As the 600-member strong Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (MDGLCC) packs up its rainbow flag in preparation for relocating offices to the first floor north of historic Old City Hall in Miami Beach, plans are being finalized to launch one of the country’s first gay Chamber-sponsored LGBT Visitor Centers. The new LGBT Visitor Center inside the MDGLCC’s new headquarters will become a place of community, information, resources and business networking for the 1.2 million gay and lesbian travelers who visit Miami-Dade County each year, as well as for the estimated 183,000 LGBT residents who call Miami and Miami Beach home, said Steve Adkins, president of the MDGLCC. The Center is on-target to open April 15 with a grand opening dedication celebration for the entire community with many dignitaries, city leaders and community leaders in attendance.
“We envision the new Visitor Center becoming the nucleus of LGBT activity for visitors, locals and our business community,” Adkins said. “Other cities have LGBT community centers or general tourist information places, but we’re aware of no other city in the country that has a permanent, central location run by a gay Chamber that serves the needs of both LGBT and gay-friendly visitors and locals.”
Located at 1130 Washington Avenue, Old City Hall is literally at the epicenter of LGBT activity in South Beach. Steps to Ocean Drive and the beach, a few blocks south of famed Lincoln Road and right in the middle of bars, restaurants, shops and hotels, Old City Hall is easily accessible by foot, car, bus or Rollerblade. The Mediterranean Neo-Classical designed building was originally built in 1927 and reopened last October after a three-year, $7 million renovation by the City.
In addition to offices for the MDGLCC staff and volunteers, the 2,500 square-foot space on the first floor of Old City Hall will house a conference room that MDGLCC members, community groups and other non-profits can use for meetings or presentations; a computer lab where visitors can check e-mails; a resource center where visitors and locals can collect information on MDGLCC member companies, LGBT and LGBT-friendly organizations and businesses; and a lounge where people can simply hang out and meet new friends or take a break from the non-stop Miami Beach action.
There will also be kiosks to display various LGBT-oriented memorabilia as well as branded merchandise for sale as souvenirs. The Center will also have the ability to play host to art shows, book signings, receptions and fundraisers, many of which could be held in conjunction with the high-profile events that Miami Beach attracts, such as the Winter Party, Art Basel Miami Beach, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival and Art Deco Weekend.
Besides being a central location for LGBT and LGBT-friendly businesses and services to distribute literature and information, the Visitor Center will have high-profile as well as more subtle opportunities for companies and individuals to show their “pride” colors. Corporate sponsorships are being sold to help defray the operational costs of the Center, Adkins said, everything from logos on the walls, to rotating messages on flat-screen TVs, to naming rights for the Center itself. Corporate and individual donors can also have their names displayed on a donor wall.
“A Visitor Center of this magnitude makes perfect sense for Miami Beach,” Adkins said. “We’re arguably among the top LGBT tourist destinations in the country, if not the world, and the local LGBT community is very well-integrated into the general population, making this city one of the most progressive and accepting in the world.”
That integration makes Miami Beach unusual and provides a bigger opportunity for a Center, Adkins said. “Unlike other cities, there are no ‘gay ghettos’ here where the LGBT community has congregated, nor are there side streets lined with pride flags to indicate the few places of acceptance. Here, people freely walk Lincoln Road or Ocean Drive hand-in-hand and are warmly welcomed at shops, hotels and restaurants.”
Another benefit of the Visitor Center will be the ability to further quantify the economic impact of LGBT visitors and the community overall on the local economy. According to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, LGBT visitors spent more than $1.7 billion throughout Miami-Dade County in 2007. Ultimately, Adkins hopes the new, high-visibility location will serve as a catalyst to bring more LGBT and LGBT-friendly businesses – and visitors – to Miami Beach.
“We really look forward to the Visitor Center being front-and-center in Miami Beach,” Adkins said.
About the Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce