Miami Today http://www.miamitodaynews.com The Newspaper for the Future of Miami Tue, 23 Dec 2014 16:45:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 77-story downtown tower advances http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2014/12/23/77-story-downtown-tower-advances/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2014/12/23/77-story-downtown-tower-advances/#comments Tue, 23 Dec 2014 15:45:49 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=25873 The Holiday Inn downtown is checking out to make way for a 77-story mixed-use tower on the prime real estate along Biscayne Boulevard. The skyscraper will rise across from Bayside Marketplace, be adjacent to Bayfront Park and sit three blocks from AmericanAirlines Arena. The Holiday Inn at 340 Biscayne Blvd. would be razed to make […]

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The Holiday Inn downtown is checking out to make way for a 77-story mixed-use tower on the prime real estate along Biscayne Boulevard.

The skyscraper will rise across from Bayside Marketplace, be adjacent to Bayfront Park and sit three blocks from AmericanAirlines Arena. The Holiday Inn at 340 Biscayne Blvd. would be razed to make way for the tower.

The project won conditional approval Dec. 17 from the city’s Urban Development Review Board, with members seeking more exterior detail of such a major development.

Center Miami LLC plans the 935-foot tower to include 400 residences, 240 hotel rooms, 270,000 square feet of retail, 246,000 square feet of offices and parking for 516 cars.

The tower is allowed under the site’s zoning, said attorney Iris Escarra, representing the developer.

It’s the size of the as-yet-unnamed tower that triggered a requirement to have the board review it, she said. The board must review developments of 200,000 or more square feet.

“It has 77 stories and a lot of components,” said Sherri Gutierrez, vice president of architectural firm Arquitectonica, which designed the tower.

As if describing the ingredients of a multi-layered cake, Ms. Gutierrez explained the proposed uses from the ground up using a large color-coded rendering.

The design employs three types of glass – black, reflective and clear – and has a secondary outer façade hugging or spiraling around the main structure.

The three review board members, all architects, were left wanting more.

Member Neil Hall said he has a lot of respect for Arquitectonica but was “quite surprised and shocked” by the presentation for the tower.

As a board they see many projects of varying sizes with the exterior treatments “thoroughly worked out,” helping the board judge how a project will fit in with the growing urban skyline, he said.

“But I am not feeling this [building],” Mr. Hall said.

The renderings show a slick form, but the presentation offered too much information on interior floor plans and not enough on exterior design, he said.

“A project of this type deserves a better presentation,” agreed member Anthony Tzamtzis.

Mr. Tzamtzis said what was presented was incomplete and hard to understand, especially given the size, dominance and location. He called the tower massive and said he wanted more details.

“I sort of agree,” said board Chairman Robert Behar.

It is a beautiful building, he said, but how will such a great presence fit into the urban environment?

“We deserve a better presentation. What’s going on at the street level?” Mr. Behar asked.

Mr. Hall added, “This is a very important, significant building… it’s dominating. I want more detail.”

The board voted 2-1 to recommend denial of the project. Then members reconsidered and unanimously recommended approval on condition the developer provide more detail of the exterior façade. The board is advisory only and makes recommendations to the planning director.

Ms. Escarra said the developer’s next step is to get building permits, after final review by the planning director. The project doesn’t need city commission action.

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East-west passenger rail for Miami? http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2014/12/23/east-west-passenger-rail-miami/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2014/12/23/east-west-passenger-rail-miami/#comments Tue, 23 Dec 2014 14:10:39 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=25879 In an effort to alleviate traffic in the county, a Miami-Dade transportation planning organization is looking into whether existing freight tracks could be used for a future passenger train. The Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is studying whether passenger trains could run on existing CSX freight tracks that run east-west in Central Miami-Dade. The MPO board, […]

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In an effort to alleviate traffic in the county, a Miami-Dade transportation planning organization is looking into whether existing freight tracks could be used for a future passenger train.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is studying whether passenger trains could run on existing CSX freight tracks that run east-west in Central Miami-Dade.

The MPO board, comprised of county and municipal elected officials, OK’d the study to move forward at its meeting last Thursday.

“The idea is to allow the folks in the western part of the county to have an alternative,” said County Commissioner Juan Zapata, an MPO board member who sponsored the initiative for the study. “I think the study would be able to shed a light on the feasibility and, again, looking at all these different assets, being able to have a much more comprehensive solution to the traffic problems out in the western part of the county.”

