FLYING TIGERS: Miami-Dade Aviation Director José Abreu says his staff is making significant progress in negotiations to persuade construction giant Parsons-Odebrecht Joint Venture to change an existing contract and accept full financial liability for any cost overruns at Miami-International Airport's troubled $2.8 billion North Terminal Project. The firm now has a multilayered $542 million deal that makes the county assume almost all risk for project delays and overruns, he said. That deal could force the county to stop the terminal project if costs continue to skyrocket, he said. By getting Parsons-Odebrecht to assume full financial risk, Mr. Abreu said, the county would be able to cap construction costs. He said the contractor "has a very positive attitude" about the proposal and talks will continue this week. He hopes to have a new deal by month's end.
Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead
of the news. Here are highlights from the most current edition.
FULL HOUSE: Miami Dade College's first get-together for prospective bidders on its 250,000-square-foot Wolfson Campus arts center drew about 40 would-be players this week. College purchasing director Mary Kay Kleinpeter-Zamora was "delighted" by the size of the crowd, which she said was made up mostly of representatives of local architectural firms who would work with large developers to create plans for the public-private joint venture. In exchange for land-lease and air rights on a 2.5-acre parcel at 520 Biscayne Blvd., the school wants a developer to pay for construction of the arts center and a privately owned income-producing property that could include retail space, condos, offices or a parking garage. Prospective bidders have until Feb. 5 to ask the school for more details. All proposals are due March 16. Details: www.mdc.edu/purchasing/bids or (305) 237-0010.
STREETSCAPE EXPANDED: Miami officials are expanding the scope of a roadway improvement project on South Miami Avenue from Southeast 15th to 25th roads that began last fall. The city partnered with Miami-Dade County to fund the $3.3 million project, which included building a traffic roundabout, new pedestrian lighting and sidewalk resurfacing. City commissioners will decide today (1/11) if the city should increase its contribution to the project by $490,000 to $3.23 million to match the county's proposed $350,000 increase to $1.2 million. The added money would fund new bicycle lanes on the roadway and drainage improvements.
TRAFFIC TREATMENT: The Florida Department of Transportation will begin its $615,000 traffic-improvement project on Brickell Avenue on Jan. 22. Modifications — which will require lane closures and roadwork only during non-peak hours — will run from Southeast 15th Road to Southeast 13th Street. They will include signal improvements at Southeast 14th Street, closing of median openings at 14th Lane and 13th Street, reconstruction of ramps to comply with the American with Disabilities Act and widening to create longer turn lanes at Coral Way and Southeast 14th Street. Construction is to be completed by May.
WHEEL DEALS: A plan for Miami-Dade to pay $23.5 million to have a 1,583-space parking garage built at the new Poinciana Biopharmaceutical Park in Liberty City got the green light from county administrators last week. Assistant County Manager Roger Carlton said staffers finished their review of potential contractors' finances and are ready to ask the county commission to OK the deal this month. But Mr. Carlton said little progress has been made on another key parking project — new garages for the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts. He said talks to persuade developers to accept county land in lieu of cash were stalled because key players have been ill or out of town. However, he said, negotiation sessions are scheduled this month.
DERAILED: The Citizens Independent Transportation Trust may be about to drop its push to wiggle out from under the Miami-Dade County Commission's thumb. The trust is chewing over a proposal by board member Anna E. Ward to accept political reality — that the commission will always have the last word on any transit project — and move on to improving methods to monitor spending. Board chairman Miles Moss said his colleagues are embracing Ms. Ward's view but would still like to see director Nan Markowitz taken out of the county's chain of command. Ms. Markowitz reports to the county manager, a situation some trust members feel hurts the panel's independence, Mr. Moss said. Because the citizens trust was created by voters four years ago to oversee spending of a half-cent sales tax earmarked for mass transit, some members have complained that the panel is a rubber-stamp for the commission and sought to change the rules.
