Miami Today http://www.miamitodaynews.com The Newspaper for the Future of Miami Thu, 03 Sep 2015 15:21:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.7 Courthouse is safe, study finds http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/09/01/courthouse-is-safe-study-finds/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/09/01/courthouse-is-safe-study-finds/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 03:15:13 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=29362 Engineering consultants have inspected all courts in the county except the new Children’s Courthouse and Overtown Transit Village and found all structurally safe to use, including the much-maligned Dade County Courthouse. A report that commissioners received Tuesday states that Rizo Carreño & Partners analyzed the historic Dade County Courthouse, built in 1928 on West Flagler […]

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Engineering consultants have inspected all courts in the county except the new Children’s Courthouse and Overtown Transit Village and found all structurally safe to use, including the much-maligned Dade County Courthouse.

A report that commissioners received Tuesday states that Rizo Carreño & Partners analyzed the historic Dade County Courthouse, built in 1928 on West Flagler Street, and recommended a 40-year recertification reliant on completing ongoing work including on 130 basement columns, anticipated by the last quarter of 2017; the exterior terracotta and plaza restoration, anticipated by summer 2016; and minor isolated repairs to non-structural reinforcing steel on five floors.

The consultant listed other needed work including replacing panels on four floors as well as securing exposed wiring on eight floors.

The deterioration of the Dade County Courthouse has long been a topic of discussion, with some judicial leaders saying that the building has organic system collapse and significant electrical and air quality issues. But in 2014, voters rejected a tax increase to fund a $390 million replacement.

After the election, Chief Judge Bertila Soto said she and others were asking elected leaders to find $25 million to repair deteriorating support columns.

Judge Soto set a priority of finding a new building even before discovery of problems with basement supports. She told Miami Today in early 2014 that the courthouse is too small for the 11th Judicial Circuit’s needs: not every floor has a bathroom, some civil judges don’t have a courtroom, and the probate division has none at all.

This week’s report to commissioners also listed county-owned buildings and private space suitable for the relocation of court operations in an emergency.

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All-Aboard Florida gets final downtown land http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/09/01/all-aboard-florida-gets-final-downtown-land/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/09/01/all-aboard-florida-gets-final-downtown-land/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 03:10:12 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=29364 All Aboard Florida has closed on the final land it needs to redevelop six blocks of downtown, as nearly 100 workers continue to forge the foundation of a new train station that will bring passenger rail to Miami’s urban core. All Aboard Florida just closed on 2 acres in Overtown, a move that clears the […]

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All Aboard Florida has closed on the final land it needs to redevelop six blocks of downtown, as nearly 100 workers continue to forge the foundation of a new train station that will bring passenger rail to Miami’s urban core.

All Aboard Florida just closed on 2 acres in Overtown, a move that clears the way to construct 3 MiamiCentral, a mixed-use complex that is to bring Class A office space, retail and a grocer to the neighborhood.

The property is hugged by Northwest Sixth and Seventh streets and Northwest First Court and Second Avenue. Its neighbor to the east is the Miami-Dade County Administration Building.

One of the first tenants at 3 MiamiCentral will be All Aboard Florida, which will relocate its corporate headquarters from Coral Gables to the new site.

The plan also promises dedicated parking for the historic Lyric Theater nearby.

Addressing an issue that has plagued Overtown for years, 3 MiamiCentral will feature a national grocer, the company said. Hundreds of residents expressed this need to All Aboard Florida executives at a meeting in 2013.

“I’m excited to see this project moving forward and continuing to spur job creation and economic investment in historic Overtown and downtown Miami,” said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson. “This is one of several developments that will truly be a catalyst for transforming Overtown into a sustainable community where people can live, work and play.”

The plan calls for a 12-story building that will house a grocer at about 29,000 square feet on the ground floor, nearly 97,000 square feet of office space, 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 full development vision for downtown, which is to see a major train station, MiamiCentral, rise to be a transportation hub connecting All Aboard Florida passenger trains, Metrorail and Metromover, county buses, city trolleys and taxis, and possibly link with Tri-Rail.

