CONTRACTS COMING: Though Miami-Dade has yet to set a date for commissioners to consider Marlins ballpark contracts, officials expect a vote this month on final construction, non-relocation, assurance and management agreements. County Manager George Burgess was unavailable but said in a Dec. 30 e-mail to a staffer in Commissioner Joe Martinez's office that "no decision has been [made] on a meeting date though later in Jan[uary] makes good sense and is our goal." The commission is set for a regular meeting Jan. 22, but officials could call a special session to consider Marlins contracts. "Documents will be distributed at least two weeks before any meeting of the BCC [Board of County Commissioners]," Mr. Burgess wrote in the e-mail, adding that he plans to meet at least once with each of the 13 commissioners beforehand. A preliminary pact signed nearly a year ago set a July 1, 2008, deadline to cement the agreements.
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TUNNEL STILL FUNDED: Money lined up for the recently shelved Port of Miami tunnel is to remain slated for the project, a Florida Department of Transportation official says, despite local speculation that the $457 million could be on its way out to fund projects elsewhere in Florida. "Our funding in our five-year work program is still there for the tunnel," said Kevin Thibault, assistant secretary for engineering and operations. "We are not taking it off the project — it is still there." Local officials have lambasted the state for cutting off dealings with the selected contractor and are asking for a detailed explanation. State transportation officials have blamed contractor equity issues. Tunnel proponents press that the contracting team had a new, solvent equity partner in the works.
EX-FEDEX BOWL?: The 2011 National Championship and Orange Bowl football games could have a new corporate sponsor. FedEx's sponsorship of the championship ends after the 2010 game and broadcasting as well as title-sponsorship-selection rights move to ESPN from Fox Sports. FedEx's recent decisions to forgo Superbowl advertising and cut marketing expenses 25% may signify a strategy shift. "A large part of all marketing expenses are tied to long-term contractual agreements that we have with our various sports properties," said T. Michael Glenn, FedEx's executive vice president of market development. "We are committed to pay both the sponsorship fees and for advertising during broadcasts. However, we have significantly cut back on the non-contractual aspects of these properties."
JUST CRUISIN': The first 11 months of 2008 brought a record 3.8 million cruise passengers to the Port of Miami — 10.5% over last year, when 3.44 million came through during the period. November alone increased 16.4%, with 394,861 passengers. Passengers are counted when they depart and again when they return. The sustained growth is due in part to the arrival of new, larger ships and the variety of cruise options offered by the Port of Miami, according to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
CANCELLED COMMITTEES: Still working to choose chairs for Miami-Dade's commission committees and to set a committee structure, Commission Chair Dennis Moss has canceled the seven committee meetings scheduled this month. Most county legislation requires committee review before a final vote. He said he plans to announce chairmen soon, potentially this week, and to resume committee meetings in February.
CHANGE IN PLAN: Mark Rosenberg, chancellor of the Florida Board of Governors and a potential candidate for Florida International University's next president, won't return to teach at Florida International University when his state job ends in February as originally planned. Instead, he said, he'll spend 2˝ months at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College. "[It's] one of the country's leading academic units for higher education academic leadership policy issues," he said. "I'll be lecturing and working on my research particularly related to higher education." While the two-month stint won't derail his plans for teaching at FIU, or being considered as its next president, he said it would give him time to "understand broad, higher-education issues."
HOME BASE: Miami is to be the base for the executive Wells Fargo has tapped to lead the bank in Florida as it completes its purchase of Wachovia. Shelley Freeman, now Wells Fargo's community bank regional president for Los Angeles Metro, is to be community bank regional president for Florida and be based here. She was unavailable, but spokesman Kathy Harrison said she may relocate to Miami as early as mid February. Ms. Freeman is tentatively to be based at the Wachovia Financial Center downtown, Ms. Harrison said. Bank leaders are working now to develop leadership structures, so it is unclear how local executives are to be affected by the merger, she said. Now, Wells Fargo has no branches in the state, though more than six Wells Fargo businesses have a presence in Florida, including its wealth management arm, commercial banking operation and insurance services. But Wachovia, with 66 branches in Miami-Dade, now has the largest deposit market share in the county — nearly 14%, according to the latest Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. tabulations.
