PRICE CONSCIOUS: The consumer price index for the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area rose markedly in October, the most recent time period studied, the US Department of Labor reported Tuesday. Before seasonal adjustments, consumers in the area spent $177 in October for the broad range of expenses that in 1982 would have cost them $100. In August of this year that same shopping basket would have cost local consumers $175.20. By comparison, in October consumers in Atlanta would have spent $179.40 for the same items, those in the San Francisco area $194.30 but those in Houston just $162.60. Nationally, the cost of the same items was unchanged from October to November, but figures for the Miami area haven't been calculated for that period. Prices here in October were 1.6% higher than October 2001 and 1% higher than in August, the department reported.
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NO BAR TO GAMBLING: Miami commissioners have agreed that if gambling is ever legalized, their new Watson Island tenants could institute it in two hotels they plan to build. The city commission last week approved a lease for Flagstone Properties, a Miami-based firm that won a bid to develop the northwest end of the island. As approved in a November 2001 referendum, Flagstone will lease that part of the island for 45 years, with an option for two 15-year renewals. Dubbed Island Gardens, the $281 million project proposes two hotels, a mega-marina, shops and restaurants. Flagstone would pay the city at least $1 million a year during construction, expected to take about 3 years. Once two hotels are open or a year after the first opens, whichever comes first, rent becomes $2 million. On the third anniversary of hotel occupancy, the city gets 1% of gross rents and 2.5% of gross sales of timeshare leases in the hotels.
MOVE 'EM OUT: In order for Flagstone to build on Watson Island, the city has agreed to relocate all current occupants on that section of the manmade isle by July 31, taking legal action if necessary. City documents said four remain. The city faces no penalties if it doesn't meet the deadline.
LAND DEVELOPMENT ROLE: Mary A. O'Banner has been named executive director of the Florida Memorial College Foundation. She will continue to serve as special assistant to the college's president, Albert E. Smith, a post she took in 1996 after joining the institution in 1989. The non-profit foundation aims to create a development plan for the Miami-based college's 350 acres in St. Augustine that it left behind when the school relocated to Miami-Dade in 1968, at the height of the Civil Rights movement. "The ultimate goal is to orchestrate a recurring revenue stream that would increase the college's endowment," Dr. Smith said.
COMING ATTRACTIONS: The next stage of the Miami's master development plan, which the city commission approved last week, plans for 1.3 million more square feet of offices, 750,000 of retail, 500,000 of convention space, 750,000 for industrial use, 450,000 for institutional uses, 1,500 hotel rooms and 60,000 seats for attraction uses. Daily impacts include added demand of 2.8 million gallons of water, 942,000 gallons of wastewater and generation of an average of 57 tons of solid waste, according to city documents. Included are preservation of the Miami Circle archeological site, added emergency shelters for future residents and allotting $2.5 million to Miami-Dade County for traffic impacts, according to a South Florida Regional Planning Council memo.
HO, HO, HO: The Miami Parking Authority has your holiday present all picked out and waiting for you - for an hour. When you drop your coins into a Miami or Coconut Grove meter, you'll get a free hour after the meter expires before you get another present: your $18 fine for overtime parking. But the good will lasts only 10 days, Dec. 23 until New Year's Day. And remember, just for an hour.
NORTH MIAMI AAA: Fitch, a New York bond rating agency, Monday graded North Miami's $14.7 million special obligation refunding bonds series 2002 AAA/F1+. Proceeds will refund $11.9 million of the city's outstanding 1997 bonds and to pay the cost of issuance. The long-term AAA rating, Fitch said, is based on the city's bond insurance policy provided by Ambac Assurance Corp., which is to insure scheduled principal and interest payments until the bonds mature in 2032. The short-term F1+ rating is based on liquidity support from Bank of America in the form of a standby bond purchase agreement.
BAY ENTRANCE: The City of Miami will commit $4.16 million to extend its planned river walkway to The Related Group of Florida's One Miami project. The river walk and greenway will serve as a gateway to the Miami River at Biscayne Bay where the One Miami project will feature two residential towers, a restaurant and cafe. Miami commissioners, in approving the money, noted that the project missed out on incentives that are being created to generate construction in the urban core. Commissioner Johnny Winton said One Miami is the first residential project in downtown Miami in at least 20 years and will add an estimated $2 million per year to the tax base. Eventually, the city's entire walkway is planned to head west and circle the 5.5-mile Miami River.
BUSING SOUTH: Construction has begun on South Miami-Dade's busway extension to Florida City. The $88 million project, due to be done in October 2004, will add a dedicated 11.5-mile bus lane from the current terminus at Cutler Ridge south to Florida City. The project includes a two-way bus lane and adjacent bike path, and will parallel the west side of US 1. Miami-Dade Transit officials say the corridor will improve access to South Dade by providing an alternative to driving. The speed limit for buses on the system will be 45 miles per hour. Details: (305) 242-8713.
