FIX UP THE DUMP?: After voters lifted a 20-year height restriction, North Miami commissioners are to decide Nov. 19 whether to sign a 99-year lease permitting a billion-dollar development over a former dump. Voters cleared the way for development of their 176-acre Munisport, the former dump, on Nov. 5. Hollywood-based Swerdlow Group proposes a project that would including two 24-story towers and as many as 5,000 high- and low-rise condo units. "We'll decide if we should vote on a contract and what that contract will be," said Commissioner Scott Galvin, who favors high-rises at the site. He said he'll weigh tax returns to the city and the likelihood of the developer making good on his word. "The worst thing we could do is give it to a developer that would let it sit." The project would still require building and zoning approval.
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IN TRANSITION: Two Miamians are among the six persons Gov. Jeb Bush tapped Tuesday to lead his transition policy team as he prepares to revamp his roster of executive agency heads. Chuck Cobb, CEO of Cobb Partners Ltd., an investment firm, and ambassador to Iceland during the presidency of the governor's father, will head the team looking at diversifying the state's economy with Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood. Sara Herald, group chief administrative officer of Union Planters Bank Southern Banking Group and an attorney, will head the team looking at rebuilding families by renewing the community's spirit with radio host Mark Merrill. The third team will look at reading initiatives.
DOCKING DELAYS: Attorneys can take too long - "They dream up more 'what ifs' than you can imagine," says Miami Commissioner Johnny Winton. That's why he and Mayor Manny Diaz are sitting in on talks as Flagstone Properties deals for two hotels, retail and a mega-yacht marina on Watson Island. Mr. Winton wants a lease by December. A referendum a year ago approved a city lease of 13.4 acres for 45 years to Flagstone to build $281 million Island Gardens. Flagstone would pay the city at least $1 million a year during construction, expected to take 3 years. Once it opens, Flagstone would pay $2 million a year plus 1% of gross and 2.5% from timeshare license sales. But Mr. Winton said economics aren't the snag - the delay is in details like time frames. Also at issue is the marina: If Flagstone can't get the Florida Cabinet to approve a dock for big yachts, Miami won't play, says Mr. Winton. Flagstone doesn't want to invest too much until it knows it can get the marina, he said. He expects to meet with Flagstone again Saturday.
ARTS CENTER BEEFS UP: Michael Hardy, president and CEO of the Performing Arts Center Trust, named Elaiza Irizarry and Rosemary Ravinal to key posts. Ms. Irizarry, a Venezuelan-born production manager with experience in theater, television and music, is director of operations while Ms. Ravinal is director of marketing and communications. Ms. Ravinal has two decades of public relations work in US and Latin American, including senior posts at AT&T, Telemundo Group and Avon Products. At $370 million, the center is county's the largest public-private partnership.
CITY SHUFFLE: Miami's major plan to overhaul city government wasn't discussed at the last commission meeting. Turns out the meeting wasn't as streamlined as Mayor Manny Diaz would like. Instead, the issue will probably surface Nov. 19. The mayor and City Manager Carlos Gimenez want to drop eight of 29 departments, staff an auditor general's office and save the city more than a half million dollars. After Mr. Gimenez leaves Jan. 6, the new manager would be the city's chief executive officer, among many changes. How the new CEO will be selected is one question Commissioner Johnny Winton said he is ready to ask.
FRAUD SUMMIT: The Florida Bankers Association and public and private groups statewide will hold a theft and fraud prevention summit Nov. 18 at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Headquarters in Tallahassee. A teleconference is available on such topics as ease of committing ID theft, scope of the problem in Florida and government action. A convicted identity thief will describe how easily he committed these crimes and how consumers can protect themselves. Details: (850) 224-2265
FIXER-UPPER: New York real estate firm UrbanAmerica L.P. has purchased the 500,000-square-foot Northside Shopping Center at Northwest 27th Avenue and 79th Street for $11.55 million from Tashi Valley Inc., a foreign firm, and plans a grand opening celebration Nov. 19. "Typically, this buyer looks for shopping centers in low- and moderate-income areas and looks to turn them around," said Lee Sobel, an associate with CB Richard Ellis Investment Properties, which represented UrbanAmerica. "This was a very large project on a 30-acre site in need of a little TLC."
DREAM JOB: Yolanda Aguilar says she has big shoes to fill. After nearly 21 years, the former West Miami city manager has switched cities and was sworn in as the city clerk in Coral Gables. Ms. Aguilar said she has a tough act to follow - former city clerk Virginia Paul held the post 38 years. With nine years as a city manager and 12 as West Miami's city clerk, Ms. Aguilar said she's ready for the job in a city she has admired for since she started a career in municipal government. "There's only one person who really knows - my late father. He knows it was my dream come true."
