Written by Miami Today on October 16, 2008
Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead
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PERMIT PARDON: In today’s rocky economy, many construction projects may be postponed or killed, Miami-Dade Commissioner Katy Sorenson predicts — so she’s proposing the county allow building-permit holders facing economic hardships to apply for a stop-work order. The order could last up to six months without affecting the status of the project’s building permit. Without the measure, permits expire after work is abandoned for certain periods. Eligible for the program, should it pass: any new residential or commercial construction with a permit issued since Jan. 1, 2007, that expires by June 1, 2009. Commissioners are to consider the measure Tuesday.
BONDS FOR BON-BONS: Get ready, dessert lovers — a chocolate manufacturer is headed for Miami-Dade. With the help of industrial development revenue bonds, Camrose Trading and affiliate Tierra Nueva Fine Chocolate are to buy and rehabilitate a Miami Gardens property, 1130 NW 159th Drive, to manufacture chocolate and cocoa products. Miami-Dade commissioners at a Budget and Finance Committee meeting Tuesday agreed to allow the county’s Industrial Development Authority to issue tax-free bonds up to $12.4 million to back the rehab as well as new machinery and equipment. The facility would create about 120 jobs within a year, county documents say. Neither the county nor the development authority has any liability in repaying the bonds.
FORTHCOMING PHARMACEUTICALS: New Jersey-based global medical technology company Becton, Dickinson and Co.’s new North Miami plant is expected to open late next year, the company announced this month. It announced the planned expansion in May: a renovation of 90,000 square feet of the former IVAX Pharmaceuticals building to produce cell culture media and supplements here. The products are used to produce vaccines and biopharmaceuticals. BD Biosciences is in the midst of outfitting the facility with the modern equipment to produce the supplements. The company is expected to make a more than $20 million capital investment here and to create 75 high-paying jobs over the next eight years.
TO PAY OR NOT TO PAY: County commissioners failed to reach a consensus last week on whether to impose parking charges on the disabled at Miami International Airport and the Port of Miami. Some questioned whether the measure discriminated amongst disabled people. It would limit free handicap parking to people who drive mechanically-altered vehicles. Commissioner Javier Souto agreed that the measure could be punishing some disabled people while giving preference to others. "This is a discriminatory issue for me and many of us," he said. Sally Heyman, bill sponsor, was asked to take a closer look at the proposal and any unintended consequences. The airport was involved in a scandal this year after investigators discovered airport employees were using handicap permits to park free and close to terminals instead of employee-designated lots.
BALLOON FOR FOUNTAIN: The Bayfront Park Management Trust doesn’t have plans to fill the space where Skylift Balloon once sat. To save money in trying financial times, the trust opted last week to turn on the giant fountain where the balloon sat, said Tim Schmand, executive director for Bayfront Park Management Trust. The downtown hot-air ride had a short life span, after owner SkyLift Holding LLC filed for bankruptcy. The passenger-carrying helium balloon gave 15-minute rides at Bayfront Park. Mr. Schmand said the fountain is to begin running in a mode that will help conserve water. For now, the water feature will fill the void left by the balloon’s departure.
TOSSING PREFERENCE LAW: Today (10/16) Miami’s city commission is to take a final vote to abolish a women-and-minority-benefiting business program that Miami-Dade County long ago declared unconstitutional. The city is to abolish the program to follow through with judicial opinions from the City Attorney’s Office on the unconstitutionality of gender-and-race-based preferences. Under the old program, at least 51% of city contracts and procurements were to benefit businesses owned by blacks, Hispanics and women. In its place, the city plans a program to offer qualifying small businesses in Miami the opportunity to participate in government contracts. Once that is in place, the city will reach out to eligible business owners to enroll.
BACK JACKSON: Jackson Health System President and CEO Marvin O’Quinn, who announced his resignation last week, advises his to-be-determined successor to unite the community in supporting Jackson. "There needs to be a consensus built around what success should look like and what should be done to ensure there’s long-term success for the institution," he said. In the early ’90s, Miami-Dade voters approved a half-penny sales tax to benefit the hospital. "That consensus doesn’t exist today. Everyone recognizes the importance [of Jackson], but I don’t think we have a uniform consensus across the board about what it’s going to take for the future," he said Tuesday. Without funding solutions, Jackson may one day have to consider starting to close its open door, unlocked to all for 90 years. "That is a fear, it is a concern. It’s not something we would ever want to do." But when you’re serving more and more uninsured patients with less and less money, "sooner or later something has to give." Mr. O’Quinn is to leave after December to become executive VP/chief operating officer for Catholic Healthcare West, a system of more than 40 hospitals and medical centers.
