Miami Today http://www.miamitodaynews.com The Newspaper for the Future of Miami Fri, 24 Apr 2015 17:24:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.4 Goldman team growing Wynwood again http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/04/22/goldman-team-growing-wynwood-again/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/04/22/goldman-team-growing-wynwood-again/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 14:15:08 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=27422 One of the first projects to bring hotel rooms to the bustling Wynwood Arts District is planned by Goldman Properties, a key player in the area’s metamorphosis. And, no surprise, the project will showcase plenty of art. G40 Wynwood aims to mix 72 residences, 68 hotel rooms, about 11,000 square feet of ground floor retail […]

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One of the first projects to bring hotel rooms to the bustling Wynwood Arts District is planned by Goldman Properties, a key player in the area’s metamorphosis. And, no surprise, the project will showcase plenty of art.

G40 Wynwood aims to mix 72 residences, 68 hotel rooms, about 11,000 square feet of ground floor retail and 47,000 square feet of offices.

The eight-story structure is to have underground parking for about 100 cars, with more parking off-site at a Goldman facility now in design.

The city’s Urban Development Review Board recommended approval April 15 after giving designers high marks for attention to art.

The parcel is long and narrow, at 2700 NW Second Ave., 235 and 257 NW 27th St., 252, 268 and 276 NW 27th terrace. The land was already rezoned for increased density.

“Our fingerprints are all over the neighborhood,” said Goldman Properties’ CEO Jessica Goldman Srebnick. “We lead by example.”

The company is responsible for Wynwood Walls, bringing street art to a new level and helping fuel the area’s transformation – the adaptive reuse of acres of warehouses.

“We want to create a center for the creative class,” said Ms. Goldman Srebnick.

She said the company is striving to marry art and architecture with G40 Wynwood.

Architect Arturo Vasquez said the site is in the heart of Wynwood and “it is important for us to be sensitive to the concept of Wynwood.” The façade becomes “surfaces that can be curated for art.”

“Art is at the core of the neighborhood… We wanted to create interest on all sides of the building,” said Ms. Goldman Srebnick. “We like to do the unexpected.”

Mr. Vasquez pointed to opportunities for seating outside and areas that promote pedestrian activity.

Said board member Fidel Perez, “Congratulations on a nice project – very well designed.”

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Track cleared for All Aboard Florida http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/04/22/track-cleared-for-all-aboard-florida/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/04/22/track-cleared-for-all-aboard-florida/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 14:10:21 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=27426 All Aboard Florida is moving ahead with the northwestern portion of its MiamiCentral plan, which will bring a new grocer to the urban core. The project, 3 MiamiCentral, is planned for a block hugged by Northwest Sixth and Seventh streets and Northwest First Court and Second Avenue. The city’s Urban Development Review Board on April […]

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All Aboard Florida is moving ahead with the northwestern portion of its MiamiCentral plan, which will bring a new grocer to the urban core.

The project, 3 MiamiCentral, is planned for a block hugged by Northwest Sixth and Seventh streets and Northwest First Court and Second Avenue.

The city’s Urban Development Review Board on April 15 recommended approval of the project.

The plan calls for a 12-story building to house a grocer at about 29,000 square feet on the ground floor, nearly 97,000 square feet of Class A offices, 33,161 square feet of commercial/retail space, and a garage to park 1,096 vehicles.

It’s perhaps the smallest piece of All Aboard Florida’s development vision for downtown, which will see a major rail station, MiamiCentral, become a transportation hub connecting All Aboard Florida passenger trains, the Metrorail and Metromover, county buses, city trolleys and taxis and possibly link with TriRail.

MiamiCentral’s major portion is about 9 acres west of Northwest First Avenue. A collection of parking lots has been cleared and prepped to start building the transportation hub, which some city leaders call a “grand central station.”

The transportation hub will include mixed-use development with residential, office, commercial and a retail concourse.

This smaller site of nearly 2 acres in Overtown is being built to support and enhance the transportation hub, the company said. The land is near Metrorail, Metromover, the Lyric Theater and planned mega development Miami Worldcenter.

Its neighbor to the east is the Miami-Dade County Administration Building.

The design team includes AECOM, Design2Form and Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc.

