Written by Miami Today on April 21, 2005
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CITY VS. COUNTY: A March 24 request from City of Miami commissioners to have Miami-Dade County planners give a presentation about the urban-development boundary has not been honored. Instead, Alicia Cuervo Schreiber, chief of operations for the city manager, said Diane O’Quinn Williams, county director of planning and zoning, invited city officials to a county meeting. "So she is too busy to come to our city commission," Miami City Commissioner Johnny Winton said. "I have a different thought on how I would like to approach the issue as opposed to making a definite decision. … Tell her ‘thank you for inviting us to her commission.’" Mr. Winton said he would put the item on the agenda for the next city commission meeting.
BOND OVERSIGHT: Miami-Dade County residents interested in serving on a panel to monitor the distribution of $2.9 billion in General Obligation Bond funds have until May 6 to apply. Thirteen of the panel’s 21 members are to be appointed by county commissioners, five by County Manager George Burgess and three by Mayor Carlos Alvarez. An orientation is scheduled for Wednesday (4/27) at Government Center, Stephen P. Clark Center, 111 NW First St., Miami. Applicants must be county residents and have no financial interest in the more than 300 projects to which funds are to be directed. Details: (305) 375-1900.
HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH? A resolution to raze city-owned Teatro Marti in East Little Havana and build 64 residential condos and commercial space won Miami City Commission approval Thursday, but one commissioner was disappointed. "Sometimes cities have responsibilities with culture, and we are doing that in Little Haiti," said Tomas Regalado. "We did that with the Lyric Theater. … We spent the money we needed to spend to help the theater. I just think we needed to do a little more." But, said Commissioner Joe Sanchez, "we did everything to try to keep them afloat. … I can tell you that close to $2 million went into the property." Amco Holdings LLC is to develop the site, subject to contract negotiations.
HOTEL PLANS SCORE: Plans for a developer to build and run a four-star hotel on the Melreese Golf Course near Miami International Airport were approved April 14 by the Miami City Commission. The decision to allow the hotel a maximum of 350 units came from a community meeting, said Commissioner Angel Gonzalez. "When I called a public meeting, we promised a maximum of 350 units, and that is the only reason why we are at 349 units – because otherwise, I assure you, they will be proposing to build 3,300 rooms and maybe an additional park and who knows," he said. Commissioner Johnny Winton said, "I think we are making Commissioner Gonzalez’s district way too good here." Mr. Gonzalez responded, "This will be my legacy." A board selected by City Manager Joe Arriola is to review proposals, but he said the commission will have the final decision.
GOOD WISHES, GOOD IDEAS: Miami Mayor Manny Diaz prefaced a presentation Tuesday on plans for Bicentennial Park with an announcement. "I’m sure you’re all interested that a new pope has been elected," he said. "It’s Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, so all of our prayers are with him." He then encouraged delegates to think how the proposed Museum Park would add to the city’s cultural landscape. "It’s no coincidence that the world’s greatest cities have world-class cultural attractions. Some offer visitors the water – including the Sydney Opera House, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg."
CIRCUS TIME: Miami Commissioner Johnny Winton alluded to the similarity between a tarpaulin and the big top when he opened proceedings at an event to kick off the master-plan phase for Museum Park on Tuesday. "There are some people who’d consider everything we do in Miami is a circus," he said at the launch in Bicentennial Park on Biscayne Boulevard. Then he waxed lyrical about the city’s turnaround: "It’s a long way from … ‘Paradise Lost’" – the 1981 Time magazine cover story on Miami’s decline. "This is paradise regained, or maybe paradise was never lost."
CASH FLOWS: "We are well into the second quarter of the fiscal year, and the city’s financial forecast continues to be positive," Miami’s chief of strategic planning and budgeting and performances, Larry Spring, told the city commission Thursday. "Because of price increase in fuel, our forecast collections are better than forecast expenses by $2.7 million. On the revenue side, in gross we are exceeding budget by $3.4 million." Mr. Spring said he met with fire and police officials to discuss the impact mushrooming development will have on public safety over the next five years.
HIALEAH REOPENING: A $5.3 million refit of the auditorium at Hialeah High School is complete, and the facility is to reopen Tuesday. The costs of revamping the facility, which is to double as a performing-arts center, were shared by Miami-Dade County, $3.5 million, and the Miami-Dade County Public Schools System, $1.8 million. "When we undertook research several years ago," said Deborah Margol, the county’s deputy director of cultural affairs, "it looked like the best prospect." Renovations include reconstruction of the stage and an upgrade of technical equipment.