WAKE-UP CALL: ABC's "Good Morning America" will broadcast live from Miami Beach from 7-9 a.m. Friday, part of the show's nationwide tour of the 50 states. The live portion will feature an Ocean Drive block party between Seventh and Ninth streets, live feeds from News Cafe and the water's edge, and a free beach concert by Bon Jovi. To help promote the event, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau hired New Jersey-based Beach 'n Billboard to imprint thousands of "Good Morning America Nov. 15 Ocean Drive" logos across nearly a half-mile stretch of beach from Fifth to 11th streets. The show can be seen locally on WPLG (Ch. 10.)
FOOTSTEPS TO AUTOS: New York-based Turner Construction has been holding dinners nationwide honoring the 100th anniversary of its founding by Henry C. Turner. The latest was Friday, when it invited hundreds of employees, customers, suppliers and friends - and an interested guest. Clark Turner, who engineers traffic reforms for the City of Miami, stepped to the microphone and told guests "I'm going to make a claim nobody else in this room can make. In 2003 I'm going to celebrate 70 years with the Turner Co." Not on the payroll, however - he's the grandson of the founder. But instead of joining the company he followed in his other grandfather's footsteps. Mr. Turner told the crowd that Arthur N. Pierson, a New Jersey lawmaker who in 1921 was involved in creation of the New York New Jersey Port Authority, was a government official who foresaw the impact of the automobile on society.
BUILDINGS, REVENUES RISE: Turner Construction senior VP in Miami Michael Smith, who didn't rival Mr. Turner's 69-year affiliation but has been with the company 33 years, told diners that while Turner was based in New York at its 1902 founding, it got into Florida early on, with its first job in 1906 in Plant City, and in 1926 built the Breakers in Palm Beach. Its first Miami project was the Ingraham Building downtown - and one of its most recent was the JW Marriott Hotel in which Mr. Smith spoke. Chairman Thomas C. Leppert said that since the company did its first job in New York for $609 in 1902, it has built more than 4 billion gross square feet of space, more than any other company ever. This year's revenues will rise about 20%, he said, to almost $7 billion.
HOMESTEAD BOOM: Miami-based Lowell Homes will build 171 townhomes in Homestead as part of a master-planned community called Waterstone. Dubbed Marbella Cove at Waterstone, nearly 70 lots have been placed under contract in the past three weeks, said Lowell president Larry Kahn. Prices are to start in the low $100,000s for the Spanish-styled townhomes located east of Florida's Turnpike and north of Kendall Drive. "It's the new boom for Homestead," he said.
FIXER-UPPER: New York real estate firm Urban America has purchased the 500,000-square-foot Northside Shopping Center at Northwest 27th Avenue and 79th Street for $11.55 million from Tashi Valley Inc., a foreign firm. "Typically, this buyer looks for shopping centers in low- and moderate-income areas and looks to turn them around," said Lee Sobel, an associate with CB Richard Ellis Investment Properties, which represented Urban America. "This was a very large project on a 30-acre site in need of a little TLC."
HOMESTEAD BOOM: Miami-based Lowell Homes will build 171 townhomes in Homestead as part of a master-planned community called Waterstone. Dubbed Marbella Cove at Waterstone, nearly 70 lots have been placed under contract in the past three weeks, said Lowell president Larry Kahn. Prices are to start in the low $100,000s for the Spanish-styled townhomes located east of Florida's Turnpike. "It's the new boom for Homestead," he said.
MORE EMPTIES: Office vacancy in Miami-Dade County increased for the eighth consecutive quarter for the period ending Sept. 30, inching up 0.9% to 15.6%, a Grubb & Ellis report states. Local real estate agents said US corporate consolidation and weak business growth throughout the hemisphere have plagued the county's office leasing market. But while demand for space has fallen, the investment market continues to soar. More than a half-billion dollars in commercial real estate traded hands in the third quarter alone, as institutional buyers sought haven from stock volatility in Greater Miami. That strength is expected to continue in the fourth quarter due to investor confidence in the area as a long-term commercial real estate investment.
CREATIVITY PLUS: Mixing tourism with education and a good touch of marketing, Florida International University is offering students nationwide a chance to earn college credits during January break in classes at The Wolfsonian-FIU on Miami Beach. Study the films of Woody Allen, the architectural landscape of Miami, Art Deco landscape or creative thinking in multimedia campaigns and get college credit. There's a 50-student limit, housing at the South Beach Best Western Hotel - and 12 great days on the beach. And we studied English! Details: (305) 348-5669.
TIDES IN: The Tides Hotel in South Beach has joined The Leading Small Hotels of the World, which promotes luxury hotels with 100 or fewer rooms. The original 15 rooms of the vintage-1936 Tides were scrunched into 45 rooms and suites after 1997 renovation by owner Island Outpost, which also owns South Beach's Marlin and Kent Hotels.