AECOM’s Michael Kerwin said the podium will be wrapped in perforated metal skin, with holes of varying size to illustrate a “subtle” image of a mangrove forest.

It’s dual purpose: an artistic feature and a “breathing skin” for the garage, he said.

Other portions of the structure will showcase African fabric patterns in silkscreen on metal, in part to pay homage to the African-American neighborhood.

In addition, the company has hired artist Robert McKnight to design a 12- by 120-foot mural for the Second Avenue side, Mr. Kerwin said.

“This is a good building,” said board member Fidel Perez.

Board member Neil Hall said he was pleased by the attention to art on the building and the commitment to bring a local artist onboard.

The project will be quite an improvement for the area, said board member Jesus A. Permuy.

The recommended approval came with conditions, including that All Aboard Florida agree to maintain the appearance of the artwork; prepare and file a tree mitigation plan; and consider altering the design of the garage to show more of an internal double helix, the result of twisting traffic lanes carrying cars to and from floors.

All Aboard Florida is an intercity passenger rail project being developed by Coral Gables-based Florida East Coast Industries Inc. The privately-owned and operated service is to connect Miami to Orlando with stations in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Details: www.AllAboardFlorida.com

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In $10 million home sales, Miami Beach a leader http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/04/22/in-10-million-home-sales-miami-beach-a-leader/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/04/22/in-10-million-home-sales-miami-beach-a-leader/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 14:05:17 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=27439 Miami Beach is in impressive company among the nation’s top cities for luxury home sales, third highest for sales of $10 million and over. Miami and the Beach have high rankings in The Previews Luxury Market Report for 2015, released by Coldwell Banker on Tuesday, which lists the top 20 US cities’ property listings and […]

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Miami Beach is in impressive company among the nation’s top cities for luxury home sales, third highest for sales of $10 million and over.

Miami and the Beach have high rankings in The Previews Luxury Market Report for 2015, released by Coldwell Banker on Tuesday, which lists the top 20 US cities’ property listings and sales in three price points: beginning at $1 million, $5 million and over and $10 million.

In 2014, Miami had 967 closed sales for properties $1 million and over, ninth on the list just behind San Diego (976 sales) and above cities including Santa Barbara (673 sales), Newport Beach (611 sales) and Honolulu (591 sales). Miami Beach, number 14 in this category, had 704 sales.

For properties $5 million and over, Miami Beach was fourth with 89 sales compared to New York City (182 sales) at the top of the list and and above San Francisco (64 sales) and Malibu (48 sales).

There were 26 sales in Miami Beach for properties $10 million and over, behind Beverly Hills (35 sales) and New York (56 sales). Miami Beach, third on the list, had more sales in this category than Los Angeles (26), Malibu (14) and San Francisco (7).

North Miami Beach, in zip code 33169, had the third highest number of active home listings for $1 million and over (460), behind New York’s zip code 10022 (465) and Park City’s zip code 84060 (611). Miami Beach’s zip code 33139 was fifth in this category with 355 listings.

For properties $5 million and over, Miami Beach’s zip code 33139 had 115 compared with 143 in Park City’s 84060, top of the list, and above Vail’s 81657 (69) and Beverly Hills’ 90210 (68).

In the highest category of $10 million and over, Miami Beach in zip code 33139 was ninth on the list (44 listings) compared with New York’s zip code 10023 at 84, top of the list, and Malibu’s zip code 90265 at 26, bottom of the list.

According to the report, the demographics are changing in the luxury housing market. “Many wealthy homebuyers have historically looked to leisure-rich spots like Hawaii, Florida and Arizona for second homes, or waited until they were finished working to make a move,” the report states.”That’s changing, with recent trends suggesting that younger homebuyers are not waiting until they retire to put down roots in places where they would love to live.”

Technology and ease of travel are rapidly transforming the workplace for wealthy professionals, the report states, creating flexibility in terms of work locations and the ability to choose where they want to live. “Millennials have come of age in this kind of environment and are accustomed to the idea of striking a work-life balance that meets their personal needs. As they achieve more wealth, their live-anywhere attitudes are likely to become more of a force in luxury real estate.”

