Written by Miami Today on October 11, 2007
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GARAGE GAP: The Miami Parking Authority may sell the land adjacent to its Courthouse Center Garage downtown to make up for a $7 million to $8 million shortage in funds needed to replace the existing structure. The authority has $27 million in bond money in place for the mixed-use garage — to include office and retail elements — but city regulations requiring a façade and other "dress up" measures have increased costs, said Executive Director Arthur Noriega. "We’re catching the brunt of a philosophical change," he said. "They don’t want it to look like a parking garage." Board members appeared supportive of selling the land, valued at nearly $7 million. The authority has recently made major strides toward erecting the garage, receiving the go-ahead late last month from the City of Miami and last week choosing a contractor, KVC Constructors.
ELECT THE APPRAISERS?: State Rep. Julio Robaina, a Miami Republican, says he will introduce a measure during the Legislature’s special session this month to require that all real estate property appraisers in Florida be elected. If the Legislature approves, the measure would go on the Jan. 29 statewide ballot. The issue would affect only Miami-Dade County; all other property appraisers are already elected. Election for the post is under discussion in Miami-Dade’s current charter review. Phone calls to Rep. Robaina’s office were not returned.
ELECTED PROPERTY APPRAISER? Complementing Mr. Robaina’s proposal, Miami-Dade Commissioner Natacha Seijas is sponsoring a resolution calling for a countywide special election to amend the county charter to change the property appraiser from an appointed to an elected position. The resolution leapfrogs the county’s Charter Review Task Force, which is in the middle of debating the issue and due to submit its recommendations Jan. 29, the date she seeks the election. An early poll of the task force’s members found them deadlocked on the matter.
MAKE IT MIXED-USE: Vacant land near Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport is suitable for mixed-use development with office and retail, according to a company bidding to develop and lease the property from the Miami-Dade County Aviation Department. Smaller parcels near Miami International Airport make more sense as a warehouse and office site, said Elias Vassilaros, executive vice president of Courtelis Co., which is involved with developer Edward Easton’s bid on the properties. The group — along with a consortium led by Woolbright Development that is operating as WMD Tamiami LLC — is vying to lease 40 acres on the east side of the Kendall-Tamiami.
STREETS BONDS: Miami commissioners are to vote today (10/11) to issue the first series of the city’s 2007 special obligation bonds: up to $80 million toward street and sidewalk improvements. A recent city bond program resulted in $38.8 million in overruns due to, staffers say, market changes, unforeseen hiccups during planning and construction and 11 design employees accused of running a private business on city time. Officials have promised better planning and oversight.
THE RIGHT STUFF: Miami residents may soon have their own Bill of Rights. The city commission is to see a resolution today (10/11) calling for an amendment to the city’s charter establishing a Citizens’ Bill of Rights containing some of the Miami-Dade County bill’s provisions and some additional ones. Rights of citizens would include convenient access to business with the city; a right to be heard; nondiscrimination; and a right to natural resources and scenic beauty, to be conserved by the city. Should commissioners give the bill the OK, voters would be asked for approval in January.
TRADE PANEL APPOINTEE: A Miamian will serve on a committee that advises President Bush on trade issues. Jorge Arrizurieta, chair of the International Policy Group for law firm Akerman Senterfitt, earned last month a Bush appointment to the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations. Mr. Arrizurieta, who also chairs the Miami Host Committee for the 2008 annual meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank in Miami next April, will play a role in policy discussions about proposed free trade agreements. Details: www.akerman.com
DESCENDING COSTS: Recommendations of how Miami International Airport can reduce costs to airlines operating there will be reported to the Miami-Dade Commission’s Airport and Tourism committee Oct. 16. Included are initiatives to provide airlines greater control over their expenses. For example, the airport could turn such costly services as international baggage handling, gate control and fuel farm management over to the airlines themselves — as many airports already have.
DESCENDING BUSINESS: Driving the urgency to lower operating costs, since 1993 Miami International Airport has lost airline and passenger traffic to Fort Lauderdale International Airport. In 1993, Miami International accounted for 58% of the 17 million combined domestic passengers of the two airports. By 2003, its share had fallen to 35% of 24 million combined passengers.