The major part of MiamiCentral is about 9 acres west of Northwest First Avenue. Work to drill 50- to 100-foot pilings continues today, with 1,587 piles in place and about 40 to go, the company said this week.

The transportation hub will also include a mix of uses, with residential, office, commercial and a retail concourse.

All Aboard Florida has picked Facchina Construction of Florida for pre-construction and construction-management for 3 MiamiCentral. Construction is to begin this year, and sub-contractor and career opportunities are to be announced in coming months.

The complex, to be done in the first quarter of 2017, seeks LEED Silver certification.

Others working on 3 MiamiCentral are AECOM, a global provider of professional, technical and management support services in transportation and other markets, which is designing the complex, and Miami-based Design2Form, which is design consultant and bringing knowledge of the history and culture of Overtown to the project.

The centerpiece of 3 MiamiCentral is to be a mural by Miami-based sculptor and visual artist Robert McKnight.

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Brickell City Centre makes towering change http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/09/01/brickell-city-centre-makes-towering-change/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/09/01/brickell-city-centre-makes-towering-change/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 03:05:58 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=29374 Brickell City Centre announced Tuesday the rebranding of its office component to incorporate two Class A office buildings equaling 260,000 square feet, both of which will be ready by year’s end. Although the project long has been known to include the two office buildings, the rebranding of its logo and subsequent announcement comes at a […]

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Brickell City Centre announced Tuesday the rebranding of its office component to incorporate two Class A office buildings equaling 260,000 square feet, both of which will be ready by year’s end.

Although the project long has been known to include the two office buildings, the rebranding of its logo and subsequent announcement comes at a strategic time, said Jack Lowell with Pointe Group Advisors, now part of Colliers International.

With delivery about six months out, Swire Properties – the developer behind the giant mixed-use project at the center of Miami’s urban core – is pushing to attract tenants for both office towers: Two Brickell City Centre, and the remaining space in its other, newly branded tower, Three Brickell City Centre.

The new logo embodies both towers by adding an additional dot to represent Three Brickell City Centre, Swire told Miami Today.

Three Brickell City Centre was originally designated as a wellness center, but current market conditions swayed the developer elsewhere. The rebranding will make sure tenants in the market know that both buildings are up for lease as office space, without the medical wellness center component, Edward Owen, Swire’s office leasing manager, told Miami Today on Tuesday.

The reason for dropping the center and adopting more office space was to “further Brickell’s growth as a leading international business hub,” according to a press release.

Akerman LLP, a major law firm, has leased 80% of Three Brickell City Centre. The lease was signed last year, and until now the tower was usually referred to as Akerman’s building or some variant of that.

Rents are more than $50 a square foot in key office towers in Brickell, including 801 Brickell Center and 1450 Brickell, Mr. Lowell said.

“There’s clearly a good increase in the market with the amount of leasing activity and the increase in rental rates that’s given everybody the confidence that it’s probably time to think about another office building,” said Jonathan Kingsley, executive VP at Colliers International South Florida.

The average asking lease rate in the Brickell area is $41.08, which is higher than all other areas of the county, according to CBRE’s second quarter market report. The Brickell area has a total office vacancy of 12.3%, leading the average office vacancy for Miami’s central business district, which totals 15.7%.

“Given the strong conditions on Brickell Avenue for Class A office space, the record rent growth in the last two years, the record occupancy – seen both in downtown as well as Brickell – there’s great stability in the Class A market,” Mr. Kingsley said. “Swire has recognized that and taken advantage of this increased level of activity.”

Mr. Owen told Miami Today that Swire is negotiating with potential tenants for Two Brickell City Centre, which is attracting financial service providers and law firms, although he would not release names.

Mr. Lowell pointed out that most tenants whose leases are up next year have already made their decisions. There have been some new entries within the market, however, he said, making the supply of prospects “pretty good.”

