Written by Miami Today on March 1, 2007
Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead
of the news. Here are highlights from the most current edition.
STADIUM FUNDING: Miami’s Community Redevelopment Agency board is to vote during its next meeting, which hasn’t been scheduled, on whether agency funds should help pay for a baseball stadium downtown. The board, consisting of the five city commissioners, is to vote on a resolution to prevent using agency funds for a stadium or any project other than affordable housing, infrastructure and historic preservation. Commissioner Tomás Regalado directed agency executive director James Villacorta at a meeting Monday to draft the resolution. A board majority said in January that they would never support using agency money for a ballpark but did not vote.
SAVING TREES: Miami is cracking down on those who remove trees without permits. City commissioners last week passed an ordinance introduced by Marc Sarnoff that doubles the fine for illegally removing a tree to $1,000 for the first violation and $5,000 for repeat offenses. The ordinance requires a developer who can’t replace removed trees to contribute $1,000 to the city’s tree trust fund.
GROWING TREES: City workers must plant enough trees to increase Miami’s canopy at least 30% by 2020, Mayor Manny Diaz said during last week’s commission meeting. Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt the mayor’s tree master plan, which includes an urban eco-system analysis, required professional certification of city staff and vendors and an educational campaign.
PARK-ING LOT: Brickell Bay Ltd. may build a 1-acre public park on submerged land behind the Aon Building at 1001 Brickell Bay Dr. At the behest of Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, the Miami City Commission voted unanimously last week to pursue acquiring state-owned submerged land to allow developer Maurizio Cavalari to create the park as part of an expansion of the office building to include a residential component. If the state denies the city’s request to acquire the land, Mr. Cavalari is to give the city $800,000 to purchase a different park in the area.
DEVELOPER WANTED: Miami’s Department of Public Facilities is soliciting a developer to design and build multifamily condominiums on city-owned land at 400-430 SW Eighth Ave. The site has about 28,000 square feet near the Miami River and downtown. City officials want the developer to market and manage the project and make at least 20% of the units affordable. Details: (305) 416-1401.
WASTE BASKET: Miami-Dade County commissioners last week gave 40 government departments the OK to spend $131 million on office furniture over the next five years. Commissioner Joe Martinez was the only official to vote against the appropriation — and it still sticks in his craw. "This is absolutely ridiculous and totally out of control," Mr. Martinez sputtered days after the vote. "People are going to think we’re nuts. And they may be right."
ROLLING HEADS: County government types’ tongues were wagging full speed last week after Miami-Dade Police Director Robert Parker offered three members of the department’s top brass an odious choice — demotion or retirement. Gossips speculated that Mr. Parker’s action was the first move in Mayor Carlos Alvarez’ effort to reshape the county administration in his own image. But Mr. Parker’s spokesman, Commander Linda O’Brien, said that’s not true. She insisted that the mayor and County Manager George Burgess didn’t even know the personnel change was in the works. Ms. O’Brien said the top cop told his bosses about his decision only after he "effected the action." Two lawmen opted for their pensions. The third took a demotion.
SALES FALL, PRICES DON’T: Although the number of single-family home and condo re-sales continue to slide, prices in Miami continue to climb slightly or take only a tiny dip, according to the Florida Association of Realtors. In Miami, 528 homes were re-sold last month, compared with 580 in January 2006, a 9% dip. But the median price rose 5% from $376,300 in 2006 to $395,900. Sales of existing condos slid 27% from 765 to 555, but the median price declined only 1%, to $256,400 from $259,000. Statewide, single-family home re-sales fell 27% from 12,906 to 9,382, but prices fell only 2%, from $243,200 to $239,300. Condo sales fell 30% statewide, from 4,279 to 3,007, but prices dipped only 1%, from $212,000 to $209,000.
MEDIA TRENDS: Media Convergence: What is it? Why Should I Care? And What Can I Do About It? is the topic of a program scheduled for 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday at the University of Miami Whitten Learning Center. Advertising and marketing experts will discuss media convergence, in which several technologies are used to convey a single idea or brand. The program is sponsored by the University of Miami School of Communication and the International Advertising Association. Details: (786) 346-7264.
