Written by Miami Today on December 20, 2007
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ADIOS, ORANGE BOWL: Miami commissioners last week agreed to select New York-based contractor Decommissioning & Environmental Management Co. to demolish the Orange Bowl after city staff assured them the company was chosen through competitive bidding. The city is to pay $2.3 million for a three-month demolition process. But if the city is able to "find we have more time" once plans for developing the site pan out, City Manager Pete Hernandez said, it can save money by doing the demolition over four to five months.
VETO OVERRIDE: Miami-Dade County commissioners voted Tuesday to override the veto this month of County Mayor Carlos Alvarez of 12 development projects, three of which were outside the Urban Development Boundary Line. The 9-4 vote allows all the projects to go to the state Department of Community Affairs for review and recommendations. But all must get final commission approval before they proceed. The three outside the line are Lowe’s on Southwest 138th Avenue and Southwest Eighth Street, an office development in West Kendall, and a residential, business and office complex between Southwest 104th and Southwest 112th streets and 167th Avenue and theoretical 164th Avenue. The mayor vetoed all the projects because they were grouped together. He said he was disappointed by the veto but hopes that each project will be examined by commissioners "on its individual merits."
COUNTY MANAGER M.I.A: Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess was missing in action during Tuesday’s commission meeting — one of the most important and dramatic meetings dealing with the county’s future over the next 20 to 30 years. Mr. Burgess went on vacation Monday and left Mayor Carlos Alvarez and county staffer Ian Yorty to answer questions on the proposed Florida Marlins stadium and the joint agreement with Miami on billions of dollars worth of public works projects.
DONE DEAL: The Allen Morris Co. has for $24 million officially purchased a 42,730-square-foot development site at 2801 Ponce de Leon Blvd. in Coral Gables, part of the planned Old Spanish Village. The company is to develop Ponce de Leon Towers, a 215,000-square-foot office building, on the site. The 15-story building, slated to break ground in 2008 and be completed in 2010, is to be green certified, designed to conserve energy and water, and contain only the most luxurious amenities, developer Allen Morris said. It may also include a first-class restaurant on the ground floor and onsite banking with drive-through teller and ATM access, he said recently, touting a plan to "do everything to the highest quality." The Spanish village is to be developed as a seven-acre complex of high-end homes and shops.
ADVISORY BOARD APPOINTMENTS: Miami-Dade County commissioners Tuesday appointed two new members to the Social and Economic Development Council. They are Dario Moreno, director of the Metropolitan Center and associate professor of political science at Florida International University, and Francisco de Varona, the coordinator of the Adult Program at Ruben Dario Community School. The nine-member panel was created in July 2002 to develop short-term and long-term plans to address poverty, ways to increase per capita income and diversify the economy in the wake of economic downturns after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS CHIEF: Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez has hired Johnny Martinez as director of the Capital Improvements Department. Mr. Martinez as District VI secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation managed a $2.6 billion five-year work program, according to a statement from the mayor’s office. He worked for the state 20 years, with experience in infrastructure development and construction.
FESTERING FEE: Though Miami Commissioner Tomás Regalado hoped to discuss updates concerning the city’s infamous illegal fire fee last week, the item was deferred after a more than 12-hour meeting centering largely on a massive agreement between the city and Miami-Dade County providing for several large projects. The city has identified 150,000 properties that were forced to pay the illegal fee, Mr. Regalado said. Commissioners agreed in July to repay these properties’ owners — then unknown in number — in a $15.5 million settlement. Now, the only thing between them and their money, Mr. Regalado 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 to "get it in public, because I think the people deserve to know."
PAY BY PHONE: The Miami Parking Authority’s Off-Street Parking Board last week approved a contractor to instate a pay-by-phone parking system throughout the city, "adding an additional benefit to our customers," Executive Director Arthur Noriega said. The company is to offer e-mail and text alerts when meters are running out of time, with the option to add more time simply by replying. The agreement needs City of Miami approval before the system can be put in place.
FOR SALE: The authority board members voted also last week to sell a downtown parcel of authority-owned land to close a funding gap in its Courthouse Garage replacement project. The authority is to sell the land adjacent to the existing garage "outright," Mr. Noriega said. "Is it big enough for a new baseball stadium?" board member Thomas Jelke joked. Mr. Noriega expects to get about $6 million from the sale.
ONLINE: The new Web site for the renovated Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts is up and running: http://www.gusmancenter.org/.
FILLING UP FAST: Assist Card of Florida, long based on Brickell Avenue, is to move its US headquarters to Latitude One in the Brickell area, 175 SW Seventh St. The company, which provides help to travelers in emergencies, purchased 4,925 square feet of office space in the new building, the commercial component of luxury condominium Latitude on the River. The Class A building is 24 stories and 231,000 square feet. With 46 units closed, four remain, priced at $298 to $400 a square foot. The mixed-use Latitude community is also to include a 10,000 square-foot building housing a retail bank.
OCEANIA GETS DISCOUNT: Passengers on Oceania Cruises will pay less in taxes when arriving or departing from the Port of Miami. Miami-Dade County’s Transit Committee agreed to Port Director Bill Johnson’s request last week to give the cruise line an 18% discount on passenger taxes. The new rate is $15.20 per passenger. Mr. Johnson declined comment when asked if the discount would be extended to the eight other cruise lines at the port. "I won’t discuss that," he said. "It’s proprietary."
TERMINAL PROJECT COST UP: The cost of a new proposed cruise terminal headquarters at the Port of Miami has increased to $93 million, port officials said. When first disclosed in September the headquarters for the unnamed cruise line stood at $60 million. "We’re going through the program phase right now," said Hydi Webb, the port’s business development manager. She added that the goal is to have the terminal built by 2011.
PORT PASSENGERS INCREASE: The Port of Miami is on pace to notch 3.94 million cruise passengers this year, Port Director Bill Johnson said. Mr. Johnson told the Miami-Dade County commission’s Transit Committee last week that the number would be a record. But this year’s estimate by Mr. Johnson would come up short to the count in 2003, when 3.96 million passengers passed through the port, county statistics show. In 2006, there were 3.73 million port passengers.
CORRECTION: The address of ParinVest was listed incorrectly in last week’s Spotlight on Excellence. The correct address is 2000 Biscayne Blvd., Miami 33137