The study would look at the feasibility of reactivating the CSX line, which runs more or less parallel to Northwest 12th Street, from Northwest 37th Avenue west to 137th Avenue, county records show.

The eastern portion of the track is just south of Miami International Airport and runs parallel to the Dolphin Expressway. It ends at the existing Miami Intermodal Center, a transportation hub just east of the airport where Metrorail, Tri-Rail and buses stop.

The idea of using existing freight tracks, either operating or inactive, to run passenger trains isn’t new.

Among numerous studies looking into this was a 2004 Rail Convertibility Study, which identified the CSX Dolphin Corridor as having “strong potential as a transit corridor.” The tracks could accommodate a Metrorail or a light rail type of service, according to the study.

Supporters of using existing rail tracks for passenger rail have touted this initiative as a fiscally conservative way to expand mass transit.

“The idea of having that rail, at-grade light rail, is extremely inexpensive capitalwise, and if we have the right vehicles that are attractive to people, this could be an amazing thing for Dade County,” said County Commissioner Xavier L. Suarez, an MPO board member.

Mr. Suarez, too, has pushed for reactivating the CSX track as a passenger railroad. Earlier this month, he asked the Florida legislature to consider rerouting money Miami-Dade drivers pay to the state back to the county to fund four mass transit projects, including running passenger trains on the CSX tracks.

Annually, Miami-Dade drivers pay the state about $160 million in license tag renewal fees, according to calculations by staff at Mr. Suarez’s office based on state records. If this money is rerouted back to Miami-Dade, it could be used to cover the cost of the CSX track reactivation as well as three additional projects.

According to records Mr. Suarez provided Miami Today, this project would cost $144 million.

Separately from Mr. Suarez’s push at the legislature level, Mr. Zapata put the feasibility study in front of the MPO board.

“We had discussed this in the long-range plan and this would be a step forward creating that scope of work and budget for that CSX east-west rail line,” Mr. Zapata said at the MPO meeting after Mr. Suarez inquired about what prompted the legislation seeking the study. “I think this makes a lot of sense.”

Mr. Suarez added that he has spoken with the local Florida Department of Transportation representative about whether the state could buy part of the east-west CSX corridor that exists in Miami-Dade County.

When a commuter rail system in Central Florida, SunRail, was being planned, CSX sold a segment of the corridor to the state. CSX, however, retained the ability to run freight trains in that corridor, according to the company’s website.

CSX, a private company based in Jacksonville, provides rail-based transportation services in 23 states as well as in the District of Columbia and Canada.

The MPO-approved study won’t cost more than $125,000, which includes a 10% contingency. The cost is to be funded by $100,000 in federally allocated money, $12,500 in state money and a local match of $12,500 for the state allocation, records show.

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European realty buyers thin out http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2014/12/23/european-realty-buyers-thin/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2014/12/23/european-realty-buyers-thin/#comments Tue, 23 Dec 2014 14:05:34 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=25886 Economic changes on both sides of the pond have changed the profile of European buyers in the Miami housing market, where they are not as prevalent as they once were. Brokers long active on the international scene predict the next big wave will be from China. Reduced prices and a strong euro stimulated a European […]

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Economic changes on both sides of the pond have changed the profile of European buyers in the Miami housing market, where they are not as prevalent as they once were. Brokers long active on the international scene predict the next big wave will be from China.

Reduced prices and a strong euro stimulated a European buying frenzy during the downturn, said Craig S. Studnicky, principal at International Sales Group, but now, “that inventory has been completely absorbed.

“We are in a new cycle of very high-priced real-estate designed by world-famous architects, and it’s doing quite well.”

Some buyers in this arena are high net-worth individuals from Europe, said Ralph Arias, an associate at ONE Sotheby’s International Realty whose niche is properties listed at $5 million and up, “but they are sensitive to the euro-dollar ratio. There has been some volatility lately, and they try to time their purchases to their advantage – but by that time, the property may appreciate or not be available anymore.”

Political upheavals have kept Russians, who once flocked to Sunny Isles, Aventura and points north, out of the market for much of this year, Mr. Studnicky said.

