MAKING WAVES: Miami-Dade cargo carriers and cruise lines warned the county last week not to increase port fees to pay for a $1.1 billion tunnel project, State Department of Transportation District 6 Secretary Johnny Martinez said. During a meeting with state Transportation Secretary Denver Stutler Jr. and port director Bill Johnson, shipping executives said higher port fees would price Miami-Dade out of the market, Mr. Martinez said. Shippers, he said, want government officials to impose a toll or other user fees to help finance the tunnel designed to ease traffic congestion in the port area. Three contractors' bids to build and operate the tunnel are to be opened Feb. 15.
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FLAGLER FACELIFT: Miami-based MCM Corp. is expected to finish most of the Flagler streetscape project by month's end, Miami officials say. The $12 million job added vintage streetlight posts and resurfaced sidewalks, gutters and curbs with granite tile from Northwest and Southwest Second avenues to Biscayne Boulevard. Flagler was also converted to two-way with new traffic signals. Because of the city's building moratorium for the business district between Thanksgiving and the first week of January, city officials said, MCM workers can't finish punch-list items until mid-January.
TALKING TRAFFIC: The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce will host a transportation summit at Parrot Jungle Island at 8 a.m. Nov. 29 to discuss short-term congestion solutions. Highlighting the list of speakers are Miami lawmakers US Rep. Kendrick Meek, US Rep. Mario D’az-Balart and Miami-Dade Commissioner Carlos Gimenez. Also to speak is Tyler Duvall, assistant secretary for transportation policy for the US Department of Transportation. A panel will discuss results of the chamber's transportation survey conducted by The Metropolitan Center at Florida International University. Details: www.miamichamber.com
SPARKLERS: The Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce presented its ninth annual Diamond Awards for excellence in business last week at the Biltmore Hotel. David & Garcia public relations was named Diamond in the Rough for businesses less than 2 years old. Photo Offset Inc. won the small-business category. Switchboard of Miami Inc. won for medium-sized businesses and Gulliver Schools for large businesses.
VISITING HAITI: An Association of Bi-National Chambers of Commerce in Florida team has returned from a mission to explore investment opportunities in Haiti. Delegates met with Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis and other representatives of the public and private sector. Association President Lita Haeger said the mission allowed the delegation to better understand the realities of Haiti and its population.
CROSSING THE LINES: Theodore N. Carter, senior managing director for CB Richard Ellis in South Florida, was appointed to the executive committee of the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade's economic development agency, following appointment to the Broward Alliance's governing board earlier this month. While each agency works toward economic development in its respective county, they will join in regional projects such as a prospective spring 2007 business recruitment mission to Canada. "Our Executive Committee is comprised of a diverse and dynamic group of business and community leaders who provide the vision to ensure that we achieve our mission of bringing new, job-generating investments to the community and assisting existing businesses in their efforts to expand in Miami-Dade County," said Frank Nero, Beacon Council president and CEO, in a press release.
ON A HIGH NOTE: As promised by the county's public works department, it has replaced the missing street signs honoring Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on the north side of Mary Brickell Village. Gus Noguera, founder and executive director of the Beethoven Society of Miami-Dade, said that while the mystery of the sign thieves has yet to be solved, his conspiracy theories about jealous Mozart enthusiasts taking revenge were in jest. He theorizes the signs were removed and put aside during construction of Mary Brickell Village and stolen thereafter. He has no hard feelings toward the construction workers. "They put the signs down and somebody took them. But they cannot be guards for the signs," he said. "I'm very happy — I hope this will be the last time."
PHONE HOME: County commissioners will consider giving Doral wireless distribution company Brightstar Corp. a $520,000 tax break next week to prevent the wireless giant from moving its headquarters to Texas. If it gets the tax break, Brightstar would build a $4.5 million addition to its existing Miami-Dade facilities and add 104 new jobs, says Stephen Beatus, vice president of the Beacon Council, the county's economic development arm. Mr. Beatus said the county will be asked to give $104,000 in tax relief over six years. The rest would come from the state. Mr. Beatus said the county would lose 410 jobs if the company relocates. The privately held Brigthstar announced in September that it had exceeded $3 billion in revenue in the past 12 months.
SAFETY FIRST: After researching potential consequences of legislation that would require installing decorative walls around permanently installed stand-by generators in Coral Gables, such as build-up of gases that could cause an explosion, City Commissioner Rafael "Ralph" Cabrera led the commission in removing that clause and suggesting decorative landscaping instead. In addition to the safety benefits, he added, "From an aesthetics standpoint, I would rather see shrubs than another masonry wall."
