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Written by on September 9, 2010

FYI

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

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   STATE OF THE LEASE: Miami-Dade commissioners will have to wait a while longer to find out the state of the land lease between county and the University of Miami. While the county leased land to the university to be used as a site for a future hospital and medical facility in 2005, in July commissioners directed the mayor’s office to issue a status report. Commissioners wanted to ensure the university did not plan to use the land for projects that would affect the financial well-being of the nearby Jackson Memorial Hospital. According to Victoria Mallette, county communications director, the mayor’s office is still completing the report. The earliest it would be available, she said, is this week.

   MIXED RESULTS: Despite mixed emotions from Miracle Mile retailers, the Coral Gables Business Improvement District considers its first Shop Coral Gables Week a success, said Mari Gallet, executive director. Hoping to add last-minute revenues in a slow summer, retailers discounted high-end merchandise Aug. 16-20. While some stores had up to a 40% increase in business, she said, other specialized stores like jewelers saw little to no increase. Feedback continues to trickle in, she said: only a dozen merchants have completed the event survey. "At the end of the day, I think it was a win for us because we had 50 [business] participants and when you get that many merchants working together it has an impact on the area," she said. Another result is the district’s growth in consumer attention on its social media Web sites, she said. Next year, Ms. Gallet said, the district has discussed shifting the discount week to earlier or later in summer.

   SECOND MIMO VOTE: The Miami Modern District is in the midst of a second vote to determine if a Business Improvement District can be established, said Scott Timm, executive director of the MiMo Business Improvement Committee. The MiMo District, from Northeast 50th to 77th streets along Biscayne Boulevard, failed in July to create an improvement district, receiving only 25 affidavits of a possible 115 from business owners in the area; a majority was required. "The reason we didn’t get the number of votes needed was that we just had a very short period of time to talk to business owners," Mr. Timm said. A district is needed, he said, and the committee will keep urging owners to act until voting concludes the end of October. If the improvement district is established, businesses in its boundaries would pay a self-imposed tax to fund area improvements.

   AD IT UP: Miami-Dade commissioners are to vote Friday on a bid by Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz to post paid advertising on county-owned vehicles. His plan excludes police and fire rescue vehicles but targets such things as park department maintenance vehicles. The vote would require the administration in 30 days to recommend the kinds of vehicles to use, estimate potential revenues and find a way to funnel the ad revenues to support nonprofits, civic and cultural groups and community-based organizations.

   SOMETHING TO TRUST: Miami-Dade spending, check by check, would be posted on the county’s web site by next March and updated monthly if commissioners on Friday approve a resolution by Bruno Barreiro. The Government Operations Committee moved the measure forward in July. The register would list check number, vendor, amount, a description of the expenditure, the date, purchase order number and budget code for each check. His message says the online register is needed because "trust in government is at an all time low."

   NEW RETAILER: Discovery Clothing Co., Chicago’s largest independently-owned retailer, is opening its first Florida location in Hialeah, bringing its women apparel at discounted prices. The opening is set for Oct. 1 at 775 W 49th St., marking the 26th store for Discovery — and first outside the Midwest. Discovery, geared toward 15- to 35-year-old women, is to offer casual to career wear, accessories and shoes, all under $30. Other national chains are also paying attention to densely-populated Hialeah, Miami-Dade’s second-largest city. It was announced last week that L.A. Fitness is opening a 52,780-square-foot fitness club at 630 W 49th St. — its first in this city.

   OFFICE FLOOR LEASED: Law firm Weinberg Wheeler Hudgins Gunn & Dial is expanding into 14,434 square feet in the 22-floor SBS Tower in Coconut Grove. At a time many law firms locally have downsized, the trial law firm is more than doubling its footprint in South Florida with its lease expansion at 2601 S Bayshore Drive, where it used to occupy 6,667 square feet and now is to occupy the entire 15th floor. This is the second-largest lease in the Grove this year, which Rashid Siahpoosh, Transwestern’s senior vice president, brokered on the tenant’s behalf. "Headquartered in Atlanta, Weinberg Wheeler Hudgins Gunn & Dial is undergoing a growth period, recently expanding their offices in Atlanta and Las Vegas…," he said. "SBS Tower enabled the law firm to not only grow, but to expand smartly by redeveloping all space to accommodate new layouts to increase operational efficiency."

   CONVENTIONS: Greater Miami Convention Development Tax generated $3.3 million in July, up 11.8% from July 2009’s $2.9 million.

   RESORT TAX: Greater Miami resort tax collections generated $1.08 million in July, a 13% increase from July 2009’s $955,740. These collections exclude Miami Beach, Bal Harbour and Surfside.

   CONSUMPTION’S UP: Greater Miami food and beverage tax collections generated $340,852 in July, a 24% increase from July 2009’s $274,881. These collections exclude Miami Beach, Bal Harbour and Surfside.

   DOWNTOWN UPGRADE: Downtown Miami’s event scene is so bustling these days, the Miami Parking Authority is replacing 20 of its Biscayne Boulevard "Pay and Display" machines to keep up. Costing $8,100 per unit, the new technology will allow rapid changes in pricing, said Art Noriega, parking authority CEO. The current units had been too slow to change pricing from event to event. Mr. Noriega said the goal is to have the machines installed in time for Heat games in October, although the authority doesn’t plan to raise its game-night rates.

   BUDGET TIME: The City of Miami is to hold its first hearing for the fiscal 2011 budget at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 3500 Pan American Drive, Coconut Grove. This will be the public’s first chance to give commissioners their thoughts on the proposed tax rate and tentative budget. Commissioners must nail down the budget this month, as fiscal 2011 starts Oct. 1. Details: www.miamigov.com.

