NO MOTHBALLS HERE: Though there's been talk that the down economy and the timing of two new Class A office buildings opening on Brickell could mean one ends up mothballed to wait out the economic storm — developer W. Allen Morris said at a forum last week that he's seen it in other parts of the country — Brickell developers say it's not happening here. Project plans haven't changed — "The only thing that's changed is the market," said Loretta H. Cockrum, chairman and CEO of Foram Group, building the Brickell Financial Centre on Brickell Avenue's 600 block. The office building's timetable remains in place — it's set for a 2010 opening, she said in an interview from Savannah, GA, where the firm also has properties. And there are no plans to board up the new Miami tower. "We are so committed to that building… I am working on selling some of our other assets because we are going to continue to fund this project and we will complete this project and it will be in this portfolio for the next 50 years," she said. The project has been funded debt-free.
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BOARDS? — BALONEY: 1450 Brickell, the other office tower rising in the Brickell area, is on schedule for a January opening, Rilea Group President and CEO Alan Ojeda says. "No way" does the company plan to board it up, he said. He could not announce tenants yet, but "we are walking a lot of potential tenants and brokers through the building itself," he said, allowing folks to experience the physical tower rather than drawings. "That is making a big difference." Brickell Financial Centre has also yet to announce a tenant. Law firm Bilzin Sumberg earlier this year reversed plans to move in.
TRI-RAIL ON TRACK: Miami-Dade County intends to maintain Tri-Rail funding next fiscal year, says David Clodfelter, transit department chief of budget, audit and reporting. Attempts to secure a dedicated state funding source for the cash-strapped South Florida commuter rail system failed during the legislative session, and Tri-Rail officials plan to nearly halve weekday service and eliminate weekend trains anticipating reduced funding from local governments. Many expect the counties that back the rail line — Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach — to slice contributions next fiscal year. That's not the plan here, Mr. Clodfelter said in response to a question from Commissioner Joe Martinez. "We've been back and forth working with [the county budget office] — as of right now it does remain for next year."
THE CATCH: Good, Mr. Martinez said. "I don't think we should cut out that funding. The state didn't pass what we really needed to do." But it's not just up to Miami-Dade, Commission Chair Dennis Moss cautioned. The state requires that each of the three counties provide the same funding. If the other counties chop their budgets, "all bets are off," he said. Last week, South Florida Regional Transportation Authority Chair Josephus Eggelletion Jr., a Broward commissioner, predicted there's no way the counties could offer more funding than the minimum the state requires.
BANKER COMES IN FIRST: Puerto Rico's First BanCorp has named Calixto García-Vélez executive vice president and regional executive of subsidiary FirstBank Florida, based in Miami. With 10 branches in Florida, he said the commercial and corporate lender will aggressively seek to fill "major gaps" in the market. "Our target market is the higher end commercial real estate [loans]," he said. "Where larger banks are pulling out, we have access to deals that on a select basis are a fantastic opportunity for us." A graduate of the University of Miami, he most recently served as CEO of Doral Bank in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In 1999, at age 32, he became head of Citibank Florida, based in Miami.
MUSICAL CHAIRS: Florida International University President Modesto A. Maidique has named Vice President of Academic Affairs Douglas Wartzok interim executive vice president and provost for one year beginning today (5/20). Mr. Wartzok, who replaces former Provost Ronald Berkman, joined the university in 2001 as vice provost for Academic Affairs and dean of the university graduate school. Michele Ciccazzo, associate dean in the Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work, will serve as interim vice provost for Academic Affairs.
GETTING BY: Mr. Wartzok will be taking over a revamped Provost's Office, according to a May 11 university memo. "The Office of the Provost is taking a higher percentage of budget cuts than any of the schools or colleges this year," he wrote. "The positions of vice provost for academic personnel, vice provost for program review, vice provost for international studies and vice provost for FIU Online have been eliminated." Business school Dean Joyce Elam will become dean of a new department titled University College. It will include FIU Online, the university's collection of Web-based courses, as well as elements of its Continuing and Professional Studies program which has been cut.
COMING AND GOING: Incoming FIU President Mark Rosenberg won't be the only new face on campus in the coming year. While the university has convinced the business school's Ms. Elam and journalism school Dean Lillian Kopenhaver to remain on board for an additional year, searches are ongoing for deans for the colleges of law, education, and arts and architecture.
MOONLIGHTING: Mark Rosenberg hasn't even returned to Miami from Vanderbilt, where he's researching educational administration prior to taking over as Florida International University president, and already he has a second job here. The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce has named him to its board, joining Karl Wright of Florida Memorial University as the board's duo of university presidents. But he's no stranger to the chamber: Dr. Rosenberg seven years ago developed a new structure for its operations.
