TOURISM UP: Miami increased domestic visitors 4.3% the past 11 months from the same period a year earlier, according to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, as county hotels attracted 4.7 million people. In the period, international travelers increased 1.2%, to 4.1 million. "We have been putting a greater emphasis on domestic travelers," said bureau's marketing senior vice president, David Whitaker. Increase from abroad has been slower, he said, because of high fuel costs and stricter issuance of visas by US consulates.
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of the news. Here are highlights from the most current edition.
SLICE OF GOLF COURSE: Miami city commissioners have granted the state Department of Transportation use of 0.1 acre of city-owned Melreese Golf Course, 1400 NW 37th Ave., as a staging area for seven months for construction on LeJeune Road tied to the Miami Intermodel Connector Interchange. The state is to store construction materials behind a 20-foot-tall steel sheet pile wall to minimize noise and distractions for golfers. The department must restore the land after use and remove the wall.
WALK WAY: Miami commissioners Sept. 22 authorized City Manager Joe Arriola to accept a $50,000 grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to build a baywalk at the public boat ramp on Watson Island. The Miami Parking Authority is putting in $50,000 to match the state funds.
SEARCH AND RESCUE: Miami is to get $927,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for 2004-06, $35,000 for travel and administrative costs for the South Florida Urban Search and Rescue Program and $892,000 for the city's Fire Rescue Department to provide equipment, training, management and administrative skills for the program.
AIDING YOUTH: The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and Miami police are uniting to fund two programs to help the youth in the city. The Cops Helping Our Inner-City Children Excel Program, CHOICE, will help guide young adults away from juvenile crime. The Miami Civil Citation Program addresses issues related to first-time offenders ages 10-17. The state is putting a total of $125,000 into the programs and the city police are providing $27,658.
VIRGINIA KEY PLAN: Miami commissioners last week accepted a $50,000 grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop a master plan for Virginia Key. The city is matching the grant.
FIRING UP: Miami city commissioners last week accepted a $417,500 bid from Chieftain Safety Manufacturing to help protect firefighters with new fire-protective garments to replace worn and tattered gear. The company will also replenish the fire department's inventory to outfit the upcoming recruit class.
DIG DEEP: Miami commissioners last week asked City Manager Joe Arriola to apply for a $1 million Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission grant for the boating infrastructure program in the dredging of the Brennan Channel at Dinner Key Marina. The city is putting in its own $250,000 from the Homeland Defense Bond Capital Improvement Project.
AID TO ELDERLY: Miami is getting a $99,200 grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to finance The City of Miami Elderly Assistance Program. The funds will construct rehabilitation facilities for elderly city residents.
SUCCESSFUL SPENDING: Unlike past years, Miami's Department of Community Development spent most Community Development Block Grant funds it got from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development last year, satisfying a requirement that it have no more than 1.5 times total grants unspent by fiscal year's end. In the past the department has had to return funds because it failed to meet this requirement. Last fiscal year, the city got $9.9 million in these grants, the bulk of which it used.
ISLAND BUILDERS: A Miami Beach company has chosen a builder for its planned $480 million hotel and super-yacht complex on Watson Island. Flagstone Property Group has handed the $300 million construction contract for Island Gardens to the Clark Construction Group, which will manage the project out of its Tampa office. Flagstone plans to name the operators of two hotels for the development slated to open in 2008 this fall.
MILE AWAY: Developers of Mile, a commercial and residential project on Coral Way, must return with new plans, Miami city commissioners voted last week. The planning department had denied rezoning but the zoning board voted in favor 6-1 of rezoning 3622 SW 22nd St. and 3605-3625 SW 22nd Terrace from a 1.72 floor area ratio height to a 2.9 - almost three stories. According to records, planners said no because they felt the development would be out of scale with its surroundings. Commissioners last week set a Nov. 17 deadline to applicants M Three Corp. and the Key Real Estate Development Corp. to offer new plans.
AWAY WITH RIGHT OF WAY: Miami city commissioners last week gave 7 feet of public right of way to developer Pivotal Holding Inc. for Soleil, a 43-story mixed-use project at 3100 Biscayne Blvd. The land commissioners gave - at Northeast 31st Street between Biscayne Boulevard and Northeast Second Avenue south of Northeast 32nd Street - will facilitate a unified commercial development site for Soleil, which includes 288 multifamily residential units, 9,186 square feet of retail, 2,907 square feet of restaurants and 876 parking spaces.
