exhibition hall, attorneys representing MDM say the hotel has to be located and massed on a specific portion of the pedestal’s roof in a way that isn’t allowed by code.
Should commissioners approve the exemptions Thursday, MDM can begin seeking building permits for the project, which is in the heart of a Park West neighborhood awaiting an overhaul. To the east, the developers of the Miami Worldcenter, with whom MDM has a contract to purchase the arena site, say they’re progressing toward construction of a massive mixed-use development. To the west, All Aboard Florida is planning the MiamiCentral station along the FEC tracks.
“What we’re talking about is a wholesale redevelopment of that entire 30-acre area,” Miami Planning Director Francisco Garcia said of the Worldcenter and expo projects, which at one point were joined together as one project.
Downtown business boosters say the expo center is crucial to the rapidly expanding downtown area. Years ago, the Downtown Development Authority commissioned a study of the benefits of a convention center, and approved a master plan that included a center.
“This is the right thing to do at the right place and now’s a good time to be doing it,” said DDA vice chairman Neisen Kasdin.
The expo center project is moving forward as Miami Beach continues to push an expansion of its own convention center, which has acted as a regional meeting space for decades.
Years ago, downtown’s plans caused friction with Beach officials, who worried it would eat into their business. But as planned, the downtown expo center’s convention space is smaller than the Beach’s 500,000 square feet. The city’s mayor, Philip Levine, said MDM will only create more options for the greater Miami area.
“This,” he said, “is a fabulous complement to us.”