COMMERCIAL CHANGES: Randy Olen, a 27-year commercial real estate veteran and senior vice president of brokerage services for CB Richard Ellis, is to leave to join Holly Real Estate. "I kind of felt like at this particular point in the economy and at this point an time in my life, working for a smaller, more mobile operation that's plugged into the community just feels good," Mr. Olen said. Holly Real Estate's founder, William H. Holly, said he couldn't pass up the opportunity to bring Mr. Olen into the fold: "Anytime you can get someone with 27 years of commercial real estate experience who is the top-leasing broker at CB Richard Ellis, you jump at the chance."
SHIFTING SANDS: The move, according to Mr. Holly, may signify a fundamental change in the face of the commercial real estate market. "Where national real estate firms have gone is more toward the corporate services model targeting the largest companies in the United States," he said. "In our market, in which the majority of tenants and clients are entrepreneurial and not the Fortune 500 companies, I think independent firms will have a distinct advantage in the foreseeable future."
DOGGONE: Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff donated a dog statue that made up his office's décor to the non-profit Humane Society of Greater Miami, an animal welfare organization, last week. He has shown his affection for dogs since stepping into office. In 2007, he purchased with $1,800 of his office's discretionary funds three dog sculptures to be placed in city parks. The statues were named Legion, Blanche and Kennedy — after the parks where they would be stationed.
BONDS BONANZA: Miami-Dade commissioners Tuesday gave initial go-ahead to issue up to $165 million in special obligation bonds and up to $177 million in public facilities revenue bonds. The special obligation bonds would back acquiring, constructing and renovating capital assets. The public facilities bonds would help pay or reimburse the Public Health Trust for additions to facilities. They'd be payable by health trust revenues. The health trust oversees Jackson Health System. Commissioners are to discuss the measures at a Budget, Planning & Sustainability Committee meeting June 9.
BOOKED: Global Spectrum, manager of the Miami Beach Convention Center, has met its yearlong goal for short-term business — in about half the time. In taking over center management in September, Global Spectrum officials set out to get $100,000 worth of new, unanticipated pick-up business into the center this fiscal year. Mission accomplished, and the fiscal year doesn't end until September. Many conventions book years in advance, but meetings and smaller consumer trade shows offer opportunity for new bookings in the near term. It's been consumer shows that have buoyed business recently, Marketing Manager Jeffrey R. Rugg says. Though they've met their goal, staffers continue to pound the pavement, he added. "We're always looking to book more business no matter what. We're not going to settle."
PARK PLANS MOVING: The delayed license agreement between the City of Miami and developer Tibor Hollo to build a temporary waterfront park in Brickell could soon get approval. City Attorney Julie Bru said it could come to the commission for a vote May 28. Plans to set up a park in Mr. Hollo's waterfront site at 1201 Brickell Bay Drive for a $1 a year lease for three years — as the developer waits for the real estate market to recoup — were announced in December but have moved slowly.
RESTAURANT GRANT: The Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency is granting $100,000 to Botequim Carioca Brazilian Bar and Grill, a new area restaurant, to cover permits and impact fees and installation of restrooms, life-safety items and signage. The grant is an incentive to stimulate area business and development. The owner is investing more than $750,000 to build out the space at 900 Biscayne Blvd. and plans to hire initially 30 workers, CRA Executive Director Jim Villacorta said at the agency's meeting Monday.
CRAs MARKETING CAMPAIGN: The Southeast Overtown/Park West and Omni Community Redevelopment Agencies are joining to invest $50,000 in a campaign called "Shop, Dine, and Explore" to promote businesses, cultural facilities and restaurants within their boundaries. The campaign is to enhance existing programs such as the beautification, business development and banner programs to attract more visitors to Overtown and Omni.
HOLLAND HELPS: The Netherlands, along with the United Kingdom, France and Germany, have been among Miami International Airport's strongest partners in freight, all increasing business at the airport. "However, these gains cannot bring up our cargo numbers as a whole since Latin America, and in particular Mexico, are down, which is causing a negative tone in the total cargo," said airport spokesman Marc Henderson via e-mail. Miami International's freight tonnage fell 23.48% in March.
VILLAGE MARKET: A long-awaited Publix is to open June 4 at 911 SW First Ave. in Mary Brickell Village, according the supermarket's Web site. While the store was planned to have been the mixed-use complex's anchor tenant, negotiations stifled for nearly a year and construction setbacks further delayed opening. The 31,550-square-foot store, which is the company's third in the Brickell corridor, will include a full-service deli, bakery, meat and seafood departments and a full produce department, according to Kim Jaeger, a spokeswoman for Publix's Miami offices.
TALKING CHINESE: Law firm Fuerst Umphrey Ittleman, along with the Florida-China Association and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, will host a panel examining the laws, regulations and practices affecting trade between the US and China at 4 p.m. May 28 at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa. The panel will include trade officials from China and the US and will be moderated by Mitchell Fuerst.
