TAX EXEMPT: The Florida Department of Revenue has agreed to allow Miami-Dade County to use its tax exempt status in buying equipment and materials for a retractable roof ballpark for the soon-to-be Miami Marlins. Had the state denied the request for sales tax exemptions, the county could have had to pay up to $4.4 million more than anticipated toward the $633 million-plus project. "This approval now eliminates that exposure to the county, and the stadium developer is responsible for any shortfalls in reaching any expected sales tax savings for this project," County Manager George Burgess wrote in an April 8 memo.
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OFF-SEASON ENTERTAINMENT: Marlins lovers will be able to enjoy the team's stadium long before the first pitch is ever thrown out. The Marlins installed a camera near the Little-Havana construction site so "fans can see the progress of the construction live," said spokesman PJ Loyello. When the dirt starts flying, tune your browser to marlins.mlb.com to catch all the shovel-by-shovel action. Broadcasting, he said, might even begin before construction.
CANARY FLIGHTS COMING: Non-stop flights between Miami and Spain's Canary Islands are to begin in June, Miami-Dade Commissioner Rebeca Sosa says. The first flight between Miami and Tenerife is to take off June 20, she said at a county committee meeting Monday. The islands' government, which has long hoped for a direct
US air link, is to charter a weekly non-stop flight between Miami and the island on Air Europa, a privately held Spanish passenger and cargo airline. Plans have been in the works for years, Ms. Sosa said. "Now it's really official."
FOREIGN FALL-OFF: International passenger arrivals at Miami International Airport dropped 1.5% for the first two months of 2009. Strong international passenger traffic bolstered the airport during 2008 even though domestic passenger traffic tapered off, but it appears the global economic distress has now hit all travelers. Overall, arrivals fell 2.4% from the same period in 2008. In February alone, passenger arrivals dropped 3.9%, with international arrivals off 3.4 % and domestic arrivals down 4.4%.
THE BOND TEAM: Miami has selected as top-ranked firms to provide municipal bond underwriting services to the city Merrill Lynch and JPMorgan. The agreement is for two years, with the option to renew for three one-year periods. City Manager Pete Hernandez said the team of underwriters is to be on the sidelines and used as bonding opportunities arise. "Based on the evaluation, these are the best firms to provide that service to the city." If the firms stop providing those services or contract negotiations fail, runner ups are RBC, Morgan Keegan and Goldman Sachs.
ARTS CENTER ABSENCE: In approving a bailout to downtown Miami's performing arts center in 2007, county commissioners voted also to require a monthly status report from center officials. The report is meant to be given at the county's monthly Recreation, Culture & Tourism Committee meetings, but the center did not appear on Monday's meeting agenda — or on February or March's. A Miami Today reporter called committee Chair Javier Souto last week to find out why. "I don't have the slightest idea," he said. At Monday's meeting, he acknowledged the oversight. "The performing arts center is supposed to come here, and I know that we missed that in this report," he said, calling for future monthly reports "for the good of the order." Center President and CEO M. John Richard then gave an impromptu report touting high attendance and upcoming shows.
ELUSIVE ERRORS: Mr. Souto also asked that Mr. Richard return next month to explain a $543,000 payout arts center officials told Miami Today they needed from the county to fund capital improvements. Mr. Richard said "we will be fully prepared at the next meeting to respond to the erroneous report" that ran in Miami Today April 2. He did not respond to calls asking what about the article he found "erroneous." Performing Arts Center Trust Chair J. Ricky Arriola promised last week to detail what he also said was erroneous reporting but has yet to do so. In a new development, the county's budget chief says the center won't need to request the money, as a "global agreement" Miami and Miami-Dade passed in 2007 provides for annual convention development tax payments to the center. See related story on page 1.
GLOBAL PROMOTION: The Miami Downtown Development Authority's board of directors is to vote Friday on allocating $150,000 to join as a partner in an advertising campaign spearheaded by the Beacon Council, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau and American Airlines. The authority's marketing and communications program committee has recommended participation in the $2 million global marketing campaign "Where Worlds Meet." The campaign promotes Miami-Dade County as world-class destination for business, vacation and meetings at a national and international level with advertisements in countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Spain and France.
