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Front Page » FYI Miami » Fyi Miami

Fyi Miami

Written by on February 26, 2009


Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead

of the news. Here are highlights from the most current edition.

   AHEAD OF THE GAME: With other Florida ports looking to deepen channels to 50 feet, opening opportunity for increased trade, Miami-Dade is pushing to stay ahead of the game. Commissioners are to be asked Tuesday to authorize a design agreement between the county and the US Department of the Army for the planned dredging project at the Port of Miami. Miami-Dade has an advantage over ports such as Everglades, Tampa and Jacksonville in that Congress has already authorized the local dredging, while the other ports are still seeking approval. A design agreement OK from commissioners "is vital to keeping that advantage intact," county documents say. Design costs sit at about $3.9 million. The local port is to pay $610,000, as is the Florida Department of Transportation. The Army Corps of Engineers is to pay about $2.7 million. Though dredging project plans are moving forward, the federal government has yet to appropriate funds to complete construction. The money is not guaranteed.

   SOCCER KICKED OUT: Plans to build a soccer stadium at the Orange Bowl site, which was suppose to come two years after the Florida Marlins stadium was built, are scrapped. City Manager Pete Hernandez said the stadium complex wouldn’t leave enough room to build it. Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said this was the first time he had heard the soccer facility would not fit. But he said even if there was room, in these economic times financing would be an obstacle. "If we can’t afford a baseball stadium, could we afford a soccer stadium?"

   STADIUM WORK: Small businesses could have a shot at getting contracts related to construction of a Florida Marlins stadium in Little Havana. Miami City Manager Pete Hernandez said for parking and stadium construction, the city and county’s small business enterprise programs would prioritize participating companies for contracts. He said the county’s construction review committee reviews participation of local businesses depending on availability of local contractors in those lines of work. He said many local companies are competent to do work such as sidewalks, drainage, paving and lighting.

   REROUTING SURTAX FUNDS: Revenue from a tax that voters self-imposed to fund new transportation projects may be rerouted to patch holes in Miami-Dade Transit’s budget. Commissioners are to decide Tuesday whether to allow most of the proceeds from the voter-approved half-cent surtax to contribute to transit operations and maintenance rather than exclusively new projects. Miami-Dade municipalities would keep getting 20% of the total tax for their own transit initiatives, and the county would set aside at least 10% of what’s left after that for the capital expansions the surtax was meant to fund. The rest would be free game for operations needs. The measure provides also that the county will continue to increase its general fund contribution to the transit department budget by at least 3.5% a year. Commissioner Barbara Jordan proposed the measure. The Transit Committee OK’d it in December. The Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust, the volunteer board charged with overseeing surtax spending, also approved the measure last year 5-4.

   FLIGHT PLANS: Miami-Dade Aviation and the Florida Department of Transportation are to each pay $2 million toward studying and planning for the future of each of the county’s five airports should commissioners ratify the arrangement Tuesday. Federal law requires that the county keep up-to-date airport layout plans "showing the location and nature of all existing and proposed airport facilities and structures," county documents say. To comply, "and as a matter of prudent airport planning practice," the documents say, the aviation department studies the airports periodically.

   MOVER MONEY: The Florida Department of Transportation is set to close a funding gap for a planned up-to-$342-plus million people mover linking Miami International Airport with the now-under-construction Miami Intermodal Center, future home of a consolidated rental car facility. County commissioners learned last year that the project faced a $30 million deficit that Miami-Dade Aviation couldn’t fill. The state department is to pitch in another $34 million toward the project, bringing the department’s contribution to more than $100.5 million. The additional state funding comes from "reprogrammed" existing aviation project funds, county documents say, and is to be disbursed over three years beginning in fiscal 2010. A groundbreaking for the mover project is set for 11 a.m. March 2.

   WATER WATCH: With residents consuming less water than projected, two Miami-Dade commissioners want county officials to reexamine plans for costly new water supply capital projects. The South Florida Water Management District issued a 20-year water use permit in 2007 after warnings that continuing current water consumption practices could eventually lead to a building moratorium. The permit requires the county to come up with water supply alternatives, including water conservation programs and new treatment facilities. The department’s plan as it stands is to build $1.9 billion worth of alternative water supply capital projects over 20 years. Commissioners Carlos Gimenez and Rebeca Sosa plan to ask colleagues Tuesday to direct staffers to revise recommendations for water projects. The concept is already on officials’ radar. Water and Sewer Deputy Director Doug Yoder said in an interview in December that if reduced consumption levels continue, "we will be able to defer probably some of the projects we’d planned to do to meet future demand."