According to the Previews Luxury Institute millionaire survey, 73% of those under 35 say that they expect to buy a home in the next 12 months, compared to 49% of 35- to 44-year-olds and 26% of 45- to 64-year-olds. Just 11% of millionaires 65 and over say that they’re planning a purchase.

The report cites homebuyer surveys and the accounts of local realtors, stating they confirm ultra high-net worth individuals are highly mobile and flocking in growing numbers to areas once pegged as resort or second-home markets, as advances in technology, transportation and communication enable a “live anywhere” working-age population.

Florida, the report states, has a favorable tax environment that’s attracting live-anywhere high net-worth homebuyers, particularly those coming from the Northeast.

“The taxes on inheritance and estates are very high in some states, like New Jersey,” said Clark Toole, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Florida. “Florida is one of the most attractive places to live from a tax perspective, so we get quite a few people who decide to live here for at least six months and a day each year. People are saying ‘I want this money to go to my kids instead of to pay taxes.’”

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Miami to seek Marine Stadium operator http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/04/22/miami-to-seek-marine-stadium-operator/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/04/22/miami-to-seek-marine-stadium-operator/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 14:01:10 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=27430 Miami administrators are working on a request for proposals to attract an operator to handle a restored and reopened Miami Marine Stadium. City commissioners could be asked to vote on an operations plan May 14. Meanwhile, plans are moving ahead to breathe new life into the iconic concrete waterfront stadium on Virginia Key, idled and […]

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Miami administrators are working on a request for proposals to attract an operator to handle a restored and reopened Miami Marine Stadium.

City commissioners could be asked to vote on an operations plan May 14.

Meanwhile, plans are moving ahead to breathe new life into the iconic concrete waterfront stadium on Virginia Key, idled and deteriorating since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

At the commission’s meeting April 9, Don Worth, a long-time advocate for restoration of the stadium, said he was pleased to hear that the city manager’s office is working to secure an operator for the venue.

“The sooner you get a [request for proposals] out for an operator, things will be a lot simpler and other funding opportunities will open up,” Mr. Worth told commissioners.

Deputy City Manager Alice Bravo told commissioners that on May 14 the administration will have “a very good [request for proposals] in hand,” and a proposed governing structure for all of Marine Stadium Park.

The city is working to build a flex park adjacent to the stadium to host the Miami International Boat Show and other activities.

The nature and extent of those other activities have been the subject of debate, and led to a lawsuit against the city by the Village of Key Biscayne. Village leaders fear over-use of the stadium and grounds, leading to a crippling addition of traffic on Rickenbacker Causeway, the only road in and out of Key Biscayne.

Even city commissioners have argued about the extent of development on Virginia Key, while all strongly support restoring marine stadium.

Earlier this year, City Manager Daniel Alfonso said the city always planned to develop Marine Stadium Park, “and now we have a partner to help.”

The partner he refers to is the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the group that puts on the popular boat show each February.

On Jan. 8, city commissioners approved a license with the association to host the boat show on land and water surrounding marine stadium. Commissioners also approved spending up to $16 million to improve the site, to be paid for by a bond sale, although it directed the city manager to explore other funding sources and report back.

In exchange, the association is to pay the city $1.1 million a year and 50% of food and beverage sales income at the show. Renovation of the stadium is not part of those improvements. There is a separate program to renovate the stadium.

The license is not for a fixed term, and may be terminated or revoked by the city at-will. Although there is no binding long-term agreement between the city and the association, the city can review the license after five years.

In 2007, city officials began a years-long process of writing, amending and finally adopting a master plan for the development of Virginia Key in 2010.

By securing the boat show, the master plan for the Key is back in play.

This has led to officials and commissioners talking about other uses for the property that surrounds the abandoned stadium, including soccer fields for youth and adult leagues.

The latest plans and renderings show the large aging parking lot southeast of the stadium replaced by a wide-open green area, covered with artificial turf.

Plans for the area around the stadium include improved water and sewer structures, drainage and lighting, and strengthening the surface areas as green space able to stage activities and special events.

The boat show would use temporary event structures – large tents – with elaborate layouts, wood floors, air conditioning and more. The plan also calls for temporary docks in the basin.