   PENDING HOME SALES UP: Pending homes sales in Miami-Dade, including homes and condos, rose 33.7% in August from August 2009, growing from 7,570 to 10,119 — a positive sign. Month-to-month growth was small, with pending sales inching up from 10,113 in July to 10,119 in August, according to the Miami Association of Realtors and the Southeast Florida Multiple Listing Service. A sale is listed as pending when the contract is signed but the transaction hasn’t closed, which is typically within one or two months of signing. Nationwide, homes sales have suffered since the homebuyer tax credit expired. But that hasn’t been true in South Florida, where the market continues to strengthen, the realtor association says. International buyers, mainly from Latin America and Europe, make up an important segment contributing to the strong sales, with the majority buying condos. "Interest rates are at a record low and expected to remain that way for the remainder of the year while inventory is still plentiful, giving buyers many properties to choose from," said Jack Levine, association chairman. "Furthermore, the local market is expected to outperform other markets throughout the US due to its international appeal, resulting in strengthening home values into the future."

   PRICE TAGS: Every time county commissioners vote on anything that would increase a fee, fine or other charge to the public the addition would have to be specified in writing under a proposal Miami-Dade commissioners are to vote on Friday. The original plan by Rebeca Sosa specified only fees. The Government Operations Committee broadened it in July to add fines and other fees. She cited as a reason for the measure that such increases "can have a significant impact on the families and small businesses that have to pay them."

   PR AQUISITION: In its second acquisition of the year, rbb Public Relations has acquired Thorp & Co., a Miami-based PR firm that specializes in financial relations and marketing communications programs for both mid-sized, Fortune 500 companies and start-up ventures. The acquisition is a win-win for both teams, said Christine Barney, CEO of rbb. While Thorp has issues management and financial services experience, rbb has a digital and social media division. Thorp can also help expand rbb’s healthcare practice, as the group has represented such clients as Cordis, IVAX and Navitus. Some rbb clients include the Orange Bowl Game, Nova Southeastern University, Canyon Ranch and Ladenburg Thalmann. The group plans to expand even further, Ms. Barney said.

   HEALTH CAREER EXPO: The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce expects students, teachers and healthcare professionals to attend its first Health Career Resource Expo. "We’re going to have about a half-hour’s worth of presentations about careers in the healthcare industry," said Linda Quick, president of the South Florida Hospital & Healthcare Association, "why it appears it’s still growing and why opportunities are still there, despite the recession, that might not exist in other fields." Following the presentations, attendees looking to join the field or land a job can peruse exhibits set up by educational institutions and healthcare providers. The event will run from 2:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Hilton Miami Downtown, 1601 Biscayne Blvd. Advance registration is $15, on-site is $20. It costs $250 for a display table. Details: Register at miamichamber.com, (305) 577-5491.

   ON DEMAND: Efforts to place a referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot to allow the City of Miami to use half-penny transit tax revenues for low-income elderly on-demand service, a transit option for seniors who don’t live near mass transit, didn’t receive the signatures to go before the county commission, said county Commissioner Bruno A. Barreiro. On-demand service, as passed in the legislature’s 2010 session, is eligible for surtax funds but must be approved by voters since it was not included in 2002 passage of the People’s Transportation Plan, which created the transit tax. Mr. Barreiro said he will pursue the referendum again in the 2012 countywide election.

   TOLL CITATIONS: The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority must now send traffic citations for toll violations by certified mail, according to new state legislation. The new requirement increases mailing costs about $4.50 per citation, said Javier Rodriguez, authority executive director. Before a traffic citation is mailed, the authority follows a five-month process to contact the toll violator for payment.

   VIOLATION FEE: In addition to the mailing changes, the authority also modified its toll violation charges. In the past, an individual would be billed for each toll violation plus a $25 fee per toll transaction. In an effort to treat "someone more as a customer than as a violator," said Mario Diaz, authority spokesperson, instead of charging $25 for every toll violation, the authority is now only charging the $25 once every 30 days regardless of the number of violations. However, expressway users will still have to pay for each toll transaction.

   SALUTING TROWBRIDGE: CEO of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce Mark Trowbridge is this year’s recipient of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Bill Colson Leadership Award, given to community and civil leaders who have provided consistent and ongoing assistance to the area. Before joining the Gables chamber, Mr. Trowbridge was deputy executive director for business development of the Miami Parking Authority, responsible for planning and managing capital construction projects, and directed the agency’s public relations and marketing. He has been an active member of Leadership Miami, Switchboard of Miami and the University of Florida Alumni Association. "He is a fantastic symbol of what the Bill Colson award tries to exemplify," said Maria Alonso, Greater Miami Chamber chairwoman. He’ll be recognized as part of the chamber’s Salute to Miami’s Leaders awards program Oct. 8. Details: miamichamber.com, (305) 577-5458.

   SALUTE TO LEADERS: The 21st annual Salute to Miami’s Leaders event will feature two new awards this year. "This year we felt that we needed to recognize two longstanding leaders in our community who maybe didn’t fit neatly into other categories," said Maria Alonso, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce chairwoman. Frank Nero, recipient of the Power Leader of the Year award, is president and CEO of The Beacon Council, a non-profit that helps draw businesses to the Miami-Dade community while helping existing companies expand. Alberto Carvalho, recipient of the Visionary Leader of the Year award, has been superintendent for Miami-Dade County Public Schools since 2008. Since taking the post, more than half of all area schools have received an accountability grade of "A" based on performance reviews from the Florida Department of Education. The event is set for 11:30 a.m. Oct. 8 at 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail. Registration is $75 for chamber members, $95 for others. Register at miamichamber.com, (305) 577-5458.

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