Written by Miami Today on March 6, 2008
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$75 MILLION FOR TUNNEL: Miami-Dade County commissioners Tuesday gave the administration the go-ahead to obtain a $75 million line of credit to help dig a port tunnel, estimated at more than $900 million. The tunnel is to connect seaport truck traffic between Watson Island and the Port of Miami. The state requires the credit line as a contingency reserve. The state is to pay $457 million toward construction, with the county paying $402 and the City of Miami $50 million. The Florida Department of Transportation is expected to award the contract this year. The tunnel would take about four years to build.
KEY CASH: Though Miami commissioners have repeatedly denounced increasing set compensation to outside contractors, they voted without complaint last week to up payments to design firm EDSA for master planning services on Virginia Key. They awarded the company $145,000, bringing the contract to $920,000. The payments cover preparations for additional meetings, additional studies for the Virginia Key Beach Park Trust and additional changes to the draft plan requested by city officials, said Enrique Nunez, the city’s chief of urban design. Master planning is about halfway done and "may take another six months," City Manager Pete Hernandez said. More public meetings are to come. The Trust recently reopened Virginia Key Beach Park.
CAMERAS COMING: A private company is to design, build, operate and maintain red-light cameras at Miami intersections after a vote by commissioners last week. The company is to be selected through a bidding process. It will be responsible also for working with police and pursuing collections on the fines that would be imposed for running red lights. "We’re going to be relying on the private sector," City Manager Pete Hernandez said. The city can’t place the cameras on state or county property but may be able to install them on city grounds and point them at intersections belonging to the other governments
GABLES GAB: Downtown Coral Gables has launched a new advertising campaign —"Where the day spills into the night" — and Web site. The campaign, created by Out of the Blue Advertising, features one-word headlines such as "Shop," "Dine" and "Play." It is targeted toward both locals and tourists. The new site can be found at www.shopcoralgables.com.
OPEN FOR BUSINESS: The Omni Mall hotel downtown, most recently a Radisson, opened last week under the Hilton flag, said Mark Teitelbaum, chief operating officer of Argent Ventures, the New York-based company behind the $142 million transformation of the downtown mall complex, 1501-1701 Biscayne Blvd. They renovated all 500 rooms during the past four months, and "customers will experience Hilton service and amenities," he said. "It’s a different level of service, it’s very exciting." The hotel should help attract tenants to the mall’s new office space, to open late this year. "It’s an amenity to the office building," Mr. Teitelbaum said. "They (potential tenants) view that as a great positive." The hotel, he said, could also help attract an upscale, international crowd downtown.
BUSINESS BANK: Businesspeople in the southern part of Miami-Dade County could soon have a new community bank servicing their needs. Professional Bank, IO (in organization) has just received approval to organize and open. The bank, to set up shop at 1567 San Remo Ave., could open as early as late August, said Gary Moss, who is to serve as president and CEO. He was most recently executive vice president at TransAtlantic Bank. Pinecrest, Kendall, South Miami and Coral Gables need a community bank to serve the "niche market" of professionals — doctors, lawyers, accountants and others — and "mature small businesses," he said. The bank has raised about $11 million of the $13 million required by statute. He and the board hope to have a second branch open by the beginning of their third year of operation, Mr. Moss said, probably in the Pinecrest area.
IMMUNE: Professional Bank is "not going to be involved in the tumult going on" in the real estate and lending market, Mr. Moss said, because the bank is to focus largely on commercial lending. "We’re not going to do anything speculative," he said. "We’re going to be a niche bank, we’re going to try to serve the professionals."
SLESNICK, LOY HONORED: Miami-Dade County Sister Cities Coordinating Council is honoring two civic activists at 5:30 p.m. March 20 at the Port of Miami, giving the Miami-Dade County International Citizen of the Year Award to Coral Gables Mayor Don Slesnick, and the Walter Loy Service Award to none other than Walter A. Loy, former dean and chair emeritus of the Miami-Dade County Sister Cities Coordinating Council. Mr. Loy is receiving the award bearing his name because he was a longtime chair of the council, said Tony Ojeda, executive director at Jay Malina International Trade Consortium of Miami-Dade County. "He basically retired from the council and we wanted to create an award for his honor. And we believe that he should be the first recipient." Proceeds benefit the Miami-Dade County Sister Cities Program. $50. Details: (305) 375-5280.
WEST REJECTS STADIUM: A survey for Miami-Dade Commissioner Javier D. Souto found that 60.9% of residents in western parts of the county oppose publicly funding the planned $525 million Florida Marlins stadium. The survey, which cost $16,000, was conducted by the Metropolitan Center at Florida International University. The poll surveyed 842 voters in commission Districts 9, 10, 11 and 12. The survey also found that 57.5% oppose digging a Port of Miami tunnel and 63.6% oppose the proposed Museum Park in Miami’s Bicentennial Park.
HARBOUR HOTEL: The Regent Bal Harbour, 10295 Collins Ave., is to open this week, the first new hotel property to debut in Bal Harbour Village in nearly 50 years, its publicists say. The 18-story, 124-room property is to serve as the company’s flagship in the Americas. It is to also house a commissioned, museum-quality art collection.
FIRST DIRECTOR: The Concert Association of Florida named José Antonio Molina, a native of the Dominican Republic, its first music director. He’s to be principal conductor of The Florida Symphony, a new 75-member orchestra that will draw from local freelance musicians, and The Miami Pops Orchestra, also being formed now. He was the first to conduct a full orchestra at the Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. Mr. Molina studied composition and direction at The Juilliard School and was licensed as a maestro at the Manhattan School of Music.
HOTEL OCCUPANCY UP: Hotel occupancy rates and room rates were up in the Miami area and the Beaches in January over the same month in 2007, according to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. Occupancy averaged 76% in January, up 4.1%, the bureau said. Room rates rose 5.6% to $191.01. The statistics propelled the Miami area and the Beaches to No. 2 among the top 25 US markets in January, according to Smith Travel Research. Oahu Island in Hawaii was No. 1 in occupancy at 76.7%, and New York City was No. 1 for room rates at $228.67, the bureau said.
STATE LAWMAKERS ON TV: Miami-Dade County residents will be able to watch the Florida Legislature at work on the Florida Channel starting next week, according to the county’s Consumer Services Department. Legislature committee and board meetings, along with proceedings at the Florida Supreme Court, will be televised on the Florida Channel via local cable, the county department said.
CORRECTION: An article about the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County’s global agreement should have called it a reverse Robin Hood deal.