Written by Miami Today on December 13, 2007
Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead
of the news. Here are highlights from the most current edition.
EXTRAORDINARY OR NOT: The day it was announced that the Florida Marlins had traded away their two remaining 2003 championship season players, Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, County Manager George Burgess gave the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce an update on progress to build a new stadium for the team to replace the Orange Bowl. "We’re extraordinarily close," he told the chamber’s lunch meeting last Wednesday, then added, "I suppose reading the paper today doesn’t make us seem extraordinarily excited about the Marlins."
MARLINS COMMITMENT: After Miami commissioners in late October gave the Florida Marlins the ultimatum that they must within 30 days confirm interest in the Orange Bowl site as a future home for a new retractable-roof stadium, City Manager Pete Hernandez said in an e-mail to commissioners last week that "the Marlins have stated that they are committed to the Orange Bowl site and will continue to negotiate in good faith with government." He added that "all parties recognize the urgency in coming to resolution as soon as possible in order to have a facility in place by April 2011 and every effort will be made to bring this to fruition."
MEDICAL MAGNET: Miami-Dade County Public Schools last week closed on a $7.4 million purchase of the former Homestead Hospital, 160 NW 13th St. The school district plans to renovate the 128,000-square-foot building as a magnet medical school for about 700 students interested in careers in medicine and related fields. The old Homestead Hospital, built in 1940, was vacated this year when the hospital opened a new 388,000-square-foot facility on Campbell Drive (SW 312th Street) and SW 147th Avenue.
HIALEAH ARTS PARKING: Miami-Dade commissioners Dec. 4 amended by a 10-0 vote their Aug. 22 resolution to include parking for the Hialeah High School Performing Arts Center, 251 E. 47th St. There was no change in the initial $10 million allocation for the arts complex. The school and Milander Park, 4700 Palm Ave., will share the parking. The commission allocated the money for the arts complex from the $2.9 billion Building Better Communities bond program that voters approved in 2004. One part of that bond program, just over $552 million, includes construction and improvement of cultural facilities.
WATCHING CHAMBER DOLLARS: The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce has hired Karen E. Echols as chief operating officer/chief financial officer. Ms. Echols, who is a member of the chamber’s board of directors and finance committee, starts Jan. 7. Her previous experience includes work as executive vice president and chief financial officer for Friends of WLRN Inc. and controller and regional financial manager for Latin America for Eastman Chemical Co.
FORTHCOMING FEES: Miami has identified 150,000 properties that were forced to pay an illegal fire fee, city Commissioner Tomás Regalado said. Commissioners agreed in July to repay these property owners — then unknown in number — in a $15.5 million settlement. Now, the only thing between them and their money, he said, is "we need to go before the judge to decide how much does the city need to pay the attorneys" who represented citizens in the lawsuit. He’s requested commissioners discuss these developments today (12/13) to "get it in public, because I think the people deserve to know."
LAST-DITCH EFFORT: Anticipating a vote today (12/13) by Miami commissioners on whether to approve a $50 million payout that could make or break the proposed Port of Miami tunnel, a citizens’ group, Citizens for a Safer Miami, this week clamored for support through a TV ad and a rally. Seth Gordon of Gordon Reyes & Co., public relations firm behind the publicity moves, said diverting port-related traffic off downtown streets "has immediate impact on people everyday." Much tunnel debate has centered on its impact on port business, but he said "we’re trying to take the emphasis off of industry. People don’t feel safe crossing Biscayne Boulevard or Fifth Street."
HOME AGAIN: A 21-foot bronze by 89-year-old famed Cuban sculptor Manuel Carbonell was restored to its vigil at the mouth of the Miami River at noon Monday when US Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff tugged a black veil off "El Centinela del Rio," which depicts at Tequesta Indian blowing a conch shell carved of alabaster. The statue, commissioned by Swire Properties and erected beside its Tequesta condo buildings on Brickell Key, was first dedicated by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen in 1999 but toppled in a 2005 hurricane and was sent to Mr. Carbonell’s Italian workshop for repairs. At the unveiling, President Stephen Owens announced Swire Properties had created a $125,000 scholarship fund for Florida International University art students.
NUCLEAR BID ADVANCES: FPL’s petition to expand capacity at its Turkey Point nuclear facility got an OK Monday from the Florida Public Service Commission. The five-member panel approved the utility’s need determination, agreeing that FPL needs more energy and that nuclear power is a reliable technology and is cost effective. A Jan. 10 hearing is due in Miami on FPL’s request to build two new reactors, after which the commission will rule on the project. The proposed $8 billion, 12-year plan also goes for a vote before Miami-Dade commissioners Dec. 18. FPL needs added state and federal approvals to begin construction. Environmental groups oppose the plan, contending it would threaten wetlands, mangroves and animals.
LAST CHANCE: Miami commissioners are to take back up the issue of the Sawyer’s Walk development proposed for Overtown today (12/13) after deferring votes twice last month. 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. The city faces losing the land to Miami-Dade County should it delay much longer.
LAND FOR INTERMODAL EXTENSION: Miami-Dade County agreed to pay $2.3 million for a parcel at 2515-2525 NW 38th Court for construction of the Miami Intermodal Center. Included in the price are attorney fees of $42,285 and $180,150 for buildings and fixtures, among other things. The county initially sought to take the land through eminent domain — the power by a government to take land at a fair price for a public purpose even if the owner objects — but decided to settle with owners Ismael and Inez Fuentes. The land will be used to link the MIC to the Earlington Heights Metrorail Station at State Road, 112 and NW 22nd Ave. Commissioners approved the settlement on Dec. 4 in a 10-0 vote.
LESS FAT, MORE WORK: Sluggish at work? Professionals can join the first CEO Fitness Challenge, a five-member team program to lose weight. The South Florida challenge begins at 6 p.m. Jan. 4 at The Sports Club/LA, Four Seasons Hotel and Tower, 1441 Brickell Ave., where participants can measure body fat then and again at the end of the challenge in March "so there’s no cheating," said event brainchild Jim Sayih, who decided to empower CEOs to support healthy lifestyles for employees. "Their bodies are going to work more efficiently," he said. The team with the best body-fat loss gets $10,000 and a weekend in Las Vegas. Proceeds benefit the American Diabetes Association. RSVP by Dec. 15. Details: www.ceofitnesschallenge.com.