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Written by on November 15, 2007

FYI

Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead

of the news. Here are highlights from the most current edition.

   HOUSING HINDRANCE: Though fellow Miami commissioners responded favorably last week to Marc Sarnoff’s proposal to buy inexpensive condo units to provide as workforce housing, the city might not have the money to do it. Hector Mirable, interim director of the Department of Community Development, said: "Do we have the dollars? Minimum." At Mr. Sarnoff’s proposed $225 a square foot or less, the city could afford 15-30 condos, he said, and then "that’s it. Your money’s gone from that year."

   SLOTS SUPPORT: Miami Commissioner Tomás Regalado has asked to know more about how allowing slot machines could benefit the City of Miami as January’s referendum approaches. "Sooner or later, people expect from elected officials their advice whether or not we should vote yes," he said. "I would be willing to campaign in favor if there are benefits in terms of jobs, in terms of income for the city." Should the voters approve the measure, two of the three sites approved for slots would be within the city. Roger Hernstadt of the city manager’s office said the city expects about $770,000 annually per pari-mutuel. City Manager Pete Hernandez said to expect an inter-local agreement with pari-mutuels next month.

   GETTING OUT THE VOTE: Mr. Regalado also stressed the importance of voting during such referendums and elections, asking city administrators to look into distributing fliers through the solid waste department during recycling pickups to encourage voter turnout. "Next year is an important year in terms of elections," he said. The city could reach "at least half of the registered voters in the city if we do the residential pick up through fliers." Commissioner Joe Sanchez said "people will be motivated in this election on the 29th to go out and vote" because of the heightened interest in property tax relief.

   PARKING PROMOTIONS: In preparing to soon demolish the existing Courthouse Garage downtown, the Miami Parking Authority plans to publicize the planned new, larger facility to discourage disgruntled parkers. "The minute the demolition takes place, we need to make sure our contractor gets on the site and does work immediately," said Off-Street Parking Board member Stephen Nostrand, suggesting plentiful signage touting the new garage. Construction should take about two years and the new facility is to offer 852 parking spots, far above the current 515. Executive Director Art Noriega said he’d work with courthouse judges to ensure they are aware of the 700 spaces nearby to use in the interim.

   AND ON YOUR LEFT…: Guiding tours in Miami-Dade County could require a license if a resolution the county commission adopted last week succeeds. Commissioners voted 11-0 to direct county lobbyists to ask the legislature to allow localities to license tour guides. The resolution noted that New York, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Charleston, Savannah and Williamburg, VA, all require tour guide licenses. The vote was in support of an effort by the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau to require licensing of guides to ensure that they are accurate and professional. The resolution says that 11.6 million overnight visitors here in 2006 spent about $16.3 billion here.

   CROSSWINDS CONTINUED: Because district Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones was absent from the dais Friday, Miami commissioners deferred a vote on the Sawyer’s Walk development proposed for Overtown. They are to take up the issue during a special session at the Nov. 28 meeting of the Community Redevelopment Agency boards. Critics have condemned the project for what they call a lack of affordable housing. The developer, Crosswinds, in August promised — in addition to offering 160 units at 80%-140% of the local area median income and giving 50 units to the agency to be sold also as low-income housing — that both the city and the county may now each buy an additional 62 units to sell as they please.

   NATIONALIZING EDUCATION: The US needs a national minimum $40,000 starting teacher salary, Miami-Dade schools Superintendent Rudy Crew told a Sunday morning audience at the Miami Book Fair International. He also advocated a national curriculum for reading, mathematics, science, social science and the arts and called for standardized national assessments of students. Criticizing Florida’s FCAT tests, he said, "I think we’ve gone too far on the question of what does assessment mean" and how much we should require for a child to advance to the next grade.

   SCHOOL’S NEVER OUT: Summer would continue a child’s education in Dr. Crew’s vision for the nation. The 180-day school year model is too short, he said. "What are we really using a summer for?" he asked. "Can we continue knowledge-building in the summer?" He suggested summer community service coupled with formal visits to museums, art galleries and concerts. No child, he said, should be graduated from a Miami-Dade high school without a visit to the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts. Dr. Crew was promoting his book, "Only Connect: The Way to Save Our Schools," published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

   GROVE OFFICE BUY: Steelbridge Capital acquired for $20.2 million Coconut Grove’s nine-story, 80,000-square-foot Offices in the Grove, 2699 S Bayshore Drive, in partnership with Connecticut-based Commonfund Realty from Uccello Immobilien, which acquired the boutique office building in 1985. Tenants in the fully occupied structure include Kaufman Rossin & Co., Katz Barron Squiterro & Faust and Coffey Burlington. "We were able to purchase the property in an off-market transaction at a significant discount," said Steelbridge Managing Principal Gavin Campbell while Commonfund Managing Director Timothy Shine cited the "condominiumizing" of nearby office buildings and the lack of new construction in Miami as forces putting "upward pressure on rental rates and values" in the future Grove. Steelbridge Capital, which has offices here and in Chicago, focuses on acquiring properties below replacement value in select markets. Commonfund manages a portfolio worth about $43 billion for more than 1,700 clients. Details: Gavin Campbell, (312) 933-9699.

   DON’T FORGET US: The Carnival Center for the Performing Arts would add the designation of Miami-Dade to its name under a resolution by county Commissioner Barbara Jordan that goes before the Recreation & Cultural Affairs Committee this week. The Carnival Corp. paid $20 million last year for naming rights for the half-billion-dollar center, which opened just over a year ago. The resolution urges the Performing Arts Center Foundation of Greater Miami, which operates the center on behalf of the county, to include the name of the county, which provided the built of the center’s funding.

