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Front Page » FYI Miami » Fyi Miami

Fyi Miami

Written by on January 12, 2006


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

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

FONTAINEBLEAU CONTINUANCE: The Miami Beach Board of Adjustment has granted the Fontainebleau hotel a 30-day continuance on its request for 10 zoning variances for renovation and expansion. The board unanimously approved the request Jan. 5. According to Melanie Muss, development consultant for Fontainebleau Resorts, the firm requested the delay to present plans to the city’s Historic Preservation Board, which was scheduled to meet Tuesday. If the preservation board approves, the Fontainebleau application is expected to be presented to the adjustment board Feb. 3.

WALL PAPER: As Attorney Neisen Kasdin is well aware, the Eden Roc hotel has a storied history. So when he appeared before the Miami Beach Board of Adjustment on Jan. 6, he brought along an interesting piece of evidence. He was arguing for a variance necessitated by the "spite wall" that blocks the sun from the hotel’s pool. "I’ve brought my bar mitzvah album," he told Chairman Jason Loeb. Mr. Loeb initially told him he could keep the book, and then joked that perhaps he should submit it. "That way," he told Mr. Kasdin, "if you ever run for governor, it could be held against you."

SAND MAN: The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce will give its major annual award, the Sand in My Shoes prize, to developer Jorge Perez in a dinner that starts at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Radisson Hotel Miami, 1601 Biscayne Blvd. Details:

APPLE POLISHED: Construction of the three-story, 16-unit Apple Hotel at 100 Ocean Dr. in Miami Beach is to begin following Friday’s unanimous approval of five variances by the city’s Board of Adjustment. The architect, Luigi Vitalini of Hersh Vitalini Corazzini in Coral Gables, told the board he had made changes to comply with a guideline of the the city’s Historic Preservation Board, including alignment with the façade of Brown’s Hotel next door. Also at the meeting, First Ocean Realty received a one-year extension to build a four-story, 24-unit residential condo at 1475 Collins Ave. and Italbuilding Inc. received a similar extension on its five-unit residential building at 8021 Harding Ave.

RIVETING JOB: Sam Gentry, who was CEO of the Miami Dade College Foundation with an endowment of about $80 million, has joined the American Welding Society, a Miami charitable organization, as executive director. Earlier in his career, he was an executive vice president with Colonial Bank and senior vice president with Capital Bank in Miami. Before moving to South Florida, he was vice president and treasurer for Ingalls Iron Works Company in Birmingham, AL.

HOME AWAY FROM HOME: At Thursday’s hearing on the proposed St. Regis Bal Harbour Hotel and Residences, the legality of Bal Harbour District 3 Councilman Jaime M. Sanz’s sitting on the panel was questioned by residents who noted that he no longer lives in the district. That’s true – but, at the moment, no one lives in the district. There are only two buildings in District 3. One, the Harbour House, where Mr. Sanz used to live, is being renovated, and the other is under construction. City Attorney Stephen Helfman instructed council members that if they believe Mr. Sanz intends to move back in once his building is complete, he could stay on the council. All members agreed that was the case, so the issue was resolved.

GABLES MUSEUM ADVANCES: The Coral Gables Historic Preservation Board is to review plans for a museum Jan. 19. The city’s Board of Architects approved blueprints for the Coral Gables Museum on Dec. 15. Supporters plan to convert a former jailhouse-turned-courtroom on Aragon Avenue and construct a separate facility on an adjacent parking lot on Giralda Avenue, north of the old police and fire station. Exhibits would showcase the city’s history.

CULTURE CZAR: Carlos Migoya, regional president for Wachovia Bank, Florida, has been elected chairman of the Miami-Dade County Cultural Affairs Council. He has been on the council since 2000. He succeeds Rosa Sugrañes, chairwoman of Iberia Tiles Corp. and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. She had been chairwoman of the Cultural Affairs Council since 2001. The 15-member council is appointed by county commissioners to create opportunities for artists, cultural organizations and audiences. The council gives grants of more than $12 million in county funds annually.

ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORDS: The Health Foundation of Florida has received a $127,924 state grant to "help us ramp up electronic record-keeping," said CEO Steven E. Marcus. The money will enable the foundation to plan a pilot program using computerized software that enables staff in one hospital to view patient records in another, so that files no longer need to be physically transferred. "Ultimately, this will give our residents an opportunity for more portability for their records," he said. The grant was announced Friday in Tallahassee by Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings as part of the state’s $1.5 million program to facilitate the adoption and use of privacy protected health records. The foundation serves about 500,000 uninsured Miami-Dade County residents.

COWABUNGA! Edward Kean, who wrote the Only in Miami column for Miami Today in the late 1980s in which he detailed such oddities as a trilingual panhandler, has been included in the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation’s Archive of American Television. Karen Herman, director of production and research for the academy, cited his "prolific and creative output of 2,000 scripts and over 90 songs for ‘The Howdy Doody Show,’" his writing for the Merv Griffin series "Going Places" and his work on "The Gabby Hayes Show." Mr. Kean, recognized by dictionaries for inventing the word "cowabunga" for "Howdy Doody" character Chief Thunderthud, now is a cocktail pianist in Dearborn, MI.

PILL PRIZE: Doral-based Pharmed has received the Export Achievement certificate bestowed annually by the US Department of Commerce to major exporters that use its commercial service export assistance. Pharmed opened a 57,000-square-foot plant and is to start making prescription drugs at the end of this year. "The Commerce Department is interested in promoting trade with Central and South America, not only in pharmaceuticals but with other markets as well," said co-owner Carlos De Cespedes, who said he expects Pharmed to gross $160 million in 2006.

SPRING TIME: Michael Spring, director of Miami-Dade County’s Department of Cultural Affairs, has received Florida International University’s Cal Kovens Distinguished Community Service Medallion for guiding the dramatic growth of the region’s cultural community. He has headed the department for 15 years.

SOUTHCOM STAYING: The US Southern Command will stay in Miami-Dade in a new 70-acre headquarters close to its present home, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson told the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce last week. The Defense Department, he said, waited until after the latest round of base closures to make the commitment. The joint military command, overseeing 32 nations, moved here from Panama in 1997, creating a $318 million annual economic impact, and is leasing at 3511 NW 91st St. in Doral until February 2008. Florida has offered to build the new headquarters and lease it to the command. Being in Miami meets diplomatic needs of the command, Sen. Nelson said, because heads of state and leaders from throughout the hemisphere regularly pass through Miami and are comfortable coming here.

SWEET SUBSTITUTE: Ethanol made from Florida sugar cane and prairie grass could supplement gasoline as an auto fuel nationwide, Sen. Nelson also told the chamber, "but the corn lobby has a lock on it" as the vegetable component of the fuel. He called for ethanol production as a counterbalance to the power of President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, which he said is the source of 15% of the US gasoline supply.

‘LATIN’ SENATOR: Speaking just after the holiday football bowl games, Sen. Nelson recalled his connection with the old Orange Bowl Parade. At age 6, the young Miamian joined the parade as a Latin dancer in the late 1940s – before the community had authentic Latin talent.

MAYORS TO FLOOD IN: Miami is about to lay out plans to host the 2008 US Conference of Mayors meeting, which it won in bidding against cities including San Jose, CA; Kansas City; and Sparks, NV. James Tevas, head of the city’s conferences, conventions and public-facilities department, said officials will begin reviewing the plans within weeks. The conference, formed in 1932 amid depression unemployment, today consists of 1,183 cities with 30,000 or more residents represented by their mayors. The June 2008 event is to be at the Hotel InterContinental Miami.

DREDGING DEAL: Miami commissioners are to vote today (1/12) on a maintenance agreement on city-owned property bordering Watson Island. Flagstone Island Gardens LLC is to provide dredging of about 4.85 acres of submerged land to facilitate development and operation of its Watson Island Marina project.

