HOSPITALITY HOT STREAK: Miami-Dade's tourism record-setting continued into the first quarter with a best-ever average daily room rate of $168.70, second only to New York ($202.61) and ahead of No. 3 Oahu Island, HI ($154.45). Miami Beach/Bal Harbour's $210.57 topped the county list, with downtown rooms averaging $160.13. Coconut Grove/Coral Gables/South Miami Dade averaged $136.97 and the airport area $116.52. The airport area had the greatest growth - 21.4% ahead of 2005's first quarter. The figures from Smith Travel also compare occupancy in US markets. For the first quarter, Miami's 81.4% ranked second to Oahu Island's 84.2% and ahead of third-ranked Phoenix's 79.6%. The 81.4% occupancy was the second time occupancy surpassed 80%, edging last year's record 80.8%.
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KNIGHT CENTER TALKS: Miami continues to negotiate with consultant Staubach Co. Northeast to help with a sale of money-losing James L. Knight Center. The 5.7-acre city-owned hub managed by Global Spectrum encompasses Miami's Convention Center, the Hyatt Hotel, the University of Miami Conference Center at 400 NE Second Ave. and a parking garage at 100 SE Second St. Lori Billberry, director of Miami's Public Facilities Department, said a contract with Staubach is being negotiating and "a draft was reviewed last week." She said she is unsure when a contract will be final. Once done, commissioners must approve it before Staubach can move forward. Miami is subsidizing the Knight Center by about $1.9 million a year.
TUNNEL TAX TACTICS: Miami City Attorney Jorge L. Fernandez says his office is still researching how to prevent a tax on Miami residents to help fund a $1 billion tunnel to the Port of Miami. In May, Commissioner Johnny Winton asked him to "research our rights and options" to prevent a tax. The plan was to return to city hall with suggestions in two weeks, but it could take longer. A tunnel from Watson Island to the seaport would let cargo trucks flow onto I-395 and bypass downtown, where they jam traffic. State officials say they will request development proposals as soon as the state and Miami-Dade County agree how to finance a tunnel.
STRETCAR TOPOGRAPHY: Miami's Department of Capital Improvements and Transportation got approval from city commissioners to hire a firm to survey topography for the Miami Streetcar line, the next stop en route to construction and operation. Manuel G. Vera and Associates will work on a survey of topography, utilities, drainage and the right-of-way of more than nine miles for the streetcar route. The study, which includes land surveys of routes, will help city officials determine construction costs. A financial plan for funding the project is expected in July. Next January, the city expects to request proposals to construct the line.
NEW CRIME FUND: Miami's Police Department is asking city commissioners to establish a Violent Crimes/Witness Protection Program fund. The Florida Violent Crime and Drug Control Council is granting the department $200,000 to fund protective services for victims and witnesses of violent crime.
SECTION 8 FUNDING: The US Department of Housing and Urban Development is contributing $4.7 million to Miami's Department of Community Development for its Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation Housing Program for fiscal 2006. City commissioners are to vote today (6/8) to accept the funds.
TAKING ON TRAFFIC: The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce plans a late November transportation summit to address Miami-Dade County traffic congestion. Laraine Blessing, vice president of regional business development, said the idea to brainstorm short-term solutions surfaced last year but hurricanes forced officials to postpone the organizing until now. She said concrete plans will be made by August, targeting a Nov. 29 summit at the Radisson Hotel Miami Downtown focused on members' interests. "This summer we will distribute a survey to our members to see what they think the most pressing issues are," she said. "We are still in the preliminary stages of planning."
RETAIL TENANT HELP: Miami's Downtown Development Authority is offering a Tenant Improvement Grant Program that provides up to $23 per square foot in build-out assistance for qualified retail uses within the Flagler Street retail corridor. The pilot initiative is the result of a partnership between the Miami Dade Empowerment Trust, the development authority and the Downtown Miami Partnership. The authority seeks to encourage retail expansion in a traditionally underserved area by targeting resources in this area of greatest need. Details: (305) 579-6675.
FIFTY BEST: Top women executives were to be honored at a luncheon Wednesday (6/7) at the Four Seasons hotel. The event, to announce the inaugural Top 50 Women-Led Businesses in Florida, was presented by the Commonwealth Institute and the Center for Leadership at Florida International University, an organization created to equip business leaders with the skills to manage complex organizations. The Center for Leadership, in partnership with TCI South Florida, a peer mentoring organization for CEOs and senior executives, also was to unveil key findings from the survey about the women leaders and announce top women-led businesses in the state. The Center and TCI plan to annually replicate the study. A list of the honorees and the survey are at https://lead.fiu.edu/survey/2006'womenleaders/.
