Written by Miami Today on July 31, 2008
Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead
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IMPACT FEE HIKE: Miami-Dade County is to raise its road impact fees to developers for the first time in 14 years. But to cushion the blow during tight times, fee payers are to receive declining discounts of 70% to 10% over the next five years before being hit by the full new charges. The new fees, which commissioners initially approved this month but await committee and final commission approval, would be calculated using Florida Department of Transportation standards and would automatically increase annually.
NATIONAL CALL: Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, newly inaugurated president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, is to call for the next presidential administration to invest more in solving problems facing cities and metropolitan areas in an address to the National Press Club Aug. 4 in Washington, DC. These problems include crime, poverty and infrastructure, among others. Mr. Diaz is to highlight also the launch of a series of "Mayors ’08 Action Forums." Mayors are to meet in Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami to craft an action plan for cities to present to the next president during the first 100 days of the new administration.
BUONGIORNO: Italian airline Air One is considering flights to Miami, among other US cities including New York and Washington, DC, according to Reuters. The airline already launched new flights in June from Milan to Boston and to Chicago. Privately held Air One has said its intercontinental connections will operate as codeshares with United Airlines.
OCCUPANCY HOLDS: Greater Miami held onto its No. 2 national ranking in hotel occupancy for the first six months of the year. Occupancy rose 1.2% over the first six months of 2007. That 76.7% occupancy is 4.7 percentage points below New York’s, which ranked number one. Oahu Island, HI; Los Angeles, and San Francisco rounded out the top five with rates of 76.1%, 73.4% and 73.2% respectively.
RATES, TOO: Among the top 25 markets, Greater Miami ranked second from January to June in average daily room rate, at $179.92, up 2.1% from the same time period in 2007. The county again trails only New York, at $263.14 per room per night. The top five is rounded out by Oahu Island ($172.10), Washington, DC, ($157.68) and San Francisco ($155).
HYATT TO BE RENOVATED: The Hyatt Regency Coral Gables is to undergo $10 million in renovations on all guest rooms, hallways, dining areas and entertainment spaces. All furniture, carpeting and fixtures are to be upgraded. Guestrooms will feature flat-screen televisions, marble baths and wireless Internet access. Renovations are to be done by November.
ANOTHER HYATT NOTE: The Hyatt Regency Miami is environmentally friendly, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The hotel was to be presented with a spot in the department’s Florida Green Lodging Program at a July 30 ceremony.
ALL AMERICAS: Advocates for changing the name of a section of Southeast Second Avenue north of the Miami River to Avenue of the Americas say the fact that the county has a street with the same name is no big deal. The current Avenue of the Americas is a small stretch of SW 107th Avenue, or State Road 985 North, near Florida International University’s main campus. "We were aware of that," said Jack Lowell, managing director of Flagler Real Estate Services, who handles commercial leasing for the Metropolitan Miami complex that is to be on the new Avenue of the Americas. "It’s far enough away and a short enough stretch that we thought it would not be confusing to the general public."
TEE TIME: Construction bids for a restaurant and clubhouse at Miami’s Melreese golf course are due at 2 p.m. Aug. 4. Miami commissioners agreed last week to let City Manager Pete Hernandez negotiate with the lowest bidder. They voted last month to grant a special zoning exception to allow the clubhouse with 200-seat restaurant, bar and retail space be built at the course, 1802 NW 37th Ave. The 15,000-square-foot building could be finished as early as late 2009, Ola Aluko, director of the city’s Department of Capital Improvements, said in June.
BUDGET HUDDLE: Miami has set a special commission meeting Aug. 25 for its annual budget workshop. City CFO Larry Spring asked commissioners to also make time for the administration to present auditor reports but got a resounding no. Commissioners want to focus solely on the budget, "I don’t want an audit," Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said. "We want to see how we are going to cut this budget," he added, referring to a projected $30 million deficit.
CITY HALL REPAIRS: Miami’s City Hall is getting maintenance as commissioners July 24 approved an emergency allocation of $298,000 for repairs. City Manager Pete Hernandez said that "underpinnings of building need immediate attention." He said the city has awarded the contract to the lowest bidder and is to begin repairs "right away."
