ALLEY CHIC: Miami Beach Mayor David Dermer is launching Alley Up, a plan to transform the city's alleys from shabby to chic. "In Europe, apartments facing the alley are preferred. Here, they are used for trash pickup and debris, but they shouldn't be," said A.C. Weinstein, the mayor's senior policy advisor. The city is enlisting the help of its public works department, which will clean, repave and add lighting. Property owners may also be offered incentives for landscaping, he said.
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BEACH ACCESS VOTE: On Nov. 7, Miami Beach voters will be asked to approve a charter amendment to preserve beach access at 34 points. The measure, sponsored by Mayor David Dermer, won unanimous city commission approval July 12. If adopted, it would require voter approval for the city to transfer land that could be used for public beach access.
W COMING: Demolition of the Holiday Inn at 2201 Collins Ave. on South Beach will begin Aug. 1 to make way for the 185-unit W South Beach Hotel & Residence, said developer David Edelstein of Tristar Capital. Construction is to begin in December with a 2008 target opening. So far, 61% of the units, ranging from $700,000 to $10 million, are sold, he said - "way above our expectations."
SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: The University of Miami's Division of Continuing and International Education is launching a wine-appreciation program designed for aficionados and business professionals who wish to acquire knowledge of good wines as part of their social responsibilities. The program, which includes 16 hours of wine tasting, will be held at the UM Faculty Club Aug. 30-Dec. 6. The $1,495 fee includes tuition, instructional material and, of course, wine. The class is limited to 24. Details: (305) 284-5800 or www.edmiami.com/vino.
VOTING RULE CHANGES: New Miami City Manager Pete Hernandez is asking the City Commission to approve amendments today (7/27) to zoning board and planning advisory board rules. They would eliminate the requirement for five affirmative member votes to get a favorable recommendation on comprehensive plan adoption, amendments, major use special permits and other matters. He proposes changing the requirement to "a majority of the members present."
DISASTER TRAINING: Miami Beach is seeking volunteers to train as Community Emergency Response Team members. Training, designed to prepare residents to handle small emergencies within assigned areas, includes extinguishing small fires, performing light search and rescue, and basic medical treatment. Training sessions will be held five consecutive Wednesday evenings beginning Aug. 2. Details: (305) 673-7123.
NOISE RULES: Construction noise continues to plague Miami Beach, so the city commission this month tweaked a noise ordinance that took effect in March. The commission regulated Sunday and holiday commercial work at homes in residential neighborhoods, providing rules on when and what type of work is permitted and reducing the number of written warnings from three to one. Details: (305) 604-2489.
HOUSING SALES PLUNGE: While resale prices of single-family homes and condos in Miami-Dade rose slightly in June, the number of homes sold dropped 33% from June 2005, the Florida Association of Realtors says. A telling sign that the South Florida housing market is slowing considerably, 884 single-family homes were resold in Miami-Dade in June compared to 1,317 in June 2005. The average sale was $378,000, up 4% from a year ago. Condo sales fell 31%, from 1,537 to 1,058. The average was $257,600, up 3%. "The housing market in Miami-Dade is so different than last year," said Martha Bullman, CEO of the Realtor Association of Miami-Dade County. "There are twice as many houses and condos for sale this year, but owners are not bringing the price down to where buyers think it should be. Speculators in the condo market have stopped because there are so many units out there."
ADOPT-A-TREE: The county's Department of Environmental Resources is celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Adopt-a-Tree Program on Saturday at the University of Miami's BankUnited Center, 1245 Dauer Ave. in Coral Gables. From 9 a.m. to noon county homeowners can choose two free trees from a display of six species. Experts will teach participants how to properly plant and care for the trees. Details: www.miamidade.gov/derm/adoptatree/aat'schedule.asp.
ITALY MISSION: Arthur Furia, an Italian-American partner in law firm Gunster Yoakley & Stewart, participated in the National Italian American Foundation delegation in Rome last weekend during a roundtable hosted by Ronald Spogli, US ambassador to Italy. Mr. Furia, vice president of the national Italian American Foundation, had several meetings with Italian officials about the importance of private equity and promoting trade between Italy and Florida. Italy has the world's sixth-largest gross national product at 1.7 trillion euros.
CENTER TRUST EXPANDS: The governing board of the newly named Carnival Center for the Performing Arts is growing. The Miami-Dade County Commission voted to add nine positions, bringing the total to 41. Michael Hardy, center president and CEO, said the change was requested because as construction is completed, "we felt we needed to reach further into the community for board representation for different areas of expertise." He said the center is seeking to add diversity to its panel and to reach "a younger generation of leaders."
TRUST THE COUNTY: The Miami-Dade County commission approved a bylaw change affecting how members of the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts Trust Board are appointed. Previously, county officials appointed members from a slate of three the trust provided or asked for additional nominees. The new process calls on the trust to advise county officials of the desired qualifications or expertise needed and to make non-binding suggestions of candidates but leaves the final decision to county officials.
SMOKE AND SCREEN: Japan's Humidor magazine plans a 20-page article devoted to South Florida in its fall issue. For Miami, the focus is to be on hotels/cigar bars and other chic places as well as "Miami Vice" locations to tie in to the release of the movie in Japan.
