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Written by on July 31, 2003

FYI

Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead

of the news. Here are highlights from the most current edition.

LOCAL HOME FRONT: Sales of single-family homes in Greater Miami climbed slightly last month to 1,142 from 1,124 in June 2002, and a 19% rise in the median price outpaced hikes at the state and national levels, the Florida Association of Realtors said. The jump in median price was the third-highest in Florida, behind Daytona Beach, at 30%, and Fort Pierce, 23%. Only homes in Naples, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale brought better prices than in Miami, where single-family houses sold for a median $228,000. That compares to a median $191,900 a year earlier, statistics show. The state’s median price has risen 53% from $105,800 in June 1998. The figures, the association reported, are based on 18,828 home sales statewide.

NATIONAL HOME FRONT: The National Association of Realtors reported a modest 0.3% dip in sales of existing single-family homes last month from May. The median price, $176,500, was 7.7% higher than in June 2002. Cathy Whatley, president of the national association, cited low interest rates, continued immigration and "echo boomers, the children of the baby-boom generation" for the rise in the median price. She said four of 10 buyers last month purchased their first home. The slight fall in sales, said David Lereah, chief economist for the national association, "may reflect some weakness in the labor markets" but continuing low mortgage rates are helping the overall picture. Rates for a 30-year, standard, fixed-rate mortgage nationally dipped to 5.23% from 5.48% in May and 6.65% in June 2002, Freddie Mac said.

RATE HIKE PARKED: A proposed parking increase in Miami was squashed by city commissioners last week, but a plan to put decals on residents’ cars is still progressing. Art Noriega, executive director of the Miami Parking Authority, said Monday that commissioners felt the "timing wasn’t right" for an increase that could have been as much as 200% in some locations. The decal plan will return to the commission in September and could be implemented in some neighborhoods by the end of the year, he said. A hike has been put off indefinitely.

RENT RETURN: The City of Miami must reimburse thousands of dollars in rent and fees to three boating groups because of incorrect inflation adjustments. City commissioners agreed last week to give Miami Yacht Club $8,110, United States Sailing Center $1,827 and Miami Outboard Club $26,802, according to city documents and Laura Billberry, the city’s assistant director for economic development. The payment to Miami Yacht Club is the result of a settlement of a June 2001 suit by the club over errors in rent adjustments based on inflation from December 1997 to May 2003. The city also must pay $5,000 to the yacht club for legal expenses. The city is giving the other two organizations refunds as a result of the case.

TRIP REGISTRATION: Business leaders interested in attending a four-day trade trip to the Dominican Republic must register by Friday. The trip will be Sept. 15-18 and costs $650 for one person or $1,250 for two people. The price includes ground transportation and access to several events. The state’s second-largest importer, the Dominican Republic brought in $2.4 billion from Florida last year. To register, call (305) 569-2650 or visit www.eflorida.com/missions.

HOTEL BOOKINGS: Greater Miami hotels were 68.7% occupied with an average room rate of $131.06, according to a Smith Travel Research study that covered January through May. The city was second in the US in both categories, said David Whitaker of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. Oahu, Hawaii, had a higher occupancy rate, 70%, and New York City had a higher average room rate, $157.32.

MUSEUM GRANT: The Miami Art Museum has received a $50,000 grant from the Heckscher Foundation for Children to expand its educational programs for young people. The museum’s arts-education program is the largest in Miami-Dade County, drawing more than 475,000 visitors since its inception in 1996. "We are grateful for this national vote of confidence that acknowledges the quality of our educational programs as well as our reach in the community," said museum director Suzanne Delehanty.

COUNTY HIRING: Miami-Dade County will hire about 100 mechanics to work on county buses and trucks as part of the transit renovations funded by a half-cent sales surtax OK’d by voters last November. The jobs will pay between $16.86 and $27.08 an hour, and the county will offer on-the-job training, said spokesman Manny Palmeiro. Details: South Florida Workforce, (877) 872-5627.

