FLYING FISH: The Florida Marlins are nearing third base, Tallahassee, after reaching deals with Miami and Miami-Dade County. The city agreed to a memorandum of understanding Feb. 24, and county commissioners approved it Tuesday. Only Katy Sorenson opposed a deal to be sent to the Legislature under which the baseball team, which would change its name to Miami Marlins, would build a $420 million, 38,000-seat stadium in time for the 2008 season. Funds are to come from a variety of sources. Of the $138 million the county pledged, $30 million is from tourist taxes, $48 million is from sports-franchise taxes and $60 million is funds diverted from Miami Arena. The city is to donate $32 million plus land next to the Orange Bowl, leaving a $30 million shortfall.
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BACK AT CITY HALL: "It's been a long, bumpy process, but I can guarantee that all T's have been crossed and all I's have been dotted," Commissioner Joe Sanchez said Feb. 24 as he OK'd the memorandum of understanding. Mayor (Manny) Diaz took some time to add some humor: "If the Marlins were to default, Chairman Sanchez could be running shortstop for the Marlins next year and Joe Arriola will be the general manager. No, I am just kidding. Notice I didn't say manager." Replied Mr. Sanchez: "Will I get $52 million a year for four years?"
MAJOR LEAGUE THANKS: Marlins President David Samson was at last week's city commission meeting to offer compliments. "The mayor and senior economic-development adviser, Otto Boudet-Murias, have done a tremendous job. The only thing that disappoints me about this chamber is that the podium does not move up and down. If you could maybe get that approved, Joe, it would really show me something." Said Mr. Arriola: "I did bring you a booster chair." Mr. Samson said this will be the first time in the franchise's many attempts to get a new stadium that a deal is done before the Legislature is approached. "We are going to Tallahassee as one - three legs of the stool going to Tallahassee for the final piece."
CONTRACT DOUBLED: Repairs at the Orange Bowl Stadium will cost $3.7 million more under a contract change the Miami City Commission approved Feb. 24. Professional General Contractors Inc. agreed to complete its ongoing project, whose cost is now $6.9 million, before the August start of the University of Miami football season. Repairs include cracks in 3-inch-thick concrete slabs and the supporting structural framing on the north and south sides of the stadium similar to cracks the firm has already repaired at the bowl.
PROTECTING DOCTORS: The Miami-Dade County Commission Tuesday urged the Legislature to extend the protection of sovereign immunity at Jackson Memorial Hospital. The objective is to protect University of Miami doctors on staff at the hospital and clinics run by the Public Health Trust. No such protection exists for the county. In discussing another matter Tuesday afternoon, Commissioner Katy Sorenson asked the county attorney's office to clarify how many claims are outstanding. The commission heard there were about 10,000 lawsuits and the county settled "quite a few times."
HOUSING BOOM: Demand for housing in Miami-Dade County is at an all-time high, based on 2004 housing starts, according to real estate analyst firm Metrostudy's South Florida division. Last year, there were 8,614 single-family starts in Miami-Dade, said Bradley F. Hunter, the division director. County builders have started 5,000 units per year for more than a decade, he said, and the latest numbers show a 70% increase. At year's end, Miami-Dade reported 5,545 units vacant or under construction, 3,533 vacant developed lots and 18,618 lots planned for development.
TOP SPOT: Islands at Doral led the county with 357 housing starts and 220 closings during 2004. Doral has an astounding level of housing demand, Mr. Hunter said, with 439 starts and 368 closings last year. Metrostudy's research suggests that most of the demand in the Doral area is from users, not speculative buyers, he said.
NO SIERRA DEAL: A resolution to settle pending litigation with environmental lobbyist Sierra Club Foundation was felled by the Miami-Dade county commission Tuesday. The wrangle pertains to plans to widen Krome Avenue, or 177th Avenue, to four lanes from two, motivated by what commissioners call safety concerns rather than a desire to urbanize the county's far south end. The activists had sought a deadline of January 2008 for Florida Department of Transportation consideration of the proposals, but commissioners voted no.
BOND GROUND RULES: Mechanics for distributing up to $2.9 billion in funds from the General Obligation Bond voters approved in November got the nod Tuesday. Miami-Dade commissioners approved an ordinance authorizing issuance of the funds under the Building Better Communities banner the General Obligation Bond Subcommittee agreed to last week. Commissioner Carlos Gimenez sought and received confirmation that the ordinance had been reworded to demonstrate an intention to cap taxes to repay the bonds at 0.39 mils, arising from concerns that unattained tax-roll growth could lead to a funding shortfall.