“Earlier this year, when Russia invaded Ukraine,” he said, “The US and NATO placed sanctions, and that brought the Russian condo market here to a complete halt. The Russian stock market has devalued by almost 30%, as has the ruble.

“But just in the last few weeks we are starting to see a slight return of the Eurasian buyer, after nearly nine months of nothing.”

The devaluation of the ruble , said banker Carlos R. Fernandez-Guzman, president & CEO of Pacific National Bank, will probably have a greater impact on the South Broward market than the true Miami market, “but European economic issues are certainly going to have an impact on the Brickell-downtown Miami corridor. That economy is going through the same problems we saw a few years back. The euro is starting to feel the weight of the economic downfall in Europe.”

Very high-end Europeans are less likely to be affected by currency fluctuations, said Christian Kawas, director of luxury sales at South Beach Luxury Sales, a division of Douglas Elliman Florida.

“The luxury market in Europe is doing well,” he said. “High net-worth individuals still have cash, but they are buying closer to home right now. For example, London real estate is selling at record prices; their economy is still growing, but at a very slow pace, because there’s not that much liquidity in that market.”

Audrey Ross, a senior vice president at EWM who specializes in high-end homes, said a recent buyer survey from the Miami Association of Realtors showed all but one of the top five countries of origin among international buyers were in Latin America (the exception, at No. 4, was Canada). France, holding the No. 6 position, was the first of three European countries in the top 10, followed by Italy and Spain, in a three-way tie with Peru for the No. 8 spot.

New data from luxuryreal
estate.com, Ms. Ross said, shows that the last five of the 10 top countries of origin among visitors to the site are Europeans, hailing from the UK, Sweden, Germany, Italy and France.

“We see buyers from Italy and France, sparingly,” Mr. Studnicky said, “buying purely for second homes – with the possible exception of some Parisians, who are considering moving here full-time once they work out their visa issues, due to the changing demographics of Paris.

“I have a feeling that, come 2015, our market will be dominated more by Russia than France or Italy. If the Russian government caves in on demands and the economic sanctions are cancelled, the stock market will recover and they will feel better about buying properties here.”

Many Europeans who initially bought Miami area properties in the downturn, Mr. Arias said, are now making second and third purchases.

“The bust attracted them here,” he said, “and the lifestyle kept them here. People who bought condos now want to buy a house or a lot. Some have also cashed in on properties picked up at bargain rates.

“Meanwhile, the Latin American buyer is still here.”

But that market too is ailing. “There’s a significant slowdown from South American,” Mr. Fernandez-Guzman said. “Venezuela and Ecuador are going into hospice due to the fall in oil prices. Argentina is a horrible ticking time bomb, and Brazil is not doing very well.”

Taking their place may be a vast new, largely untapped market: China.

“China is a market that traditionally has not invested in Miami,” said Mr. Kawas, who recently returned from a luxury property trade show in Shanghai. “Most Chinese are buying for investment purposes, and word is getting out that, per square foot, Miami is a bargain. There are rumors of a direct flight from Shanghai to Miami sometime next year.”

Ms. Ross said Chinese investors recently told her that once there is a direct flight, Miami can expect a huge groundswell of buyers.

The addition of a direct flight from Dubai, Mr. Kawas pointed out, has already resulted in some real-estate investment from the Middle East: earlier this year, Qatar’s largest development company acquired the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort.

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Russian ruble’s skip hits Miami realty market http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2014/12/23/russian-rubles-skip-hits-miami-realty-market/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2014/12/23/russian-rubles-skip-hits-miami-realty-market/#comments Tue, 23 Dec 2014 14:00:54 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=25884 Residential brokers who help Russians find homes in Miami say the plunging value of the ruble will probably affect their clients in a variety of ways, including apprehension over buying and renting here alongside higher motivation to place their money in a more secure country. Russians are already buying in Miami and they know the […]

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Residential brokers who help Russians find homes in Miami say the plunging value of the ruble will probably affect their clients in a variety of ways, including apprehension over buying and renting here alongside higher motivation to place their money in a more secure country.

Russians are already buying in Miami and they know the market, said Anita Funtek, broker at The Boscolo Realty and CEO of the Miami New Construction Show.