MIAMI REDEVELOPMENT: An external audit of Miami’s Community Redevelopment Agency shows poor record-keeping, improper uses of tax funds and an incomplete inventory of loans last year, Ken Deon and Donnovan Maginley of accounting firm KPMG told the CRA board Monday. The agency uses property-tax revenue to improve southeast Overtown, Park West and Omni and is under federal investigation, unrelated to the KPMG audit.

EQUITY ONE ACQUISITION: Miami Beach real-estate investment trust Equity One has purchased Sheridan Plaza in Hollywood for $75.3 million. The outdoor shopping center is anchored by a Publix supermarket and contains Office Depot, Ross Dress for Less, Bed Bath & Beyond and Eckerd stores as well as an AMC Theatres cinema and several restaurants, banks and doctors’ offices. Chaim Katzman – chief executive at Equity One, which specializes in grocer-anchored shopping centers – said the Publix store is the largest in Broward County. Reef Management Corp.’s Miami RIVER AGREEMENT SIGNING: An agreement on dredging Miami River was to be signed Wednesday (6/30) at Lummus Park with officials from Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami and the Miami River Commission and Col. Greg May of the US Army Corps of Engineers in attendance. A request for proposals for the project is expected to be issued by the corps next month, with a contract being awarded in November and dredging expected to start in February.

CLEANING UP PARK WEST: Miami police netted 12 felony and 185 misdemeanor arrests during a 90-day pilot program in the city’s Park West entertainment district funded through the Community Redevelopment Agency. Police interviewed another 1,029 homeless individuals during the program. The targeted area, along Northeast Ninth and 12th streets west of Biscayne Blvd., had increased police presence from March 15 to June 15, costing nearly $45,000 in overtime, Lt. William Alvarez told CRA board members. Police are proposing surveillance cameras to reduce crime in the area.

COLLEGE TRUSTEES: Gov. Jeb Bush reappointed Peter W. Roulhac, vice president of Wachovia Bank, and Miami real-estate agent Hank Klein to the Miami-Dade College board of trustees, pending state Senate confirmation. Paul C. Tanner, a financial adviser with Morgan Stanley, was appointed to the Broward Community College board. They were among 20 statewide trustee appointments.

BEST HOSPITALS: Nine programs at the University of Miami’s Jackson Memorial Medical Center were recognized among the best in the country in US News & World Report’s 14th annual America’s Best Hospitals rankings. Bascom Palmer Eye Institute was named the second-best ophthalmology hospital. It has been rated first or second every year the rankings have been published. Other UM specialties in the top 40 were kidney disease; geriatrics; ear, nose and throat; digestive disorders; hormonal disorders; urology; rheumatology; and orthopedics. The magazine ranks 203 medical centers in 17 specialties.

PROPERTY TOUR: The South Florida chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties will sponsor its annual bus tour of Miami-Dade County properties Oct. 24. The association, which represents developers and property owners, will tour Palm Beach County on Sept. 19 and Broward County on Nov. 14. Details: (954) 938-2137.

office represented the private seller.

JUNGLE GARDEN: The new Parrot Jungle Island will be responsible for the design, construction, management and maintenance of Ichimura Miami-Japan Garden on Watson Island. The park and the City of Miami agreed on a seven-year deal for the garden last week as part of a 45-year lease. The city will pay Parrot Jungle’s expenses to operate the garden and has received $657,000 in grants. Lester Collins Pancoast has been named lead architect and designer. The $1.2 million garden is 1 acre east of Parrot Jungle, which opened in July. The botanical garden opened in 1961 as San Ai-En Japanese Garden but closed in 1981. It was restored and renamed Ichimura Miami-Japan Garden in 1988 but was destroyed in 1992 by Hurricane Andrew.