HIGH-FLYING COSTS: Miami International is one of the most expensive airports in the country for airlines, at $17.01 per enplaned passenger, which the department is using a variety of strategies to lower. Financing of the airport’s $6.2 billion capital improvement program, now $1 billion over budget, is increasing the cost of doing business at the airport. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International operates at a much lower cost of $4.36 per enplaned passenger, spokesman Greg Meyer said. Mr. Meyer said that is likely to increase in coming years as the airport finances a runway expansion.
MUST EAT PASTA: Mangia La Pasta, a new Italian fast-food restaurant, will be popping up in three South Florida mall food courts in the next two months. The brainchild of brothers Francesco and Giulio Vergani, this pasta shop will serve 12-16 pasta dishes. The first Mangia La Pasta is to open at Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise by month’s end. In mid-November, a second location is to open at Dadeland Mall in Kendall, followed by Town Center in Boca Raton. Francesco Vergani said he and his partners think the concept will work because they will serve "the best pasta, real pasta made in Italy." Besides, he said, "Everybody loves pasta."
BOOK BLAST: "Miami Contemporary Artists," a book by local authors Julie Davidow and Paul Clemence about Miami’s leading contemporary artists, will be launched during Art Basel Miami Beach on Dec. 4 as part of the art fair’s Salon Series. The book is to include artists who have both received little recognition and who have risen to international recognition. The authors and some artists are to be on site to discuss the book, which will feature artists such as Ernesto Burgos, Luis Gispert, Tina Spiro, Helene Weiss and Charles Falarara. Related art exhibits will run concurrently at the ArtCenter/South Florida galleries in Miami Beach and in the historic Freedom Tower in downtown Miami.
DOUBLE DINING: After months of dormancy, the former Miami Firehouse 4 in Brickell, 1000 S. Miami Ave., is to open next week as a Mediterranean restaurant and lounge: Dolores, But You Can Call Me Lolita. Proprietor Carlos Galan said the two-story venue — upstairs Dolores, downstairs Lolita — is to be modeled after his four restaurants in Spain "with the same concept," he said, "very cozy, trendy and beautiful restaurants with affordable prices."
DISTRIBUTORS’ DREAM: A delegation of Peruvian companies is to visit Miami Oct. 15-16 to meet manufacturers and distributors as part of the Florida Foreign Trade Association, Enterprise Florida and partners’ TRADE-USA Statewide Export Promotion Trade Initiative 2007. The program offers free one-on-one business appointments. The Peruvian companies are to be available at the Doubletree Hotel, 2649 S. Bayshore Dr., Oct. 15 2-4:30 p.m. and Oct. 16 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Details: (305) 471-0737.
UP, UP AND AWAY: Air Cargo Americas, touted as the largest air cargo trade show in the Western Hemisphere, is to be held this year in Miami, Nov. 7-9, at the World Trade Center Miami, 1007 North America Way. The event is geared toward manufacturers, shippers, logistics companies, customs brokers, freight forwarders, distributors, importers and exporters, and others in the air cargo industry. Details: (305) 871-7910.
LICENSED TOUR GUIDE: The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau is urging the Florida Legislature to pass legislation allowing for local licensing of tour guides, and Miami-Dade Commission Chairman Bruno Barreiro has signed on to the effort, sponsoring a resolution of support. The Bureau wants to insure tour guides are "accurate, competent, professional and ethical" to enhance visitors’ experience here. Cities ranging from New York City to Las Vegas to Savannah, GA, already have the requirement. Put another way, if a licensed tour guide tells you "George Washington slept here," you can believe it.
TOURISM TRIP: The Florida Foreign Trade Association and Realtor Association of Greater Miami and the Beaches are to host a "fact finding, investments and tourism" mission to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, Oct. 28-31. Participants are to meet with the local secretary of tourism and other members of the region’s government, as well as area real estate companies.
ENERGY EVENT: UK Trade and Investment at the British Consulate General in Miami, Enterprise Florida and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce are to host a conference, "Renewable Energy: Trends in Global Innovation and Finance," 8 a.m.-5p.m. Oct. 18 at the Westin Colonnade Coral Gables, 180 Aragon Ave. Gov. Charlie Crist is to give the opening address. Details: (305) 374-1522, ext. 2304 or 2302.