REZONING RESERVATIONS: The Coral Gables City Commission last week voted 3-2 on first reading to change land use from commercial, low-rise intensity to commercial, mid-rise intensity for the proposed mixed-use Giralda Complex, 2222 Ponce de Leon Blvd. The planning and zoning board unanimously recommend the change, but commissioners had reservations regarding traffic issues and setting precedent for building up the low-rise "restaurant row." The resolution is to return in January for second reading.
BAYFRONT BONANZA: Beginning this week, Bayfront and Bicentennial parks come alive with family-themed entertainment designed to get people out of malls and into the parks. First-run movies, including "Casino Royale" and "Happy Feet," will be shown on a 60-foot screen, with Dolby Digital surround-sound, in Bayfront Park, 301 N. Biscayne Blvd. Food and drink concessions will be available. Patrons are advised to bring a lawn chair or blanket. Adults $9; children 4-12 and seniors $6.
TREE-MENDOUS EVENT: Bayfront Park will also host its Holiday Tree Lighting at 7 p.m. Nov. 24. Live holiday music and fireworks, a Starbucks Holiday School Supply drive, giveaways and prizes are on the agenda. It's free. Details: www.bayfrontparkmiami.com.
SAL BEHAR STREET: Miami's Downtown Development Authority has voted to ask the city to designate Northeast Second Street as Yoshua Sal Behar Street to honor the former authority employee who died a year ago. "He was a longtime advocate of downtown and the unofficial mayor of Flagler Street," said Dana Nottingham, authority executive director. "Often, I'd see him in the middle of the street, directing traffic." When the street is designated, the authority will hold a naming ceremony and invite Mr. Behar's family and friends, said Miami Commissioner Joe Sanchez, chairman of the authority.
DOWNTOWN CLEANUP: Mr. Sanchez said he and his staff have been meeting with representatives of downtown venues including the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, the Miami Heat, Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, the Miami Police Department, downtown Neighborhood Enhancement Team and others in an effort to get downtown spruced up for the holidays. The idea is to clean streets, change broken lights on poles and generally improve the look and feel of city streets. "If you bring everyone to the table," Mr. Sanchez said, "it makes it easier to do what we have to do." He invited the downtown authority to send a representative to the meetings. Mr. Nottingham agreed to do so.
FALLEN MARINE HONORED: Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Denver Stutler Jr., District 6 Secretary John Martinez and other officials were on hand last week to rename the agency's district building in honor of Adam Leigh Cann, a 23-year-old Marine who was one of an estimated 58 people killed in the police recruitment center bombing in Iraq in January. "It was a beautiful ceremony — we had the sign put up to rename the building along with a plaque to honor the events that led up to his death," said Gary Donn, district director of transportation support. Adam Cann's father, Leigh, a production management engineer, works in the 1000 NW 111th Ave. building.
OFFICE CONDOS RISING: Construction has begun on One Seventeen Professional Arts Center, two four-story buildings totaling 133,000 square feet at Southwest 117th Avenue and 82nd Drive designed for sale to physician groups, said Kenneth Weston, president of Kenneth Weston & Associates Inc., which is handling sales. The developer is Flagler Development Group, the commercial real estate arm of Florida East Coast Industries Inc., with Codina Construction the general contractor.
CUSTOMS SCHOOL OWNERS: Online customs broker training company Customs Review has been acquired by industry executives Karma Ruiz and Hamlet Rodriguez. Ms. Ruiz is a licensed customs house broker, president of Miami-based World Wise Consulting Inc., and serves as president of the Florida Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association. Mr. Rodriguez is president of Almar USA Corp., a licensed NVOCC based in Miami. The 13-year-old Medley-based school plans to soon offer classroom settings in Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Details: 888-846-5508 or www.customs-review.com.
SLUGGING IT OUT: Miami Beach's safety officers — police, fire, lifeguards and local Coast Guard members — will square off for the city's fifth annual Rescuers in the Ring charity boxing event at 8 p.m. Dec. 2 in the Miami Beach Convention Center. "Their hard work in the ring will go a long way to help Miami Beach's youth, as well as those in the broader South Florida community who are living with leukemia and lymphoma," said Mayor David Dermer. The event also benefits the Miami Beach Police Athletic League. Details: (305) 607-2BOX or www.southfloridaboxing.com.
AIRPORT TAKES OFF: This week is expected to be among the busiest at Miami International Airport, with an average of 91,938 passengers expected daily through Nov. 27, a project 2.5% increase over last year, said spokesman Greg Chin.
CORRECTION: An article Nov. 16 should have identified Miami-Dade Commissioner Audrey Edmonson as representing District 3.