Written by Miami Today on July 5, 2007
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DREDGING UP OPTIMISM: A meeting with US Army Corps of Engineers officials last week left US Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, whose district includes the Miami River, feeling "cautiously optimistic" that the corps will receive enough federal funding to complete the stalled $74 million river dredging that is to resume this month, she said. Shortly after the meeting, Army Corps Assistant Secretary John Paul Woodley directed his staff to review the Corps’ funding agreement with the state and local governments to ensure the remaining nine of 15 dredging phases can be completed by contractors without demobilizing. Dredging stopped in late 2005 when money ran out.
DEAL IN HOMESTEAD: Homestead officials hope to sign a contract Friday to sell the city’s 100 acres in the 270-acre Homestead Park of Commerce for $17.5 million to Coral Gables consortium A&H Commerce Park, which plans to use the land for light industrial development, said City Manager Curt Ivy. If a deal is reached then, the city council would vote on the contract July 16, he said. The council awarded the space to the consortium in April, Mr. Ivy said, but attorneys for both sides had to sort out issues regarding 40 acres of environmentally-protected wetlands included in the site and a timeframe for development.
BIDDING ON SUCCESS: After voicing concern in May that voter apathy could lead to discontinuation of the Coral Gables Business Improvement District, Executive Director Mari Molina says she has spent the past month rallying support from property owners. About 72% of the 189 district landowners mailed in signature cards affirming their contact information, according to the city clerk’s office. More postmarked by the June 29 deadline are expected. "We’re very pleased," Ms. Molina said. The city mailed district reelection ballots July 1. Votes are due July 31. The state requires district reelection every five years.
SO LONG, LERNER: After months of levying fines on the decrepit Lerner building downtown, Miami has negotiated with its New York owner for its demolition, City Manager Pete Hernandez said. Demolition is to begin within four to six weeks and take about 45-60 days, he said. He said he is "very, very encouraged" that this is the first major step to improving downtown and "would like for it to be a message" to other area property owners to properly maintain their buildings.
PRICEY PROPERTIES: Miami had the second highest hotel room rates, occupancy and average revenue per available room in the nation for January-May, according to Smith Travel Research. Occupancy was 77.4% and the average daily rate for a room was $182.93. The average revenue per available room was $141.68. Miami was surpassed only by New York City in all three measures.
OFF TO GERMANY: German Consul General Eva Alexandra Countess Kendeffy winds down her three-year tour in Miami in mid-August and will return to the foreign office in Berlin, where she will head the Department of Protocol, which oversees and organizes the foreign visits of Germany’s president, chancellor and foreign minister. The countess said that while her title sometimes invokes curiosity, "traditionally, there has been a lot of nobility in the foreign office, so it’s not unusual at all." Her replacement in Miami will be Klaus Ranner, a former consul general in Mumbai, formerly Bombay, and Stettin, Poland. Mr. Ranner brings a strong economics background to his new post, most recently as coordinator of international affairs for Siemens Corp., the German industrial giant.
OFF TO THE NETHERLANDS: Also slated to depart as consul general is Jorge Lomonaco of Mexico’s Miami consulate. Mr. Lomonaco, who in more than four years in his post has been an advocate for Mexican nationals living and working in South Florida, has been nominated as his country’s ambassador to The Netherlands pending confirmation by the Mexican congress. Once confirmed, he said, he will be off to his new office in The Hague almost immediately. In his new post, he also will be Mexico’s representative to seven international organizations. No replacement has been named.
ROAD TO RECOVERY: After falling ill on the dais at the June 14 Miami City Commission meeting during a vote to grant the Miami Art Museum $2 million toward a proposed facility in Bicentennial Park, Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones says she had "major surgery" but is on the road to recovery. She is to be back in the office by Monday.
CLOSE CALL: Two of three commissioners present voted to approve the art museum funding. Ms. Spence-Jones said she would have voted no and is "really upset" she never had the chance. She has "reservations" she said, about the museum’s contributions to the minority community, about taking up green space in Bicentennial Park and about the financial strain the facility could put on the city. However, "I have no issue with the Museum of Science," she said, because it "fits into that environment." The commission is to decide this month whether to also grant $2 million toward the proposed science facility.
MUSEUM MONEY: Miami city commissioners are to be asked Tuesday to grant $2 million in bond money toward the Miami Science Museum’s proposed new home in Bicentennial Park. They granted the same to the Miami Art Museum last month but by a narrow margin.
KNIGHT CENTER PLANS: Pending commission approval Tuesday, the City of Miami is to pay Knight Center consultant Staubach $250,000 to negotiate a new or amended lease with the Hyatt Regency in the complex and negotiate acquisition of the University of Miami’s leasehold interest in the center. City commissioners are also to be asked to extend the contract of Knight Center-management Global Spectrum for six months beginning Oct.1, with three one-year renewal options.
FOR SALE: Miami has set a minimum price for the portion of its downtown Knight Center property that it plans to sell north of the Interstate 95: $49 million. Commissioners will be asked Tuesday to direct the city manager to put it out to bid. The property includes a garage and the city’s interest as landlord under retail and office leases in the landmark Bank of America Tower. Blue Capital, which owns the building, may put in an offer, Danet Linares, vice president of leasing and marketing for Blue Capital Management, said last month.