HOSPITABLE FIU: In a soon-to-be-published research paper on graduate hospitality programs, Florida International University's graduate program ranked fifth of the 59 graduate programs worldwide that are members of the Council of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education, International. The ranking represents the opinions of 48 directors of graduate programs in hospitality/tourism and 11 graduate directors in business schools that have graduate programs in hospitality.
A RELATED PARTNERSHIP: Buyers at the new Viceroy South Beach Resort & Residences receive a free one-year membership in nearby Equinox gym. It is the only partnership for Equinox with any South Florida residential project. Viceroy, a luxury development planned for a 2008 opening, is built by the Related Group of Florida. The Related Companies in New York recently bought the company that owns Equinox. Steve Ross, CEO of the Related Companies, and Jorge Perez, chairman and CEO of the Related Group, formerly were partners. The two companies function independently but continue to work together on deals around the country.
FLORIDA BANKER CHAIRWOMAN: Gwynn Cochran Virostek, senior vice president and division executive at Washington Mutual, will be chairwoman of the Florida Bankers Association. She is the second woman to lead the group in the association's 118 years. "It is an incredible honor to have been elected chairman of such a dynamic association," she said. She will head the association's board and serve as the group's primary advocate for the financial-services industry. As senior vice president and division executive of Washington Mutual's retail bank, she's responsible for more than 1,000 retail banking stores in Florida, Georgia, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois.
TOWERING DECISIONS: Miami commissioners are to vote today (7/27) on Brickell View Terrace and Tiziano II. Brickell View Terrace is planned for 936 and 940 SW First Ave. and 110 SW Ninth St. East Little Havana Community Development Corp. is looking to build a 244-foot-tall, 24-story tower with 119 residential units, 400 square feet of retail and 268 parking spaces. Tiziano II, planned for 2307 NE Fourth Ave. and 413-423 NE 23rd St., would be a 29-story tower with 53 residential units and 70 parking spaces. Edgewater LLC is requesting the major use special permit for Tiziano II.
MOVIES IN THE PARK: Hollywood will glitter in Bayfront Park if talks between the Bayfront Park Management Trust and movie company Sunset Cinema succeed. Sunset proposes to show newly released films on a large screen at Bayfront, charging $8 for adults and $5 for children. The company also wants to rent out chairs to watch the movies, which would be shown seven days a week during the winter. Two films would play a night, with the first showing at sunset.
PARKING LOTS: Nationwide parking costs have climbed 4.4% a month, according to Colliers International's 2006 Parking Survey. The 12-month rise is in response to an improved business climate and office space demand and continued retail spending, the survey says. The median for unreserved parking now is $153.19 per month. Miami's median daily rate is $13, median monthly unreserved rate $100 and median reserved monthly rate $137. Highest nationally were Midtown Manhattan, $574 per month; Downtown Manhattan, $500; Boston, $420; San Francisco, $335; and Chicago, $332. Phoenix was lowest among major cities at $35 a month.
CABI AND THE GUSMAN: Cabi Developers has contributed $25,000 to become a Marquee Presenting Sponsor at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts in support of its 80th anniversary. "In recent years, Miami has become a major artistic center in our hemisphere. What is truly impressive about the Gusman is its rich history. It was a pioneer in the South Florida art scene. We are proud to align ourselves with the Gusman Center and contribute to its cause," said Jacabo Cababie, company CEO. The Gusman Center is host venue for the Ballet Gamonet Maximum Dance Company, the Miami International Film Festival and the Maria Verdeja Ballet Recital.
TRIAL LAWYER LEADER: Mike Eidson, a Coral Gables attorney, was sworn in as president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. A partner at Colson Hicks Eidson, he specializes in product-safety and aviation law. The association says it is the world's largest trial bar group with 60,000 members worldwide.
TELECOM CONVERGENCE CONTRACT: Miami information-technologies firm Global Crossing has signed a five-year contract to provide Arcor, the world's largest confectionery company, with fully managed Internet Protocol Virtual Private Network services to support its international expansion. Global Crossing will be responsible for coordinating Arcor's worldwide data, voice and videoconferencing trafficking. "As we continue to grow our business internationally, we must rely on a global strategic partner like Global Crossing that can deliver a highly secure, reliable and scalable network," said Oscar Botto, Arcor's chief information-technology officer. Global Crossing's converged IP customer base tripled last year, company officials said, with IP VPN traffic growing more than 300%.
NEW BACHELOR'S PROGRAM: Miami Dade College this fall will offer a new bachelor of applied sciences program in public safety management. The program will offer 10 areas of specialization, including emergency management, crime-scene investigation, security, probation and parole and law enforcement. The school is to inaugurate the program today (7/27). Details: (305) 237-8161.
NEW MERIDIAN OWNER: Miami Beach firm WSG Development Co. has acquired the historic Meridian Center at 1680 Meridian Ave. on South Beach and will move its corporate headquarters there, according to company president Eric Sheppard. The new property will be the third commercial building in the company's Miami-area portfolio. Sales at Meridian Center, which features 61,000 square feet of retail and office space fronting Macy's and Starbucks stores next to Lincoln Road, are to begin in late summer with prices starting at $400 per square foot. Majestic Properties is a partner. The building was purchased for $15 million from developer Leviev Boymelgreen.
CORRECTION: In our profile of BankUnited's Hunting F. Deutsch in the Spotlight on Excellence section July 20, the telephone number should have been 1-877-779-2265.