Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead
of the news. Here are highlights from the most current edition.
ON TRACK: Miami has agreed to work with the Florida Department of Transportation on a streetcar feasibility study that will cost almost $3 million. City commissioners adopted a resolution July 28 authorizing City Manager Joe Arriola to execute a joint-participation agreement. The state is to provide up to $2.8 million for the project. City officials hope to create a 6.8-mile roundtrip loop with 33 stops between downtown and the Miami Design District.
TRANSIT SECURITY GRANTS: Miami-Dade County is to receive $2.4 million in grants from the US Department of Homeland Security for transit-related upgrades. The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority and Tri-County Commuter Rail will receive a combined $1.8 million for commuter and heavy rail systems. Miami-Dade Transit will receive $600,000 for its bus systems.
BOND OVERSIGHT: Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez has appointed three people to a panel to review allocation of $2.9 billion in General Obligation Bond funds approved in November. The 13 commissioners are to recommend a person each, and County Manager George Burgess is to choose five to complete the 21-member Citizens' Advisory Committee. Mr. Alvarez selected State Farm Insurance agent Enrique Bello, attorney Joseph Bober and IVAX pharmaceutical consultant Juan Sanchez. The county aims to have a complete committee this month.
HEDGING BETS: RG Rilea Group can build a 527-foot-high office tower, the Miami City Commission decided July 28, while retaining the right to erect residences on the same site. The second phase of Park Place, renamed 1450 Brickell, is to rise 32 stories, with 500,000 square feet to be dedicated to offices and almost 11,000 square feet to retail. The commission approved a special permit for the project RG Rilea had planned as rental apartments - like the first phase of Park Place it renamed One Broadway. The developer reserves the right to develop a 371-unit apartment block instead of offices.
SPACE RACE: Miami's office market ranks among the healthiest in the US, says Realty group Colliers International. In the second quarter of this year, Colliers says, 145,000 more square feet were leased here than became vacant, ninth in the nation in city markets. In suburban Miami-Dade, 689,000 square feet of office space was absorbed, 12th in the nation in suburbs. Fort Lauderdale was sixth among cities, with 172,000 square feet absorbed, and seventh in suburbs, at 870,000.
BILLBOARDS FOR BLACKBOARDS: Aventura officials have sealed a deal with Clear Channel Communications intended to help finance the city's charter schools. In a partnership with the Texas advertising and entertainment company, the city is using a billboard on Ives Dairy Road to generate funds that will be used by schools for books, computers, supplies and labs. "All revenue from billboards go directly to our schools, with no cost to the city or increase in taxes," said Commissioner Zev Auerbach, who estimates the deal will bring in about $75,000 annually.
COMBATING A SHORTAGE: The University of Miami got a three-year, $1 million federal grant to launch a nurse anesthesia master's degree program, combating what School of Nursing and Health Studies Dean Nilda Peragallo calls "a major concern nationwide." A shortage of certified registered nurse anesthetists often forces cutbacks in surgeries, she said. Classes begin this fall in the 28-month program.
PLAY WORLD BALL! The Florida Marlins and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau are trying to bring the inaugural World Baseball Classic sponsored by Major League Baseball to Miami in March. The tournament is to feature 16 teams with major-league players, each team representing the players' home country. Cuba has been invited to join but likely would not send a team to Miami. Japan, Taiwan, China and South Korea are expected to play their first rounds in Japan.
HOTELS PROSPER: Miami ranked fourth nationally in growth in hotel occupancy and fourth in daily rate increases in June, according to Smith Travel Research. Occupancy increased 6.8% from the prior June, and rates rose 10.9%. Tops in occupancy growth was San Diego, 8.9%. New York led the nation in rate increases at 15.1%.
DINING BARGAINS: Upscale restaurants are banding together in August and September to offer three-course dinners for $30.05 and lunches for $20.05, which the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, which is organizing the program, says is a 25% to 60% discount from normal prices. Details: www.miamirestaurantmonth.com.
