Written by Miami Today on October 9, 2008
Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead
of the news. Here are highlights from the most current edition.
BALLPARK PREP: As the City of Miami moves ahead with plans to team with Miami-Dade County on a Florida Marlins stadium in Little Havana, city commissioners changed zoning there to allow restaurants, cafes and sports bars to rise near the stadium. After a three-minute discussion, all five approved the change, which is to come back to the commission for final approval Oct. 23. "It has always been the intention of this commission… to make sure we do the proper study to make sure the businesses that complement the baseball stadium will benefit everyone who lives in the city," said Commission Chairman Joe Sanchez, the only commissioner who spoke on the item.
SANCHEZ ON STADIUM: A Marlins stadium is to bring economic vitality and allow area residents to still benefit from turning their yards into parking lots on game days, Mr. Sanzhez said. The city is to build 6,000 on-site spots for a 37,000-seat stadium. But he asked the administration not to rush studies or decisions regarding the stadium. "When we tend to rush on things, we tend not to look at the fine things," he said.
RIDING ON THE SUMMIT: A lot is riding on a Miami-Dade transportation summit planned Nov. 15. There, commissioners say they’re to "take their licks," as some have put it, for Miami-Dade Transit funding issues. The system could face a $9.4 billion deficit over 30 years. They plan also to cement their vision for the system, specifically whether to build a north corridor rail line as long planned or perhaps shift gears to light rail or a bus rapid transit system. Until the summit, other transit-related decisions are also up in the air. For instance, Commissioner Carlos Gimenez Tuesday asked to defer until then legislation to let the county move forward in preparing to build a pedestrian/bicycle overpass at the University of Miami Metrorail station.
BONDS BUST: It’s not the unstable money markets keeping Miami-Dade Transit from floating a bond for a planned Metrorail extension from Earlington Heights Station to the Miami Intermodal Center — it’s the transit department’s financial situation, officials said at a commission meeting Tuesday. "There’s a $9.4 billion gap on that [transit's 30-year] pro-forma. Ways of solving that, but still a $9.4 billion gap," Assistant County Manger Ysela Llort said. "The last time that transit floated a bond, the rating agencies were concerned about how you would fill that hole." Confirmed finance Director Rachel Baum: "When we issued the last series of bonds for transit [over the summer] and when we met with the agencies, they had a concern with the pro-forma." Commissioners approved a partial fix last month in raising transit fares and parking costs. In order to issue more debt, Ms. Baum said, the county must present the updated financial outlook.
STIMULUS CONTINUES: Within the next month, Miami-Dade is to advertise or award more than $100 million in contracts for capital projects meant to jump-start local construction. This time last month, about $31.5 million of the $625 million in projects were in the pipeline. Commissioners approved the stimulus in July to expedite capital projects, opening opportunities for construction workers and easing a backlog of county work.
WALK ON IN: Anyone dealing with Miami-Dade County government can say bye-bye to the x-ray machines and metal detectors — and the lines that came along with them — at the entry to County Hall downtown. As of Oct., 1, the machines are out. Security officers now patrol outside at all times. From 6-8 a.m. and 5-10 p.m., officers are in front of the east and west elevator banks to check ID.
SCOOP CELEBRATION: To celebrate the end of the years-long and once-uncertain Miami River dredging, the Miami River Commission is inviting the community to a "last-scoop" ceremony. Attendees — including local, state and federal officials — are to watch from the mouth of the river’s north shore as the dredge scoops its symbolic last bite of river-bottom. The newly dredged river at 15 feet deep is to allow boats to traverse at full capacity regardless of tide. The Oct. 15 ceremony begins at 11:45 a.m. at One Miami Riverwalk, 325 S Biscayne Blvd.
PET HOTELS CHECKING IN: Pet stores and veterinary clinics in Miami could soon run pet hotels. The city commission passed a measure that amends the zoning code to allow pet stores and clinics bigger than 10,000 square feet to include the "accessory use" of pet hotel. The ordinance defines hotel as "temporary boarding accommodation for pets." The buildings cannot, however, put up signs advertising the hotel. Final okay is due Oct. 23.
ADS ON WHEELS: Coral Gables Trolleys are now available for private rental — and businesses have been taking advantage, using the Gables icons in marketing campaigns. The Rodriguez Group, a Gables-based ad agency, used the trolley to promote real estate development Old Spanish Village. Soon there are to be opportunities for on-board advertising. The trolleys are also available for weddings, corporate parties, meetings and other events. Trolleys can be rented outside of operating hours, which run 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday. Rent is $175 per hour, minimum four hours. Capacities range from 20 to 35. Rental routes can’t go beyond a radius of 30 miles around Coral Gables. Details: (305) 460-5070.
STRONG SUMMER: Miami-Dade saw record Convention Development Tax collections of $3.2 million in August, up 8.3% from $3 million in August 2007. The increase capped a summer that saw increases of 4.8% in June and 6.2% in July over the same months in 2007. Revenue from the 3% hotel tax helps build and maintain facilities such as convention centers and sports arenas and stadiums.
COURTHOUSE CENTER LEASING: The Miami Parking Authority is starting leasing for the planned 45,000 square feet of office and ground-floor retail at the under-construction Courthouse Center Garage, 40 NW Third St., which is to add about 850 spots downtown. Arthur Noriega, authority CEO, said he’d love to share the authority’s new headquarters with groups like Miami’s Community Redevelopment Agency or the Downtown Development Authority. But that could be wishful thinking. The development authority is chained to a long-term lease at the Wachovia Financial Center. Meanwhile, the Community Redevelopment Agency board has voiced a different vision for its offices, Mr. Noriega said.
MELREESE CONSTRUCTION STARTS: The City of Miami is beginning to construct a clubhouse and restaurant for the Melreese Golf Course, 1802 NW 37th Ave. The 17,400-square-foot project is to cost $4 million, which is coming from Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority and Sunshine State Financing Commission funds. Mayor Manny Diaz and other city officials were to hold a groundbreaking at the city-owned, 18-hole golf course steps from Miami’s new water park.
GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAIN: Florida International Bankers Association is holding a conference today (10/9) to discuss best practices for supporting a global supply chain. Topics include the importance of supply chain management, trade-based money laundering and the challenges and opportunities for Florida-based financial institutions. The conference runs from 8-10 a.m. at the JW Marriott Hotel, 1109 Brickell Ave.
NEWSPAPER HONORED: Miami Today was named second in the nation in excellence in editorials among daily and weekly newspapers circulation 25,000 or more by the Inland Press Association last week. The award was for five editorials by Michael Lewis, Miami Today’s editor and publisher, dealing with transportation, downtown development and state, city and county government. "These editorials did a terrific job of explaining the consequences of policy decisions and practices by state and local officials," judges said. "…They were appropriately damning and constructive, calling to light efforts to stifle the voice or needs of citizens and offering up the reasons to do otherwise." More than 1,200 newspapers in 50 states are members of the 123-year-old association. The award will be presented in October in Chicago.
HONORED: Miami’s Office of Strategic Planning, Budgeting and Performance has won an award for its work during fiscal 2007-2008 from the Government Finance Officers Association.
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