“Their buying power is definitely shrinking as the ruble is falling, but as they have doubts in the future of the Russian economy, their motivation is higher to place their savings to a more secure country,” she said. “Many just want to stop their loss right now and, if they were planning to buy in the last couple of months, the current situation is helping them to make the decision faster.”

Ms. Funtek has a large number of Russian clients in Sunny Isles where there’s a community of Russian stores, restaurants and newspapers. She said there’s also a growing Russian population in Hollywood and Golden Beach.

It’s difficult to be a fortuneteller, she said, but the falling ruble could increase as easily as decrease the number of Russians buying and renting property in the Miami area.

“I just returned from a month-long trip to Ukraine and Russia where I talked to many friends who are worried about the ruble,” Ms. Funtek said. “Just like in the stock market crash, some want to stop the loss and put their money in a safe haven because they don’t feel they have a future in Russia; others are hesitant to buy and want to wait until the market improves.”

At the beginning of the year, $1 bought 33 rubles. The escalating currency crisis began in the second half of 2014 due to the fall in the price of oil, a major export of Russia, along with the international economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and European Union following President Vladimir Putin’s military intervention in Ukraine.

Last week, the Russian ruble steadied around 62.5 against the US dollar after Russian authorities announced Dec. 18 measures to ease banking regulations and encourage exporters to sell foreign currency. On Dec. 19, Mr. Putin endorsed the Russian central bank’s raising its key interest rate 6.5 percentage points to 17%, its highest since 2003.

The exchange rate from rubles to dollars results in properties that are twice as expensive for Russian buyers and current condo owners, said Irina Kim Sang, broker/associate for Coldwell Banker Miami Beach.

“The devaluation of the ruble and oil price decrease is distressing a lot of Russians,” she said. “I’ve seen the effect of this confusion and worry in my daily practice for the past three months.”

There will be a number of consequences, Ms. Sang said. “Those who have invested $1 million plus [for a condo] have at least $1,000 in monthly fees,” she said. “With the ruble devalued, they’re paying double the amount for maintenance and, should they only be using the property for three to six months of the year, they may want to sell.”

For her affluent Russian clients who have an investment portfolio of homes, sometimes three or more in Miami and elsewhere around the world, Ms. Sang doesn’t believe they are concerned with finances.

However, Ms. Sang said, political instability and the uncertainty of getting a visa might affect people of all income levels if they can’t travel to their vacation home.

“There are people in Russia who don’t want to immigrate and are more interested in investing their money in property here,” she said. “They prefer a tourist visa so they don’t have to pay worldwide income taxes.”

With the shrinking ruble and the possibility that the problem will continue to loom, Ms. Sang said there’s a potential for clients who might be interested in committing to immigration through an EB-5 visa, bringing investment to Miami for an approved regional center project. Those people, she said,  are potential homebuyers.

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Filming in Miami: December 25, 2014 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2014/12/23/filming-miami-december-25-2014/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2014/12/23/filming-miami-december-25-2014/#comments Tue, 23 Dec 2014 14:00:37 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=25869 These film permits were issued last week by the Miami-Dade County Mayor’s Office of Film & 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.  VMT PRODUCTIONS INC. California. Fiat NYE 2014-15. Collins Ave./41st St. […]

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These film permits were issued last week by the Miami-Dade County Mayor’s Office of Film & 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. 

VMT PRODUCTIONS INC. California. Fiat NYE 2014-15. Collins Ave./41st St. to 87th St.

METHOD LABORATORIES INC. Miami. Stretch Zone. Matheson Hammock Park.

LOCK AND KEY PRODUCTIONS. California. Pitbull’s New Year’s Resolution. Miami-Dade County Transit.

FLAMA MEDIA NETWORK LLC. NY. Left Unattended. Miami Beach citywide.

FIRST OPTION PRODUCTIONS INC. Miami. Stills for Precision Advertising. Countywide, Miami Beach citywide.

PARAGON PRODUCTIONS SERVICES. Miami Beach. Stills for 3 People. Miami Beach citywide.

P STUDIOS PRODUCTIONS INC. Miami Beach. Stills for Miami sites. Countywide, Miami Beach citywide.