GOURMET SUBLEASE: Airline caterer Gate Gourmet has subleased 55,000 square feet of warehouse space at 1855 NW 70th Ave. in the Airport West area. The company, whose clients include American Airlines and United, was forced to leave its former home by expansion work at Miami International Airport. Faith Freight Forwarding is the landlord and trucking firm Fashion Marketing International holds the lease. Ed Redlich of ComReal Miami Inc. negotiated the transaction.

BANKERS ASSEMBLY: The Florida International Bankers Association will host the Federation of Latin American Banks’ annual assembly Nov. 23-25 in Miami. Among invited speakers are Henrique de Campos Meirelles, president of Central Bank of Brazil, and Randal K. Quarles, assistant secretary of the US Treasury. The event will take place during the week after the Free Trade Area of the Americas meetings. "We expect there will be some significant synergies between the two events," said Patricia Roth of the Florida association.

MOVING UP: Florida Memorial College will offer its first graduate-degree courses next spring. The college, South Florida’s only historically black college, received approval for master of science degrees in elementary, exceptional-student and kindergarten through 12th-grade reading education from the Southern Association of Colleges at its June meeting. The 124-year-old college says it produces the highest number of black teachers in the nation.

TOWN & COUNTRY REDEVELOPMENT: Codina Group Inc. said it will manage, lease and redevelop Town & Country Center, 8505 Mills Dr. in Kendall. The shopping center, owned by financial-services provider TIAA-CREF, has 601,942 square feet of leaseable space and six outparcel sites, a hotel and a strip convenience center with tenants such as AMC Theatres, Publix, Marshalls and Eckerd. The enclosed mall, which surrounds a six-acre lake, includes Ross Dress for Less, Sears, Lane Bryant and New York & Company. "Our goal now is to review the history of the mall, its tenant mix, demographics and other elements key to its success," said Trish Blasi, president of Codina Real Estate Management. "Then we will develop our strategy for how we can make it an even more successful center in the future."

STAYING PUT: Although former Miami Heat basketball star Alonzo Mourning has jumped to the NBA’s New Jersey Nets for next season, Miami will remain the home court for both his permanent residence and his childrens’ school, said Miami-Dade County Commission Chairwoman Barbara Carey-Shuler. Mr. Mourning attended last week’s Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting and was recognized for his work with children in the Overtown neighborhood. He has raised $2.6 million for local charities through his annual fund-raising events dubbed "Zo’s Summer Groove."

REAL-ESTATE POST: Jones Lang LaSalle Americas named Jay Perkins regional leasing director for Florida. He will be based in Miami. His duties include supervising the firm’s leasing agents, securing new business and overseeing investment services statewide. Mr. Perkins formerly was owner of Perkins Realty Advisors Inc. and vice president at Codina Real Estate Services. Among his significant lease transactions have been deals with Visa/Inovant, Norwegian Cruise Lines, BellSouth, MCI Communications and Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi.

DEFENDERS EXPAND: The South Florida Federal Public Defenders office has leased more than 3,600 square feet to add to its existing space at Museum Tower, 150 W. Flagler St., said Sabine Gaedeke Stener of Gaedeke Landers, the tower’s management company. The public defenders now occupy about 27,000 square feet and is the building’s third-largest tenant.

MOVING MEDIATORS: Stirling Mediation Group, which offers services in civil litigation and family matters, has moved to 888 Brickell Key Drive, Suite 1602, from Weston. Four mediators work in the Miami office.

MULTILINGUAL WEB: The Florida Attorney General Office’s Web site, www.myfloridalegal.com, is now available in seven languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, German, Chinese, Japanese and French. Changes were made to serve the state’s diverse population and the wide range of tourists who visit the state, the office said.

CORRECTION: A story last week incorrectly reported the financial status of AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines. Despite losses, the company has not filed for bankruptcy protection.

CORRECTIONS: A Spotlight on Excellence advertorial last week about Cervera Real Estate incorrectly identified Veronica Cervera in a photo. Another advertorial listed inaccurate information for residential tower Platinum at Biscayne Bay. The project is at 480 NE 30th St., and the phone number is (305) 573-6522.

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