DINING PROFESSIONALS: Convention guests this week who may find the Miami Restaurant Month bargains intriguing include the 200 visiting members of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals who will be here for their annual convention at Loews Miami Beach Hotel today (8/4) through Saturday.
NORTH MIAMI PURCHASE: SMK Capital Partners has purchased the Biscayne Centre in North Miami for $22.5 million. Biscayne Centre LLC in 1990 bought the 11900 Biscayne Blvd. property for $7.4 million. SMK plans to convert the 156,500-square-foot rental building into office condos, as it did with 1680 Michigan Ave, Miami Beach. SMK, which owns a stake in 1110 Brickell Ave., is eyeing other acquisitions. "We're looking at a number of properties which are leased, Class A or B and have upward of 80,000 square feet," said principal Sam Konig. Brother Michael Konig said the company is assessing opportunities beyond Miami-Dade County and expects to close other deals by year's end.
INDUSTRIAL BUY: Seagis Property Group bought a 215,000-square-foot industrial building at 7901 NW 71st St. for $10.7 million. The Philadelphia company owns and operates buildings along the Eastern Seaboard. John Begier, company principal, said the property was purchased from investors whose names he would not disclose. The property is leased long-term to contractors Glassalum International Corp. The site contains about 8 acres of additional land, according to a statement from Seagis. Mr. Begier said 50,000 square feet of the additional land is to be used for development next year.
DOGGONE: The Dawg House Grill at the Tudor Hotel in Miami Beach is closed after less than six months. Owners Arnold Cohen, Gary Herwitz and Andrew Kramer opened the 4,000-square-foot restaurant at 1111 Collins Ave. in March. Despite promising the food of a five-star chef using the alias Top Dawg, the restaurant closed last week.
RUSSIAN ON CUBA: Former prime minister of the Russian Federation Egor Gaydar is keynote speaker at the 15th Annual Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy Conference. Mr. Gaydar was instrumental in transforming the Russian market under former president Boris Yeltsin. The conference begins today (8/4) and continues through Saturday at Miami Dade College's Wolfson Campus, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami. Sessions will focus on future transition of the Cuban economy, US relations with Cuba and the relationship between Cuba and Venezuela and its potential impact on the US. Details: (305) 237-3222.
NEW GABLES CHAMBER: The Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce on July 29 dedicated its new home, a 4,100-square-foot, two-story standalone building at 224 Catalonia St. Since moving in, Chamber President and CEO Lettie Bien said, the group has received three calls from investors interested in buying the building. The chamber paid about $2 million for the building, which was sold five years ago for $895,000. "It's the first time in the chamber's 40-year history that we've purchased both land and building," she said. The chamber has about a dozen full-time and part-time employees. Walls were painted and new carpeting installed before the chamber moved in.
FRIES WITH THAT? The Miami Shore Village Council plans to instruct the village's planning board to develop an ordinance that would prevent construction of massive homes - which officials are branding McMansions. Councilman Steve Loffredo asked for the action at the council's latest meeting. Commissioners voiced concern with restricting property owners on one hand and on the other hand losing community identity if a number of large homes sprout up. Census data show that 3,246 of the 3,631 residences in the 10,380-resident village are owner-occupied.
THE CORRECT KEY: In our 2005 Spotlight on Excellence issue July 21, the information on Swire Realty should have stated that the firm was started "as a service for residents of the tiny island enclave of Brickell Key," where Swire Realty still has its offices at 625 Brickell Key Dr. Details: (305) 372-1288.
CORRECTION: In an item in The Insider last week headlined "Caviar Coming," the owner of Casa Casuarina was inaccurately identified. Peter Loftin owns the Ocean Drive property.
CORRECTION: A July 7 article about expansion plans at Miami International Mall omitted one of the center's anchor retailers. The mall has four anchors - Dillard's, JC Penney, Macy's and Sears - and about 140 specialty stores.