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Wealthy Chinese targeting business in Miami http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/09/01/wealthy-chinese-targeting-business-in-miami/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/09/01/wealthy-chinese-targeting-business-in-miami/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 03:01:54 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=29372 Twenty-two wealthy Chinese art collectors with ties to real estate have expressed interest in visiting Miami this year to explore the city’s business environment and investment opportunities. Invited by Peng Lu, associate provost of international programs at Florida International University, the businessmen want to understand how business is done in the US. Mr. Lu believes […]

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Twenty-two wealthy Chinese art collectors with ties to real estate have expressed interest in visiting Miami this year to explore the city’s business environment and investment opportunities.

Invited by Peng Lu, associate provost of international programs at Florida International University, the businessmen want to understand how business is done in the US. Mr. Lu believes Miami is the best place to do so, he told members of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce last week.

Among the delegates are to be a Chinese developer and an individual referred to as the king of frozen food, Mr. Lu told a group of local executives during the first Asia-Miami Task Force meeting Friday.

Seth Gordon, chair of the chamber’s newest committee and local public relations specialist, suggested involving Mayor Carlos Gimenez with the trade mission.

“From the chamber’s perspective, if there’s going to be significant Chinese-Asian presence in Miami we have to prepare for it,” Mr. Gordon said, laying out the blueprint for last week’s discussion.

While the Americas Linkage committee focuses on trade missions abroad and outbound recruitment of investors, the Asia-Miami Task Force plans to take an internal approach.

“This is going to be more inbound. What can we do? What should we do to make Miami more Asia-savvy?” Mr. Gordon asked.

Andy M. Perez, CEO of EB5 Visa Funds, said Florida lags behind other states because it lacks the infrastructure Chinese investors are looking for.

More specifically, he said, Miami lacks a Chinatown.

Mr. Gordon toyed with the idea of a “new, modern version of a Chinatown, in representation of modern-day China.”

But Mr. Lu quickly jumped in, saying the fact that Miami lacks a central Chinese community is, in fact, what attracts many investors to the region.

“The reason Miami can compete with New York is because the Chinese come here, [and] easily put themselves in mainstream US society,” Mr. Lu contended. Rather than enclose themselves in a separate community within a community, he said, Chinese businessmen, investors, families, etc., want to “emerge themselves into US society, not steer themselves away.”

“In L.A., all services are provided by Chinese services. They don’t use US services. Here, they need you,” Mr. Lu told committee members.

“We don’t want to create a [cloister], but I think it would be good to have some services provided here that understand the Chinese culture,” Mr. Gordon said.

Educating foreign investors on condominium ownership regulations and such other topics as EB-5 visas, which allow major investors to obtain green card status in the US, allowing them and their families to live in the US permanently, should make the committee’s priority list, members agreed. Airline connection, an increasingly popular topic within efforts to connect Asia’s and Miami’s business worlds, was also brought up.

“The airport director is very focused on that,” Mr. Gordon said, although the pending question is whether enough demand exists to supplement a direct flight.

The committee expects to meet a second time at the end of the month to further develop a solid goal lineup for the year ahead.

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Public-private matchmaking forum http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/09/01/public-private-matchmaking-forum/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/09/01/public-private-matchmaking-forum/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 03:00:58 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=29370 Miami-Dade County and the Miami Finance Forum are among the sponsors of “The P3 Pipeline: a Forum for the Private Sector,” a matchmaking event of sorts, set for Sept. 24-25 at Florida International University’s north campus. “Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of interest in P3s,” said Edward Marquez, county deputy mayor […]

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Miami-Dade County and the Miami Finance Forum are among the sponsors of “The P3 Pipeline: a Forum for the Private Sector,” a matchmaking event of sorts, set for Sept. 24-25 at Florida International University’s north campus.

“Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of interest in P3s,” said Edward Marquez, county deputy mayor and finance director. Public/private partnerships, or P3s, have been used internationally for years, he said, especially in Canada and Great Britain.

