BLUEPRINT BUST: After Miami elected officials voted this summer to defer approval of proposed new zoning code and blueprint for growth Miami 21, and in the midst of citywide meetings designed to educate residents on the plan, Commissioner Marc Sarnoff speculated last week that its future could be grim. "I do not see Miami 21 passing prior to the election," he said. Elections are to be held Nov. 6 for three commission seats, including his own. "I'm not sure I see Miami 21 passing in general."
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CODE PROMOTERS: Planners and city administrators are pushing the code, Mr. Sarnoff said, because they are the "grandparents of this child called Miami 21" and can't see its flaws. To developers questioning whether to plan their projects around Miami 21 now, he said "Miami 21 is a discussion item by the commission. I don't think anyone should have to live by Miami 21" until it is passed. This personifies fears expressed by Planning Advisory Board Chair Arva Moore Parks, who has said postponing Miami 21's acceptance opens the door for a rush of land-use changes that may be permitted under the current code but would not be under the new plan.
SELIG STAYS MUM: Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig declined during a press conference Tuesday at Dolphin Stadium to reveal whether the next home for the Florida Marlins will be on the site of the Orange Bowl, but the commissioner did say baseball, City of Miami and Miami-Dade County officials are "on the same page." He was in town for meetings with Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and City Manager Pete Hernandez and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, county commission Chairman Bruno Barreiro and County Manager George Burgess. "We had very constructive meetings," he said. "It is clear to me we are all on the same page and want to get a deal done down here as expeditiously as possible." The commissioner also declined to set a deadline to strike a deal for a $500 million retractable-roof baseball stadium.
REDEMPTION SUGGESTION: Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said he believes Police Chief John Timoney, recently under fire for getting a year's free use of a Lexus SUV, can redeem himself by donating to a charity what he never paid to use the car: $7,000; self-imposing a two-week suspension without pay; writing an apology to fellow officers; and taking out a half-page newspaper advertisement apologizing to residents. Or, he said, the chief should hand in his resignation.
DONE DEAL: After three meetings worth of discussion, Miami Parking Authority board members agreed last week to allot developer Related Group 410 unassigned parking spaces in the Convention Center Garage downtown to its future Loft 4 residents. The City of Miami, which owns the 1,352-space garage, supported the deal but was not party to it. This all amongst protests from Blue Capital, which owns the office tower that uses the garage. Blue Capital representatives say the deal overburdens parking there and would interfere with current tenants. Authority officials argue that best business practice suggests such sharing to maximize use of spaces, which are often empty at night once commercial users leave.
SOME PARKERS AT RISK: Should the garage prove overbooked, authority head Arthur Noriega says the authority could phase out monthly renters. Miami Chief Financial Officer Larry Spring pointed out that whoever buys the garage when the city puts it and the land it sits on out to bid would benefit from the $800,000 revenue residents generate. Both Blue Capital and Related have said they are interested in buying the property.
PARKING PROMISE: Loft 4 residents are guaranteed garage spots for just one year, beginning upon the project's completion, expected in 2010. After the first year, a resident can request an extension from the authority. "Being that in future years the agreement states that this rate will be "market rate,' it is, in our opinion, very unlikely that this request will not be accommodated," said Oscar Rodriguez, Related Group senior vice president. "In the unlikely event that this does occur, there are numerous private garage owners that have already expressed extreme interest in working with residential projects in general to accommodate their future parking needs." Lack of guaranteed parking should not hinder unit sales, he said. "The accessibility advantages of living in our central business district with direct access to the Metromover and Metrorail provide a great incentive to the working middle class, and make the concept of lessening our dependency on the automobile not only believable but practical."
NORTH TO TORONTO: Michelle Revuelta, former associate vice president of media relations for the Greater Miami Conventions & Visitors Bureau, has joined former bureau executive David Whitaker at the Toronto Convention and Visitor Association. Ms. Revuelta worked with the Miami bureau 10 years and will serve as the Toronto bureau's US media representative effective Sept. 1. "In doing so, this is also allowing me the opportunity of opening my own public relations and consulting firm," Ms. Revuelta said. Mr. Whitaker left his post as the Miami bureau's executive vice president and chief marketing office at the end of April to become president and CEO of the Toronto Convention and Visitor Association. Rolando Aedo is filling his former post until a permanent replacement is found.
RE-FOCUS REDEVELOPMENT: At a town hall meeting he hosted just outside of Overtown in the entertainment district last week, Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff criticized the city's Community Redevelopment Agency, saying the agency needs to "start putting its money where its mouth should be and start developing this area." Less focus on affordable housing and more on recruiting businesses could be one step, he said. One constituent at the meeting suggested Mr. Sarnoff be chair of redevelopment agency boards, a post held now by District 5 Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones. It's an honor he'd gladly accept to make a difference, he said, but he reminded residents that such a decision is subject to a vote of board members.
