Written by Miami Today on May 1, 2008
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OVERTOWN SECURITY: Cameras, off-duty police officers and "peacemakers" from the Nation of Islam are to keep an eye on Miami’s Overtown neighborhood after commissioners sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency board approved nearly $1 million in security initiatives this week. For $500,000, 10 cameras are to give Miami police 360-degree views of Overtown’s most dangerous areas. "You’re putting the cameras in the nucleus of the problem," Deputy Chief Frank Fernandez said. About $343,392 is to fund off-duty officers to patrol both the Overtown and Omni redevelopment areas. And $150,000 will allow 14 "peace service workers" through Progressive Land Development International to stroll Overtown to promote safe lifestyles. Commissioners asked that the peacemakers take the streets ahead of the cameras and officers to allow time to explain the security initiatives in tandem with the police. "This program enables you to have a link," Minister Rasul Muhammad said.
GROVE GROWTH: Offices are to be allowed on street level in certain areas of Coconut Grove where only retail, restaurants and entertainment venues had been permitted after Miami commissioners unanimously approved the measure last week with no discussion. They gave initial approval last month. The change is meant to fill empty storefronts with the hope also that office workers become local restaurant and retail patrons. It will allow the Mayfair shopping center to fill its ground-floor space with offices. Sony BMG is set to relocate there.
TAXI FUEL SURCHARGE: A proposal to add a 50-cent-or-higher surcharge per taxicab trip to offset fuel price hikes is to be heard by Miami-Dade commissioners Tuesday. The surcharge is to jump in 50-cent increments from a $3 gas price benchmark. As the average price of regular unleaded rises, the surcharge would also tick up in 50-cent steps. "We are quite concerned with taxis in Dade County and the increasing price of fuel," said Diego Feliciano, president of the South Florida Taxicab Association, which has been lobbying for the surcharge. "We are out there 12 hours a day and it has become too expensive. This is definitely necessary to alleviate our situation." Similar surcharge mechanisms were recently put in place Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.
NO. 1 IN USA: Miami topped the nation from January to March in hotel occupancy at 81.4%, up 1.3% over the same time in 2007, according to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. In addition, the area was No. 2 among the top 25 markets in average room rates at $202.89.
WORST HOME PRICE PLUNGE: Miami ranked as one of the cities with the worst fallout in home prices, along with Las Vegas, both with 19.3% decreases, in March and April. The home price index study by S&P/Case-Shiller was released Tuesday, as it is the last Tuesday of every second month. It tracks changes in the value of residential real estate in 20 US metropolitan regions. The 20-city index was down 12.7% from the year before and down 2.6% from January. Prices were down from January in all 20 metro areas and down for the year in 19 — with Charlotte, NC, being the exception for the second month in a row. Annual declines set records in 17 of the 20 metro areas.
BIO-PHARM EXPANSION: A woman-owned bio-pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturer based here is seeking $99,000 in state and county incentives to help expand its plant to 7,000 square feet, a $1.27 million investment, and by 2010 add 33 jobs paying an average of $43,580. The company says it is also considering Raleigh-Durham, NC, for expansion. Miami-Dade commissioners are being asked Tuesday to fund $19,800 of the incentive to expand in the district of commission Chairman Bruno Barreiro, who represents parts of Miami and Miami Beach. The Beacon Council, the county’s economic development partnership, has recommended the incentive. The state is being asked for the other four-fifths of the money. Manufacturing employment in the county March was 46,200 jobs, the lowest in at least a decade.
GARAGE GROUNDBREAKING: The Miami Parking Authority was to this week break ground on its Courthouse Center Garage project, 40 NW Third St. The 11-story, mixed-use structure is to include 852 parking spaces, 40,878 square feet for offices and 4,042 square feet of street-level retail. It is to benefit employees and visitors to the Miami Federal Courthouse complex and the surrounding neighborhood. The existing 1950s-era garage was recently demolished.
GROCERY GROWTH: Milam’s Market in Coconut Grove could expand now that Miami commissioners voted to allow grocery stores in certain commercial districts of Coconut Grove to be 40,000 square feet without special permission or a public hearing. The move acknowledges that "grocery stores are a needed service," Zoning Administrator Lourdes Slazyk said. Neighbors pushed to limit the area to existing stores in the district and properties abutting US 1. Officials agreed but plan to double check the legality of the limitations before their final vote after Assistant City Attorney Maria J. Chiaro, Land Use and Environmental Law Division chief, expressed concerns.
GABLES GOALS: The Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce is to host its goals conference, "Your Formula for Success," June 19-21 at The Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave. The agenda features lectures, workshops and programs designed to acquaint professionals with local business tools. The chamber is to announce at the conference its new leadership, including Chairman-elect Marc Berenfeld of Berenfeld Spritzer Shechter and Sheer LLP. The Allen Morris Co. is to present in tandem with the chamber the first George E. Merrick Award of Excellence to a Gables leader who has advanced the city founder’s vision.
NEW GIG: Hector Mirabile is to serve as Miami’s director of the Department of Employee Relations beginning this week. He replaces Rosalie Mark, who recently resigned. Mr. Mirabile has been with the city more than 25 years in posts including interim director of community development, deputy director for employee relations, Miami Police Department Neighborhood Enhancement Team lieutenant and Miami Police Department major. As deputy director of employee relations, he helped negotiate collective bargaining agreements with the four unions. As a major in the police department, he managed budget, purchasing, grant management, capital improvements and legislation, totaling $180 million.
GABLES GIG: Edward M. Weller, a 13-year Coral Gables Building and Zoning Department staffer, has been named interim director. He in the past chaired the Development Review Committee and acted as secretary of the city’s University of Miami Community Relations Committee. Gov. Charlie Crist reappointed him last year to the Florida Construction Industry Licensing Board. He was initially appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush.
WRESTAURANT: New York-based Serafina Restaurant is to set up shop in the W South Beach Hotel and Residences, 2201 Collins Ave. It is to be the first location for the popular eatery outside of New York. It, along with Mr. Chow, are to be the development’s two main restaurants. The W is to open in March 2009.
CORRECTION: A page 2 report last week about the Miami-Dade Transit Agency seeking new fares incorrectly said Metrorail operates 24 hours. Metrorail operates seven days a week from 5 a.m. to midnight. The article also said the last fare increase of 25 cents was 15 years ago. The fare increase actually took place in 2005.