   COMMUNITY JOBS: With a $787 billion economic stimulus package coming down the pike, some Miami-Dade commissioners hope the federal government will funnel some of the funds to community-based organizations’ temporary job programs to "put people back to work." Commissioners Dennis Moss and Audrey Edmonson are to propose Tuesday that the commission urge Congress and the Department of Labor to do so. Their measure points to the success of a similar effort here after Hurricane Andrew, when the Department of Labor funded temporary jobs programs through community-based organizations to employ those who lost their jobs after the storm. "This temporary jobs program provided by community-based organizations proved highly effective not only at quickly providing jobs and paychecks, but also at providing a much-needed workforce for the community to help get the local economy going again," the proposed resolution says.

   ON AGAIN: Plans for a temporary Brickell-area park are back on after players feared them dead. The license agreement for the project was withdrawn during a Miami commission meeting this month, with area Commissioner Marc Sarnoff and developer Tibor Hollo, who planned to lease the land to the city, citing different reasons. But now, "Mr. Hollo confirmed with me by phone that he is committed to the original plan of developing a public park on his 1201 Brickell Bay property," Mr. Sarnoff says. The two announced in December that the developer would lease the 2 acres to the city for three years for $1 a year. Mr. Hollo planned a luxury hotel and condo development there but agreed to let the city use the property for a park as he waits out troubled markets. That plan is now back on, Mr. Sarnoff says. "I am confident that the City and Mr. Hollo can move forward with plans for Villa Magna Park under terms that have already been agreed upon."

   HELP FOR THE HOMELESS: The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded the county a $25.6 million Continuum of Care grant to fund more than 80 Miami-Dade Homeless Trust programs. The grant is about $500,000 larger than last year’s, said trust Chairman Ronald Book. He said it would ensure the trust’s continued success in eradicating homelessness. "There are now, for the first time since we began counting homeless, less than 1,000 people living on the street" in Miami-Dade, Mr. Book said. Despite the ongoing foreclosure crisis, he said, there has been "no increase of homeless activity in Miami-Dade County."

   THE FINAL THREE: The Coral Gables City Commission last week narrowed five candidates for city manager to three. Joe Rasco, director of intergovernmental affairs for Miami-Dade County; Patrick Salerno, former Sunrise city manager, and Larry Spring, the City of Miami’s chief financial officer, are to appear for 75-minute interviews before the commission, according to city Public Affairs Manager Maria Rosa Higgins Fallon. The commission agreed Tuesday to the public interview meeting and is working on setting a date.

   WOES AT THE U: After announcing cost-cutting measure last week, University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala released another letter discussing additional methods the private university will use to cope with the lingering recession. They’re to include salary freezes for all faculty and staff beginning June 1 and a 7% university-wide spending cut in fiscal 2010. She also alluded to a possible reduction in employer-paid life insurance benefits as well as temporarily suspending the university’s contribution to retirement plans. These cuts come after a current 3.9% tuition and 3% fee increases, a moratorium on most capital projects and a squeeze on non-essential expenses.

   LOCAL PREFERENCE: Foreign workers with seasonal visas may be banned from City of Miami work depending on a discussion scheduled for today’s (2/26) commission meeting. Commissioner Marc Sarnoff plans to raise concerns about the federal H-2B Visa Program, which allows businesses to hire international employees for less than a year when American workers aren’t available. He plans to look at how extensively the visas are used in Miami-Dade, whether the Department of Labor is "acting responsibly" and whether local unemployed and underemployed workers are losing job opportunities, according to his proposed discussion item, which indicates a possible resolution "banning the city and/or city vendors and/or city contractors from using workers in the H-2B Visa Program."

   JUDGMENT DAYS: Miami-Dade and Miami votes on a Marlins ballpark deal are to be held on separate days next month after a seven-plus hour city commission meeting Feb. 13 that ended without a decision and without the planned subsequent county commission vote. At the request of Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, city commissioners are to reconvene 9 a.m. March 4, more than a week before the March 12 date originally set. County Commissioners are to meet 9:30 a.m. March 9, four days later than planned, to accommodate commissioners’ schedules.