NAME GAME: The county commission granted an audience to the detail-oriented Tuesday. Seeking clarification of what constitutes the Goulds/Cutler Ridge area, earmarked as a blighted area, a homeowner took the microphone. "My name is Irma," she said. "Here in Florida, I can say 'ear-mah,' I-R-M-A, and that used to be how my name was pronounced in Haiti. And my surname is Joseph - by marriage." After the submission, commissioners thanked the hyphenated "Mrs. Joseph-by-marriage," spawning copycat introductions throughout the day. A proposal to settle litigation with the Sierra Group Fund led a well-known speaker to say, "My name is Miguel, my siblings' and my father's name was De Grandy." The next submission came from, "Joseph Goldstein, my middle name is Gary, and I'm trying to not be married."
CITIBANK EXPANDS: Citicorp North America extended the lease on its 47,408 square feet at 8750 NW 36th St., across from Doral Country Club, where it has three offices, including a Citibank branch. Citicorp also leased another 10,103-square-foot office in the building in June, a spokesman said, due to success in capital markets.
POPCORN SET: To target younger arts consumers, Miami-Dade County is placing 15-second advertisements in two AMC movie theaters as part of its Culture Shock campaign. The Department of Cultural Affairs has chosen Aventura and Sunset Place to pilot a program that costs $720 a week. "We're one of the first three advertisements that gets played in rotation," said department director Michael Spring. The ad is to be shown on each screen before each performance. The department hasn't decided how long its campaign is to run. "We are going to try to do some surveys and focus groups," he said, "but it's highly imperfect, so we're going to look at bumps in Web hits and new subscribers."
COLLEGE GROWS: Miami Dade College is transforming its Hialeah center into a full campus. The campus, at 1776 W. 49th St., will offer more liberal arts and occupational courses. The change to a full campus has won approval from the school's board of trustees but must be endorsed by the state Board of Education. The campus needs accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. College officials expect the process to take five to 10 years. "Nearly 5,000 students attend the Hialeah center," said President Eduardo Padron, "and we can expect to continue to be at the center of that community's growth."
MIAMI WORKS: Miami officials have approved a contract to launch Miami Works, a program to provide about 1,000 construction jobs to unskilled residents. "Attorneys advised because we are paying for them to start the agency, it requires a contract instead of a memorandum of understanding," said David Rosemond, chief of staff to the city manager. He said the program is awaiting the signatures of City Manager Joe Arriola and South Florida Worforce official Edith Hume. Mr. Rosemond said the city would provide $60,000 to the project until July, when South Florida Workforce is to take the reins.
HOTEL CULTURE: Beach TV, a cable channel piped into all Miami Beach hotel rooms and a fifth of those in Miami, is launching the second of two half-hour programs showcasing the county's cultural attractions. Miami-Dade County's Department of Cultural Affairs and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau have created two shows, each featuring eight venues. The programs will be available to 70,000 subscribers at least three times a day. "We'll try to work with the concierge about the number of inquiries the broadcasts generate," said Deborah Margol, department deputy director. "Each institute has an exit poll, which will also help track success rates."
WHERE'S THE BEEF? Florida cattle producers in April will pursue markets outside the continental US when breeders go to Puerto Rico to show livestock to potential buyers. The mission is part of a marketing initiative of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Puerto Rico. US cattle exports have been banned to most countries after bovine spongiform encelophalopathy, or mad cow disease, was found last year in a herd imported from Canada. Despite restrictions, USDA officials in Florida have guaranteed that beef is safe for consumption. Details: (850) 488-4366.
THERE IS A FREE LUNCH: Non-profit groups have until March 11 to apply for a complimentary luncheon for 25 members, supporters or award receipients at Conrad Miami under the Reflections in Excellence program launched by Miami Today and the hotel. The program aims to help "the organizations that don't have the wherewithal to recognize their board, their staff, their teams who work behind the scenes," said Robert Thrailkill, Conrad Miami general manager. A request for qualification forms can be downloaded from www.miamitodaynews.com or obtained by calling (305) 358-2663. FREE-TRADE COUNTDOWN: The Free Trade Area of the Americas and Miami's role will be the topic of the International Roundtable on March 10. The session, open to the public, will feature panelists Jorge Arrizurieta, president of Florida FTAA Inc.; Carl Cera, director of the Summit of the Americas Center at Florida International University; and Harold Patricoff Jr., chairman of the international dispute resolution group at Shutts & Bowen. Michael Hayes, Miami Today international editor, will moderate. The 5 p.m. panel, sponsored by Commercebank and Miami Today, will be at Commercebank, 220 Alhambra Circle, 12th floor, Coral Gables. RSVP: Amy Sossa, (305) 358-1008.
CORRECTION: A Feb. 17 item in the FYI column incorrectly stated the title of Richard A. Berkowitz, managing director of Berkowitz Dick Pollack & Brant.