ROCKET AWAITS IGNITION: Miami-start-up Florida Express has again delayed the launch of the Island Rocket II, a 65-foot high-speed catamaran slated to whisk passengers between Miami's Bayside and Isla Morada in the Florida Keys in 90 minutes. Ship captain and Florida Express President Mark Rosandich said he's still awaiting approval from the US Coast Guard Miami area district, which is finalizing inspections of the vessel. Service was originally to begin Nov. 13.
BEACON AWARDS: The Beacon Council, Miami-Dade's economic development organization, will host its first Beacon Awards at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 16 at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. The event will recognize contributions to Miami-Dade County by honoring one company in each of the county's targeted industries: aviation, biomedical & healthcare services, film and entertainment, financial services, information technology/telecom, international commerce, visitor industry and education. The event is part of the council's new Local Business Priority program designed to retain and expand businesses and identify employment growth obstacles in the county.
OPA-LOCKA TAKEOFF: Renaissance Airpark west of the Opa-locka Airport may be about to overcome the last obstacle to development of the 147-acre mixed-use business park, said Eric Person of Grubb & Ellis, who is handling the proposed complex leases. County commissioners agreed Tuesday to ask the state to rezone part of the county-owned land to allow Pasquale Properties, the developer, to build office and industrial space. Current code allows transportation terminals. Mr. Person said the group plans to begin construction of the $500 million park in May and it would be fully built-out in 10 years. He said he will start leasing some of the planned 3-million-square-foot facility in summer.
TAX BREAKS FOR RYDER: Miami-Dade Commissioners Tuesday approved up to $1.9 million in tax breaks for Ryder System Inc. The Targeted Jobs Incentive Fund program participation helped Ryder decide last month to stay in the county while relocating its headquarters to a new site. Ryder is to move next year from Doral to Medley. The county will refund the company $195,260 yearly from 2006 to 2015, a county document shows. Planning to invest about $40 million in the headquarters, Ryder's 10-year taxes would exceed $9.4 million, of which $4 million would go to the school system, according to the Beacon Council, the county's economic development organization.
AD-ING UP: Miami Beach events producer ACT Productions won the rights to produce the 44th Clio Festival at Miami Beach's Eden Roc Resort & Spa next May 18-22. It's the third consecutive casting of the international advertising awards competition on the Beach. Begun in 1959, Clio recognizes advertising excellence worldwide. It includes a five-day festival in South Beach and should attract 400-600 people, says ACT President Bruce Orosz, who is also a new co-chairman of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau entertainment task force.
SCRATCH THE REP: Due to federal regulations, 14-year Florida legislative veteran Mario Diaz-Balart must sell his stake in Miami PR firm Gordon Reyes Diaz-Balart if he is to serve, as elected, in the US House. On Jan. 7, the firm will officially become Gordon Reyes and Co., named for remaining partners Seth Gordon and Jami Reyes.
CONVENTION BUREAU STUDY: Miami-Dade Commissioners Tuesday approved a $100,000 study in conjunction with the City of Miami to review performance of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, which is mostly funded with public money. Miami officials will pay 25% of the report, which is to recommend how the bureau could provide "optimal public relations," a county document shows. It is to be ready by March. Miami Beach recently hired Economic Research Associates to conduct "an almost identical study for about $125,000," said Bill Johnson, an assistant county manager. He said Beach City Manager Jorge Gonzalez in July had agreed to do the study with the county and Miami, but Beach commissioners opted to go it alone.
BUILDER OF YEAR: The Builders Association of South Florida has named developer Jason Robertson builder of the year. He is president of Urban Habitats and a 10-year member of the board of the association. "Since my college years," he said, "architecture was my calling, but building became my passion." He said being recognized by his peers was "the highest honor."
GLOBAL REALTY INVESTMENT: The outlook for global investment in real estate and development in Greater Miami will be the topic of an International Roundtable Jan. 16 sponsored by Swire Properties and Miami Today. Panelists will be Manuela C. Janak, broker-president of International Real Estate Services & Investments Inc. and chairman of the International Council of the Realtor Association of Miami-Dade County; Kimberly A. Kirschner, president of Kirschner Realty International Inc. and deputy world president of the Americas of the International Real Estate Federation; Alan Ojeda, chief executive officer of the Rilea Group; and Stephen L. Owens, president of Swire Properties. The 5 p.m. event at the Courts of Brickell Key, 801 Brickell Key Blvd., is free with reservations. Details: Techy Fernandez, (305) 358-2663.