COOL IDEA: The Miami-Dade County Commission is to vote Jan. 24 on a proposal to buy a downtown Miami plant used to air-condition major buildings from a subsidiary of Tampa Electric Co., which bought the cooling plant almost four years ago from FPL with plans to add more Miami sites. The county plans to pay $9 million for the plant at 1110 NE First Ave., then spend $9.2 million on expansion and $1.5 million to connect the plant's chilled water loops with loops from the present county-owned plant. The purchase from TECO Thermal Systems Inc. would save the county $7.2 million over the next 15 years, county staff reports, because without it, the county would have to build another plant to serve three buildings it plans to construct.
MORE BEDS FILLED: Greater Miami recorded double-digit growth in hotel occupancy the first two weeks of December, Smith Travel Research reports. The county's hotels averaged 73.5% occupancy, up 12.2% from the same period in 2004. The largest percentage growth in the county was in the Coconut Grove-Coral Gables-South Miami area, with 80.2% occupancy, up 15.4% from the same weeks in 2004. That was followed by downtown Miami hotels, where 75% occupancy was up 13.5% from the same period in 2004.
ROOM RATES JUMP: As hotel-room occupancy in the county rose in the first half of December, so did the room rate, with an average nightly stay costing $125.34 - up 22.2% from the same period in 2004. Statewide, the average rose 15.4% to $97.08. The most expensive area of the county on average was Miami Beach and Bal Harbour, with a $155.35 daily room rate, up 25.6% from the same period in 2004.
DEVELOPING JOBS: An undisclosed real estate developer that plans to build its headquarters in Miami-Dade County with a $12 million capital investment and create 32 jobs averaging $115,000 in pay annually will receive $560,000 from the county government's Targeted Jobs Incentive Fund Program if it fulfills its plans. Its new headquarters building would be 30,000 square feet, the county commission was told when it voted Dec. 20 to provide the incentive funds. Names of companies approved for incentive funds are frequently kept confidential until a move is announced.
LOTS OF PARKING: A Miami Parking Authority report on use of garages throughout the city shows that Garage 3, at 190 NE Third St., had the most use in September, when 25,779 cars parked there. Garage 4, at 100 SE Second St., had the second-highest, 21,162. The city towed 172 vehicles for illegal parking during the month and issued 17,674 parking citations.
DARK SCREENS: The Metropolitan Miami community - the MET 1, 2, and 3 buildings in downtown Miami in the old Dupont Plaza area - may include a movie theater in the MET 3 residential building. But once-touted plans for a Venezuelan group to run the theater and the movie chain that would be involved remain a mystery. "Right now we don't have any new information on the creation of a 13-screen movie theater in the building," said Veronica Villegas of Kreps deMaria Public Relations, which represents the developers. The MET developments are to include residential and commercial space.
JOINT VENTURE: Developer Dacra and the Miami Parking Authority are still working on plans to build a 400-space garage in the Design District at Northwest 38th Street and First Court. Arthur Noriega, authority director, is working with Dacra owner Craig Robbins and the authority's staff to move the project forward. Its cost and construction date are still undetermined.
CULTURE REIGNS: Friday means art in Little Havana. Viernes Culturales - Cultural Fridays - will continue this week on Calle Ocho, where arts and crafts, galleries and painters, poets and theater acts are presented on the streets from 14th to 17th avenues. The festival runs 7-11 p.m. the final Friday of each month.
NATIONAL ROLE: Miami resident John W. Walsh, president and co-founder of the Alpha-1 Foundation and AlphaNet, a non-profit disease-management company, has been elected chairman of the National Health Council, a health-care advocacy organization in Washington, DC. Details: (202) 785-3910.
STATE ROLE: Gov. Jeb Bush last week reappointed Albert L. Garcia, pharmacy supervisor at Walgreen's in Miami, to the state Board of Pharmacy for a term ending Oct. 31, 2009. A state Senate vote is needed to confirm the appointment.
GIFT OF MERCY: The Costa Foundation Inc., established in 2001 in memory of Carlos Costa, a pilot with Brothers to the Rescue killed in 1996 while providing relief supplies to Cuban rafters, has donated $250,000 to the Mercy Foundation to renovate the lobby of Mercy Hospital.
CHAMBER ORIENTATION: The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce's seven-session Senior Executive Orientation Program is scheduled for Jan. 20-May 13. The program is designed to give those new to Miami and recently promoted executives a way to learn "what makes Miami tick" and forge business relationships and friendships, says Barry Johnson, the chamber's executive vice president for communications. The program features presentations from civic, government, sports and cultural leaders and visits to points of interest. The cost is $1,200 per couple or $1,000 per individual for chamber members and $2,000 per couple or $1,450 per individual for non-members. Details: (305) 577-5445.
HISTORIC BOATHOUSE: The state's Division of Historical Resources has given Miami-Dade County a $350,000 grant to renovate the two-story Greynolds Park Boathouse, built of oolite limestone quarried from the park and coral rock. The federal Civilian Conservation Corps built it on the north side of a lagoon that once was a quarry that gives access to the Oleta River. The project will bring the boathouse up to Americans with Disabilities Act standards and retain its original use as a boathouse with a picnic area, a concession stand, an exhibit area, an office and a terrace overlooking the lagoon.
HOME FOR CHRISTMAS: A group created to provide relief for up to 5,000 Miami-Dade County families displaced by Hurricane Wilma moved five families into new accommodations in time for Christmas. The fundraising target for Partnership for Recovery - formed in November to assist those most affected by the storm in October - is $25 million. Representatives of the countywide effort handed over keys Friday at a ceremony in North Miami.
JOB MONITOR: Miami-Dade commissioners have decided to keep a closer watch on job creation by companies that receive county tax incentives. The commission is moving the County Job Clearinghouse from the Employee Relations Department to the Department of Business Development and requiring it to report quarterly to the commission on how many jobs were actually created and filled, which commission district the jobs are in, the annual pay for each job and how many of the job holders were living in the county before they were hired.
HEART MUSCLE: Florida Heart Research Institute in Miami has been awarded $100,000 by the Blue Foundation for a Healthy Florida in Jacksonville. The foundation is the philanthropic affiliate of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida.
HEALTHY MOVE: Health Foundation of South Florida plans to move to 1 Biscayne Tower on Jan. 21 from its headquarters on Brickell Key. The organization, which benefits South Florida patients who lack health insurance, will have 4,502 square feet for its nine-member staff, compared with its current 3,100. It plans to increase its schedule of community meetings in its larger boardroom, said CEO Steven E. Marcus.
Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead
of the news. Here are highlights from the most current edition.