In September 2018, the Chicago-based American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) brought its 90th Convention & Exhibit to the Miami Beach Convention Center, becoming the first group in the newly expanded facility.
U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow was among the dignitaries cutting the ribbon on the strikingly reimagined venue.
“We had booked Greater Miami and The Beaches for IPW 2016 but switched to New Orleans because the convention center project got underway faster than anticipated,” Dow said. “My goal in coming for the opening was to look at the center for future opportunities to rebook the convention.
"It’s a great looking product," he added.
Dow has significant ties to Miami. Following Bronze Star service with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, his first job back home was opening the Miami Airport Marriott as director of sales.
“I’ve long followed the Miami market, which has evolved into a formidable full-year proposition,” Dow said.
“Group space was its Achilles heel, but this expansion solidly repositions the destination not only for association business, but also corporate," he continued. "Previously limited to existing hotel venues, there’s now room for larger corporate events, shows and incentives.
"Combined with the city’s growing set of dynamic hotels, restaurants and attractions, it’s a game-changer that elevates and broadens consideration of the destination, with many more options for planners than before."
The $620 million LEED Silver-certified overhaul of the aging, under-competitive convention center, last updated in 1998 with a $92 million exhibit hall expansion, is almost complete—save one last critical piece.
Ocean Drive, Miami Beach | Credit: Jeff Heilman
Headquarters Calling: Miami Beach Pushes for New Hotel Amid Updates
For William Talbert, president and CEO of the Greater Miami CVB, the reimagined center establishes a true sense of place and belonging.
“Before it was a box with an asphalt parking lot,” he said. “Now, with its wave-like glass exterior, landscaping and other elements, just two blocks from the ocean, the building looks and feels like Miami Beach.”
Opened in 1957 with around 108,000 square feet of space, the convention center, expanded by almost 300,000 square feet, now covers roughly 1.4 million square feet.
Interior highlights include 500,000 square feet of renovated exhibit space; 84 breakout rooms totaling 183,000 square feet; a 20,000-square-foot, glass rooftop ballroom; and boosted Wi-Fi throughout. Talbert also proudly heralds the addition of a new 60,000-square-foot grand ballroom.
“Now we have our big ballroom,” he said of the sparkling glass-walled space, which comes with its own entrance.
Following purposeful marine-inspired design, the curtain wall undulates with some 500 angled aluminum fins that shade the building from Miami’s tropical heat. Hurricane- and flooding-resistant engineering also figure in the building’s design.
Unique features include a 369,000-square-foot rooftop parking deck, replacing the former six-acre asphalt lot west of the building. Slated for early 2019, that area will become green space with canopy trees, a public lawn and a plaza. Centered around the tendrils of a majestic strangler fig tree, nearly three acres of programmable park space is being developed on the building’s north side, viewable from the grand ballroom.
The adjacent landmark Carl Fisher Clubhouse is undergoing a $2.5 million transformation into a 5,000-square-foot independent event venue.
The convention district is also getting some 600 new trees, along with a landmark $7 million-plus investment in commissioned public art throughout the campus.
To reliably attract citywide conventions and tradeshows, and to make the center a true regional and national competitor, a headquarter hotel is the requisite final essential piece. Residents have rejected past proposals over size and traffic impact concerns. The latest plan, for an attached 800-room property, is shorter by 100 feet with enhanced traffic reduction measures.
“It’s on this November’s ballot, requiring 60 percent of the vote,” Talbert said. “We are in full campaign mode behind it—the headquarter hotel finishes the project.”
[Editor's Note: The Miami Beach Convention Headquarter Hotel was approved Nov. 6, 2018].
Artful Assets Enhance Miami Beach's Convention District
Miami Beach otherwise offers the complete package for groups, with global drawing power.
Shortly after AHIMA, the convention center welcomed the 48th annual edition of the nine-day Miami International Auto Show. This December, Art Basel Miami Beach returns for the 17th consecutive year. Attracting a record 82,000 attendees in 2017, the nation’s preeminent contemporary art show, featuring more than 250 of the world’s top galleries, has signed on for at least another five years.
The 62-acre convention district campus encompasses a host of easily accessible planner-ready artistic and cultural venues. These include the Frank Gehry-designed 756-seat New World Symphony and adjacent Soundscape Park, offering outdoor event wallcasting; Fillmore Miami Beach at The Jackie Gleason Theater; historic Bass Museum; and behind the center, the event-capable Miami Beach Botanical Garden.
Delegates can also easily reach the Art Deco hotels along Collins Drive and energetic nightlife scene along iconic Ocean Drive. Hosting private events for 16 to 450 people, Joe’s Stone Crab (1913) remains a landmark dining venue near Miami Beach’s southern tip.
To the north, the multivenue Faena District, anchored by the ultra-luxe Faena Hotel Miami Beach, offers an array of dazzling event spaces, including the opulent 300-capacity Faena Theater and 1,000-capacity Faena Forum. This Rem Koolhaas-designed curvilinear stunner, featuring 300 windows, offers 43,000 square feet of flexible space. Famously appearing in the opening of the 1964-era 007 classic Goldfinger, the nearby Fontainebleau Miami Beach is an enduring icon offering 107,000 square feet of indoor meeting space.
Miami Beach CVB Information
Greater Miami CVB