The Florida Department of Health will extend its lease at the Miami Beach Convention Center for a testing site and temporary hospital through September 6 with an option to continue for another 30 days.
The Convention Center continues to prepare for Art Basel in December while also seeking accreditation from the Global Bio-Risk Advisory Council for its response to the coronavirus in an effort to set it apart from other venues.
The extended closure is creating budget challenges for one of the City’s gems – the Miami Beach Botanical Garden which remains closed due to the proximity of the testing center.
As reported cases of COVID-19 continue to soar in Florida, the state’s Department of Health has indicated to the City that it wants to extend its lease for a testing site and temporary hospital at the Miami Beach Convention Center through September 6 with an option to extend to October. The site has seen robust numbers of people seeking coronavirus and antibody tests but the treatment facility remains empty as area hospitals continue to have capacity to treat patients. It’s the second lease extension since the original lease was signed in April.
During a time when large gatherings are not allowed, the lease provides some income for the Convention Center which has had to cancel a number of events since the pandemic began to hit the U.S. Under the terms of the lease, the monthly rent paid by the Department of Health is $228,750, a 75% discount from the going rate which would normally be approximately $915,000 per month.
Convention Center General Manager Freddie Peterson had expected a “breakout year” following a long period of construction. Now, “It’s very unpredictable,” he said.
Some events have cancelled – including SeaTrade, ZenDesk and Florida Supercon – while others have rescheduled. On the calendar in September is Florida Culture with the American Society of Landscape Architects scheduled for early October. The lease isn’t the only thing impacting those events, Peterson said. “Cancellations are being driven by the state of the industry so if you think of any type of travel and any type of gathering, there are restrictions around that.”
On everybody’s mind is the upcoming Art Basel show the first week in December. Load-in begins a few weeks before. Despite cancelling its shows in Hong Kong and Basel, the Miami Beach event is still on the calendar.
In his budget presented to the City Commission, Miami Beach CFO John Woodruff said representatives of the local hospitality industry have told him “it’s critical” for the area to host Art Basel and the College Football Playoff National Championship in January if at all possible.
“Everybody around the table wants to make it happen,” Peterson said of the annual art fair. “We continue to plan and review any logistics so that we’re prepared.”
“We’re in constant communication with them which is great. We’re in kind of that wait and see mode like everybody else,” he added.
In the meantime, the Convention Center is seeking accreditation from the Global Bio-Risk Advisory Council (GBAC), which offers “education, training, certification, response management and crisis consulting for situations where environments require a much higher level of cleaning, disinfection, and restoration,” according to the group’s website.
“There’s not a lot of convention centers nationally or globally that are doing it,” Peterson said. “As we talk about restoring confidence and being confident in what we’re doing, this GBAC accreditation is a step in that direction. Not just right now but as a venue moving forward.”
“Normally, we say safety and security is our number one priority. We’re expanding that even more into health, safety, security and well-being,” he explained.
In addition to restoring the confidence of clients, the City, and the employees who work in the Convention Center, Peterson said, “It also will set us apart from the rest when it comes to taking it to the next level” in terms of health and well-being when the venue is able to open again to large events.