“Lots of private-sector folks have been asking us how we are going to participate in the P3 arena,” he said.

P3s are not new to Miami-Dade County, he added, explaining that they have been executed successfully at Miami International Airport, at PortMiami, and for the construction of the PortMiami Tunnel.

“The county has lots of projects in the planning stages, both funded and unfunded,” Mr. Marquez. “We don’t care if a project is done by the public or the private sector, as long as the taxpayers and the public get the best and most cost-effective service.”

A long list of projects to be discussed includes roads, bridges, libraries, parks, aviation and cargo facilities, courthouses, correctional facilities, and water and sewer treatment plants. None of the projects is at the request-for-proposals (RFP) stage, Mr. Marquez said, but some could advance to that point within the next year.

“This is informational, so that when we do get to the RFP stage with some of these, people will know what we have in mind and, hopefully, will come up with some new ideas.”

Traditionally, governments would fund projects, write specifications, and then award the construction to the lowest bidder, said Frank M. Rapoport, chief strategy advisor of the P3 Institute, which is producing the conference. “That model is broken,” he said. “P3s have flipped it on its head.”

Though there are many ways to structure public/private partnerships, governments are increasingly attracted to models that require the private sector to assume more risk, he explained.

“Teams that win don’t get repaid until they finish the project,” he said, which is an incentive to complete it on time and on budget. “The winning team is totally at risk, because they’re not going to get paid back unless the project is successful.”

In some cases, the contractor is responsible for the operation and maintenance for a given number of years, which motivates the partner to build a quality project from the start, he added. Payback can come from user fees, a fixed sum from the public sector, or some other mechanism, Mr. Rapoport said. “P3s come in lots of flavors.”

With returns in the 8% to 12% range, institutional investors including pension plans and life insurance companies have become very interested, he added. Florida, and especially Miami-Dade County, “are probably the most dynamic markets in the US” for these types of partnerships, and thus attractive to investors, he said.

“Government doesn’t have the money to get these projects started, but they can do that with P3s, and some of these projects are suitable,” he said. “This is simply an innovative project-delivery vehicle in which private industry is on the hook for building government assets The county wants the private sector to know they’re serious about this.”

“The basic purpose of the conference is to educate people to the opportunities that could be out there,” said Bob Burleson, president of the Florida Transportation Builders Association Inc., “and that includes opportunities beyond transportation.”

Mr. Burleson, whose group is among the event’s sponsors, stressed the flexibility that P3s can provide. “Lots of times, there are ways to help advance projects that don’t hit the state or local balance sheets.”

He cited the PortMiami Tunnel as a successful public/private partnership, particularly since the debt service was paid before it was built. But, he said, “I like to caution people that P3s are not a panacea – they don’t create money.”

There are deals in which the private-sector partner doesn’t assume all the risk, and in those cases, debt service and other expenses must be met somehow, he said.

“P3s are a really valuable tool to enable us to get some projects out quickly, but we need to make sure we recognize that it doesn’t solve the issue: we need more money overall,” Mr. Burleson said. “I don’t know any concessionaire who’s going to build out of the goodness of his heart.”

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Court time nears for tennis stadium http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/09/01/court-time-nears-for-tennis-stadium/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/09/01/court-time-nears-for-tennis-stadium/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 03:00:41 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=29368 Organizers for the Miami Open, who are fighting to build three additional stadiums at the tennis center in Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park, may get their day in court. On Monday, the Third District Court of Appeals scheduled oral arguments Dec. 14 for International Players Championship versus Miami-Dade County, Bruce Matheson, Matheson family members and the […]

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Organizers for the Miami Open, who are fighting to build three additional stadiums at the tennis center in Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park, may get their day in court.

On Monday, the Third District Court of Appeals scheduled oral arguments Dec. 14 for International Players Championship versus Miami-Dade County, Bruce Matheson, Matheson family members and the National Park Conservation Association.