Mr. Worth said April 9 he thinks getting an operator for the stadium would “ease tensions” between the city and Key Biscayne officials.

“Key Biscayne could be a partner in the recreational fields,” he suggested.

The latest issue raised about the work on Virginia Key was the amount of time needed or allotted to the boat show, and it caused Commissioner Marc Sarnoff to threaten to pull his support of the flex park plan.

On April 9, when an amended license was presented showing 160 days were sought for use of the city’s property for the boat show, Mr. Sarnoff objected.

“This is where I’m getting off the bus,” he told fellow commissioners.

Holding up a rendering showing the area next to the stadium as four green soccer fields, Mr. Sarnoff said, “This park was attractive to me.” However, with a prolonged period of use of the land for the set-up and take-down of the boat show and the event itself, he was not happy with the proposed schedule.

The flex park was going to be a great opportunity for kids and adults, he said, “and I no longer think that’s the true intent of the administration.”

Ms. Bravo said the reason for longer use for boat show activity is that 2016 will be the first time the city hosts the show on Virginia Key, and much of how it will play out has yet to be seen.

Ms. Bravo also pointed out that no artificial turf now exists there. The turf surface will not get its first rolling out until after the 2016 boat show, she said.

Mr. Sarnoff said he was concerned that the boat show’s presence would keep others from using the flex park for months.

Mr. Sarnoff said the boat show organizers ought to be able to dismantle the site in 30 days.

“It can be done,” said Commissioner Francis Suarez.

Ms. Bravo said they preferred 73 days to set up the area for the 2016 boat show, saying that would be ample time to “work out the kinks.”

“In the second year, we’ll probably need less time,” said Ms. Bravo.

“This lets us learn the timeline, and gives us experience for the second year of the show,” she said.

“I understand… This year, she has a point,” Mr. Sarnoff said.

He suggested he could support the boat show use if all boat show property and equipment is removed within 30 days of the end of the show.

“I implore you, keep a very tonight leash on this show,” Mr. Sarnoff told administrators.

The commission approved a modified license with the association, which spells out an arrangement for the addition of electric utilities to the property estimated at $3,306,000, to be equally funded by association and the city.

A condition of the vote was a requirement that the association be clear of the property within 30 days of the close of the boat show.

Ms. Bravo promised commissioners that the new soccer fields will be in place within 31 days of the close of the boat show.

At the April 9 meeting, commissioners also reviewed other funding options to come up with the $16 million for improvements to Marine Stadium Park.

Mr. Alfonso’s staff prepared a memo showing other possible ways to finance the improvements.

“These are a few alternatives – none particularly palatable,” said Chris Rose, budget director.

Labeled Alternative 2, “Reprogram Parks Impact Fees,” it reads: Of the $34.8 million of Parks Impact Fees that were budgeted in the current year, $1.2 million is currently under contract. The remaining $33.6 million could be reprogrammed away from their current projects and toward the Marine Stadium [Park]. Staff has run projections of impact fees in the current year and does not anticipate that there will be additional impact fees above the amounts budgeted in the current year. For clarity, this would mean that certain parks projects would be delayed into future years rather than started in the current year.

Labeled Alternative 3, “Last Year Fund Balance,” it reads: The city has ended FY 2013-14 with an estimated fund balance higher than the threshold of $103.6 million required by the city’s financial integrity principles. We could recognize approximately $5 million in the current year and program these funds toward the Marine Stadium [Park]. These funds were to be used to maintain a fund balance in future years above the principles. If these funds are used for the [flex park] and not maintained in the fund balance, then it is likely that the city will be required to budget more than $5 million of reserves just to remain in compliance with the principles.

Labeled Alternative 4, “New Revenues in the Current Year,” it reads: There are two revenues that were not budgeted in the current year, but have been received since October 1, 2014. There is $1.4 million from a settlement with a waste hauler as presented to the commission during the December 11, 2014, City Commission Meeting. Also, as part of the Skyrise/Bayside agreement, the city was to receive $3.75 million when Bayside refinanced its current debt obligations. This occurred in December 2014. The city received the funds on December 23, 2014, and deposited thereafter. These two funds were anticipated to be recommended for additional services such as additional fire apparatus purchases in the mid-year budget amendment.

