DO I HEAR ...? The Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority has received calls of interest "from church groups to investment groups" on the Miami Arena since word got out in March that it might be sold, said executive director Jim Jenkins. The City of Miami will hold an auction this summer for the arena, starting with parking-lot magnate Hank Sopher's opening bid of $25 million. Proceeds would help retire $32.8 million in bond debt on the building.
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COSTS ON RISE: The cost of living in South Florida remains well below the national average for urban areas but is rising faster than average, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. The region's 182.9 consumer price index in April remains below the national 188 average, but the index here has risen 2.5% in the past year, compared with the national 2.3%. Goods that cost $100 in 1986 cost South Florida consumers $182.90 in April. Locally, prices rose 1% from February to April.
HOUSING PLUS: Housing starts - considered a prime indicator of overall economic health - rose 9.8% in the South last month from April 2003, according to data released this week by the US Department of Commerce Census Bureau. The regional figure compares to an 11.2% climb nationally. Housing starts nationally grew 1.2% from the previous month. Gains in other regions were as high as 18.6% in the Northeast and as low as 3.1% in the Midwest. The bureau measures housing starts by the number of construction permits issued.
BRICKELL AVENUE: City of Miami transportation guru Mary Conway said a pair of projects for busy Brickell Avenue is in the works. The Florida Department of Transportation may start a study by the end of the year for the corridor from the Miami River to the Rickenbacker Causeway to consider signals, bike lanes, crosswalks and other enhancements, she said. Meanwhile, bids for a streetscape project along the road could be let out for bid within six months and under construction in a year.
MINI-STADIUM: Miami commissioners have approved spending $3 million for a 5,000- to 6,000-seat mini-stadium for soccer or football at Athalie Range Park at Northwest 62nd Street in Chairman Arthur Teele Jr.'s district. The funds come from a $255 million bond to enhance neighborhoods and improve safety approved by voters in November 2001. About half the money from the bond, $127 million, was reserved for 11 parks and recreation projects, including a 30-acre park in Little Haiti, an expansion of Jose Marti/East Little Havana Park and improvements to Virginia Key Park, Bicentennial Park, Margaret Pace Park and others, according to a city fact sheet.
CONSTRUCTION RELIEF: Miami-Dade Transit has launched an economic-relief program to assist companies affected by its bus-line extension and reconstruction project at Florida City/US 1. The program includes an offer to install signs to help customers find business entrances obscured by heavy construction and up to $25,000 in loans for selected companies. Details: Emma Ortiz, (305) 242-3272 or email@example.com.
TOURISM SUMMIT: Miami Mayor Manny Diaz touted the city in a speech last week during a travel and tourism summit in Washington, DC, that included US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Department of Homeland Security head Tom Ridge, the Department of the Interior's Gale Norton and the Department of Transportation's Norman Mineta. Mayor Diaz - chairman of the US Conference of Mayors' Committee on Arts, Park, Entertainment & Sports - is pushing for a federal position for arts and culture, possibly a Cabinet post.
BY THE NUMBERS: Miami-Dade County was host to more than 10 million overnight visitors last year who spent $10 billion, and the travel and tourism industry employs more than 130,000 local residents, Mayor Diaz said in his May 12 speech. The Port of Miami served more than 4 million passengers and 30 million travelers used Miami International Airport last year, he said. Miami is among the top five US cities dependant on tourism, he said. Tourists generated $84 million in local taxes last year, he said, saving each resident $260 in property tax. "We recognize that we simply could not survive without this industry."
WAREHOUSE EXPANSION: Senator International Inc., a freight-forwarding company, leased an additional 41,801 square feet of warehouse and distribution space at Dolphin Commerce Center, 11250 NW 25th St. The company now occupies suites 114 and 124.
FREE ZONE PURCHASE: Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund of Beverly Hills, CA, and Pantheon Properties of New York purchased the Miami Free Trade Zone. It was the second South Florida investment this year for the fund, a joint venture of former basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson's company, Johnson Development Corp., and Canyon Capital Realty Advisors. The zone covers 825,000 square feet at Northwest 25th Street and 107th Avenue. It includes 750,000 square feet of foreign-trade-zone facilities and 50,000 square feet of warehouses. Earlier this year, the fund disclosed its partnership in Downtown Dadeland, a mixed-use project in Kendall with 416 condominiums, retail space and a garage.
NEW OFFICE: BEA International, a Coral Gables design, architectural and engineering firm, has relocated to a two-story building at 4111 LeJeune Road. The firm, which has planned and designed facilities and infrastructure for the Port of Miami and Royal Caribbean International, was at 4217 Ponce de Leon before buying the 8,500-square-foot building.
RIVER SITE SOLD: Royal Atlantic has paid $9.75 million for 6.3 acres on the Miami River at 1001 NW Seventh St. The site includes a 220,000-square-foot, two-story office/industrial building that housed The Miami News in the 1950s and the Southeast Bank Operation Center in the '60s.
ISLAND HOTELS: An announcement is expected within two months concerning which two luxury hotels will be part of Turkish developer Mehmet Bayraktar's $426 million Island Gardens project on Watson Island. Officials with Flagstone Property Group said Tuesday that they are negotiating with hotel flags and management companies. The project, to include a megayacht marina and shops, promises two four- or five-star hotels. Potential flags include Peninsula Hotels, a division of Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels; London-based Le Meridien Hotels and Resorts Ltd.; Starwood Hotel & Resorts, which includes the W and St. Regis brands; Hyatt; Hilton; and Six Continents Hotel.
MELLON BOARD: Mellon Financial Corp., a Pittsburgh financial-services company that has 15 private wealth-management offices and nearly 450 employees in Florida, announced Tuesday that Miami businessman Paul L. Cejas was elected to its board of directors effective June 1.
NEW TO AUTHORITY: Gov. Jeb Bush has appointed Cesar Llano, an executive with Miami-based Century Homebuilders, to the 13-member board of directors of the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, a state-sanctioned body that operates and maintains five expressways.
TOP ENTREPRENEURS: Six of the 24 finalists for the 2004 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards in Florida are from the Miami area. Winners will be announced at an awards banquet June 24 at the Peabody Orlando. H. Wayne Huizenga of Huizenga Holdings Inc. will receive a Lifetime Achievement Honor. Details: www.ey.com/us/eoy.
PRICE ADJUSTMENT: In a May 13 article on the Key Biscayne housing market, Prudential Florida WCI Realty agent Annie Alexander should have been quoted as saying the lowest-priced waterfront condo is $725,000 and the most-expensive property, a waterfront estate, is listed at $16 million.