Miami Open tournament organizer International Players Championship (IPC) filed an appeal in February, seeking to reverse Judge Marc Schumacher’s September ruling in favor of the Matheson family keeping the park as it is now. The family donated the land for Crandon Park in the 1940.

However, the court reserves the right to cancel oral arguments at any time. According to Enrique D. Arana of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, one of the attorneys representing the Matheson family, the Third District Court of Appeals does not grant oral argument in every case.

There will still be a decision based on briefs both sides filed and the record in trial court, but the judge may not deem it necessary to hear two sides present their arguments if there’s no dispute of fact.

The tennis tournament has been held at the Crandon Park location since 1987. In recent years, however, IPC began litigation over what it believes are unlawful restrictions for keeping up the facilities. Tournament director Adam Barrett wrote to Mayor Carlos Gimenez in May, saying county government’s failure to pay attention to detail could very well mean the end of the Miami Open at its current location.

Last month, Mr. Barrett told Miami Today he would have thought the mayor would want the park controlled by elected officials to do what’s in the best interest of the public.

Ironically, Mr. Matheson said, IPC’s proposed expansion would adversely affect the public. In order to build the proposed 6,000-, 4,000- and 3,000-permanent-seat structures, IPC would have to remove six tennis courts from the site that the public now uses.

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Filming in Miami: September 3, 2015 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/09/01/filming-in-miami-september-3-2015/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/09/01/filming-in-miami-september-3-2015/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 03:00:38 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=29344   These film permits were issued last week by the Miami-Dade County Department of Regulatory & Economic Resources’ Office of Film and Entertainment, (305) 375-3288; the Miami Mayor’s Office of Film, Arts & Entertainment, (305) 860-3823; and the Miami Beach Office of Arts, Culture and Entertainment-Film and Print Division, (305) 673-7070.  Mesquite Productions Inc. Homestead. […]

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These film permits were issued last week by the Miami-Dade County Department of Regulatory & Economic Resources’ Office of Film and Entertainment, (305) 375-3288; the Miami Mayor’s Office of Film, Arts & Entertainment, (305) 860-3823; and the Miami Beach Office of Arts, Culture and Entertainment-Film and Print Division, (305) 673-7070. 

Mesquite Productions Inc. Homestead. Bloodline Season 2. Mesquite Production Inc.

Sharp Entertainment. New York. 90 Day Fiancé. Fire/Rescue Headquarters.

Waka TV. Dublin. Vogue Williams Wild Girl. Training & Treatment Center.

Paragon Production Services Inc. Miami Beach. Babson College. Countywide, Miami Beach citywide.

Broder Productions. Miami Beach. Aigner. Haulover Beach Park, Miami Beach citywide.

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Mega-marina begins artificial reef http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/09/01/mega-marina-begins-artificial-reef/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/09/01/mega-marina-begins-artificial-reef/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 03:00:25 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=29366 Flagstone Property Group’s work to build the area’s first deep water marina for super-yachts includes creation of an artificial reef. Flagstone is developing a corner of city-owned Watson Island into a multi-million dollar resort called Island Gardens. The developer said this week it has begun installation of the Brickell Mitigation Reef Site, designed to offset […]

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Flagstone Property Group’s work to build the area’s first deep water marina for super-yachts includes creation of an artificial reef.

Flagstone is developing a corner of city-owned Watson Island into a multi-million dollar resort called Island Gardens.

The developer said this week it has begun installation of the Brickell Mitigation Reef Site, designed to offset impacts to hard bottom habitat and foster new marine life. Upon completion, it could be home to approximately 5.43 acres of offsite habitat.

Development at The Deep Harbour at Island Gardens includes coral, sponge and seagrass relocation.

This week, Flagstone released details of its overall environmental mitigation plan. The work thus far has included:

•Relocation of 27 hard coral colonies and 10 soft coral colonies (permit conditions required the removal and relocation of just 14 hard corals and 10 soft corals).