STREET NAMES FOR ALL: The Miami City Commission have given the living the opportunity to have a street named after them — a designation traditionally only held by the deceased. A request by Commissioner Tomás Regalado triggered the change. Mr. Regalado said Cuban music idols Tony Alvarez and Olga Chorens sought to have 35th Avenue from Southwest Fourth to 13th street renamed "Olga y Tony Avenue." Mr. Alvarez died in 2001 but his wife lives. Someone can lose a street name designation if convicted of a crime after the designation is made, commissioners said.
LIVE NATION INKED: Concert-promoter giant Live Nation’s contract to run downtown’s Bayfront Park Amphitheatre got city commission approval July 24. Live Nation is to manage and operate the amphitheatre, said Tim Schmand, executive director of the Bayfront Park Management Trust. The 10-year contract is to earn the city about $625,000 a year with a 3% increase yearly. The city is also pocketing 10% of name sponsorships and a $2 per ticket surcharge. But Live Nation is to fully control the price of tickets. The contract got approval with three changes. The first allows the city or trust to have charitable concerts. The second gives city administrators 2½ years to fix up the site in case of storms or fires. The contract also is to include a preference commitment to hire local businesses.
BALANCE, PLEASE: A move to waive fees for use of an area park turned into a broader look at the importance of departments keeping city officials and taxpayers informed at last week’s Miami City Commission meeting. Commissioners asked Ola Aluko, capital improvements director, to list fees waived and money spent on capital improvements by commission district. Commission Chairman Joe Sanchez also requested a breakdown of waived fees in future commission agendas "to know exactly how much of the taxpayers’ money is being spent." Commissioners are to get a list of each district’s assigned projects, money allocated, money spent and the balance for all capital improvement projects, Mr. Aluko said. "Commissioners want to see how dollars are being spent in each district," he said.
GROVE VILLAGE OK’D: Grove Village on Grand got approval from Miami commissioners after it returned with a covenant promising to build a grocery store of up to 40,000 square feet. "The covenant will provide jobs to the community from the creation of a super market," said Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who represents Coconut Grove. The $300 million Bahamian-themed project, which promises to change the façade of the West Grove community, is to revitalize six blocks of Grand Avenue — a street left unattended for years — with new apartments, houses, offices and shops. Commissioners also OK’d the petition of developer Peter Gardner, president of Pointe Group Advisors, to build underground parking in Grove Village.
DOWNTOWN PR: The Miami Downtown Development Authority has retained the Apple Organization on a month-to-month basis for marketing and public relations services. The authority board agreed July 18 to pay the firm $50,000 if it completes the six-month period for which the month-to-month services are specified. Alyce Robertson, interim director of the authority, said the outside firm helps her with time management by screening media inquiries and briefing her ahead of time on information news reporters seek. She said she plans to request proposals in October to gauge the interest of other firms that might be interested in the job.
WYNWOOD WINS: The Wynwood neighborhood should start making room among its many galleries for new bars and restaurants after Miami commissioners agreed to loosen the reins on liquor licensing in the area. The city commission gave final approval to creation of the Wynwood Cafe District in the area, north of downtown. Before the new district existed, local businesses weren’t allowed to hold liquor licenses less than 1,000 feet from each other — but that changed July 24. Now, the new district can set up restaurant and bars without distance restrictions, a move that business owners expect to cause an influx of new eateries and bars.
MOVE TO SWEDEN: The consul general of Uruguay in Miami, Manuel G. Vieira, has been reassigned to become consul in Stockholm, Sweden.
CONVENTION BUREAU ADDS VP: The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau has hired a new associate vice president of advertising and new media. Natasha Babulal comes to the bureau having worked as senior manager of marketing and branding for Spirit Airlines, where she managed advertising and branding for Spirit’s US, Caribbean and Latin America operations.
LENDING OFFICE OPENS: South Florida-based Premier American Bank has opened a real estate lending office in Coral Gables at Two Alhambra Plaza, Penthouse 1-D. The office is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. by appointment only. This marks the bank’s first lending office. It has four bank branches: Blue Lagoon, Hialeah Gardens, South Miami and Surfside.
SUNSHINE LOAN CHANGE: A $27.35 million low-interest Sunshine loan to help support Miami’s capital improvement projects is coming back to the city commission. The Sunshine State Governmental Financing Commission loan is to balloon, with $1.7 million more going in from the general fund. But it’s also losing $23,000 of general fund dollars to be transferred to solid waste’s operating budget to buy computer equipment.