by Loren G. Edelstein | January 15, 2018

Bill Talbert will be celebrating more than his birthday this September. "We are opening the reimagined Miami Beach Convention Center 257 days from today," said Talbert, president and CEO of the Miami Beach Convention Center, during the Professional Convention Management Association's conference this week in Nashville. "It's a long time coming," he added. The $620 million renovation and expansion of the 60-year-old facility creates a multipurpose convention center district that already is drawing locals and visitors to enjoy its surrounding attractions. M&C asked for details.
 
I understand there's a lot more to this project than a facility expansion. What are some highlights?
The reimagined MBCC district is a 52-acre campus encompassing the new convention center along with several adjacent attractions. Among them: the six-acre Convention Center Park, a 2.6-acre Botanical Garden, which can be used as incremental outdoor meeting and event space; the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater, a historic art-deco building and venue for live music and entertainment; the New World Symphony, a Frank Ghery-designed 756-seat concert hall and home to the New World Symphony; and SoundScape Park, where the sounds of select performances are broadcast outdoors via Wallcast, a 7,000-square-foot projection wall, for the public to enjoy free of charge.
 
We have families come out with picnic blankets to enjoy the symphony outdoors. It has been wildly successful. What we're doing is creating a sense of place. When you come to Miami, you're in a very special place, and we thought, "Why can't the convention center and the space around it reflect what a special destination it is?"

What will be new at the convention center itself?
The project will result in a LEED-certified facility with a new 60,000-square-foot multipurpose ballroom and seven new breakout rooms, for a new total of 84 breakout rooms spanning 183,000 square feet, four exhibit halls of nearly 500,000 square feet and a new rooftop parking structure. The visual arts are central to the design concept; the facility will house public art installations valued at $7.4 million.
 
The new center will be LEED Silver certified. What are some details of the sustainabiity efforts?
We planted 367 new trees, for a total of 600, and restored the natural habitat with native vegetation and mangroves along Collins Canal. The facility itself is designed around a giant strangler fig tree that is being protected and preserved to become the new focal point of the park space. Recycled materials are used throughout the building, and 96 percent of the construction waste is being recycled. The new design reduces the center's energy consumption by 20 percent.  
 
Some destinations have seen a decline in international visitation over the past year, possibly due to Trump administration policies that some perceive as unwelcoming. Have you seen anything like this?
Actually, our international numbers are up. We are not at all affected. We're a very international city. I like to say, "Come visit Miami, we're very close to the United States." Our airport is now served by 107 airlines. Every other month the airport is adding another carrier, the most recent being El Al. Our airport arrivals for domestic and international travelers were up. In fact, international was up more than domestic.
 
We have offices in 52 cities around the world. The popularity of the destination, globally, is unbelievable. Also, those countries [affected by the travel ban] were never among our feeder markets. So, no, we're seeing none of that. 
 
Any other selling points you would like to note?
Yes. Remember, it's cold there and it's warm here.

To learn more about the renovations, view floorplans and explore booking your future events in Miami Beach, visit MiamiBeachConvention.com.