HOME HELP: The City of Miami’s ACCESS Miami program and the Mortgage Bankers Association are to host a Workshop, "Foreclosure Prevention, Home Retention and Home Buying," 8 a.m.-noon Oct.23 in the Jungle Island Treetop Ballroom, 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail. RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org.
WOLFSONIAN WEB CONFERENCE: Florida International University’s Wolfsonian museum will host in March the Institute for Museum and Library Services’ 2008 WebWise Conference in Miami Beach. The institute this month awarded a contract to the museum to host the conference, which is to focus on exploring ways for art institutions to use the Internet to display works and educate the public, said Joel Hollander, Wolfsonian assistant director of external affairs. Open since 1994, about 1,800 students visit The Wolfsonian each year, according to the museum’s Web site. Details: www.wolfsonian.org
BALLPARK FUNDING: For the first time, some Miami-Dade commissioners are looking at the use of Building Better Communities General Obligation Bond funding as a source of money for a new Florida Marlins’ stadium — up to $50 million to be exact. José "Pepe" Diaz, chair of the Airport and Tourism Committee, recently suggested to Chairman Bruno Barreiro that the bond funding be used for the stadium, an idea Carlos Gimenez also has signed off on. Convention Development Tax and the Professional Sports Tax also are being eyed as revenue sources.
HOUSING GETS FINANCING: Carrfour Supportive Housing cleared a hurdle in the non-profit’s effort to build a housing complex for the formerly homeless in Liberty City by obtaining $30 million financing for the project. Thanks to $22 million in tax-credit funds and a $3.7 million loan from the Florida Housing Finance Corp., the organization can begin building the 90-apartment Dr. Barbara Carey-Shuler Manor, a development at 1400 NW 54th St. to include 16,000 square feet of commercial space. Of the 90 units, 45 are designated for the formerly homeless and 45 are for persons earning less than $35,580 per year. Details: www.carrfour.org
THE SHOW WILL GO ON: After a drop in events at The Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, things are looking up, Director Margaret Lake says. She has 14 events set for this month after hosting only four last October. The slowdown was due in part, she said, to recent renovations to the center. Arthur Noriega, head of the Miami Parking Authority, which operates the theater, also attributes the drop to the "impact the Carnival Center had on us." The center plans now to "expand" events and rentals, he said, to "alternative opportunities — corporate, social." After holding about 87 events last year, the goal is to, he said, "ramp back up to 100 shows, 100 events."
LINK UP: The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce is to hold its Americas Linkage Conference Nov.14-16 at the Radisson Hotel Miami to let professionals share business ideas and meet Latin American and Caribbean executives interested in doing business in Florida. The conference is to include an evening reception Nov. 14, sessions on trade finance, agribusiness, supply chain and logistics, business start-ups and franchising, film and entertainment, human capital and competitiveness, healthcare and how to do business in South Florida Nov. 15 and a panel on Cuba Nov. 16, among other events. Details: www.miamichamber.com; Liane Ventura, (305) 577-5445 or Juan P.Gonzalez (305) 577-5477.
UP AND OUT: With its strong commercial realty market, Miami is on the cusp of becoming one of the world’s elite international business hubs, said Theodore Carter, senior managing director for South Florida operations of commercial realty firm CB Richard Ellis, as he prepared to leave Miami at year’s end to work as the firm’s executive managing director for government and public sector solutions in Washington. His promotion was announced Tuesday. The company said it would go through a search to find Mr. Carter’s replacement. In his new post, he’ll help federal, state, local government and other public entities boost real estate portfolio values. Details: www.cbre.com
YOUNG PROFESSIONALS MEET: Miami Beach’s Raleigh Hotel is hosting a launch party Friday for the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce’s new program for young black professionals. Chamber leaders created the Young Professionals Network as a response to a Florida International University Metropolitan Center study that concluded young and talented black professionals are leaving Miami-Dade at a record pace, chamber officials say. The 6 p.m. party at the hotel, 1775 Collins Ave., is free for members, $25 for others. Details: www.m-dcc.org