LITTLE HAITI CULTURAL CENTER: The City of Miami granted architect Bernard Zyscovich an increase in his contract last week from a maximum $300,000 to $2.25 million for work on a cultural center and park in Little Haiti. Plans include a community building, a black-box theater, a public library, courtyards and parking along Northeast Second Avenue between 59th Street and 59th Terrace. Mr. Zyscovich's Miami design firm, Zyscovich Inc., won a bid in January 2003 for renovations to the Caribbean Marketplace, part of the center's plans. Curtis and Rogers Design Studio completed the park's master plan for a recreation center with a soccer-field facility and building that Zyscovich will develop.
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COUNTY HOUSING DEAL: Miami-Dade County has selected developers for the second of two affordable-housing developments at the Santa Clara Metrorail Station. A 204-unit apartment building at Northwest 13th Avenue and 20th Street valued at $26 million will be developed by a joint venture of the Carlisle Group, The Related Group of Florida, United Group and Strategic Santa Clara. A similar development with 208 apartments near the Santa Clara station opened last fall. Both projects are a part of Miami-Dade County's program to encourage development near public transportation facilities.
FILLING INSURANCE GAP: Miami-Dade County commissioners on Tuesday approved the first step in a plan to provide health insurance to 5,000 uninsured county residents. With the commission's approval, the county is to hire a consultant to lay out details of the plan and set up a 501(c)(3) corporation to sign hospitals interested in the plan and leverage federal funds. The plan, dubbed Health Flex, is being led by Mayor Alex Penelas.
TRAVEL AGENT BIDS REJECTED: The Miami-Dade County commission threw out bids for a county contract for travel-agent services Tuesday because commissioners didn't want to hire an out-of-town firm. They also questioned the need for a travel agent for $70,000 a year when many county staffers have a travel service provided by their employee credit card, American Express. County Manager George Burgess said the highest-ranking local firm placed fifth in the assessment. The recommended firm, Northwestern Travel Management, was chosen through competitive bidding and a professional selection committee. The Minnesota company would have provided online and 24-hour travel services for county employees at $50,000 a year less than the current agent. Instead, the county will have no travel agent until it decides to put the contract up for bid again.
NEW BLUE: Miami commissioners last week approved land-use and zoning changes for Blue on Coral Way, an 85-unit residential project in the 3100 block of Southwest 22nd Terrace. The city planning advisory and zoning boards gave unanimous approval to the development on a little more than a half-acre owned by Renzo and Pasquale Renzi.
MUCKRAKING: The US Army Corps of Engineers will award a contract to dredge the Miami River by March 23, according to spokesman Barry Vorse. The Miami River Commission and others say the $54 million-$72 million project is necessary to maintain the river's depth at a consistent 15 feet to accommodate cargo ships and to prevent contaminants from flowing into Biscayne Bay. US Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen wrote to the corps last month expressing concerns that tens of millions of dollars in federal funds to dredge the river are no longer available, but the corps has said work should begin as planned in late summer. A contract was to have been awarded Jan. 21, but the corps opted to delay a decision until this month.
BANYAN BOOST: SBLI USA Mutual Life Insurance Co. of New York has invested $5 million in Miami-based Banyan Mezzanine Fund to help minority-owned businesses. The financial-services firm, formerly Savings Bank Life Insurance Fund, operates mostly in New York and New Jersey. Through subsidiary SUSA Life Insurance Co. Inc., the company hopes to expand nationally, including into Florida. Banyan has investments in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina and is structured as a small-business investment company under the Small Business Administration. Every dollar raised by private investors can be matched with $2 from the federal government. SBLI is the first national financial institution to invest in the fund. Details: (305) 250-4681.
HEIGHT HALT: A Miami City Commission vote on a 90-day moratorium on development along Biscayne Boulevard in the Upper Eastside was deferred this week because of the absence of Commissioner Johnny Winton, whose district includes the area from 36th to 87th streets. The commission is to vote whether to put acceptance of new buildings taller than 85 feet for commercial or 95 feet for residential use on hold as guidelines are worked out to reduce height limits. Mr. Winton has called for a committee to bring residents and developers together on the issue. Allowing the transfer of development rights is also under consideration, said Patrick Range, legislative aide for Commissioner Winton's office.
JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY: Mr. Winton was expected to return to Miami this week after a ski vacation, said Chief of Staff Frank Balzebre, who could not confirm what level of slopes the commissioner attempted this trip. This time last year, Mr. Winton required rods to pull together damage from four breaks below one knee after a tumble off a mogul on a Crested Butte slope. The accident apparently did nothing to discourage him from a return to the mountains.
SEPARATING THE NET: Miami City Commission Chairman Arthur Teele Jr. suggested at last week's meeting that the Neighborhood Enhancement Team offices should be relieved of code enforcement. His comment followed a presentation by the team to the commission. He said it is unclear what the Neighborhood Enhancement Team offices do. He and other commissioners expressed concern over unlicensed contract work in the city that is not halted by the team. Commissioner Tomas Regalado corrected mistakes in a proposed team resource guide that he proofread during the discussion at City Hall.
ROAD RE-OPENS: An improved Northwest 14th Street between Northwest 37th and 42nd avenues parallel to State Road 836 opened Friday. The $3 million project widened and repaved the half-mile stretch and added new sidewalks, lighting, traffic signals, landscaping and drainage. The roadway, in one of the most congested areas around Miami International Airport, was closed for eight months.
EXPRESS WAY: Miami Parking Authority Director Arthur Noriega and Roymi Membiela, president of Roymi Membiela and Associates, have been appointed to the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority by the county commission. They join 11 other members on the board, which oversees the county's toll roads, State Roads 836, 874, 924 and 112, and one non-toll road, State Road 878. All voting members serve on a volunteer basis.
VILLA DEL SOL-D: The Cornerstone Group of Coral Gables sold Villa Del Sol, a 312-unit garden-style apartment development, for $36.2 million to BF Group. CB Richard Ellis represented Cornerstone in the sale of the property at 2925 S. Federal Highway in Boynton Beach.
REGIONAL COOPERATION: Former Miami Beach mayor Neisen Kasdin will serve on the Urban Land Institute's Committee for Regional Cooperation for Florida's Future. The committee identifies growth opportunities and works to reform state and regional conditions that impede developments. Mr. Kasdin is chairman of the national institute's Southeast Florida district.
BOULEVARD LAND SOLD: An undisclosed buyer paid $1.97 million for 3.5 acres at 11240 Biscayne Blvd. Keyes Co. represented trustee Lewis Ress in the sale of the undeveloped property opposite the Jockey Club.
ORANGE BOWL CHIEFS: As it prepares to host the FedEx Orange Bowl National Championship on Jan. 5, the Orange Bowl Committee named officers and board members for the 2004-05 term. Heading the 69-year-old committee is president Christopher Knight, a shareholder and managing partner at Fowler White Burnett P.A. President-elect is Peter Pruitt Jr., with Albert Dotson Jr. and Thomas Wood serving as vice presidents. The committee expects 76,000 to attend next year's game at Pro Player Stadium and an additional 10,000 to participate in related events.
RETURNING FLIGHTS: Finnair's Helsinki-Miami flight this winter will return as a route. Miami International Airport announced the service will repeat Dec. 12 through March 31, 2005. Finnair, established in 1923, carried 6.8 million passengers last year and served 50 international destinations. Miami-Dade Aviation Director Angela Gittens said in a release that the airport hopes the route will one day "lead to year-round service."
WATERWAY HOLIDAY: The eighth annual Miami Riverday, celebrating the city's working river, will be April 10. The free event, sponsored by private and public partners, will take place 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at Jose Marti Park. Free water taxis will run from Sheraton Biscayne Bay, Hyatt Regency and Clarion Suites. The event includes live music, boat tours, a marine-business expo, kids activities, food and crafts. Details: Miami River Commission, (305) 361-4850.