NEW KIDCO SITE: KIDCO, a non-profit that provides free early childhood education and services to low-income families in the City of Miami, opens its newest site today (9/28) in Little Haiti. The city's department of Community Development funded purchase of the facility at 6911 NW Third Ave. with a $251,156 grant.
OFFICE REVAMP: Mega Capital Corp. of Miami Beach is redeveloping its Exxon Mobil Building in Coral Gables, which it recently bought for $25.1 million. The 40-year-old, seven-story office building has 105,000 square feet at 396 Alhambra, at LeJeune Road. "Prior to being sold, the building received 10 to 12 offers," said Miguel Cano, a broker at Biscayne Finance Corp. who represented Mega Capital.
CORE OF THE CITY: Miami commissioners created the Urban Central Business District last week, representing the city's urban core. It includes high-intensity, high-density multi-use development in retail, hotels, recreational and cultural development, residential developments and professional and governmental office uses. Boundaries are Northwest 20th Street to the north, Biscayne Bay and Brickell Key to the east, Southwest 15th Road to the south and Interstate 95, the Miami River and Northwest Fifth Street to the west.
PARK AND DINE: Miami commissioners last week granted a zoning change at 632 and 634 NE 68th St. for London-based restaurant Balans to handle parking for up to 80 diners. The properties were zoned single-family residential. "It's kind of irritating that Balans had to pick this site for the restaurant," said Commissioner Johnny Winton. "Why not use another site?" Valet parking or having patrons park at Morningside Elementary School between 4 p.m. and midnight are ideas attorney Lucia Dougherty says owners are considering.
WEB-SITE OVERSIGHT: Miami's Department of Capital Improvement and Transportation has launched a Web site offering access to active and proposed capital projects in the city. The site details project, status, phase, location, costs and completion schedule. Details: www.miamigov.com/capitalimprovements.
BOULEVARD CEILING: Miami city commissioners last week tentatively set a permanent maximum height for Biscayne Boulevard development between Northeast 39th and 57th streets. The maximum for nonresidential development would be 85 feet or seven floors and for residential 95 feet or eight floors. Parking garages would have to be behind buildings and no taller than 40 feet. Buildings on the west side of Biscayne from Northeast 39th Street to 50th Terrace could rise to 120 feet.
GARDEN OF EHDEN: Ehden Place, a 161-foot, 14-story tower with 57 condo units, 365 square feet of office space and 119 parking spaces at 54-62 NW 27th Ave., won Miami City Commission approval last week. "The area is in really bad shape and needs development," said Gilberto Pastoriza, attorney representing owner Mouawad Enterprises Inc. "This project even has a small percentage of affordable housing and complies with the city's comprehensive plan."
GRANADA LINKS: Thirty members of the Granada, Spain, chamber of commerce and other business groups are to be in Coral Gables Oct. 2-5 to seek economic and cultural ties. Oct. 3 they are to meet with representatives of the Spanish-American Chamber of Commerce, the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, Camacol, Enterprise Florida and the University of Miami. Details: Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, (305) 446-1657.
BANK BUILDING SOLD: The Regions Bank building at 2151 LeJeune Rd. in Coral Gables has been sold for $9.1 million to Ron Simkins, a Miami real estate investor, by Aquarius Capital. The property is 96% leased. Regions Bank occupies 7,850 of the 36,000 square feet. Regions' lease expires in December 2007. Another major tenant is Sterling Health Care, which has 5,500 square feet. Its lease expires in February 2010.
NEW EATERY: A third restaurant is to open in Coral Gables office building 2525 Ponce in October. La Cofradia's menu will specialize in Mediterranean-Peruvian fusion, said Chef Jean-Paul Desmaison. He said the 80-seat lobby restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner. He is a co-owner of La Cofradia Restaurante in Lima. Details: lacofradia.com.
DORAL NETWORKING: The Doral & Airport West Chamber of Commerce is hosting its Table Top Expo 4-8 p.m. today (9/29) at Doral Park Country Club, 5001 NW 104th Ave. "The expo is a networking event in which participants engage in a definite conversation with their customers," said chamber President Felipe Madrigal. "We will have close to 100 businesses in the county exposing all kinds of goods and services." Admission is free. Details: (305) 244-1641.
CORRECTION: An Aug. 25 report on Coral Gables-based Commercebank's assets was incorrect. The correct number is $3.8 billion.