EMPLOY MIAMI: A program created by Miami Mayor Manny Diaz is to help residents learn skills and find jobs, while helping jumpstart the regional economy and improving the city's quality of life, city officials say. The city commission approved last week $100,000 from the Mayor's Poverty Initiative to help residents gain training and find jobs.
PARTNERS ONBOARD: Miami is partnering with trade unions such as the carpenters, construction and electrical unions and community organizations such as the South Florida Workforce and the Hospitality Institute to carry out the employment program. Commissioners hope the program helps residents find jobs in sectors such as construction, hospitality and healthcare through an outreach campaign led by the city manager's economic initiatives office. Chairman Joe Sanchez said: "We have an opportunity to create an avenue of employment for a lot of people in the community."
STADIUM, MUSEUM JOBS: Some of those jobs may come from city-funded projects such as Museum Park in Bicentennial Park, which includes building two museum buildings and a state-of-the-art park. The Marlins ballpark could be another job mine. The team is seeking foundation permits already and is preparing 80 bids in preparation for a scheduled July construction start, said Marlins Senior Vice President Claude Delorme during a press conference at City Hall Thursday to announce the program.
GOING OUT: Miami City Attorney Julie Bru analyzed four scenarios to fill Commissioner Tomás Regalado's seat. It shows the only way to fill the vacancy without paying for an election is for him to leave in September. The analysis follows Ms. Bru's legal opinion interpreting the state's resign-to-run law and the Miami charter when filling the vacancy of an incumbent commissioner running for another office. Mr. Regalado's race for mayor overlaps with his term as commissioner. His resignation would allow an election for district 4 to be held in the Nov. 3 municipal election. The remaining commissioners would have 10 days to appoint someone to fill the seat for about two months until the Nov. 3 election.
FAILURE TO APPOINT: If the commission fails to make an appointment, the voters select a candidate to fill the seat in a special election held concurrently with the Nov. 3 election. But the candidate fills the seat until the state's November 2010 general election, at which time the city must hold a district election at a cost of up to $20,000, and $68,000 for a runoff.
OTHER SCENARIOS: Mr. Regalado says he hasn't decided whether to leave early. If he departs in November — the latest date required by law — and the city commission makes a temporary appointment, the city is to pay up to $20,000 to run a district election during the state's November 2010 election, plus $68,000 for a runoff. If the commission fails to appoint a replacement, the city endures the heftiest cost — a special election must be held in January 2010 at a $160,000 price, with an added $16,800 for early voting, to elect a temporary commissioner. Then, a district election is held during the state's November 2010 general election.
MASTER PLAN HUDDLE: Miami's Downtown Development Authority board is to get first glance at the updated downtown master plan at a 3-6 p.m. May 27 workshop. Members will get to dissect the plan to identify short- and long-term priorities. Vice chair Neisen Kasdin said one suggestion is to address three or four main concepts in the master plan to make sure ideas don't get lost and the development plan is followed.
REMODELING BRICKELL: The Downtown Development Authority board approved paying low bidder Superior Landscaping & Lawn Service Inc. $134,561 for a landscape and irrigation project in the Brickell Avenue corridor. The authority is also including an administrative contingency of up to $50,000.
SPENDING SYSTEM: Because following county procurement rules — which require using county vendors and gathering competitive bids — is time consuming and doesn't always yield the lowest prices, commissioners should follow different procedures in spending office and discretionary budgets, Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez proposes. The county's Budget, Planning & Sustainability Committee backed him last week. Though the rules have long been in place, commissioners have only recently been asked to follow them. If his legislation passes as is, commissioners could spend at their own discretion, using county vendors "whenever practicable…. The person initiating the purchase shall make all reasonable efforts to obtain a competitive price for the good or service procured, and shall maintain a written record describing those efforts." The tweaked procedures would apply to purchases up to $250,000 — the amount at which the county code requires formal sealed bids.
TOO LOOSEY-GOOSEY: But if the bureaucracy is too rough for commissioners, and potentially doesn't end up saving money, "maybe it's time that we took a look at some of our processes to see if we can get more bang for our buck," Commissioner Carlos Gimenez said. Rules should apply to the whole county, not just commissioners, he maintained, saying he would be uncomfortable "circumventing" procedures just because he's a commissioner. "If it's good for the goose, it should be good for the gander." He voted against Mr. Martinez's measure. Sally Heyman, who voted in favor, suggested the spending cutoff before requiring traditional processes be dropped from $250,000 to around $10,000.
SUNNY WELCOME: The City of Sunny Isles Beach and the Sunny Isles Beach Resort Association opened the new Sunny Isles Beach Visitor Center with a ribbon cutting May 14. The center is on the first floor of the Sunny Isles Beach Government Center, 18070 Collins Ave. It's to be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The center is to offer tourists information on where to eat, places to shop and activities available in and around Sunny Isles Beach, and will answer visitors' questions. Details: www.SunnyIslesBeachMiami.com.