   FRIENDLY FREIGHT: On March 6, Cathay Pacific Airways is to launch air freighter service to Miami and Houston. The thrice-weekly Hong Kong-to-Miami service is to help Miami create new relationships between Latin American, the Caribbean and Asia, said José Abreu, Miami-Dade Aviation director. The partnership comes as the industry has taken recent hits. In Miami, international cargo fell 4% while total cargo dropped off 6% in 2008. Despite this, Miami was still tops in the US in international cargo as leading airports Los Angeles International and John F. Kennedy International in New York both saw a 12% decline, according to a county aviation official. For its consistency, MIA was named Cargo Airport of the Year by Air Cargo News.

   BIENVENUE: The 456-foot French navy anti-submarine frigate La Motte-Picquet with a crew of 235 is to dock at the Port of Miami on Saturday.

   COMMERCIAL PENNY PINCHING: John Marshall has been named senior director of commercial brokerage for Cushman & Wakefield of Florida. He’ll co-manage the Miami tenant-advisory team, helping oversee cost-saving strategies. Mr. Marshall, who received a bachelor’s degree in economics from St. Lawrence University, joined Cushman & Wakefield in 2005 and was previously a senior vice president at the Hogan Group.

   MR. CROUCH’S OPUS: Shawn Crouch has been appointed director of the Miami Choral Project, a tuition-free, little league-type network of choral ensembles for children in low-income areas of Miami-Dade funded by a $684,500 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Mr. Crouch, who received a master’s in music composition from Yale, has been on the music faculty at the Hunter College Campus School in New York City for seven years, teaching in grades seven through 12.

   BOWL BOSS: Phillis Oeters, vice president of government and community relations for Baptist Health South Florida, was installed as 71st president and chair of the Orange Bowl Committee during a gala at the Coral Reef Yacht Club in Miami. She’s to preside over the 2009-10 festival, including the 76th FedEx Orange Bowl and the MetroPCS Orange Bowl Basketball Classic. She’s been a committee member 11 years.

   DDA FUNDS SERVICE TEAMS: Miami’s Downtown Development Authority approved $225,000 to fund the Ambassadors another year. These individuals assist tourists, work with merchants and help implement downtown ordinances. "The teams have been helpful to merchants and also to customers and pedestrian traffic in downtown," said Tony Alonso, owner of boutique department store La Epoca on Flagler Street. The teams are spread out through downtown and Brickell.

   DDA SEEKS STIMULUS: The downtown authority’s board passed an emergency resolution last week asking Miami-Dade’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, the county’s transportation planning arm, to prioritize downtown transportation projects when allocating federal stimulus dollars. The board agreed to spend $10,000 to create an advocacy program. The resolution states that downtown projects are critical to revitalization into a vibrant, 24-hour urban center.

   NEW DDA MEMBER: The downtown authority is appointing Miroslav "Misha" Mladenovic, vice president of development for Cabi Developers, to its board. He’ll occupy a seat previously held by attorney Jay Solowsky, who resigned in December in order to represent the authority and the city to combat a lawsuit that that seeks to dismantle the authority and threatens its future of the quasi-public agency. The appointment becomes official after city commission approval.

   OPEN CHANNEL: National steakhouse Smith & Wollensky’s waterfront terrace has reopened as the Channel Bar. A multi-million-dollar, year-long renovation completed, guests can enjoy new LED lighting and textured glass that has been added to the 18-stool waterfront bar. The direct water frontage has been enhanced with tower lights along the walkway. The Channel Bar will also serve as one of three new event spaces, including Smith’s Pavilions in South Pointe Park and The Overlook Deck, a second floor open-air balcony with water views.

   WEDDED BLISS: Three area sites — Coral Gables’ Venetian Pool, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and The Zen House — were among 30 honored nationally by with the 2009 Planners’ Choice Award for Most Popular Wedding Places. Total potential event revenue from event requests sent through Eventective in 2008 ranged from $300 million to $1.5 billion. The winners were chosen based on number of event requests the site received during 2008. The site is visited by 40,000 to 50,000 event planners daily and more than 1.2 million monthly. They have a selection of more than 110,000 venues, 324,000 event spaces and 80,000 vendors nationwide, according to a news release. Details:

   MAMAJUANA HERE: The owners of the Mamajuana Café in New York have opened in Coral Gables. Mamajuana, 225 Altara Ave., features a blend of pre-Columbian artifacts and feel with old-world Spanish architecture. The name is derived from a drink created by the Taino Indians, who are indigenous to the Dominican Republic. It’s a concoction made of herbs, roots, rum, and wine that has been used as a cure all that treats everything from impotency to the flu.