VOTE FOR ME: While commissioners Tomás Regalado and Joe Sanchez begin to campaign to be Miami's next mayor, several persons prepare to snatch their commission seats. For the November election, Mr. Sanchez's district 3 has four candidates running: founder and CEO of non-profit South Florida Sports League Guillermo "Willie" Chacon; Frank Carollo, brother of former Mayor Joe Carollo; Mavel Lopez and Pedro R. Diaz. Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, whose district 5 seat is also up this year, awaits possible challengers. But Mr. Regalado's district 4, which opens up in the 2011 commission race, has already attracted four candidates who submitted forms: Francis X. Suarez, son of Miami's first Cuban-born Mayor Xavier Suarez; Manolo Reyes; former assistant city attorney for Miami Oscar Rodriguez-Fonts; and former board member of the Mayor's International Council Denis Rod, executive advisor of the China Latin American Trade Center.
MORSE JOINING RACE: Former state Rep. Luis Morse also plans to join the race for Mr. Sanchez's seat this month. He served as state representative from 1984 to 1998 and soon after joined Gov. Jeb Bush's administration as deputy secretary of the Department of Elder Affairs, a post he held about four years. He said in an interview he would bring experience to the dais and would be effective in bringing new funding to the city. "It's not right to fund all projects in the city through taxpayer money," he said. "It's about creating alliances with other government offices to bring money to the city."
IT'S OFFICIAL: Pedro J. Garcia, Miami-Dade's first elected property appraiser, officially took office Tuesday in a swearing-in in county commission chambers downtown. Voters chose him over former state Sen. Gwen Margolis in a runoff last month. Until then, the appraiser had been appointed. Residents last year voted to change the county charter to have an elected official fill the post, bringing Miami-Dade in line with all other Florida counties. Mr. Garcia has been a private appraiser for more than 30 years and a special magistrate on the county's Value Adjustment Board for 10.
EXEMPTION TIME: Mr. Garcia joins the office as its staff helps property owners seek tax exemptions during a Jan. 2 to March 2 application period. During the period, the appraiser will operate five satellite offices, including at the South Dade Government Center in Cutler Bay and the North Dade Justice Center in North Miami Beach. The appraiser's office late last month mailed homestead exemption applications to new homeowners and more than 450,000 exemption renewal receipts to county residents who now get homestead exemptions. Businesses should also keep an eye on their mailboxes. The office wrote 30,000 businesses reminding them to file a tangible personal property tax return by April 1 and is sending 80,000 reminders to renew the $25,000 exemption. The 46,000 property owners who benefited from the senior citizens' exemption last year are also to receive renewal forms. Details: (786) 331-5321, www.miamidade.gov/pa; Businesses call (786) 331-5376.
INAUGURATION CELEBRATION: President-elect Barack Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration is to air live at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts' Knight Concert Hall at 1300 Biscayne Blvd. In addition to the simulcast, the free event is to include live music by New World School of the Arts Concert Choir and the Hialeah-Miami Lakes High School marching band as well as appearances by local officials including Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez. The center is encouraging companies to release employees during the two-hour event, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Arts center caterer Barton G. will be selling boxed lunches. Space is limited. Details and reservations: www.arshtcenter.org.
CAMERAS ON: Miami police plan to install panning cameras that record 24 hours along some Miami streets. Two are slated at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, two for Flagler Street and one for Coconut Grove, Police Chief John Timoney told the Downtown Development Authority last month. He said the department is to buy up to eight cameras, with monitoring stations to be at the city's 911 call center.
NUEVA RIVIERA: The $25 million Riviera South Beach, 2000 Liberty Ave.,opened Tuesday. The hotel debuts with 54 one-bedroom suites with gourmet kitchens. Suites average 700 square feet, and each livingroom has a deluxe sleeper sofa, two flat-screen televisions, IPOD docking stations andfree wireless Internet access. Thehotel is the second all-suite hotel tojoin ownership team The South Beach Group following the 2007 opening of theMetropole South Beach.Details: (877) 762-3477 or www.rivierahotelsouthbeach.com.
SUPER JOB: TV journalist Mike Zimmer has been hired to manage day-to-day operations of the South Florida Super Bowl XLIV Host Committee, serving as president for the Feb. 7, 2010, game. He has covered five Super Bowls and is co-owner of the outdoor television series "Sportsman's Adventures." Rodney Barreto, chairman of the committee, announced the hiring Tuesday.
