DOWNGRADING I-395: County and city planners will hear proposals Monday to run Interstate 395 below ground through downtown Miami in order to reclaim potentially valuable land lost under the expressway's elevated ramps. Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and other top city and county officials have said they want the elevated ramps demolished in order to make way for urban redevelopment in the blighted Overtown area, just west of the emerging Performing Arts Center. North Carolina-based Kimley Horn & Associates as well as Miami architect and urban planner Jorge Espinel are to present separate "open-cut" solutions to the area's integrated traffic, land-use and urban development problem to a county chartered I-395 subcommittee.
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TIDE-AL WAVE: Island Outpost, which has three hotels on South Beach among its total of 11, has appointed a new management team at its flagship The Tides, 1225 Collins Ave. David Moth flies in as general manager from Malmaison in Glasgow, Scotland, where he was general manager. Frank Holtslag, who has been director of revenue for Island Outpost for two years, was named executive assistant general manger. And William Bouvier, formerly director of sales & marketing for The Cliffs Resort in Shell Beach, CA, takes Mr. Holtslag's old role.
CITY PLACE PLACES: City Place, a mixed-use development anchoring downtown West Palm Beach, won high honors Monday from the Urban Land Institute for its effective land use and commercial viability. Developed by the Miami-based Related Group, City Place is a pedestrian-oriented commercial core that combines business, living and entertainment in a dense, downtown style atmosphere. The Related Group is currently developing One Miami, a residential urban infill project in downtown Miami. The Urban Land Institute is a national land-use advisory that advocates resourceful use of land as a limited resource.
APARTMENT LOANS: Miami mortgage banker Thomas D. Wood and Co. launched a small apartment loan program for borrowers looking for up to $3 million with 10-year terms and 25-year-amortizations. The program doesn't require balloon payments or prepayment penalties, a company statement said. Details: 663-3361.
NEW BOUNDARIES: The Miami City Commission on Tuesday passed the first reading to enlarge the taxing area of the Downtown Development Authority, which hopes to gain from the growth planned for Watson Island. Preliminary approval was given for the development authority to extend its reach from current boundaries that run roughly from Northeast 24th Street to Southwest 15th Road and from Biscayne Bay west to I-95 and a railroad corridor. The new area would include some properties along Northwest 17th Terrace and North Bayshore Drive and the northwest quadrant of Watson Island, according to the resolution. Flagstone Properties, a partnership with operations in Miami and Orlando, is negotiating with the city to build two high-end hotels, shops, restaurants and a mega-yacht marina on the island. These future businesses would be added to the authority's jurisdiction, in which businesses are taxed an extra half mil in property taxes a year. The move is not final until the commission votes again.
STILL WAITING: Miami Downtown Development Authority search committee head Loretta Cockrum wouldn't leak the name of who may be the agency's next director even to fellow members. The search team will meet one last time before everything is final, but the name should be announced by the next board meeting, she told the board Friday. A few pressed her on the finalist's name but she revealed only tidbits: the candidate is from Virginia and he passed a background check. "Everything he's said, he did," she said. Plus, he's "not easily rattled." Authority Chairman and City Commissioner Johnny Winton called that trait "crucial" when dealing with the board. Former director Patti Allen, who led development promotion for the city's core for seven years, resigned in March just weeks after Mr. Winton was named chair.
REBOARDING: On Nov. 14, Miami's Downtown Development Authority Board re-appointed four directors to serve the public agency after their terms expired Aug. 31. Loretta Cockrum, Carlos Migoya, Jorge Perez and Sergio Rok were returned for three-year terms upon a nominating committee's recommendation. No new nominees were suggested.
KNIGHT ATTENDANT: The consul general of France in Miami will honor a flight attendant who helped subdue an al-Qaeda shoe-bomber last December. Christophe Bouchard will award Saturday the knighthood of the Order of Merit to Cristina Jone, a Franco-American flight attendant who helped stop shoe-bomber Richard Reid on Flight 63 from Paris to Miami. The Knighthood of the Order of Merit, France's most prestigious award after the Légion d'Honneur, is granted by the President of the French Republic to individuals who have displayed civil or military "distinguished merit. The ceremony will be at 6 p.m. at the consul general's residence, 4896 Davis Road.
MUNISPORT ON HOLD: No word yet on the future of the development of the city's Munisport site, North Miami officials say. The Hollywood-based Swerdlow Group wants to build a $1 billion high-rise condo project on the land that is also a former dump, but city commissioners have yet to sign the deal. The commission was to meet this week to review Swerdlow's latest proposal, but the meeting has been delayed until Nov. 26. "I expect us to accept it" at the upcoming meeting, said Commissioner Scott Galvin. The project could include several 25-story towers and as many as 5,000 residential units.