   STICKING AROUND: Lance A. Harke, managing partner of commercial litigation and consumer-class-action law firm Harke & Clasby, was re-elected for another year as a director of the Greater Miami Shores Chamber of Commerce. He was first elected in 2006. He said establishing a business and retail district similar to Coral Gables’ Miracle Mile or Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road will be a priority. "In Miami Shores there’s been an 18-month construction project to rebuild and expand Northeast Second Avenue, which is a business avenue," he said. "The chamber has been very active in help to spearhead efforts to bring retail and restaurants to the area." The county-funded project is expected to be finished in April, he said.

   TOWERING OPTION: Miami commissioners OK’d extending Delaware-based broadcasting company Beasley-Reed Acquisition Corp. and the city’s right to end the company’s 2.2-acre lease on Virginia Key early if either chooses. When plans for Virginia Key’s master plan began to take shape, the city and Beasley-Reed, which operates a broadcast tower there, agreed to a possible early lease termination. But delays in drafting the master plan have caused lease-ending rights to be extended until June 2010, allowing either the city or Beasley-Reed to end the lease with a 90-day notice.

   TOWER’S HISTORY: In 1982, the city joined in a 25-year lease with WKAT-Hernstadt Broadcasting Corp. to build, maintain and operate the tower. The lease was transferred to Beasley-Reed, which since then has operated it. In May 2006, a six-year lease extension was awarded to Beasley-Reed, which was left paying a higher rent of $150,000 yearly and was required to make capital improvements.

   RERUN: Miami commissioners have rehired Cole, Scott & Kissane, the law firm the city used as co-counsel in the fire fee settlement, to represent the city in a new case. This time, the city is fighting the Milan Investment Group’s suit that threatens the future of the Downtown Development Authority. The suit, filed in December, charges the quasi-independent agency’s formation is unconstitutional. The suit also claims the agency doesn’t have the power to levy taxes without voter approval and that its boundaries were illegally expanded. Attorney Richard Williams, who represented taxpayers in the fire fee case, is also hoping to represent downtown taxpayers in the suit against the authority.

   GANSEVOORT NAMES: Ilan Segal has been named managing director of Gansevoort South Hotel, Spa and Residences. He’s been a hotelier 15 years, including stops at the Luxury Collection San Cristobal Tower in Santiago, Chile; Starwood Hotel’s first W Hotel in New York City; and the Tides and Marlin Hotel and Hotel Victor here. He’s a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration.

   AYE-AYE-AYE DELORES: The 27-room Delores Hotel on Miami Beach is now a member of the Ascend Collection, a new upscale group from Choice Hotels International. The linkage gives the Delores marketing support and services from a global hospitality company and access to an established reservation and distribution system. Ascend Collection, begun at the end of 2008, has 24 upscale hotels. Details:

   SANCHEZ SEEKS BREAK: Miami City Commission Chairman Joe Sanchez pushed for a resolution that the city adopted urging the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court to establish a residential mortgage diversion pilot program and asking other cities to adopt a similar program. The city is asking Miami’s lobbying team to ask state and federal bank regulators to adopt rules that would let lenders offer new mortgage terms aimed at halting home foreclosures.

   MS. PRESIDENT: Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau Associate Vice President of Convention Services Lyan Tassler was inducted as president of the Association for Convention Operations Management at the association’s annual conference in New Orleans. She’ll lead the association in its goal to be the unique source of continuing education and career development for convention services professionals at hotels, visitors bureaus and convention centers in the US and Canada.

   EAST COAST EXPANSION: Stephen James Associates, an executive search firm specializing in banking, marketing and human resource staffing, has acquired Stafford Paige LLC, a search firm based in Bridgewater, NJ. "We’re currently operating four offices in South Florida," said Carlos J. Arboleda, director of Stephen James Associates’ banking group. "We’re looking to expand heavily throughout Florida and the Northeast." The firm, a subsidiary of the Allegis Group, acquired Kramer Professional Staffing two years ago and operates 13 offices throughout the country.

   HYATT NAMES: The Hyatt Regency Coral Gables has named Tyler Orwig director of sales & marketing. He has been with Hyatt nearly 10 years and recently helped open the Grand Hyatt San Antonio. The Hyatt Regency wrapped up a $10 million renovation in December, which left the rooms with a "chic Moorish design to reflect the hotel’s decor theme, which pays tribute to the Alhambra Palace in Spain," according to a news release. Mr. Orwig earned a bachelor’s degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management from Pennsylvania State University.

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