Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 13: Get City Residents Involved in MB Convention Center Re-Do

By Sylvia Gurinsky

In 1983, the city of Miami built the James L. Knight Center and the Hyatt Regency in downtown in order to lure top conventions and speakers - even from across the bay, in Miami Beach.

That decision paid off big time last April, when President Barack Obama delivered a commencement address for Miami-Dade College graduates at the Knight Center.

In different circumstances, Obama might have delivered that speech at the Miami Beach Convention Center, which hosted three presidential nominating conventions from 1968-72. The facility originally designed by Morris Lapidus was once the gold standard. But even after a major 1980s expansion, it stopped attracting many top-drawer events.

That's why the city of Miami Beach is interested in another renovation of the convention center - with this one including a luxury hotel. The initial idea would have a new complex built on the land that currently includes the convention center, the Jackie Gleason Theater and Miami Beach City Hall.

Already, there are stirrings of concern from across a city where voters are often wary of major developments. Anything that is proposed will have to be put on the ballot.

At the very least, a new convention center/hotel complex should be of a design that complements the New World Symphony's facility across the street. Care should also be taken to pay tribute to the past of both the Convention Center and the Gleason Theater.

The best way that can be done: Make sure Beach residents are fully engaged in the process, from design to funding to voting.

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