Miami Should Build Downtown Convention Center, Panel Says

Despite the economy, as well as protests from Miami Beach, the Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA) should continue with plans to build a new convention center in downtown Miami, according to a panel of experts from the Urban Land Institute.

When DDA released its downtown Miami master plan last fall, it invited the panel to study whether or not Miami could support a second convention center. Although officials in Miami Beach insist that it can't — the Miami Beach Convention Center is the "regional convention center," Miami Beach City Manager Jorge Gonzalez told The Miami Herald — the panel concluded that it can, stating that a downtown convention center would be meeting-focused, with an emphasis on classroom space, while the Miami Beach Convention Center is more appropriate for exhibitions and trade shows.

"There's no reason to expect that what you would do in Miami would have a significant impact on Miami Beach," attorney Andrew S. Robins, chair of the Urban Land Institute panel, told the Herald. "There's a whole host of reasons why this is good for Miami and not bad for the city of Miami Beach, in our opinion."

Gonzalez disagrees. "It really gives us some reason for concern," he said. "There's not enough business to go around."

Encouraged by the Urban Land Institute's conclusions, DDA now plans to do a market analysis in order to determine specific attributes of the planned facility, including its potential size, location and cost. According to the panel, any facility should be between 100,000 and 200,000 square feet and should be adjacent to a 500- to 800-room convention hotel.