After months of heated arguing, slick production pitches and a last minute curveball from the city manager, Miami Beach has finally chosen a team to redevelop its convention center and spearhead SoBe's biggest project in decades. The winner is ACE, the team fronted by Prinzker Prize-winner Rem Koolhaas.
The ACE team will start hammering out details with the city on the $600 million, 52-acre behemoth of a plan to add retail, a hotel and green space while also overhauling the convention center itself.
ACE was chosen despite a lengthy pitch at last night's meeting by Commissioner Ed Tobin for its competition, Portman CMC, fronted by Danish architect Bjarke Ingals. Tobin got City Manager Jimmy Morales to agree that he felt Portman's plan would be cheaper for taxpayers and easier to pull off.
But in the end, only Tobin and Commissioner Jonah Wolfson voted for Portman with the rest of the commission backing ACE's plan.
The vote ended a long and tortured process that included the downfall of previous City Manager Jorge Gonzalez and the arrest of Gus Lopez, the city procurement director, on corruption charges.
There was also a drawn-out fight over the fate of the Fillmore, as Portman initially proposed to raze the Jackie Gleason Theater before changing its plans.
As a final monkey wrench in the process, Morales recommended two weeks ago that both teams scale down their projects and consider removing residential properties from the site.
Those details still have to be hammered out, but even if residential is axed from ACE's vision, it's still going to transform the center of South Beach -- not to mention costing as much as the hated Marlins Stadium project. The price tag will be picked up by a combination of county bonds and hotel taxes.