Written by Miami Today on February 28, 2008
Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead
of the news. Here are highlights from the most current edition.
SKYSCRAPER: "Big building" could take on a whole new meaning in Miami should commissioners today (2/28) approve the proposed Empire World Towers. The mixed-use towers, planned for 300 Biscayne Blvd., would reach 93 stories high — 1,022 feet — and contain 1,557 residential units. Project plans provide also for 3,317 square feet of office space and 24,741 square feet of retail.
ONCE AND FOR ALL: The fate of the planned 5101 Biscayne Boulevard mixed-use project could be decided today (2/28). The Morningside Civic Association appealed approval of the project — and won through a vote by commissioners — in 2004 and again in 2005. In 2006, the Circuit Court reversed the decisions. The group contends the project’s proposed size, almost 100 feet, is incongruous with the surrounding residential area, said activist Elvis Cruz. He hopes to see it taken down to about 35 feet.
GREEN LIGHT ON RED LIGHTS: Red light cameras could monitor Miami intersections should commissioners grant final approval today (2/28) to an ordinance allowing the measure. Some say they would help enforce red light infractions and improve intersection safety. Commissioners initially green-lighted the legislation in October.
MORE MONEY: Miami commissioners are to consider today (2/28) a resolution calling for $145,000 more toward master planning services for Virginia Key. If passed, it would up design firm EDSA’s contract to $920,000. The item was pulled from the Feb. 14 agenda and is to be discussed today for the first time.
GIRL POWER: The Miami Woman’s Club is to begin a $12 million-plus revnovation of its downtown, bay-front headquarters after Community Redevelopment Agency board members this week granted them $1.8 million toward the project. In return, the club is to provide an easement on the back of its property to allow the city to continue its bay walk project there. Some board members opposed making the grant, maintaining the club should pay for its portion of the bay walk and provide more guaranteed dates for community use of the facility. The club plans to ask for another allocation from next year’s budget.
IDEAS?: The Bayfront Park Management Trust has issued a request for letters of interest in an attempt to activate the southeast corner of Bicentennial Park, which it also manages. The trust is seeking proposals for what to do with the currently unused one-acre triangular area. Responses are due March 5 at 1 p.m. to the Office of the City Clerk, 3500 Pan American Drive.
TAX CREDIT TIME: Miami Community Redevelopment Agency board members voted this week to partner with the city in its community development entity, the Miami Economic Development Fund. The fund creates the opportunity to get new market tax allocations from the US Treasury. A separate entity would sell the credits on the city’s behalf. The endeavor has been in the works for about a year, Chief Financial Officer Larry Spring said. The city is in the process of establishing a board to govern it. The temporary board, which has never met, has been comprised of Mr. Spring, Mayor Manny Diaz, Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, former Economic Development Director Lisa Mazique and former City Housing Chief Barbara Gomez.
WE, NOT ME: The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau officially launched its "Miami Begins With Me" campaign this week. The campaign is meant to encourage all of Miami-Dade County to welcome visitors and for all hospitality workers to focus more on customer service, the bureau says. The effort includes a new Web site, advertisements and a grassroots awareness initiative for community members. Details: www.miamibeginswithme.com
DOMESTIC PARTNER BENEFITS: The Miami-Dade County Commission voted 8-4 last week to send a proposed ordinance that would provide domestic partners of county employees with an array of benefits to the county’s Economic Development and Human Services Committee for consideration. The proposal would allow for registration of domestic partnerships and rights to insurance benefits and require health care facilities in Miami-Dade to provide domestic partners with the same rights as those accorded to patients’ spouses. The proposed ordinance would include gay and lesbian couples.
BANCO POPULAR TO OPEN NEW BRANCH: Banco Popular will open a new branch in Dadeland on March 5, according to a press statement from the bank. It will give the bank 13 branches in South Florida, whose loan portfolios total more than $1 billion, making up 15% of the institution’s North America assets. The Puerto Rico-based bank is the largest Hispanic bank in the country. Much of the growth has come from small business lending. The bank has hired Israel Velasco, a regional vice president with Colonial Bank, as its regional president in South Florida. The parent company of Banco Popular is Popular Inc., headed by Chairman Richard Carrion.
395 REVAMP: The Florida Department of Transportation could hold a public meeting regarding its proposed I-395 revamp as early as June, planners told Bayfront Park Management Trust board members this week. The project would likely double the highway’s height in certain places and offer separate structures for east and westbound traffic. It has been in the works since 2001 and remains unfunded. Should it be built, the project would not derail plans for a port tunnel connecting port traffic to the interstate.
LEGACY OF THE MIDDLE AGES: Historian Thomas Cahill is guest speaker at the Prologue Society at Northern Trust Bank, 700 Brickell Ave., on March 6. His most recent book, "Mysteries of the Middle Ages: The Rise of Feminism, Science and Art from the Cults of the Catholic Church" (reviewed March 15, 2007, in Miami Today), is the fifth in his Hinges of History series that made its debut with "How the Irish Saved Civilization." Subsequent volumes examined contributions of the Jews, early Christians and Greeks to western civilization. The Prologue Society, dedicated to the appreciation of history, is sponsored by Northern Trust and Miami Today. Details: (305) 789-1561.
MARINA COMPLEX OK’D: The Miami-Dade County Commission last week approved spending more than $2.7 million for the Haulover Marina dockmaster complex, 1800 Collins Ave. The county will build a two-story office building, boat facilities, and irrigation and landscaping with connecting walkways. A portion of the funds, $1.47 million, will come from the Miami-Dade County Park and Recreation Department’s marina capital plan, the remainder, $1.28 million, from the 2004 General Obligation Bond program. Work is to begin in June.
NEW COUNTY LEASE: Miami-Dade County will spend $163,636 to lease office space at 172 W Flagler St. to accommodate the collections section of the Finance Department. Commissioners approved the five-year lease last week, at $18.50 per square foot for 8,505 square feet. The cost includes a $6,293 management fee. The base rent of $157,342 for the second through the fifth years will be adjusted based on the Consumer Price Index. The annual increase cannot exceed 5% unless the CPI exceeds 7%, "in which case the rental amount shall be 5% plus one-half of the percentage exceeding 5% per annum," county documents show.
CORRECTION: Last week’s 6 To Plan 4 should have included the most current version in Calendar of Events. The printed listings were out of date.