Public-Private Partnerships for Redevelopment and Revitalization

interby Kevin Crowder

RMA has a reputation as the “go-to” experts in Public-Private Partnerships (P3s), as our firm’s leadership has significant experience with some of the most successful P3s in Florida, including Delray Beach, West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami Beach. Due to this experience, RMA is often called on as subject-matter experts on P3s: Kim Briesemeister is a member of the P3 Issues Council for the International Downtown Association; Lynn Dehlinger is a member of the P3 Committee for the International Council of Shopping Centers, and I recently presented P3 case studies from Miami Beach to the Spring Conference of the Florida Council for Public Private Partnerships.

At the conference I shared some of the interesting P3 stories of South Beach and especially the P3s that contributed to Lincoln Road’s success. In addition, I shared the lessons of the failed P3 that the City attempted with Cirque Du Soleil, which fell victim to some intense local politics.

It was 2004 and the City of Miami Beach had received an unsolicited proposal from Cirque du Soleil to convert the Jackie Gleason Theater into a permanent home for their new show. After almost two years of negotiations, plans were interrupted when the City Commission invited other bidders to submit proposals. This unexpected move compelled Cirque to withdraw from the project the night before a decision was to be made.

So what happened?

The nightlife industry felt threatened by Cirque, so they created a united front and worked to control the conversation. They instigated resentment within the community against Cirque for proposing to destroy the beloved historic Jackie Gleason theater, and they used their political clout to push the commission for other options.

Remember this key lesson: Urban redevelopment is about changing the status quo. The person who is benefitting from the status quo will not be happy when change is proposed, and they may be in a position to significantly influence, or even kill, the project.

Two years of negotiating and a potential ten-year positive impact of $172,100,000 vanished in the blink of an eye.

Cirque withdrew because their international, highly respected brand was in jeopardy of being damaged by petty local politics. The wonderful people from Cirque with whom the city was negotiating were artists, not politicians or bureaucrats, and their only interest in the political goings-on was in getting their deal done. They were not going to compromise their integrity, concept or brand just to satisfy some local Miami Beach elected officials and gadflies.

In my opinion, a stronger commission was needed to make this succeed. It is imperative to be aware that politics CAN get in the way, even though a city or CRA’s professional staff has done everything possible to move a good project forward.

While this project had a champion in Commissioner Simon Cruz, the commission as a body was manipulated and they changed the rules of the game mid-stream by allowing new organizations to present ideas. The elected leadership must be your champion on these P3 projects, if they’re not, then the curtain may fall long before opening night!

RMA’s team of professionals understand the pros and cons, advantages and pitfalls of Public-Private Partnerships, and are applying that experience and expertise with P3s in cities such as Pompano Beach, West Palm Beach, Dania Beach and Margate. In addition, we were recently selected by the Town of Davie to assist them in a P3 for the development of a western themed town center. Do you need help negotiating your P3? Contact us.