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Our future’s easy to forecast if nothing happens (but it will) http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2014/12/23/futures-easy-forecast-nothing-happens-will/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2014/12/23/futures-easy-forecast-nothing-happens-will/#comments Tue, 23 Dec 2014 14:00:31 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=25867 Two weeks ago – before the Obama-Castro deal – a friend at dinner asked how I saw Miami in five years. Not having a crystal ball, my forecast began “I’m good for five minutes, but not for five years.” I explained it like this: if he could tell me what would happen with interest rates […]

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Two weeks ago – before the Obama-Castro deal – a friend at dinner asked how I saw Miami in five years. Not having a crystal ball, my forecast began “I’m good for five minutes, but not for five years.”

I explained it like this: if he could tell me what would happen with interest rates and the global economy, Ebola and other epidemics, rising sea levels, terrorism, war and peace, our local transportation crisis and what was coming in Cuba, then I’d be able to at least guess what might happen to Miami in five years.

Immediately after that dinner, I decided to write about the thought: what variables might influence Miami’s future? I’d just list what I said at dinner and be done with it.

Big mistake.

I did get the Cuba wild card into the mix, along with interest rate concerns and world economic conditions, which cover the ruble’s deflation that will surely impact Miami. But I forgot cyber-terrorism, such as we’ve just seen shut down a movie before it even opened and could easily target utilities and more. And I blindly missed the fall in oil prices. All that in just two weeks.

So when we asked a Cuban-American friend Sunday how he sees the long-term impact of the agreement with Cuba, I liked his candid answer: “I don’t believe in futurizing.” What, he said, if we’d been assessing the future the day before 9/11? How wrong we’d have been.

His point was clear. We don’t know when the next event as impactful as 9/11 will occur, what its nature will be, or even if it will be negative or, hopefully, positive.

What, for example, would happen now that we have opened the doors to Cuba if that island were suddenly to change both leaders and direction? If that seems unthinkable today, what would you have said two weeks ago about what has already transpired?

Set aside if you can the wisdom and the morality of what our president has done with Cuba – and, agree or violently disagree with that action, he is still our president, for all of us.

Be he a hero or goat, we now need to quit arguing about what has already happened and move on to what comes next regarding Cuba and how that will affect us. We don’t know for certain if reverberations will be positive or negative, but we know that they’re coming.

Those effects will alter Miami’s tourism, trade, investment and population shifts – and movements of people can, don’t forget, go both directions. The changes will also be psychological, both on the island and here, and political, both on the island and here.

Those effects will also be felt among our trade partners and friends. The English-speaking Caribbean worries about the economic fallout if Cuba one future day might align more closely with the US – stranger things have happened.

For years corporations and think tanks have been quietly modeling futures based on changes in Cuba. Now they can plug in new facts and do it all over again.

Please don’t take this wrong: models are vital because organizations must plan based on best guesses about what the world in five or 10 or 25 years will be like. You can’t plan in a vacuum, so assumptions about future local, national and global conditions are vital.

But think how sophisticated those models must be to get it right.

Go back 25 years or so and forecast today’s information and technological revolution. Who would have forecast hand-held technology as our future – and if they’d thought of it, who would have bet a corporate future on it?

In that same era, who would have put terrorism and cyber-terrorism atop the list of wild cards dangers? Some people spotted terrorism well before that, but it wasn’t the reigning global threat – communism was at the time.

Without completely ducking the issue, yes, the future of Miami five years out looks exceptionally bright – if nothing significant changes locally, nationally or globally.

While our economic gains are spotty, today more people are employed here than ever before. The building boom shows no sign of stopping on a dime, though proliferating extra-high condo sales commissions signal sales difficulties. Global trade infrastructure like port dredging should help Miami. Health and education are thriving industries.

But a wild card – maybe many of them – will disrupt the social, political and economic conditions that modulate Miami’s progress. And try as we might, we cannot pin down what those wild cards might be.

In the two weeks between being asked about Miami’s future and committing these thoughts to paper, we’ve felt the ruble’s collapse with its impact on our condo sales, the plunge in oil prices that will ripple through economies everywhere, the Cuba deal that probably was hastened or guided by the impact of falling oil prices in Cuba’s ally Venezuela, and Federal Reserve waffling on interest rates with its effect on economic climates everywhere. Plus cyber-terrorism globally.

These five almost simultaneously altered economic and political climates both globally and in Miami – by how much we have yet to see.