TOWER TUMBLING: Dismantling of Miami International Airport's old Federal Aviation Tower was to begin this week. The 75-day project involves taking down the 19-ton top, or cab, in one piece, then dismantling the tower, separating it into 60 pre-cast concrete pieces - each, like the cab, weighing 19 tons. The tower, used from 1985 to 2002, was the airport's ninth. Its replacement, at 332 feet, is built to withstand the worst hurricane, remaining operational in winds up to 150 mph. The new tower, 100 feet taller than the old one, was required when the airport began adding structures in its $5.2 billion upgrade.
ATTRACTIVE ATTRACTION: South Beach ranks fourth among the Top US attractions for 2006, according to TripAdvisor, the largest global travel information and advice destination on the Internet. According to its survey, based on travel popularity, Walt Disney World came in first, followed by Universal Studios and Discovery Cove, all in Orlando.
BANKERS BOARD: The Miami-based Florida International Bankers Association has elected a new board led by President Simon E. Amich, president of Brickell Avenue's American Express Bank International, who takes office July 1. "We have all experienced the increasing demands the regulatory government has imposed on our industry, along with the increasing costs of doing business," he said. "FIBA must continue to emphasize the need for a balanced approach to the regulation of our industry." Also on the executive board are First Vice President David Schwartz of Regions Bank, vice presidents Andres Salas of Commercebank and Frank Robleto of BAC Florida Bank, Secretary Miquel Valls of BBVA and Treasurer Peter Wallin of Standard New York Securities. Details: (305) 579-0086.
SEAGIS SNAGS KENDALL PARK: Seagis Property Group says it has bought the 201,000-square-foot Kendall Park of Commerce in Miami for $18.65 million. The three warehouses, built from 1994 to '98, are adjacent to Tamiami Airport and fully leased on a multi-tenant basis. The purchase increases the Philadelphia company's Miami holdings to 15 buildings totaling about 1.3 million square feet, said Principal John Beiger. Seagis owns industrial buildings along the Eastern Seaboard.
NATIONAL STAGE FOR DIAZ: Miami Mayor Manny Diaz was elected to lead the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a nonpartisan organization of the nation's 1,183 cities with populations of more than 30,000. The 74th annual meeting is scheduled to take place in Las Vegas in 2008. Mayor Diaz will be the first Hispanic president in more than two decades. He is serving his second term as mayor of Miami.
HEMISPHERIC MAYORS: Several hundred mayors and other dignitaries from throughout the Western Hemisphere will gather at the Radisson Hotel Miami June 19-22 for the XII Inter-American Conference of Mayors. The conference will be sponsored by Miami-Dade County government and Florida International University. Among speakers will be Thomas Shannon, US assistant secretary of state for Latin America. The opening reception is scheduled for June 19. A gala reception is planned for 8 p.m. June 21 at Vizcaya.
NEW FORTUNE OFFICE: Fortune International Realty, an independently owned force in the South Florida real estate market, has opened an 18,000-square-foot office in Coral Gables at 2401 Douglas Rd. Fortune International, founded by the Argentine-born Defortuna family in 1983, has 17 offices with more than 850 associates throughout South Florida. Next up for Fortune: a new office in Palm Beach County.
POST-CASTRO OPPORTUNITIES: Several experts will speak on opportunities and challenges Cuba may hold for South Florida business at a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce program, "A Future and Free Cuba." Invited speakers include director Jaime Suchlicki and research associate Jorge R. Piñon of the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami; Pedro Freyre, a shareholder at Akerman Senterfitt; and Nicholas J. Gutierrez Jr., founding partner of Gutierrez & Arza LLP. The event is scheduled for 8 a.m.-1 p.m. June 14 at the Ray Goode-Ryder Conference Center. Details: (305) 577-5477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HIRING PARTY: Now that Donald Trump has chosen Miami's Sean Yazbeck as his newest apprentice, the celebrating can really begin, says Seth Gordon of Gordon Reyes and Co. Mr. Gordon, an organizer of Monday's nationally broadcast viewing party at the Pawn Shop Lounge Boutique, where revelers hooted support (the free Bombay Sapphire Apprentice martinis didn't hurt), is planning a followup party for Miami's newest favorite son, perhaps with Mr. Trump in attendance. At Monday's party were volunteers from Voices for Children, which helps Miami-Dade's abused youngsters and for which Mr. Yazbeck is a longtime volunteer. "Just before the show," Mr. Gordon said, "I sent the NBC producer an e-mail of things about Sean that he might mention on the show and Sean shot back an e-mail that said, 'Don't forget to mention Voices for Children.'"