Taking on a Public Affairs Initiative: How to Engage, Influence & Win


Last Fall, Miami voters ushered in what promises to be one of the most transformative projects in Downtown Miami history: Miami Riverbridge, a $1.5 billion development that will deliver 50,000 square feet of new outdoor public space along the Miami River, 615 new hotel rooms, 1,500 market-rate apartments, nearly 200,000 square feet of meeting space, and $25 million for affordable housing.

Miami Riverbridge is the vision of Hyatt and Gencom, two firms that partnered to develop a vision for City-owned land in the heart of Miami’s urban core. After nearly a year of preparations, public hearings, and community meetings, the team took their proposal to Miami residents in November of 2022.

Voters approved plans for Miami Riverbridge by a 64 percent margin and the Miami Commission finalized a lease with Hyatt and Gencom in July of 2023, setting the stage for the development to rise over the coming years.

Miami Riverbridge will revamp the Miami Riverwalk in Downtown. Credit: Hyatt, Gencom, Arquitectonica

Historically, winning approval for a ballot measure involved sending direct mailers to voters’ homes, securing influential endorsements, and commissioning paid advertising campaigns built around consumer-friendly messages.

While those strategies can still play a role, today’s public affairs campaigns are far more methodical and nuanced than those of years past.

Schwartz Media Strategies led the communications campaign on behalf of Miami Riverbridge, launching a public relations effort that would resonate with voters. Our message was straightforward: While Downtown Miami was in the midst of rapid change and progress, the City’s own property in the heart of the action represented a missed opportunity. Voters had the power to unlock the property’s potential by approving plans for Miami Riverbridge.

That theme came to life through many mediums. High-impact media relations advanced favorable narratives about the project, emphasized the project’s community and economic benefits, and established credibility for the development team.

Social media content – including paid advertising – enabled our campaign to communicate and engage directly with voters at a hyperlocal level.

Community outreach involved securing the support of the Brickell Homeowners Association, the Greater Miami & the Beaches Hotel Association, the Miami Downtown Development Authority, and the Downtown Neighborhood Alliance – each of which mobilized their networks to educate the public.

Miami Riverbridge is Schwartz Media Strategies’ latest winning campaign in a series of referendums that set out to win votes for a worthwhile project. Past examples include:
– Development of the Grand Hyatt Miami Beach Convention Center Hotel, now underway
– Rezoning of Miami Beach’s North Beach District into a “Town Square”
– Redevelopment the Key Biscayne Tennis Center, former host of the Miami Open

In each instance, our team worked in lockstep with development and design teams, legal counsel, and political consultants to connect with voters, communicate the right messages, and win votes.