•Removal of 59 sponges and placing them in a relocation site (permit conditions required the relocation of just 30 specimens).

•Removal of 2,000 seagrass plugs and transporting them to a temporary holding site. When the dredging phase is completed, these plugs will be replanted in the filled dredge hole.

•Identification of additional donor locations where 8,000 additional seagrass plugs will be removed and replanted.

•Creation of an artificial reef to off-set impacts to habitat at the project site.

•Deployment of 232 reef balls on site and 2,159 reef balls at the Brickell Mitigation Reef Site. Reef balls are made of concrete and used to create artificial reefs.

The company said mitigation endeavors will continue for 5 years following completion of marina construction to ensure all mitigation goals have been fulfilled.

Flagstone says it has invested more than $10 million in mitigation work for the marina so far.

While the new seawall/bulkhead has been completed, dredging near the property continues in anticipation of decking and pier work.

When the marina is finished it will be able to accommodate up to 50 mega- or super-yachts, up to lengths of about 550 feet, the developers say.

The city and county are working together to get water and sewer lines to the property.

In June, Miami city commissioners approved an agreement with Miami-Dade County to bring public water and sewer service to 1050 MacArthur Causeway for Flagstone.

The June 25 resolution says Flagstone Island Gardens LLC currently has leases on the property and has requested the city and the county to enter into a tri-party agreement in order for the necessary water and sanitary sewer services to be provided to the development.

The county is the sole provider of water and sanitary sewer services in Miami-Dade and has agreed to provide the services for the mixed-use project.

The city owns the 6.5-acre site. Voters approved leasing the land to Flagstone for the development back in 2001.

Numerous delays, including the economic downturn and port tunnel dredging, held back Flagler’s plans for years. Marine mitigation began at the site in May 2014, which represented a formal commencement of work on the project, city officials confirmed.

Island Gardens is to include dual hotels, fractional residential units, high-end retail stores and the deep water marina.

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Wayne Eldred: Restaurateur promotes service as Coral Gables theme http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/09/01/wayne-eldred-restaurateur-promotes-service-as-coral-gables-theme/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/09/01/wayne-eldred-restaurateur-promotes-service-as-coral-gables-theme/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 03:00:15 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=29348 As the owner of a busy restaurant on Miracle Mile, as well as a member of the Business Improvement District and now chairman of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, Wayne Eldred no longer has time to travel as much as he once did. But, the son of an engineer working on foreign projects, he […]

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As the owner of a busy restaurant on Miracle Mile, as well as a member of the Business Improvement District and now chairman of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, Wayne Eldred no longer has time to travel as much as he once did.

But, the son of an engineer working on foreign projects, he vividly remembers living in many locations around the world including Egypt, India, Jamaica and England.

The later was his favorite. Mr. Eldred loved the historical and cultural depth he discovered in London and said it’s amazing to realize that on the grand scale of things, we’re just a dot.

Humility, he said, is probably one of the most beautiful things that we can experience because it makes us so much more appreciative of everything around us. 

He fully appreciates the success he’s found in Coral Gables and firmly believes in giving back. In between cooking and overseeing his employees at Tarpon Bend Raw Bar & Grill, Mr. Eldred devotes as many hours as possible to making the city a better place to work, live and visit. A member of the chamber since 2005, he said it’s something anyone can sign up for – just like a gym – but one must get involved to reap the benefits.

Miami Today reporter Susan Danseyar interviewed Mr. Eldred at Tarpon Bend Raw Bar & Grill. 

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Which should come first, their election or their education? http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/09/01/which-should-come-first-their-election-or-their-education/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2015/09/01/which-should-come-first-their-election-or-their-education/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 03:00:13 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=29351 Maybe it has something to do with a Harvard degree. At services Saturday for deceased Northern Trust Vice Chairman Bill Allen, we heard that he’d jested at a Harvard Business School reunion that while classmates had gone on to successful careers, he had become a NASCAR driver. It was typical of the veteran banking leader’s […]

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Maybe it has something to do with a Harvard degree.