FIU HALL OF FAME: Florida International University has scheduled its annual Hall of Fame ceremonies as a May 12 luncheon at Parrot Jungle. The school will honor local entrepreneurs. Among inductees will be Robert Bonnet of Florida Savings Bank, Robert Craven of Garden of Life, Monique Simmonds of Tortuga Imports, Larry Harris of Pollo Tropical, Agustin Herran of Sedano’s Supermarkets, Daniel Katz of DBK Concepts, Albert Santalo of Avisena, Alex Soria of Risk Based Solutions, Mike Thomas of the Astri Group and Jose Vargas of Mailcreations.com. The school also will honor Jorge and Carlos DeCespedes of the Pharmed Group and Manuel Medina of Terremark as entrepreneurs of the year. Details: (305) 348-4227 or http://ehof.fiu.edu.
GIBRALTAR BANK SOLD: Boston Private Financial Holdings Inc. acquired Coral Gables-based Gibraltar Bank for $245 million. Gibraltar common shareholders receive $113 million in cash and 4.3 million shares of Boston Private common stock valued at $23.33 each. With three offices in Miami-Dade County and one in Fort Lauderdale, Gibraltar is to be a springboard for Boston Private’s expansion in the Southeast. In addition to Central and Western Florida, the bank is eyeing Georgia and the Carolinas. "We have two or three choices, and our top priorities are opening offices in Florida and in Atlanta," said Steven Hayworth, Gibraltar president and CEO, who is to stay on. He said all 107 employees will, too.
STILL LOOKING: National homebuilder Lennar Corp., which has launched four condo developments with more than 1,300 units in Kendall and North Bay Village in the past two years, is still looking to develop condos in Miami-Dade County. Due to strong demand, the company plans to develop where competition is minimal and prices are reasonable, said Carlos Gonzalez, Lennar Development vice president of sales and marketing. "We want to continue to expand our high-rise business in Miami-Dade. For us, it’s just a matter of finding the right location and land opportunity that will make financial sense for us."
FREE-TRADE DEBATE: The consulate general of Nicaragua is presenting a debate on the benefits of the Central American Free Trade Agreement at 8 a.m. today (4/21) at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. Speakers include Walter Bastian, deputy assistant secretary of the US Department of Commerce, and Federico Sacasa, executive director of the Caribbean-Central American Action. RSVP: (305) 599-2737 or (305) 265-1415.
ADS AND ART: Miami International University of Art & Design, 1501 Biscayne Blvd., is to begin a bachelor’s degree program in advertising in July. The 12-quarter program is to focus on graphic design, business and marketing, officials said. The university is also to start a study-abroad program with group excursions to European cities for art, history and language classes. Details: www.aimiu.aii.edu.
LOW-INCOME HOUSING: The deadline to join a countywide low-income housing waiting list, which last year attracted more than 60,000 hopefuls, is April 29. About 600 applicants will qualify for the Public Housing and Moderate Rehabilitation Program and 300 for the tenant-based Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program courtesy of Miami-Dade Housing Agency. Last August, the agency started a waiting list for efficiencies and one-bedroom units. In this round of applications, all sizes of property qualify.
HEMISPHERIC CONGRESS IN MIAMI: The Latin Chamber of Commerce of the United States, known as CAMACOL, will sponsor its 26th hemispheric congress in Miami. The event attracts representatives of numerous chambers of commerce from Latin America to discuss the economic future of the hemisphere. "We will have a roundtable where we will be debating the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, CAFTA and other free-trade agreements," said William Alexander, president of the Latin chamber. The forum is planned for 6 p.m. Wednesday (4/27) at Sheraton Miami Mart Hotel & Convention Center, 777 NW 72nd Ave. Details: Patty Arias, (305) 642-3870.
SHOPPING FOR SHOPPES: Tenants are signing up for the Shoppes of Ives Dairy, a 24,000-square-foot strip center due to rise at State Road 441 and Ives Dairy Road. NAI Miami, a commercial real estate company, is negotiating leases. Video-game retailer Gamestop and Subway are the first tenants, taking 1,875 and 1,500 square feet, respectively. NAI cites commitments for an additional 18,000 square feet. Construction is due to begin this spring, with completion early in 2006.
PARKS ADVISERS: The Miami City Commission appointed nine members to the Parks Advisory Board on Thursday. The board reviews budgeting, beautification, security and physical improvements for city parks. Milagros Loyal, Victor Seijas Jr., Robert Flanders, Rick Walsh, Sallye Jude, Carlos Arboleya, Placido Debesa, Thomas S. "Sonny" Armbrister and Albena Sumner were appointed.
WORKFORCE EDUCATION: The education of our workforce is the topic of the International Roundtable today (4/21) sponsored by Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Miami Today. Panelists include Rudy Crew, schools superintendent; Ann Cramer, who heads IBM’s task force on education reform: Jaap Donath, Beacon Council vice president for research and planning; and Bill Schmidt, head of the US International Math and Science Study Center at Michigan State University. The free 7:30 a.m. session will be at school board headquarters, 1450 NE Second Ave. RSVP: Victor Guedez, (305) 358-2663.
CORRECTION: A story published April 14 headlined "International buyers keep fueling condo market," should have reported the size of units at Terrazas River Park Village as 700 to 1,600 square feet.