SPICE UP YOUR LIFE: Winter Miami Spice, a spin-off of the popular Miami Spice program, will run Jan. 12 through Feb. 12 at participating restaurants in Greater Miami. Like the original program, diners can get special three-course dinners and lunches for $36 and $23, respectively. The program, presented by the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, is sponsored by American Express. "We're a sales company and we are always working on how can we get more tourists here, how can we get more business here," said William D. Talbert III, bureau president and CEO. "We've got a proven winner… the visitor today is looking for value added and this is the kind of thing that will bring us more customers in a very competitive world environment." Details: www.ilovemiamispice.com.
AN OLD FRIEND: The National Football League's Pro Bowl, its annual all-star game, is to return to Miami after 30 years in Honolulu. The NFL announced last week that the 2010 Pro Bowl will be played Jan. 31, 2010, one week before Super Bowl XLIV, with both games in Dolphin Stadium. The last time the game was in South Florida was 1975 at the Orange Bowl.Tickets to the 2010 Pro Bowl at Dolphin Stadium will be made available to Dolphins season ticketholders.
HERALD TENANT SEARCH: The Miami Herald's bayfront building downtown is still looking for sixth-floor tenants. The space, put up for lease in September, remains available, said Steven Hurwitz, a Continental Real Estate Co. senior vice president who is handling leasing. Two schools were reported interested, but he said a tenant is yet to be signed. Miami Dade College said it has no intent to lease the space.
NEW LANDLORD?: Prospective Herald tenants could have a new future landlord. Last week, the Herald's parent, McClatchy Co., reported the $190 million deal to sell 10 acres of parking surrounding the Herald's home is on hold. McClatchy agreed to give developer Mark Siffin another year to arrange financing. But in exchange, he had to give up right of first refusal on the Herald building if McClatchy decides to sell it.
CROSS-ATLANTIC BUSINESS: European Union Ambassador to the US John Bruton will be guest of honor at a seminar on European businesses as the German American Business Chamber of South Florida hosts members of European chambers of commerce of Miami for a reception at 7 p.m. Jan. 12. "Speakers will be reporting what's happening with European businesses in South Florida in 2009," said Miriam Metzger, executive director of the German chamber. Speakers from France, Italy, Sweden and Ireland will discuss European activity in industries such as healthcare and bioenergy at Poltrona Frau Showroom at 10 NE 39th St. in the Design District. Details: www.gabc.us.
OFFICE SPACE: Colliers Abood Wood-Fay has been named landlord representative for Saglo Development's 15-story InterAmerican Plaza, 701 SW 27th Ave. in Miami. The 160,000-square-foot office tower has available office space from 1,000 to 25,000 square feet and 600 to 5,500 square feet of retail on ground level.
TOURNEY TIME: Representatives from the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) Men's Division I Basketball tournament have visited Miami to wrap up plans for the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament, according to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. Games are to be at AmericanAirlines Arena March 20-22. The representatives met with host hotels, Florida International University — the host university — and the Miami-Dade Sports Commission to prepare for the first time in 15 years that the NCAA has been in Miami.Details: (786) 777-1000.
GROCERY VACANCY: Whole Foods Market has pulled out of a planned downtown site. The Texas-based natural and organic grocery chain signed a lease for MDM Development's planned Met 3 more than two years ago, but "over the past two years, the scope of the downtown Miami project has changed from its initial design. After a thorough review, we have determined that this projectno longer fits with our current business model for new store development," Whole Foods Florida Executive Regional Marketing Coordinator Russ Benblatt said via e-mail. Upscale grocery chain Fresh Market, which has sites in Coconut Grove and Aventura and one on the way in Miami Beach, is in expansion mode but has no information on the downtown development now, said spokesman Jennifer Foushee. But, she said, "Fresh Market is continuing to expand in the Southeast and Midwest" as well as the Northeast.
NEW ON MIRACLE MILE: Coral Gables' Miracle Mile is welcoming new dining and shopping options to the exclusive tree-lined corridor. Twelve businesses are to open through March, including restaurants, boutiques and art galleries. Palate-pleasing establishments due soon are Mexican eatery Chilorio's, popular diner Fatburger and the sweet assortments of Cupcakes Nouveau. Beauty and life institute Cleber Lopes, high-end shoe boutique Dulce and Galerie Duval, a Key West art gallery, are also to open on the Mile.
