City Manager Recommends Against Ads on Buildings

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

City Manager Recommends Against Ads on Buildings:

Exterior advertising on garages and fleet management building had been under consideration

Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales is recommending against allowing advertising on the exterior of City garages and the back of the Fleet Management building on Government Cut. Morales said if the City were to allow advertising on public garages, it would be unlikely to win a legal challenge by owners of private garages to allow advertising on their facilities. Ultimately, he believes a proliferation of advertising would be harmful to the Miami Beach brand, he wrote in a letter to City Commissioners.
 
The idea of advertising was first discussed in September as a potential “revenue enhancement” to improve the City’s budget. At the time, Commissioners were only willing to test advertising on the City’s trolleys but asked the Administration to explore larger sponsorship opportunities including naming rights for City parks and the new Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC) as well as advertising on public garages and the Fleet building. 

Since then, Miami Beach has piggybacked on the City of Miami’s contract with Outfront Media for advertising on the exterior of the trolleys, “adding a budgeted amount of $500,000 in advertising revenue to the general fund,” Morales wrote.
 
A Request for Qualifications [RFQ] was issued “for a vendor to begin researching and selling large-scale sponsorships for the City, including possible naming rights to the MBCC,” according to Morales.
 
Initial research by City staff shows a range of sponsorship terms for convention centers, cultural arts facilities, and sports arenas – from a low of $250,000 annually for the Lobby of the Carnival Studio Theater to $30 million annually for the Adrienne Arsht Center. The RFQ process is almost complete. Morales said he hopes to have a final recommendation on a vendor at the June 5th Commission meeting.
 
A number of Commissioners liked the idea of advertising on the Fleet Management building which would only be visible to cruise ship passengers coming through the Port of Miami. The Port has approximately 5.3 million passengers each year. Morales said a large mural there has the “potential to sell for more than $20,000 per month or $240,000 per year.”
 
But after researching the options, Morales recommended against the garage and Fleet building advertising. He noted that exterior advertising in the City of Miami Beach is regulated by City and County code as well as relevant FDOT regulations. “Most importantly, City Code Section 138-5 uniformly prohibits all general advertising in the City,” Morales wrote.
 
Advertising on the exterior of public and private garages would require a code amendment and multiple waivers approved by multiple boards. If the City tried to allow advertising on public buildings only, “it is very likely that such a maneuver would be met with a legal challenge,” Morales said. “It is unlikely that the City would prevail. Even if the advertising were limited to Industrial Districts, there are a number of private garages and buildings on both Terminal Island and the Sunset Harbor area that could take advantage of potential advertising opportunities.”
 
“Collectively, both Planning and Legal [Departments] are concerned that allowing general advertising on the exterior of City garages will result in a court challenge that could force the City to allow these ads on private buildings,” he wrote. “Under our [Land Development Regulations], General Advertising is prohibited City Wide. The more we chip away at the foundation of this prohibition, the more likely it could crumble.”
 
“Additionally, we have been very successful at preventing advertising barges on our territorial waters. Allowing large ads on the backside of the Fleet Management could jeopardize that as well,” Morales said. “Additionally, if these types of ads were allowed on private buildings, we would have no way of controlling the content.”
 
Morales also cited the “unique and distinct architectural identity” of “virtually all of our parking structures in the City (both public and private).” Noting that none were designed to accommodate large advertising banners, he said, “The introduction of these large advertisements would significantly impair the architectural integrity of the garages.”
 
In addition, he wrote, “Miami Beach is a very unique concentration of well-planned and cohesive architectural forms. We have architectural representation from numerous eras both inside and outside of our historic districts. The introduction of large ads on parking structures will significantly compromise this carefully balanced urban form.”
 
“Long Term, the proliferation of outdoor advertising has the potential to seriously compromise our brand, which has been the foundation of our tourism and overall revival since the mid-1980’s,” Morales wrote.
 
“As I have indicated previously, we recognize that this is a multi-faceted issue, and that the amount of potential revenue that can be generated is not insignificant,” Morales said. However, given the many concerns listed in his memo, he said he was recommending not moving forward with the exterior garage advertising or the advertising on the Fleet building.

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