GAS TAX HIKE: Two more pennies could be tacked back onto the existing five-cent capital improvements local option gas tax levied on motor fuel. Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Jordan is to propose at a commission meeting next week restoring the two-cent charge to the 1993 tax, an idea she has toyed with on and off in proposing solutions to transit funding shortfalls. She withdrew the measure from a commission agenda last month. She did the same in proposing the move in September, when fellow commissioners showed little support during an informal vote.
TUNNEL TALK: Miami-Dade leaders continue to press the state to seal a deal for twin tunnels to the Port of Miami with the contractor selected in 2007. State officials have resisted, recommending re-bidding the $1 billion-plus project. In a letter Monday, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Stephanie C. Kopelousos gave more insight as to why: the selected contractor's "proposed price demand is $80 million more than its original bid due to delays in cementing the local funding agreement," she wrote. The state has also long pointed out that the concession team's equity partner has gone under, though local officials say a new partner is ready to jump in. County leaders visited Tallahassee Monday — after the letter was written — to make the local case.
HOTEL DISAPPEARING: Miami's Planning Advisory Board was to hear Wednesday a request from Civica Towers' developer to add more office space, retail and parking and removing the hotel component. Miami Hotel Investments is to ask the board to increase office space from 390,827 square feet to 551,452, retail square footage from 14,655 to 16,988 and parking by 583 spaces for the twin-tower, mixed-use project to rise in Miami's Civic Center at 1050 NW 14th St. Changes to Civica's development plans require city commission approval following the planning board's review.
OLYMPIC INTEREST: Miami-Dade should explore hosting the summer Olympics here as Commission Chair Dennis Moss suggests, members of the county's Recreation, Culture & Tourism agreed Monday. Mr. Moss is proposing to create an "Olympic Exploratory Committee Advisory Board" to study how the county could compete to host the summer games someday. The group would be charged to explore and report back to the commission on feasibility and methodology for bidding to host the games, his legislation says. But it leaves some questions unanswered, Commissioner Rebeca Sosa said. She asked that Mr. Moss make clear the size of the committee and who would select its members before the full commission votes on his measure.
PONY PARTNERSHIP: Also at the Monday recreation committee meeting, commissioners gave initial OK to establish a "Sister Equestrian Center" program between Miami-Dade's Ronald Reagan Equestrian Center in Tropical Park and the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Arts in Jerez, Spain. The measure passed with no discussion, other than Ms. Sosa raising another question: what would this cost the county? She asked for a report, then voted in favor of the deal.
CLARIFICATION: Agustin J. Barrera, managing principal at architecture firm Leo A. Daly's Miami office, said the local office has 35 employees, not 20 as City of Miami documents stated.
SEEKING WRAPPERS: Miami-Dade County is preparing to bid out a contract for luggage wrapping services at Miami International Airport. Commissioners are to vote at an Airport and Seaport Committee meeting today (4/16) to request proposals from interested firms. The winner would install, operate and maintain luggage-wrapping machines throughout the airport. Years ago, the last contract was the subject of an intensive lobbying battle. Secure Wrap of Miami now holds the contract.
NEARING THE END: Florida International University is to pick its next president April 25, according to David Parker, chair of the board of trustees. Beginning April 17, the board's Presidential Search Advisory Committee will begin reviewing applications and interviewing candidates. They're to send a list of five to the board's Presidential Search Committee, which will review the choices and invite three to interviews. Beginning April 22, each candidate will go through a day-long process of meeting with students, faculty, administrators, alumni and community members. The search committee will present two to full board of trustees. The winner must also be ratified by the State University System's Board of Governors. The post pays a minimum of $582,000 a year.