After reviewing these alternatives, Mr. Rose said it was the administration’s recommendation to continue with the plan as presented in January. Funding would come from special obligation bonds with a repayment schedule of 15 to 20 years, and with funds pledged from available non-ad valorem revenues in the General Fund.

Mr. Alfonso pointed out the $16 million is for the flex park improvements and does not include money for restoration of the stadium itself.

Also related to the stadium, Mayor Tomás Regalado succeeded in gaining a promise from Miami-Dade County to allow the city to retain about $3 million to be used only for restoration of the stadium. An extension was sought of a 2010 county allocation. It was clarified and stressed at the April 9 commission meeting that none of the county finds would go toward the flex park.

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Profile: Stuart Chase http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/04/22/profile-stuart-chase/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/04/22/profile-stuart-chase/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 14:00:57 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=27409 Although he’s from New England, Stuart Chase has life-long ties to Miami. His grandfather had a house in Hialeah so he’s been coming here for years. When Mr. Chase began working at HistoryMiami as director and chief operating officer in the spring of 2013 and he moved here with his wife, many aspects felt familiar […]

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Although he’s from New England, Stuart Chase has life-long ties to Miami. His grandfather had a house in Hialeah so he’s been coming here for years. When Mr. Chase began working at HistoryMiami as director and chief operating officer in the spring of 2013 and he moved here with his wife, many aspects felt familiar but others appeared new, fresh and invigorating.

Mr. Chase replaced Ramiro Ortiz as president and CEO of the museum in March and is now leading the effort to improve its exhibition program and get farther and farther out with planning and scheduling. Like all institutions, he said, HistoryMiami needs to further develop its advancement department.

Today, HistoryMiami celebrates its 75th birthday.  Mr. Chase’s goal is to let people know about the museum’s presence and importance in their lives. He looks forward to another 75 years of collecting and preserving the city’s history and asks people to join in the quest.

Miami Today reporter Susan Danseyar interviewed Mr. Chase at HistoryMiami.

To read the full article and the rest of the Miami Today issue, subscribe to e-MIAMI TODAY, an exact replica of the printed edition.

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Business bankruptcies nosedive http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/04/22/business-bankruptcies-nosedive/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/04/22/business-bankruptcies-nosedive/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 14:00:56 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=27433 Business bankruptcy filings are down in South Florida, attributable say industry experts, to an improving economy led by a solid real estate market and low interest rates. Some analysts expect bankruptcies to continue declining but see possible hurdles with the strong dollar’s potential to slow foreign investment and inevitable increase in the federal funds rate. […]

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Business bankruptcy filings are down in South Florida, attributable say industry experts, to an improving economy led by a solid real estate market and low interest rates.

Some analysts expect bankruptcies to continue declining but see possible hurdles with the strong dollar’s potential to slow foreign investment and inevitable increase in the federal funds rate.

“For the near term, the economy in South Florida will continue to improve and I don’t see anything that will slow it down,” said Jordi Guso, partner at Berger Singerman and chairman of its business reorganization team. Generally, he said, restructuring and business bankruptcy filings are down now that the market has rebounded well and a lot of capital is coming into South Florida.

Mr. Guso said the main drivers of South Florida’s economy are the hospitality industry and real estate.

“Holders of foreign capital feel Miami is a safe bet compared with the uncertainty that exists in other places,” he said. “The low-interest rate environment has helped tremendously, increasing purchasing power, and Miami is seen as a hot place.”

According to statistical reports published by the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida, there were 59 filings for Chapter 11 in the first quarter of 2015 compared with 87 in the first quarter of 2014. During the worst years of the recession, between 2008-2010, filings for the first quarter averaged 91.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy, with no limit regarding the amount of money owed by the debtor, was originally only intended for large corporations, but individuals can now file Chapter 11 as well.

In addition to the low-interest rate and strong real estate market in South Florida that could help reduce filings, Mr. Guso said stakeholders in a troubled company are more keenly focused on trying to find an out-of-court solution as opposed to an in-court restructuring through a bankruptcy filing. “Lenders, in particular, are exploring less costly and more efficient alternatives to a Chapter 11 restructuring,” he said.