BUY CONDO, BECOME DONOR: A move to boost condo sales and benefit the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts was inked by officials of the facility and Leviev Boymelgreen Developers of Florida, which is promising bronze memberships to new buyers of condos in its Marquis and Vitri luxury developments. Becoming a bronze member gets a patron concierge service and his name permanently inscribed on the granite Donor Walls in the main lobbies of the Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House and the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall. Details: (305) 571-4040.
LOWER TIDE FOR BOAT SHOW: Attendance at the Miami International Boat Show & Strictly Sail fell 6% from last year, to 137,175. Organizers attributed the drop to cyclical variations and a possible slight dip in consumer confidence, said Cathy Johnston, vice president of Southern shows for the National Marine Manufacturers Association, which produced the Feb. 15-19 event. But although it won’t be known for about six months how much boating equipment was sold, she said exhibitors generally were happy. "Inasmuch as we always like to get as many prospective buyers through the door," she said, "what is most important is that our exhibitors sold a lot of product. So I think the net effect will be very good."
WANTING TO DO BETTER: The slightly disappointing boat-show attendance is not keeping organizers from getting ready for next year’s event. They’ll be looking at ways to help spike next year’s turnout and to fix problems that may have contributed to the visitor falloff, Ms. Johnston said. "We’ll be looking at attendance at RV shows and car shows to see if we find any consumer trend," she said. Next year’s show, the 67th, is slated for Feb. 14-18 at the Miami Beach Convention Center and other area locations. Details: (954) 441-3220 or www.miamiboatshow.com.
SEVENTH DESTINATION: Miami was seventh on the American Society of Travel Agents’ list of Hot Spots for Summer Travel. The top three spots were Orlando, Las Vegas and New York, followed by Honolulu, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, San Diego, Seattle and Washington. Top international destinations were London, Rome and Cancun.
FOOTBALL FERVOR: Miami Hurricanes football coach Randy Shannon¸ who began his tenure last month, visited the Coral Gables City Commission on Tuesday to greet citizens and receive a hearty welcome from officials. The Miami native said representing the Gables is "kind of a thrill for me" and "like being part of a family" because he has ties to the city dating to the early 1980s. "My job is to win games and also to represent something special."
AESTHETICS AGAIN: Coral Gables officials faced another challenge in their battle to balance aesthetics with practicality Tuesday when a citizen brought to the commission an appeal to a decision of the city’s Historic Preservation Board. The board denied Lucia Fraga’s application to replace her white slate roof with a gray one because it would be out of scope with the style of the historic area. She said a white roof requires too much maintenance and hopes gray tiles would cut down on the need for pressure cleaning. After grappling at length, the commission voted 3-2 to allow the color change, much to the relief of Ms. Fraga and neighbor Paige Harper, who said during the hearing, "If you’re going to start torturing people over the color of their roof, you’re going to discourage them from putting money into their houses."
ENVIRONMENTAL ENTERPRISE: N.R. Investments will do $2 million worth of "environmentally friendly" renovations to Park Centre in Miami Gardens as it converts the office building to condos. The four-story, 58,700-square-foot office facility, 1111 Park Centre Blvd., was built in 1987. Environmentally friendly interior materials will include organic Kenya reed, recycled quartz tiles and natural wall coverings featuring an additive that resists mold, mildew and bacteria. The wallpaper is specially designed to not emit harmful gasses.
HEALTH GRANT DEADLINE: Non-profit organizations are invited to submit preliminary proposals by March 9 for a Health Foundation of South Florida grant. Categories include project planning, health system/health policy development, organizational capacity building and health services. If selected, a full proposal will be due April 25. Since 1993, the foundation has awarded more than $61 million to improve the health of underserved and uninsured individuals and families. Details: (305) 374-7200, firstname.lastname@example.org. or www.hfsf.org.