HEART BEAT: The City of Miami’s Fire-Rescue Department may receive a $25,000 American Heart Association grant to buy 11 automatic exterior defibrillators to be placed in police cars while also providing training to city personnel. The department would also create a new revenue fund entitled American Heart Association Contribution Fund 2005. City commissioners are to vote on this today (1/12) at city hall.

SALE FOR SAIL: Miami’s Department of Public Works is asking commissioners today (1/12) to ask City Manager Joe Arriola to sign an agreement with NMMA Boat Shows Inc. for the use of dock space at Miamarina at Bayside Feb. 12-23 for the presentation of the Strictly Sail venue of the Miami International Boat Show. The show has used the marina the past six years.

MONEY TALKS: The Society of Financial Professionals is scheduled to hold its annual symposium Friday at the Sheraton Miami Mart, 711 NW 72nd Ave. Keynote speaker will be local economist J. Antonio Villamil, CEO of the Washington Economics Group. Details: Linda M. Wolonick, (954) 370-0041.

‘VICE’ GRIP: An industry insider has told a film official here that the preview for "Miami Vice," the movie version of the TV series shot here last year, has received more favorable responses than other upcoming releases. "Although numbers have yet to be processed," said Graham Winick, film and print production manager for Miami Beach, "a Universal spokesman told me that audiences were responding more favorably to this film than to other releases." The film, directed by Michael Mann, who produced the TV series in the 1980s, brought at least $30 million to the Miami-Dade economy and is to be released in summer. Meanwhile, film officials this week had talks with representatives of Warner Bros. "We have been in discussions," said Robert Parente, director of Miami’s office of Film, Arts and Entertainment, "about bringing another episodic series to the county."

CRUISING IN: The Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association’s 22nd annual Seatrade Cruise Shipping convention to discuss challenges and changes of the growing cruise industry is set for March 13-16 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. To register: or (609) 452-2800.

LOOKING FOR PEASANTS: The Florida Grand Opera is slated to hold auditions Feb. 18 for extras for two operas that form part of its spring program in Miami and Fort Lauderdale. The company is to conduct casting for "Rigoletto" and "Carmen" 2:30-6:30 p.m. at its Opera Guild Building, 1200 Coral Way. Performers recruited at the audition won’t talk or sing in their walk-on parts but will receive a "small monetary fee." Production stage manager Sherrie Dee Brewer said extras typically play "soldiers, handmaidens, peasants, party guests, bandits or servants."

STORMY SEAS: Miami Seaquarium on Virginia Key, closed since Hurricane Wilma, is to reopen in mid-February. During the three-month shutdown, said Executive Vice President Andrew Hertz, the attraction lost $4.4 million in revenues and now is spending close to $2.5 million to rebuild. Mr. Hertz said he lost one-third of his 200 workers due to the shutdown and is inviting former workers interested in returning to contact the Seaquarium. "The tough part was to put some of our employees on temporary layoffs," he said. "But right now we are concentrating on rebuilding what we had. Our first priority is to focus on getting everything ready."

SPORTS AUTHORITY: The future of Miami’s Sports and Exhibition Authority is in the hands of Tim Schmand, executive director of the Bayfront Park Management Trust. The authority’s board decided Dec. 14 to discuss its future role, he said, and the 11 members told him to outline one at the next meeting, March 28. The authority was created in 1982 to promote sports, conventions and exhibitions throughout the city while also attracting sports franchises to city facilities. But its major asset, the Miami Arena, was sold last year to a private owner.

RESEARCH FIRM WAITS: Allied Research International, an Ontario medical research firm, is still seeking a permit from Miami Gardens to build a facility at 1405 NW 167th St. "We have had some delays obtaining the building permit from the city, but we should have it some time within the next couple of weeks," said Piyush Patel, Allied CEO. The firm was to create 50 professional medical jobs. It plans to invest $1.5 million in the area, according to documents from the Beacon Council.

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