The only likely catalyst for change in business health that Mr. Guso sees is the raising of interest rates. When the corporate cost of borrowing goes up, he said, there’s less cash to run a business.

Moreover, Mr. Guso said, some voices in the industry express caution about the strengthening US dollar and how it will affect foreign markets. There’s concern, he said, about how much real estate prices have gone up and if the rise is sustainable.

Timing is everything in the real estate market and developers need to know when to get out, said Joseph Luzinski, senior vice president of Development Specialists Inc. Right now, he said, the market is healthy but real estate – historically on a rollercoaster in South Florida – ebbs and flows, so it’s difficult to say how long the boom will last.

Mr. Luzinski said business bankruptcy filings have been trending down for several years, a fact he attributes in part to a lot of “businesses on the fringe getting cleaned out in the great recession.”

Additionally, Mr. Luzinski said, a lot of lenders did not want to address problems and let some businesses “limp along.”

He suspects that for the last few years a lot of businesses had loans keyed to the prime rate, which allowed them, even if not financially healthy, to keep going. “The increase [in interest rates] will kick those loans up,” Mr. Luzinski said. “That will precipitate another wave of businesses seeking liquidation or restructuring.”

Not every market analyst sees a coming increase in interest rates as a definite roadblock to South Florida’s robust economy, however. Developer Avra Jain, a former Wall Street executive, said even if the Federal Reserve Bank does raise rates modestly, the spread is wide enough between current loan rates and the federal funds rate to adequately absorb the shock.

Right now, Mr. Guso said, there’s nothing by way of pending legislation for the bankruptcy code. The last time it was amended was in 2005 to accelerate the pace of restricting.

The American Bankruptcy Institute commissioned a study for what people in the bankruptcy business would like to see changed, which sparked a discussion that “may or may not make its way to an amendment in the law,” but Mr. Guso does not foresee any bankruptcy reform on the horizon in the near future.

Details: http://www.flsb.uscourts.gov  

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FYI Miami: April 23, 2015 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/04/22/fyi-miami-april-23-2015/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/04/22/fyi-miami-april-23-2015/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 14:00:45 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=27418 SUCCESSION PLANNING: Miami-Dade County staff is to list senior employment positions within the county government that will be vacated over the next three years. The report is to include information on the county’s succession planning  how the county plans to fill the vacated positions. The report’s scope will be on staff positions that will be […]

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SUCCESSION PLANNING: Miami-Dade County staff is to list senior employment positions within the county government that will be vacated over the next three years. The report is to include information on the county’s succession planning  how the county plans to fill the vacated positions. The report’s scope will be on staff positions that will be vacated because of retirements and on positions that are under the mayor’s purview. The Strategic Planning & Government Operations Committee last week voted in favor of a resolution calling for the report. Approval doesn’t become final until the full county commission signs off on the item seeking the report. Commissioner Juan Zapata sponsored the resolution.

FLYING HIGH: Miami International Airport is posting its best quarterly passenger growth since 2012, up 4.62% in the first quarter of 2015 to 10.9 million travelers. This is equal to more than 5,000 added passengers daily when compared to the same period last year. Domestic travelers led the way with 5.04% year-over-year growth and a total of 5.6 million, while the number of international travelers grew 4.18% to 5.3 million. Total air freight at MIA increased 2.3% to more than 524,000 tons through the first quarter. The growth was spurred by gains in international freight, which increased 3.2% through March.

MOUNTED PATROL, TOURIST CRIME: The Miami-Dade County Metropolitan Services Committee postponed voting on two resolutions last week. One called for a study of whether the county could have a police patrol that’s mounted on horseback. Miami-Dade disbanded its horseback patrol in 2009. The other item called for a plan to develop a police unit charged with dealing with crimes against tourists. Commissioner Javier Souto sponsored both. He was absent from last week’s meeting.

A SIGN OF THE TIMES: Historic neighborhoods and other special districts will be allowed to display gateway signs under a proposed amendment OK’d on first reading April 9 by Miami commissioners. The legislation would clarify the definition of a gateway sign, and exempt gateway signs from certain requirements. A resolution says gateway signs marking the entrance to cultural specialty districts and historic districts identify the area, mark a historic destination for visitors and reinforce the neighborhood’s character as a destination for art, culture, dining and entertainment.