NEW FILM CHAIRS: Will Edwards, owner of Sprockets Music, and Piedad Palacios, an independent filmmaker, were elected chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the Miami-Dade County Film and Entertainment Advisory Board. The 17-member board, comprised of a group of film and entertainment professionals, advises the mayor, county commission and Office of Film & Entertainment on policies and issues affecting the entertainment industry in Miami-Dade County.
FOUR SEASONS DEPARTURE: Ignacio Gomez, manager of the Four Seasons, 1435 Brickell Ave., will take over in April as regional vice president and general manager of the Four Seasons Hotel in Singapore. In his new role, he will have regional responsibilities for both Four Seasons Resorts in Bali and two Maldives resorts and supervise regional development for the company. The company expects to name a replacement for the hotel here shortly, a spokesman said.
GONE WITH THE WIND(STAR): Carnival Corp. is selling Windstar Cruises to Ambassadors International Inc. for $100 million, part of its long-term strategy to exit the niche cruise market to focus on expanding its core brands and opening new markets, said Micky Arison, Carnival chairman and CEO. Holland America Line, a Carnival subsidiary, will operate the three-ship line, which includes the 312-passenger Wind Surf and the 148-passenger Wind Star and Wind Spirit, until the sale is official.
CULTURAL GRANTS: Applications are being taken for Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs grants for 2007-08 projects. The 14 competitive grant programs address specific areas of cultural development. Details: (305) 375-4634 or www.miamidadearts.org.
READY TO RUN: Qualifying for Coral Gables’ April 10 election closed last week, and all three commission incumbents — Mayor Donald Slesnick and Commissioners Wayne ”Chip” Withers and William ”Bill” Kerdyk Jr. — face challengers. George Corrigan, Gables mayor from 1987 to 1993, and businessman Richard Namon will run against Mr. Slesnick. Omar Pasolodos, a medical professional, will challenge Mr. Withers, and John Gottshalk, a University of Miami graphic designer, is gunning for Mr. Kerdyk’s seat.
PARKING PROGRESS: Following the retirement of longtime Coral Gables Parking Director Bill Carlson, Kevin Kinney, former director and chief operating officer of the Anchorage, AK, Parking and Community Development Authority, is taking over. "My goal is to make sure the parking system continues to support the continued growth of downtown Coral Gables as a world-class place to work, live and shop," he said. His first priority, he said, will be to encourage increased use of city parking garages. He said he will explore new equipment to enhance the city’s metered parking system. "There is new technology out there," he said. "We’ll definitely try to make an observation and see if it would be a benefit to Coral Gables."
McMANSION MORATORIUM: South Miami has passed a building moratorium on two-story homes to allow time for officials to discuss alternatives to McMansions, large homes built out of scale to their lots. For three months, "no one can build a second story until we take a good look," said Mayor Horace Feliu. The city commission will meet with the city’s environmental and planning boards to brainstorm, Mr. Feliu said, and he plans several public workshops, the first of which was scheduled for Tuesday.
AMIGOS NUEVOS: Twenty-four Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce and Latin American Chamber of Commerce members returned from a joint mission to Spain this week, confident they accomplished their goal of establishing business associations abroad. "Our mission was to build new relationships and encourage cultural education, travel and tourism," said Carolina Rendeiro, chamber chairwoman-elect and leader of the mission. "I think we accomplished all of that." One highlight was a visit to a Granada ski resort, she said, which sparked the idea of supporting direct flights between Miami and Granada.
ECONOMIC ESTIMATES: The University of Central Florida predicts tepid economic growth during the first half of the year and acceleration into next year. An excess supply of homes should depress prices, researchers predicted, and unemployment and payroll growth are expected to drop. However, the report says, the trade deficit should improve. The university will produce another outlook next quarter.
CORRECTION: Former Miami Beach mayor Neisen Kasdin’s name was misspelled in the Dining Out column Feb. 15.
CORRECTION: A Feb. 8 report headlined "Cuban Museum purchases opera’s Coral Way facility" should have identified Miguel A. Bretos as an unpaid advisor to the museum.