BLACKMAIL? After Miami's city manager and some Miami-Dade County commissioners last week said a Miami Community Redevelopment Agency's virtual denial of funds to the county's pet port tunnel project put the agency's future at risk, an attendee at last week's District 2 town hall meeting said the county is holding the agency's "feet to the fire" to expire. Mr. Sarnoff, who hosted the forum, agreed that "the City of Miami is held hostage sometimes by the county" and that while the relationship between the two is supposed to be give-and-take, "Most of what I've seen so far is taking" by the county.
CRIST CHECKING IN: The Greater Miami & The Beaches Hotel Association is to hold its 13th annual meeting at 4 p.m. Oct. 8 at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. This is the largest meeting event of the year where the state of the association is addressed, said President and CEO Stuart L. Blumberg. Gov. Charlie Crist will be the keynote speaker. "It's a real coup for us that he's going to be a speaker," Mr. Blumberg said, noting the speech topic is still unknown. "He's always been very pro-tourism and pro-hotel," he said. A 5 p.m. reception will follow the meeting. The association mailed 1,600 invitations to the open event, Mr. Blumberg said. Details: (305) 531-3553.
SOBE CONDOS SELLING: Morgans Hotel Group is closing on condominium-hotel units at Mondrian South Beach, which is 75% sold, officials say. Prices for the 342 residences range from $400,000 for studios to $6 million for private penthouses. The complex, 1100 West Ave., includes a pool, an outdoors bar and a marina. Details: www.mondriansouthbeach.com
EAGLE IS LANDING: American Eagle, American Airlines' regional affiliate, is to begin two daily round trip nonstop flights between Miami International Airport and Sarasota Bradenton International Airport on Dec. 13.
CLOSING ARTS FUNDING GAP: An expert panel will seek solutions to the crisis in funding for arts and culture exacerbated as local governments reduce financial aid and cultural needs increase. The public forum at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, 174 E. Flagler St., is produced by Miami Today and sponsored by the Gusman Center and the Miami Parking Authority. Panelists are Edward Villella, founding artistic director and chief executive officer of the Miami City Ballet; Michael Spring, executive director of the Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs Council; Scot Marken, president and CEO of the Donors Forum of South Florida; and Brian Foss, president of Emerge Consulting, which aids nonprofit organizations. Free parking at the College Station Garage, 190 NE Third St. RSVP: Jezabelle Miranda, (305) 358-2663.
FESTIVAL SEEKS ARTISTS: The Coconut Grove Arts Festival is accepting applications from artists to participate in its 45th edition Feb. 16-18. The festival, presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, will feature works in clay, watercolor, sculpture, painting, photography, jewelry and metalwork, fiber, mixed media, printmaking and drawing, glass and wood. In past years more than 150,000 people have descended on the streets of Coconut Grove to view art and the artists, sample cuisines, and enjoy music and dance entertainment produced by the non-profit Coconut Grove Art and Historical Association. Artists must apply online with a $45 application fee by Saturday. Details: www.coconutgroveartsfest.com
TWO'S COMPANY: Two In A Room Communications is Miami's newest boutique-marketing agency. The bilingual agency specializes in lifestyle and luxury resort brands and properties, boutique hotels, destination spas, retails centers and the travel industry. A team of three marketers offer services including brand audits, research, creative services, brand touch-point development, tradeshow marketing and marketing consulting. "We are more than just an advertising agency, we are "brand architects,'" said Richard Flores, president of the agency and former director of marketing for Sol Meliá Hotels and Resorts. Two in a Room is at 9801 SW 92nd Ave., Suite A316. Details: (305) 439-6650.
COMMERCIAL COMPLEX SOLD: Miami real estate company NR Investments Inc. has sold the Regions Bank commercial complex in North Miami Beach for $18 million to consortium Divine Square LLC. The complex, 633-699 N. Miami Beach Blvd., includes a 9,900-square-foot retail strip center, 2,900-square-foot convenience store and 106,000-square-foot, 12-story office building. NR completed a $2.4 million renovation of the complex in June 2006. Details: www.nrinvestments.com.
BUSY BLUE LAGOON: Class A office building Blue Lagoon Office Park at 6100 Waterford on Blue Lagoon Drive in Miami has eclipsed 96% occupancy after construction services firm CSA Group signed a 10-year lease on about 22,000 square feet in the park. CSA Group, largest Hispanic-owned architectural, engineering, planning and environmental firm in the nation, is to move to the 162,000-square-foot park from its corporate headquarters in Miami Lakes. Commercial real estate firm Fairchild Partners represented CSA Group while Taylor & Mathis represented building owner Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.
CARE FORUM: The Douglas Gardens Care Initiative, also known as the Miami Jewish Home and Hospital, has scheduled a forum for Sept. 18 to help acquaint the public and potential donors with the care available at Douglas Gardens. "We give 100% care to clients, but the funding is sometimes less than 100%, mostly as the result of diminishing government reimbursement," said Samuel Harte, founder of the Care Initiative and chair of the Care Initiative Committee. Douglas Gardens opened in 1945 and now annually serves 700 seniors living on the main campus and 8,000 people in the community. Featured presenter at the forum will be Jody Gross, executive director of Douglas Gardens Hospice. Details: (305) 762-1405.