   PAYBACK TIME: The Carnival Center, which missed a $1.5 million debt service payment due the county Oct. 1, has agreed to make $375,000 quarterly payments beginning in December to wipe out that deficit, according to a memo from County Manager George Burgess. His memo says the agreement was made prior to the departure of Michael Hardy as president and chief executive officer of the Performing Arts Center Trust. The agreement, Mr. Burgess said, is that all $1.5 million will be repaid before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30 — beyond the tenure of new CEO Lawrence Wilker, who has a six-month interim contract while a new leader is sought.

   CORRECTION: The quote accompanying the photo in last week’s Office Space edition "everybody wants an office in Coral Gables, and that’s one of the reasons we made the decision to go forward with offices" should have been attributed to Ralph Sanchez. Also, the story should have read it costs more than $30 a square foot to lease in Alhambra Towers.

   CENTENNIARIANS: Members of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce cut a birthday cake at their monthly board of governors and trustees lunch last week to mark November as the 100th anniversary month of the chamber. Past chairs joined current Chairman Hank Klein of Cushman & Wakefield in the celebration at Jungle Island.

   SAME TITLE, BIGGER ROLE: Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate appointed Gus Rubio regional senior vice president for the company’s Southeast Florida Region. He had held the same title for the Miami-Dade Region. His new post coincides with the creation of Southeast Florida Region on Oct. 31. The new region comprises almost 2,000 sales associates at 25 existing offices in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

   ART OF THE DEAL: Miami-Dade County is being asked to lend a sculpture if purchased in July for $5,000 to the City of Hialeah for $1 a year. Commissioner Natacha Seijas is asking the county commission’s Recreation & Cultural Affairs Committee to vote this week to recommend lending the 30-by-6-foot wood-mounted ceramic piece by Laura Luna, titled "Cuba-Cachita-Cuba," to the JFK Library in her commission district for five years.

   MISSION HONG KONG: The Association of Bi-National Chambers of Commerce in Florida (ABiCC) embarks on its third ABiCC Business Mission to Hong Kong for the World SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) Expo on Dec. 10 and returns Dec. 15. The World SME Expo, organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, is an international SME "marketplace for networking, business matching and exchange of ideas," its promoters say. More than 30,000 companies representing areas in trade and business services, food and beverage, professional and financial services, manufactured products and real estate are expected to attend.

   HONG KONG TRIPPERS: So far, 20 local businesses have signed up this year, said Lita Haeger, president of ABiCC. "We believe that Hong Kong is the capital of small and medium-sized business enterprises," Ms. Haeger said. Because of the success of the previous missions, the ABiCC board will continue its yearly missions to Hong Kong, she said. Details: (305) 365-7247.

   GOOD SHOW: Based on his campaign promises, Miami Beach Commissioner Jerry Libbin has continued to promote his concept of "cultural-based tourism to Miami Beach," after leading a team of 19 local delegates to Shanghai in early November. Musicians from the New World Symphony were also invited to perform at the China Shanghai International Arts Festival in Shanghai. A 30-minute television program about the trip called "Miami Beach-China Connection" can be seen on Channel 77.

   HONORING THEIR OWN: Miami-Dade County commissioners are urging the Florida Legislature to designate Northwest Seventh Avenue from 35th to 79th streets as Dr. Barbara Carey-Shuler Avenue in honor of their former chairwoman, who first joined the commission in 1979. They voted 8-0 last week to ask the legislature to honor their former colleague.

   WYNWOOD FARMERS’ MARKET: The Shops at Midtown Miami is to begin offering a monthly farmers’ market Nov. 17 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., to be held the third Saturday of every month. Vendors are to showcase fresh grown or created products on Buena Vista Avenue from Northeast 34th to 36th streets.

   GOING GREEN: The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s Natural Resources Committee has formed a Green Task Force to support initiatives designed to make the community more sustainable and environmentally friendly. The inaugural meeting is to be at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 16 at 1601 Biscayne Blvd. Details and RSVP: (305) 577-5464.

   THE BUSINESS OF ART: St. Thomas University is to tonight (11/15) announce a new master’s degree in art management — the business of art — under its Institute of Communication, Entertainment and Media in the School of Leadership Studies. The reception, from 6-9 p.m. at 1646 SW Eighth St., is designed also in anticipation of upcoming Art Basel. The event is sponsored by the University of Venice International Center for Art Economics, which is to send art faculty from Italy to Miami.

   TURNING PRO: Johnson and Wales University is seeking to become one of 17 colleges and universities sanctioned by the Professional Golfers’ Association to run a professional golf management program offering a 4½- to 5-year degree within its Hospitality College. In bidding for the affiliation, the university is asking the county for use of its Country Club of Miami as a training and teaching facility. A resolution before the county commission’s Recreation & Cultural Affairs Committee this week seeks to waive competitive bids on the deal, which would require a two-thirds vote of commissioners present at the time.

   DEAL A FAIR WAY: County Manager George Burgess sees benefits to the county from a deal for Johnson and Wales’ use of the Country Club of Miami, 6881 NW 178th St., which despite its private-sounding name is one of six courses the county operates. The 160 students who would be enrolled by the end of four years would help program and maintain the courses and staff golf events as 16-month interns, he notes to commissioners. The university, which opened in Rhode Island in 1914 and its campus here in 1992, could use the club’s courses during non-peak hours for practice and playing experience of the students, who must intern and pass a playing ability test in order to become a PGA members.

   SOLD TO HIGHEST BIDDER: Miami International Airport is to auction hundreds of lost and found items at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 17 at 5600 NW 36th St., third floor. Included are luggage, electronics, jewelry, toys and sporting goods. Items may be inspected prior to auction beginning at 8:30 a.m. Admission is $3, children under 12 free. Free parking is available, and all sales are cash with no refunds. A 10% buyer premium will be included. Details:(305) 778-0568.

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