RESOLVED: Miami-Dade commissioners last week put a final end to a years-long debate over economic development funding. The Beacon Council, Miami-Dade’s economic development arm, is to again receive the about $350,000 in annual business tax receipt revenue that it had for years been required to give to the Metro-Miami Action Plan Trust. The trust, which addresses socio-economic disparity of the county’s black community, won’t be hurt financially — the county is replacing the money with general funds. In returning money to the Beacon, commissioners required that the funds be used for economic development in "economically disadvantaged neighborhoods."
BOND GROUNDWORK: Miami-Dade’s Budget and Finance Committee agreed Tuesday to authorize issuing up to $400 million in water and sewer commercial paper notes and up to $800 million in water and sewer revenue bonds to begin a commercial paper program to back water and sewer projects. The vote was only to authorize the program’s kick-off — the county doesn’t plan to begin the program until late next year. By then, the hope is the unstable credit markets will have settled down, Finance Director Rachel Baum said. But, Commissioner José "Pepe" Diaz said, "I don’t see the market straightening out for quite a while."
CITY SECURES FUNDS: Miami has secured $1 million in federal infrastructure funding to help alleviate the city’s flood conditions. The project is to provide funds for stormwater drainage projects throughout the city that are to help ease flooding. A portion of the funding is earmarked to control the discharge of storm water into the Miami River and Biscayne Bay to improve the quality of Miami’s waterways.
THE ENFORCER: Looking for more authority, Miami’s code enforcement awaits today (10/16) final approval of a proposal to help the department expedite enforcement at foreclosed properties. The measure deals with vacant, blighted, unsecured or abandoned properties, said Code Enforcement Director Mariano Loret de Mola. As the foreclosure epidemic grows in Miami-Dade County, the problem of abandoned properties could worsen, city officials say. The measure requires that foreclosed properties be registered with the city. Banks and mortgage companies would have to appoint a contact person as city liaison. If approved, he said, the ordinance is to give code enforcement more teeth to secure a property and keep squatters out.
FROM THE HORSES’ MOUTHS: At this month’s Urban Land Institute Fall Meeting and Urban Land Expo in Miami Beach, national experts are to address the troubled financial market’s effect on real estate, as well as topics such as where to find market capital, what’s next for the housing finance system and what the presidential election outcome will mean to real estate. Among speakers: Paul Volcker, former Federal Reserve chairman; James B. Lockhart, director, Federal Housing Finance Agency; Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico; Henry Cisneros and Jack Kemp, former Housing and Urban Development secretaries; and former US Rep. Rick Lazio, now managing director of global real estate and infrastructure for JP Morgan. The expo is to be Oct. 27-30 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Details: www.uli.org.
SAYING GOODBYE: Miami’s director of public facilities, Lori Billberry, is retiring Friday after 26 years with the city. City Manager Pete Hernandez, who has yet to name anyone to the post, said it’s going to be hard to see her go. "I think she has been fantastic, a true team member, professional and hard-working," he said. She’s to move with her husband to Monticello, FL, where she plans to garden and maybe do real estate work.
AIRPORT ARRIVALS: For the first eight months of 2008, passenger arrivals at Miami International Airport increased 1.6% over the same time period last year. That plays out to 11,664,725 arrivals this year, up from 11,484,438 in the first eight months of 2007.
BUREAU GATHERING: The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Annual Meeting will be at 4 p.m. today (10/16) at the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater, 1700 Washington Ave. Roger Dow, president and CEO of Washington, DC-based Travel Industry Association, will be keynote speaker. The Travel Industry Association promotes and facilitates increased travel to and within the US. Details: www.GMCVBAnnualMeeting.com.
SPA SPECIALS: Spa Week 2008 continues until Sunday at participating spas. Like the local Miami Spa Month, Spa Week participants offer a discounted service — in this case a $50 spa treatment which includes facials, massages, manicures, pedicures and more. Participating local spas include Aquagene Spa at Doubletree Ocean Point Resort & Spa, Belleza Spa Salon & Boutique, BodySense Holistic Spa and Wellness Center, Brownes Beauty Lounge, Laser Cosmetica — Miami, The Spa at The Sports Club/LA, Uhma Spa & Shop, and White Light SkinCare. "In this day and time you can’t find a service for $50," said Rhonda Davis, spa director at The Spa at The Sports Club/LA in the Four Seasons. Details: http://spaweek.org/spas/Florida.
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