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UberX OK X’d out http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/04/22/uberx-ok-xd-out/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/04/22/uberx-ok-xd-out/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 14:00:40 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=27428 The Miami-Dade County Commission deferred voting Tuesday on an ordinance that would have legalized peer-to-peer transportation services that are based on smartphone apps. The ordinance would have legalized these services and would have established rules under which these companies and their drivers could operate in the county. Among the regulations the ordinance would have set […]

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The Miami-Dade County Commission deferred voting Tuesday on an ordinance that would have legalized peer-to-peer transportation services that are based on smartphone apps.

The ordinance would have legalized these services and would have established rules under which these companies and their drivers could operate in the county. Among the regulations the ordinance would have set is that companies like UberX and Lyft would have to obtain a license from Miami-Dade government in order to operate in the county.

Transportation providers like UberX and Lyft have been operating in Miami-Dade illegally for months.

The issue has prompted varying responses from the community for months.

While some have embraced these transportation options, the taxi industry has said that these companies have an unfair competitive advantage over taxicab drivers.

Both of these sentiments were evident at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Half of your visitors are international,” William D. Talbert III, CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, told commissioners.

“These are the choices people have around the world,” he said, referring to the app-based transportation companies like UberX. “We need to be competitive. We need to give our customers options.”

Taxicab drivers and other taxi industry stakeholders also turned out at the meeting to voice their concerns.

“I know that Uber and Lyft is illegal but to regulate them, it should be a different way. Not this [ordinance],” Mercedes Gonzalez told commissioners. “The taxi industry, we have medallions, we have property rights. We bought them, it was not given for free. I worked for 50 years to have what I have…. This will kill the taxi industry.”

To operate a cab in Miami-Dade, a driver or a company must purchase a medallion from the county. Generally, the medallions are bought by companies, which then make a lease agreement with a driver who is essentially renting the cab for a fee. There are 2,121 taxis that operate in the county and 43 taxi companies.

The industry has raised issue with the peer-to-peer transportation companies, saying that UberX and Lyft get to set their own fees unlike cab drivers, whose fees are set by the county.

Raymond Francois is an administrator of the New Vision Drivers of Florida, which he said represents taxicab drivers as well as UberX and Lyft drivers.

Mr. Francois has told Miami Today that a trip from South Beach to Miami International Airport could cost about $14 on UberX or Lyft, much lower than the about $32 a taxicab would charge for the same trip.

“The proposer [of the ordinance] didn’t provide anything to regulate the fare,” Mr. Francois told commissioners Tuesday. “If this proposal is passed, can you please tell me how the taxi industry and the limos will survive?… I would like to see the transportation network to be legalized but I don’t want to see them given a blank check to do what they want.”

The ordinance that was deferred didn’t outline exact amounts for fees that peer-to-peer transportation companies are to charge for trips. Among other things, the ordinance would have required these companies to obtain a license from county government and allowed for county staff to deny granting a license if a company didn’t meet various conditions. In addition, the ordinance would have established requirements drivers would have to meet, and called for the peer-to-peer transportation companies to do background checks on their drivers.

County Commissioner Esteban L. Bovo Jr. sponsored the ordinance but deferred it to another meeting.

“I understand the anxiety,” he said shortly before he moved to defer the item.

The ordinance was up for first reading, which means that any county commission approval wouldn’t have been final. Despite the deferral on Tuesday, the ordinance is still headed for a public hearing in front of a county  commission committee on June 10.

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County bid to help local business would actually harm us all http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/04/22/county-bid-to-help-local-business-would-actually-harm-us-all/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/04/22/county-bid-to-help-local-business-would-actually-harm-us-all/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 14:00:37 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=27412 County government is making a warm-and-fuzzy bid to help local businesses and farmers that in the end would backfire, costing taxpayers more and hurting our businesses too. A county committee last week voted to give unspecified preference to locally manufactured or grown goods when it awards contracts from a spending pool that now tops $900 […]

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County government is making a warm-and-fuzzy bid to help local businesses and farmers that in the end would backfire, costing taxpayers more and hurting our businesses too.