RIDE THE RICK: As Miami-Dade County dedicates its completed causeway improvement projects, one side of the road on the Rickenbacker Causeway and Crandon Boulevard will be closed to traffic from 9 a.m. to noon Jan. 10 to allow bikers, skaters and pedestrians a view of the ceremony and a chance to ride on the causeway. Vehicles will be diverted to the other side. Parking at Crandon Park is free for folks with bikes until noon. Those who choose to drive and then bike must pay the $1.50 causeway toll. Or, bikes are welcome on the Metrorail and Metro Bus. Take Metrorail to Brickell Station, then the "B" 102 Metrobus to the causeway. Details: www.miamidade.gov/parks.
TOPPING OUT: Brickell Financial Centre, the office tower rising at 680 Brickell Ave., has "unofficially topped out," says Danet Linares, senior vice president and director of real estate services for developer Foram Group. The construction crew has reached the 40th — and last — floor of the core, and on Jan. 30 is to place the last piece of steel for the official topping out, she said. On the leasing side, Foram is working with prospects for about 300,000 square feet, she said. Law firm Bilzin Sumberg has signed a 10.5-year, $58 million lease for 115,000 square feet. The hope is to announce a new deal in the coming months, Ms. Linares said. The tower is to open in January 2010.
GABLES SPACE: A Morris Lapidus-designed building in Coral Gables is being upgraded to Class-A office space and reintroduced to the market. Renovations on the 400 University Drive building are expected to be done by mid-February. It will offer 27,000 square feet of professional space parceled into 5,000- to 7,000-square-foot spaces, according to landlord representatives Colliers Abood Wood-Fay. The five-story building's third floor was recently leased by Home Financing Center Inc., leaving only the second, fourth and fifth floors available.
20 YEARS OF TRI-RAIL: Tri-Rail, the heavy-rail line that links Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, is celebrating its 20th anniversary after carrying more than 4 million passengers in 2008, a record and a 22.9% increase over 2007. The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority is to celebrate Jan. 10 with a free "Rail Fun Day" from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport Station at Dania Beach. It's to include magicians, clowns, an appearance by Billy the Marlin and eats from Pollo Tropical. Tri-Rail's new mascot, Conductor George Green, is to debut and from then on serve to promote public transportation as environmentally friendly. Four added trains are to serve those going to the event, two from Miami Airport Station and two from Mangonia Park Station at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Details: 1-800-TRI-RAIL or www.tri-rail.com.
BE A GUIDE: Vizcaya Museum & Gardens is seeking volunteer guides. They'll be trained in tour content and technique from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturdays from Feb. 7-March 28. Guides get free daytime admission to the museum. About 100 guides volunteer now, offering tours in six languages. New Guides must apply and interview. Details: www.vizcayamuseum.org.
FINANCIAL LEADER: Ira M. Birns, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Miami-based World Fuel Services Corp., has been named to a two-year term as chairman of the Association for Financial Professionals, based in Bethesda, MD. He lives in Pinecrest.
FIRE UP THE GRILLE: Cane Fire Grille is the newest restaurant at the Miami Airport Marriott. Chef Joe Natoli, an alum of Johnson & Wales, says he "blends a healthy dose of Florida Cracker on a Native American foundation, sprinkle in the Caribbean islands, add a dash of South America, a shake of Central America and the exotic touch of Cuba to give you the flavor of South Florida," according to a news release. Cane Fire Grille is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 6:30 a.m. to midnight. Details:(305) 649-5000 ext. 6091.
SEVEN-10 SPLITSVILLE: With a sushi bar and lanes designed to simulate a private bowling alley, Tampa-based Splitsville brings its "bowling parlors" to South Miami. "People love to bowl, but many don't enjoy a traditional bowling alley," said Splitsville Co-Founder Mark Gibson. "We believed that a concept centered around bowling, but with improved atmosphere, food, beverages and service, would result in a surprising destination for people to have fun together." Splitsville is at The Shops at Sunset Place, 5701 Sunset Drive in South Miami.
AROUND THE WORLD: The "Where Worlds Meet" advertising campaign, a joint partnership with the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, American Airlines, the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade County, Miami International Airport and the Port of Miami, ran print ads in October in The New York Times, the Globe and Mail in Canada, Folha newspaper in Brazil, Clarin in Argentina, Miami Herald International, Expressions magazine in Brazil and Argentina, El Pais in Spain, Le Monde in France and La Republican in Italy, according to the visitors bureau.