POLICE TRAINING: Pending city commission approval Tuesday, Miami City Manager Pete Hernandez is to execute an agreement with the Miami-Dade County School Board regarding designing, constructing and operating an international police training facility at 405 and 401 NW Third Ave. Many opposed a new downtown Florida Marlins stadium for fear it would scuttle the police facility.
CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS: After months of controversy surrounding project delays, cost overruns and negligent employees, Miami’s Department of Capital Improvements seeks to enact a construction contractor pre-qualification program that would create a revolving pool of qualified contractors for projects and a construction consultant pre-qualification program that would do the same for qualified consultants. City commissioners are to get Tuesday resolutions to undertake the programs.
MULLING MILLAGE: Miami’s Office of Strategic Planning, Budgeting and Performance is to present to commissioners Tuesday a proposed millage rate of 8.9955, the same as last year, for fiscal 2007-08, which begins Oct. 1. Commissioners are to be asked to set a date for a hearing to discuss the rate and the proposed annual budget. They are also to be asked to continue the half-mil ad valorem tax levied on property in the Downtown Development Authority’s district and set a date for its budgetary hearing.
ALL THE WAY UP: Miami developer Fortune International Realty put the finishing touches last week on Jade Beach, a 248-unit oceanfront residential tower in Sunny Isles Beach, by building the final deck on the 51-story tower. Designed by architect Carlos Ott, Jade Beach is expected to open at 170th Street and Collins Avenue in May 2008. Units ranging from 1,100 square feet to more than 6,500 start at $1 million. Details: www.jadebeachmiami.com.
WAVE THE RED FLAG: In the wake of the public bath County Manager George Burgess and Miami-Dade commissioners took in last week’s Poinciana Biopharmaceutical Park debacle, a resolution coming before commissioners Tuesday would require the county manager to provide commissioners with a "red-flag report" every 60 days regarding "at-risk" county-funded contracts, projects, programs and initiatives.
DON’T BLINDSIDE US, PLEASE: The report would be triggered by this definition of "at-risk": Major milestones not reached, insufficient funding, inadequate personnel and evidence of shady dealings. Commissioners criticized Mr. Burgess last week for not keeping them informed of developments with the ill-fated Poinciana biotech park, whose developer defaulted on the Liberty City project that had been hoped to create thousands of jobs for low-income residents.
HURRICANE HUMOR: Just in time for hurricane season, the Florida Press Association has awarded Susan Kahn first place for humorous writing for her Miami Today column suggesting color-coded hurricane tarps. A month earlier — before hurricane season began — she was awarded third place in the state in the Sunshine State Awards of the Society of Professional Journalists for the same column. The Florida Press Association gave its second-place award for editorial writing to Michael Lewis, Miami Today editor and publisher, and third place to Miami Today’s editorial page.
FLIPFLOP: This month’s regular Miami City Commission meeting, normally held on a Thursday, has been rescheduled for Tuesday to accommodate commissioners’ summer schedules. The commission is to recess in August.
WHEELING AND DEALING: Miami commissioners Tuesday are to see a slew of legislation making arrangements between Miami-Dade County and the city’s community redevelopment agencies. Commissioners also sit as the agency boards. Commissioners are to be asked to assume 80% of the county’s $25 million loan to Jungle Island and defer payment until 2012. They are also to be asked to waive their interest in the half-mil property tax levied by the county’s Children’s Trust by authorizing an agreement among the city, the agencies, the county and the trust allowing the use of incremental revenues from the tax against property within agency boundaries. Some commissioners have said they feel the county is using these agreements as bargaining tools to negotiate an expansion of the agencies’ lifespan and boundaries.
POWER OF PERSUASION: The Harvard Negotiation Program, an international negotiation skills-building program pioneered in the Harvard Law School curriculum, is to come to Miami-Dade County in the form of workshops July 12-13 and Nov. 8-9. This month’s is to be at Miami-Dade College’s West Campus, 3800 NW 115th Ave. Florida International University is to host November’s at the InterContinental West hotel, 2505 NW 87th Ave. Details: (305) 470-4680.
ONE OF THE FAMILY: Miami-Dade County and Cape Town, South Africa, look set to become new sister cities. County commissioners are to vote Tuesday whether to ratify a declaration of intent signed by Commissioner Natacha Seijas on April 23. The ports of both cities have also signed a Sister Port agreement to improve cargo trade and tourism. The Sister Cities Coordinating Council recommended this affiliation following The Jay Malina International Trade Consortium’s visit to Cape Town. Trade between South Africa and Miami-Dade is $213 million yearly. With the new affiliation, the council aims to coordinate projects to increase and promote trade as well as culture, tourism and educational opportunities between the county and South African city. Miami International Airport also hopes to route direct flights to South Africa.
NEW OPERA HOME: The Florida Grand Opera bought a new headquarters at 8390 NW 25th St. from ABC Properties for $6.8 million to consolidate operations, General Director Robert M. Heuer said Monday. The building is to house administrative and box offices and, after a year and $1.5 million in renovations, rehearsal halls, coaching rooms, a costume shop, storage space and a music library. The facility is an interim step to ultimately building the Anderson Opera Center on 14th Street between Biscayne Boulevard and Northeast Second Avenue on land the opera bought in 1994. The Florida Grand Opera’s Coral Way building was sold to the county in January and will be the future home of the Cuban Museum.