I can’t envision a similar wave of back-to-back changes. But of this I am certain: one is coming sometime in the next five years, one that will affect Miami greatly. The question is, good or bad?

Even a five-minute-ahead forecast is risky.

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FYI Miami: December 25, 2014 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2014/12/23/fyi-miami-december-25-2014/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2014/12/23/fyi-miami-december-25-2014/#comments Tue, 23 Dec 2014 14:00:26 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=25871 PARTNERSHIP POSSIBILITY: As developers of Miami Worldcenter move toward an early 2015 start of phase one, talks behind the scenes of a public-private partnership to build a parking garage as part of the large mixed-use project continue, according to Miami Parking Authority CEO Art Noriega. Although no substantive progress has been made on a final […]

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PARTNERSHIP POSSIBILITY: As developers of Miami Worldcenter move toward an early 2015 start of phase one, talks behind the scenes of a public-private partnership to build a parking garage as part of the large mixed-use project continue, according to Miami Parking Authority CEO Art Noriega. Although no substantive progress has been made on a final deal, he said, the possibility is still alive. In August, he revealed that talks under way between the developers and officials with the city and county might lead to a new garage managed by the authority. Those three parties are “currently engaged in the process” to craft a financial package, he said, and there are “many scenarios.” He told the Off-Street Parking Board he would not bring the matter back to the board unless it’s a good, solid deal. A representative for Worldcenter said the proposed parking facility could include about 3,000 public spaces as part of the development, which is poised to revive a 10-block area of Park West.

ADS ADD UP: Miami-Dade County is set to get a minimum of $17.25 million over five years from advertising sales on buses, trains, Metromover cars, Metrorail stations and the South Miami-Dade Busway. The advertising sales contract with Outfront Media Group LLC that the county’s Transportation and Aviation Committee approved 3-0 would guarantee that figure as a minimum and estimates $19 million plus as a more realistic total. In the contract, which still requires county commission approval, the county would get 60% of all advertising sales on its transportation sites and Outfront would get 40% as sales commission and for advertising placement and maintenance. If the county were to approve the deal and then exercise two five-year renewal options, the estimated return to the county would exceed $57.1 million.

NORTH MIAMI BOND GAIN: North Miami Beach’s $58 million in utility system revenue bonds have been revised upward to a positive ranking from stable by Fitch Ratings, which affirmed the bonds’ A+ rating. The system serves the city of 42,000 people plus Sunny Isles, Golden Beach and the areas of Norland, Bunche Park and Ojus, a total of 185,000 population served. The areas outside of city limits pay a 25% surcharge that goes directly to the city’s general; fund. The city this year increased water rates 9.5% to a cost of $26 per 7,000 gallons for the average residential user.

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Marlins store lands at airport http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2014/12/23/marlins-store-lands-airport/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2014/12/23/marlins-store-lands-airport/#comments Tue, 23 Dec 2014 14:00:19 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=25876 After months of planning, a Miami Marlins affiliate opened a small but merchandise-packed retail operation at Miami International Airport on Saturday. The 244-square-foot store is right in front of Gate D28, according to Claude Delorme, executive vice president for the Marlins operations and events. It’s the first to be open in the “marketplace” area of […]

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After months of planning, a Miami Marlins affiliate opened a small but merchandise-packed retail operation at Miami International Airport on Saturday.

The 244-square-foot store is right in front of Gate D28, according to Claude Delorme, executive vice president for the Marlins operations and events.

It’s the first to be open in the “marketplace” area of the North Terminal amid several concessions such as Caribbean food, empanadas and Cuban cigars, Mr. Delorme said.

“We have a captive audience in a great location that works well for us,” he said. “We wanted this airport presence to highlight our brand.”

Open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., the store offers caps, stuffed animals, jerseys, T-shirts, baseballs signed by players, cups, glasses, pins and photos of players among other novelty items.

The lease is with Marlins Airport Retail Operator LLC. Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is the firm’s chairman and CEO. Marlins President David Samson is listed on a county document as the firm’s president and secretary.

Miami Today reported in July that the airport deal is an eight-year lease with a two-year option. The firm is to pay 8% of gross revenues or $16,783 a year, or about $1,398 a month, whichever is more.