MANDARIN DIAMONDS: The American Automobile Association has given its Five Diamond Award, its top ranking, to the 2-year-old Mandarin Oriental, the only hotel in Miami-Dade County to receive the ranking. It also named the Mandarin's Azul restaurant the first Miami restaurant ever to win the Five Diamond Award. They will be listed in the AAA's guidebooks with more than 42,000 US hotels and restaurants evaluated by AAA's 65 professional evaluators.
BREATHING ROOM: Warned that Miami International Airport is required to have 71 explosive detection systems in place by Dec. 31 but now has only nine, the Beacon Council's board of directors voted last week to support a one-year extension of the federal deadline. The US House has approved the extension, the council was told, but the Senate has yet to act. Miguel Southwell, deputy aviation director, said the detection systems are each the size of mini-vans and must be installed behind luggage conveyor belts, behind walls. He put a price tag of $7 million on interim fixes that he said won't do the job and said most of the nation's largest 34 airports are caught in the same bind.
ISLAND HOPPING: A Zagat survey of 7,000 frequent travelers released this week rates The Inn at Fisher Island Miami's top hotel. The Mandarin Oriental, also on an island, Brickell Key, was rated second.
PASSINGS: Jill Edison, president and CEO of the Aventura Chamber of Commerce, died Nov. 8 after a battle with cancer. "She had unbelievable energy," said Emil Hubschman, chamber chair and co-founder. "I don't think anyone could work harder than Jill did." Ms. Edison had been a volunteer for 20 non-profit groups in addition to her role over the young chamber that grew to nearly 400 members. "It's a tragic loss for the world and for the business community. She was the greatest advocate for Aventura and a beautiful person. I lost a dear friend," said Jo-Ann Fine, chamber vice president.
HEAVY TRAFFIC: The 32nd annual South Florida Auto Show that closed Sunday at the Miami Beach Convention Center set an all-time attendance high of 654,052 during its 10 days. The previous high was 642,721 in 2000.
TOGETHER AGAIN: Robert Marsden, executive VP of operations for SunTrust, Miami, since 1998, has joined BankUnited as executive VP of operations, responsible for information technology, bank operations, facilities/location management and corporate security. The move reunites him with Ramiro Ortiz, BankUnited president and CEO, who headed SunTrust here until several months ago.
REGIONAL POLICY: Caribbean Latin American Action panels will address regulatory policies and information technology issues in the region at its Miami conference Dec. 2-5 at the Loews Miami Beach. The "Competitiveness of the Third Border in 2005" conference will focus on identifying checks and balances to help liberalize regional systems and create global business opportunities, said Linda Wellstein, a partner at the Washington law firm of Wilkinson Barker and Knauer and a group member. Experts will discuss the region's telecommunications sector and the potential for attracting investment to build infrastructure. Details: (202) 466-7464, ext 15.
PROMOTING BEACH ARTS: The Miami Beach Cultural Arts Council has made Nancy Wolcott chair and Nancy Liebman vice chair. Ms. Wolcott is associate provost of the New World School of the Arts. Ms. Liebman, a former Miami Beach city commissioner, currently is an executive board member of the North Beach Development Corp., co-president of the Urban Environment League and vice president of the Urban Arts Committee.
TERMINAL WAIT: Plans to build a terminal hub for the Electrowave, Miami Beach's electric shuttle bus system, are on hold for a few months longer. Congress on Nov. 13 allowed members to put off passing fiscal year appropriation bills until after the holidays, according to city lobbyist Marion Turner of Washington-based Jorden Burt, a national firm with an office in Miami. Fans of the only all-electric mini-bus fleet in the US must wait until the next deadline, Jan. 11, to learn whether Congress winds up cutting out a chunk of the $5.03 million pledged for a new two-story station and other fix-ups.
DIRTY MONEY: Have billions of laundered dollars made European and American banks "narco-dependent"? That's the premise of a book by Jean-François Boyer, a French journalist TV reporter and author of L'Empire Moon. He'll speak Saturday on the anti-drug campaign, the topic of his recent book The Lost War Against Drugs at the Miami Book Fair at the Miami-Dade Community College, Wolfson Campus. Mr. Boyer has lived in Latin America since 1988 and spent 15 years investigating and researching his recent work. The presentation will be in Spanish at 10:30 a.m. at 300 NE Second Ave., Room 3410.