A county committee last week voted to give unspecified preference to locally manufactured or grown goods when it awards contracts from a spending pool that now tops $900 million a year. That would be done either by setting aside some of its buying for local firms or by giving some yet-to-be-established break in bidding to local producers.

That sounds wonderful: keep the money at home. Who could argue with that?

Nobody could – when local goods are better or less costly or both than those that would come from anywhere else on the globe.

But whenever local goods really are better or less costly, there is absolutely no need for a preference. The county already takes the best offers.

The problem with bid preferences is that they order officials to buy inferior or more costly products solely because they come from Miami-Dade County. That costs government money – and government is us, funded from our taxes.

If you don’t pay extra for goods just because they come from Miami-Dade, why should government use your money to shop in that wasteful way?

Moreover, by giving inefficient local businesses a guarantee that their more costly or inferior products will have a ready market at county hall, those businesses have no incentive to improve to compete not only here but globally.

Globally is key. We spend millions marketing this county as global, yet under this proposal we would discriminate against products from such foreign lands as Fort Lauderdale or Palm Beach – let alone anything produced in another state or nation.

The message this legislation sends is that we have erected a tariff at the county line. An outside vendor would be disadvantaged or frozen out entirely, depending on the final structure of a preference that would be erected only after the measure became law.

Last week the county commission’s Economic Prosperity Committee passed the anti-competitive measure unanimously without debate or discussion of repercussions. The full commission needs to consider the unintended consequences of telling the world that Miami-Dade does not want a level playing field.

Examples of those consequences abound. Homestead created bid preference for a new city hall that officials found raised bids millions of dollars above budget. Most out-of-area firms refused to bid because the preferences handicapped them.

Those preferences also handicapped city officials, who tossed out all the bids and had to wait to build because local firms jacked up their prices when outside competition disappeared.

That’s not an isolated case. One national study found that a 5% government price preference for local firms raised final prices by 3.8%.

But that didn’t mean local businesses shielded by protectionism got stronger. Another study found that with a 5% local preference, the local bid winners’ profits were actually 3.1% less, not more, because the most efficient firms were kept out of the bidding so the local firms didn’t maximize efficiency.

Preferences are like the old-fashioned tariffs that penalized foreign traders. More business was done at home, but much of it was less efficient and less profitable. So everyone wound up poorer.

It stands to reason that local businesses are not equally effective in producing every kind of product – not even in Miami-Dade County.

That’s the whole basis of trade: areas produce what they provide best and sell to others who are good at other things. Prices everyone pays decline, yet incomes of all rise as they produce the best in their own fields. It’s Economics 101.

Why don’t those common truths of economics apply here? Only because it sounds so much better to say we are keeping our money at home when government buys locally than to let government pay less while taxpayers earn more in the most efficient industries.

In truth, it’s far less important to keep our money at home in one transaction than for the county to get the most quality at the lowest prices and strengthen our local economy in the process by competing on a level playing field.

Further, if we decide to buy primarily at home, our customers might do the same, freezing Miami-Dade businesses out just as we are about to freeze out Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach – not to mention New York and Pennsylvania and Colombia and Mexico and so on. All businesses would lose.

Protectionism always sounds great – and it always backfires, costing everyone involved more money for less quality.

This warm-and-fuzzy proposal should wind up in the deep freeze.

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Classified Ads http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/04/22/classified-ads-157/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/04/22/classified-ads-157/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 14:00:12 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=27416 Commercial Real Estate EB-5 Visa opportunity: BIRD ROAD, $3.65 MM. Very large, very high-end, landmark drycleaner on signalized 25,000 sq. ft. corner. Business and Real Estate available for majority partnership or complete sale. Selling due to pending construction/possible retirement. Buyer’s brokers only, please. jerrold9200@gmail.com

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Commercial Real Estate

EB-5 Visa opportunity: BIRD ROAD, $3.65 MM. Very large, very high-end, landmark drycleaner on signalized 25,000 sq. ft. corner. Business and Real Estate available for majority partnership or complete sale. Selling due to pending construction/possible retirement. Buyer’s brokers only, please. jerrold9200@gmail.com

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