The deal is similar to an earlier one between the county and basketball’s Miami Heat, which opened a shop at the airport in 2012.

A memo from Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s office to commissioners last summer suggested there was no reason not to approve the Marlins airport venture.

The Heat store, the memo stated, generated more than $129,000 in revenue for the Aviation Department after having been open only 10 months, with the Heat paying the same 8% of gross revenue as the Marlins will pay.

“The addition of the Miami Marlins brand,” the memo stated, “will add to an already excellent product mix that includes the Miami Heat store.

“Because the Miami Marlins retail store brings a unique professional baseball sports-franchise merchandising concept to [Miami International], and assists Miami-Dade Aviation Department in reaching its goal of increasing passengers’ sense of place,” the memo stated, “it is in the best interest of the county to waive competitive bid procedures” and approve the deal.

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Profile: Bill Johnson http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2014/12/23/profile-bill-johnson/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2014/12/23/profile-bill-johnson/#comments Tue, 23 Dec 2014 14:00:18 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=25864 As director of one of the largest public utilities in the United States, Bill Johnson is responsible for supplying Miami-Dade County residents, businesses and visitors with high-quality drinking water and wastewater disposal services while overseeing a $13.5 billion capital program. Some projects are completed and others added, with the entire program scheduled for completion within […]

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As director of one of the largest public utilities in the United States, Bill Johnson is responsible for supplying Miami-Dade County residents, businesses and visitors with high-quality drinking water and wastewater disposal services while overseeing a $13.5 billion capital program.

Some projects are completed and others added, with the entire program scheduled for completion within 15 to 20 years. Pieces of it deal with expanding both freshwater and wastewater; and substantive amounts of work must be done in compliance with state law by 2025 for ocean fallout.

Over the past 34 years, Mr. Johnson has held a number of executive-level positions within Miami-Dade County government, including oversight of the county’s airports and several major infrastructure projects. Prior to taking over as director of the Water and Sewer Department, Mr. Johnson ran PortMiami. He said what he most misses about that position – and what he’ll miss when he leaves his current one in June – is the people.

Mr. Johnson will not be retiring, though. He loves teaching and predicts he will be in China and at local universities here teaching courses in leadership and in the cruise and maritime industries.

Miami Today reporter Susan Danseyar interviewed Mr. Johnson at his office in the Water and Sewer Department.

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City rejection, but Worldcenter rolls ahead http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2014/12/23/city-rejection-worldcenter-rolls-ahead/ http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2014/12/23/city-rejection-worldcenter-rolls-ahead/#comments Tue, 23 Dec 2014 14:00:12 +0000 http://www.miamitodaynews.com/?p=25889 Developers and designers of Miami Worldcenter met sharp criticism Dec. 17 from the city’s Urban Development Review Board, which then rejected the design – a move likely to hasten rather than derail the project. Board Chairman Robert Behar repeatedly referred to the massive design of the mega mixed-use project as a “monumental mistake.” Board member […]

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Developers and designers of Miami Worldcenter met sharp criticism Dec. 17 from the city’s Urban Development Review Board, which then rejected the design – a move likely to hasten rather than derail the project.

Board Chairman Robert Behar repeatedly referred to the massive design of the mega mixed-use project as a “monumental mistake.”

Board member Anthony Tzamtzis might have had the most severe dig: “The design is destructive to the urban grid of Miami.”

Fellow board member Neil Hall, who favored the project’s first phase, responded immediately: “That’s a huge statement.”

“We can deny the project,” said Mr. Behar. “It’s not appropriate, conceptually, with the urban grid of Miami.”

After several motions were made but not supported, and after deferral was mentioned, the developer’s own attorney asked for a blanket design denial so the project can move on.

The board members  – all architects – recommended denial of the phase one design. The board’s action is advisory only, simply a recommendation to the city’s planning director.

Attorney Ryan Baline asked for the denial so as not to delay the project. Developers recently announced plans to begin construction on phase one in the first quarter of 2015, with the goal of going vertical by mid-year.

Worldcenter is a collaboration of master developer Miami Worldcenter Associates and a team of development, design and engineering firms. The Forbes Co. and Taubman are building a 765,000-square-foot shopping mall anchored by Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s.

The entire development promises to bring a mix of residential towers, hotels, retail stores, restaurants, entertainment venues and a convention center to an area hugged by American
Airlines Arena and All Aboard Florida’s planned MiamiCentral train station.