PARTIAL SETTLEMENT: Putting aside their differences, Miami and Miami-Dade County plan to hand some Overtown land tied up in a lawsuit between the two governments to the Black Archives to allow the Lyric Theater to be expanded. The county is to vote next week. The parcel is part of a larger mass of land over which the county and city dispute ownership. Because the governments "have mutually expressed support for the Lyric Theater expansion project," they plan to release the portion of land from the suit "without prejudice to their respective positions in the litigation." The city's Overtown Community Redevelopment Agency board last month approved similar action. The city commission still needs to vote.
ATLANTA'S ADVISER: Lilliam M. Lopez, president of the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, has been named to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's Advisory Council for Small and Midsize Businesses. The council shares industry-specific business information to assist with the Fed's monetary-policy responsibilities and foster a direct connection with the business community.She has been president of the chamber 15 years.
JOINING FORCES: Metro 1 Properties and Fort Lauderdale-based Midgard Management have formed a strategic partnership. The move will allow both firms to offer integrated-brokerage services as well as consulting and management. "In this market, it is critical to create strategic alliances with leaders in their respective segments of the industry," said Tony Cho, president of Metro 1 Properties. "We know what we do well and we leave the rest to our expert partners."
TROLLEY HUDDLE: Miami's Downtown Development Authority is meeting with stakeholders from along Biscayne Boulevard and Brickell Avenue to discuss the city's plans to operate a trolley connecting downtown and Brickell. The rubber-tire trolley is to be financed with federal stimulus transit funds and could run from the Omni bus terminal to the Rickenbacker Causeway. The meeting is at 3 p.m. today (4/16) in the authority's offices, 200 S Biscayne Blvd., Suite 2929.
PEDALING THE GROVE: Bike Miami Days, an event that promotes exploring the city without leaving a carbon footprint, is moving to Coconut Grove for its sixth run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 26. So far, the free biking event has showcased downtown and Brickell.
MEDICAL IN MIAMI: Medical Tourism Association President Jonathan Edelheit is to speak about "Miami as an International Healthcare Destination" at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce's May Trustee Luncheon at noon May 6 at Jungle Island's Treetop Ballroom. Details: MiamiChamber.com.
WYNWOOD INDIES: After receiving a $750,000 Knight Foundation grant, the nonprofit film studio Miami World Cinema Center has opened at 450 NW 28th St. in Wynwood. The center will provide local producers, directors, writers and actors the tools to create their own film including education, talent acquisition, production and marketing. Details: (305) 443-5848 or www.miamiworldcinemacenter.org.
DOWNTOWN CHIC: Downtown's newest gathering place, the River Lounge inside the Epic Hotel at 270 Biscayne Blvd. Way, will have its official inauguration at 5 p.m. April 23. Designed by Bay Harbor Islands-based Telesco & Associates, the lounge will feature 30-foot ceilings and panoramic views of downtown Miami and Biscayne Bay. Guests will have the option of arriving by car or boat.
DIGITAL DIRECTORY: Miami International Airport has installed digital monitors that display a directory of airport restaurants and stores. The screens list all 60 dining, retail and duty-free concessions in the pre-security areas from Terminals C to J. Images of storefronts rotate every 10 seconds on the map to showcase each concession. Such enhancements helped the airport placed sixth among large airports in North America in the 2008 J.D. Power and Associates Customer Satisfaction Study, the airport says.
CONTROLLING AIR TRAFFIC: The Federal Aviation Administration presented a new air traffic control system at Miami International Airport Hotel that is to be launched in South Florida before it's installed in other airports. The Federal Aviation Administration has mandated a reinvention of the nation's air traffic control system, according to a news release. South Florida has been selected for the first installation of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast, replacing traditional radar with GPS satellite signals. All aircraft will ultimately be required to convert to the new system.
GOURMET TO GO: Giardino Gourmet Salads has opened its sixth location in Miami-Dade County at 169 E Flagler St. in downtown. The restaurant, which was started by a former firefighter and teacher, offers more than 25 salad combinations, a customized "My Way" salad, soups and gourmet wraps. The location is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m., offering delivery. Details: (305) 358-0167.