At services Saturday for deceased Northern Trust Vice Chairman Bill Allen, we heard that he’d jested at a Harvard Business School reunion that while classmates had gone on to successful careers, he had become a NASCAR driver. It was typical of the veteran banking leader’s sense of humor.

Also last week, we learned that Miami-Dade Commissioner Juan Zapata ordered a county check to pay $30,961 for attending Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government this fall. Typical of his sense of humor, when his order leaked out he said he’d never intended that the county pay the full cost of his master of public administration.

It may be true. That check order, which he later cancelled, sure wouldn’t have paid the full cost. Harvard lists the mid-career master’s at $88,862 for the full year. The check wouldn’t even have covered the first semester.

That leaves Mr. Zapata among a select group of commissioners who haven’t yet been to Harvard – leaving the un-Harvarded ample excuse for not reading things like contracts for baseball stadiums that cost taxpayers billions.

Think about it: Mayor Carlos Gimenez went to a special Harvard program when he was a City of Miami firefighter, a program not paid by taxpayers. Former commissioner Katy Sorenson went to the same program. As commissioners they both voted against baseball stadium financing.

Then there’s Commissioner Xavier Suarez, who studied government and law at Harvard before he was elected, and Chairman Jean Monestime, who went to the same special Harvard program as Ms. Sorenson and Mayor Gimenez. Neither Mr. Suarez nor Mr. Monestime was on the commission when the stadium deal passed 9-4 – nor was soon-to-be Harvard educated Mr. Zapata.

When we argued a month ago that our commissioners, who get only $6,000 a year for what needs to be fulltime work, should get far more so that they can afford to read and digest legislation that could cost taxpayers millions unnecessarily, we now admit we should have taken into account the Harvard factor. More education seems to produce good results.

So maybe instead of paying our commissioners enough to fund food and shelter we could pay them in degrees – college degrees. Either that or elect commissioners who are already educated to do the job.

It’s no wonder that Mr. Zapata regularly asks Mayor Gimenez to make enough studies to fill a good-sized bookshelf – the mayor has been to Harvard and Mr. Zapata hasn’t yet.

The mid career special program for a master’s in public administration at Harvard could fill the bill for Mr. Zapata but it would burn a healthy hole in his office budget, which is the source he was tapping to fund his degree.

Harvard lists the tuition at $45,697, plus $8,040 for the mid career program, plus $428 for course materials, a $175 activity fee, a $310 health services fee, $1,042 for the student health fee and $2,390 for student health insurance, or $58,082 in direct fees to Harvard.

The check Mr. Zapata ordered was only about half that. So either he was paying only the first semester or he had negotiated away many costs, like the $3,742 total health fees. The county already pays Mr. Zapata’s health insurance, and surely he wouldn’t double-dip to pay his health insurance twice.

He did, of course, ask if the county could pay his travel. Harvard lists personal expenses and travel at an added $5,580, room and board at $23,380 and books and supplies at $1,820, bringing total program costs to $88,862. But surely Mr. Zapata would fly back and forth to county meetings and wouldn’t live in dorms, so taxpayers would have picked up some or all of those costs too.

With his sense of humor, we’re sure he could explain just what he planned.

As things stand, he says he might settle for a shorter course at Harvard for less than $13,000 cost to taxpayers – plus, of course, travel and lodging.

It’s costly, but cheaper than a $3 billion stadium.

But while Harvard looks great on a politician’s resume, we have pretty decent education available for county officials right here in Miami that would cost taxpayers less tuition and save a lot on travel and hotel rooms. Maybe the county could buy a package degree deal for all the commissioners.

Ask new University of Miami President Julio Frenk. He could tell you.

But then, Dr. Frenk has Harvard on his own resume – he just was dean of the Harvard school of public health.

On second thought, let’s just compensate our elected officials decently and let them pay for their own educations aboveboard. You can only stretch our sense of humor so far.

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