Representatives of the developer presented the review board with many renderings of the first phase of the project.

Mr. Baline outlined some history of the Worldcenter plan, and how city commissioners approved a revised Special Area Plan earlier this year.

Of the overall 27 acres, phase one will consist of about 11.5 acres and include about 4.4 million square feet of development, Mr. Baline said.

This phase includes the large retail center – sometimes referred to as the Mall at Miami Worldcenter – one condo tower called Paramount, and one smaller apartment tower.

“You’ve probably read about the project,” said Mr. Baline. “We’re very, very close to shovel ready.”

At that point, Mr. Baline turned over the presentation to Michael Cohen, architect with Boston-based Elkus Manfredi Architects.

“Our design is fairly advanced,” he said. “We’re almost ready to put a shovel in the ground.”

“This urban project delivers what very few projects in Miami do,” said Mr. Cohen. Typically, this amount of development would become reality in stages over 15 or 20 years, he said, but this project now proposes mixed-uses in one or two phases.

Mr. Cohen mentioned the unique location of the site, from Northeast 11th to Sixth streets, and its close proximity to so many key spots like PortMiami, Bayside Marketplace, the Justice Center and the new train station.

He also mentioned the three Metromover stops adjacent to Worldcenter. “It provides linkage to all of those things… to the bay and Overtown, too,” said Mr. Cohen.

He praised the benefits of the tunnel to PortMiami opening this year, taking thousands of big trucks off downtown streets, which allowed the designers of Worldcenter to make its project more “pedestrian-oriented.”

Mr. Cohen showed on plans how Seventh Street is to become a pedestrian walkway, and how Eighth Street is to be widened and improved as a major connector westward to I-95.

He also mentioned extra wide sidewalks, 35 to 40 feet, where restaurant uses could spill outside.

A parking facility would rise five levels, with a mix of spaces for public and private use.

All review board members praised the intent of Worldcenter, to revive nearly 10 blocks of mostly empty lots in the Park West neighborhood with an influx of investment and jobs.

Mr. Behar said, overall the project is “fantastic” and the catalyst that is needed to bring life back to that area.

But Mr. Behar continued to have strong feelings about two aspects of the design. He said he has a fundamental issue with its massiveness. “You won’t get my recommendation” because of that, he said.

Mr. Behar said having a massive pedestal for the first phase appeared as more than 1,000 feet of unbroken structure, and too dominating.

Mr. Cohen attempted to point out areas along the several blocks where the large pedestal has setback areas of varying depth, some 40 feet, some 60 feet, back off the sidewalks.

“So as you walk along it doesn’t feel like it’s 1,000 foot long,” he told the board.

Mr. Behar was also critical of how much construction is planned for the area above a planned bridge to take pedestrians over Eighth Street.

Lobbying for a recommendation of approval, Mr. Baline told board members of the community outreach accomplished by the developers and a number of community meetings held in the area and adjacent neighborhoods, where they gained support for the project.

Mr. Tzamtzis said the project has historical significance for the city and he supports the project in concept.

But he spoke of the shadow created by gigantic buildings, and equated the design to “a box covering four city blocks.”

Mr. Tzamtzis also expressed feeling inadequate to judge such a large proposal.

“I feel like an idiot sitting here criticizing this… magnitude. I feel very strange about this. It should have been presented at different levels,” he said.

Mr. Behar again referred to the large pedestal that would be the foundation of phase one, calculating its size as a wall 1,225 feet long and 150 feet high.

“It would be a monumental mistake to have that massiveness and no break,” he said.

And Mr. Behar again was critical of the plan for uses above Eighth Street.

Mr. Cohen said a lot of work went into the design and “there are so many things at work here,” showing floor plans, garage entrances and more.

As the meeting dragged on, Mr. Hall said his time was limited and he’d have to leave soon, and he worried about losing quorum.

“I don’t have the same strong objections voice by my colleagues,” Mr. Hall said. “We should have a lot more debate on it, but I like what I see…” The project, he said, will rejuvenate the area and “bring back to life what was the heart of Miami.”

For the developers to get this project off the ground is “a major achievement,” he said. “It’s taken a lot of planning to get where you are.”

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