FLYING HIGH: A major Brazilian air cargo company gave Miami International Airport the once-over last week as it prepared to put finishing touches on a proposal to open warehouse facilities at the bustling international hub. Miami-Dade Aviation Director José Abreu says the Sao Paulo-based carrier's plan to base four or five cargo routes in Miami will be presented by month's end. Airport staffers, he said, have held at least three meetings with the company's execs and architects to work on details.
OUT OF TUNE: A Miami Beach workshop scheduled for Jan. 24 on a request by the New World Symphony for a $15 million grant to aid construction of a $135 million performance center has been postponed because symphony founder and artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas isn't available, according to city spokeswoman Nannette Rodriguez. Howard Herring, the orchestral academy's president and CEO, said it's been difficult to get all the parties together but said a new date should be announced soon. He was tight-lipped as to the progress of the symphony's fundraising campaign but promised a major announcement soon.
SET TO GROW: An ordinance giving the Miami-Dade County Commission chairman authority to create more than six standing committees was tentatively approved at a special meeting Tuesday. Chairman Bruno A. Barreiro proposed the legislation, scheduled for a final vote next month, because he wants to create at least eight committees under his reorganization plan though law caps the number at six. Mr. Barreiro told commissioners he will delay appointing committee chairmen and making committee assignments until the ordinance becomes law. In the meantime, the commission extended the life of the existing six committees by 30 days.
HUMANITARIAN: Paul DiMare, president of DiMare Homestead Inc., will receive the American Red Cross of Greater Miami & The Keys' 2007 Humanitarian of the Year Award. Mr. DiMare, largest grower of fresh-market tomatoes in the US, is being honored for work on behalf of the needy and major support to philanthropic causes, including the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the Miller School of Medicine of the University of Miami. The awardS dinner will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 24 at the JW Marriott Hotel, 1109 Brickell Ave. Details: (305) 644-1200, ext. 103, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
THEY'VE GOT YOUR DATA: The Metropolitan Center at Florida Intentional University has opened a data center that offers the latest statistical information from such sources as the US Census Bureau, RealQuest and the US Bureau of Economic and Business Research. The information is now available at http://metropolitan.fiu.edu. The data will be available at the center, 150 SE Second Ave., Suite 500, in a few months, said Vanessa Brito, the center's communication director. The project is funded through the center's clients and involved no startup costs, she said. Details: (305) 349-1255.
FEMALE LEADERS: The American Red Cross of Greater Miami and the Keys is forming a women's leadership group. The Tiffany Circle, Society of Women Leaders has members who give $10,000 annually. Honorary chairwoman Jean Ellen Shehan has made a grant that will allow six founding members to have their gifts matched this year if they commit to two-year memberships. Details: (305) 644-1200, Ext. 111, or email@example.com.
NEXTEL SETTLEMENT: Miami City Attorney Jorge Fernandez is asking city commissioners to approve paying $780,000 to cell phone provider Nextel South Corp. to settle a lawsuit the company filed in 2001. The wireless company sued the city, claiming it overpaid public service taxes between October 2000 and September 2001. The commission is to vote on the settlement at today's (1/11) meeting.
PARCEL FOR SALE: Miami city officials are considering selling 4,200 square feet of parkland at 46 W. Flagler St. for $1.4 million to First 35 Inc., which owns an adjacent property. First 35 Inc. was the only company to respond to the city's 2005 inquiry. The city is looking for a nearby property owner to purchase the land that was formally part of Paul Walker Park.
CURBING CITY CONFLICTS: To avoid potential conflicts of interest during the city's project procurement process, Miami city officials are proposing a measure to prevent city employees involved in negotiations for projects exceeding $500,000 from leaving the city to work for the contracting company on the same project. If commissioners approve the item at today's (1/11) meeting, a city employee serving on a project selection committee could not profit from the company that is awarded the project for two years after the contract is signed. The measure would have to receive two rounds of commission approval to take effect.
VIRGINIA KEY LANDFILL: The City of Miami is close to hiring Intercounty Labratories-USL Inc. to complete remediation work on property that used to be a landfill at Virginia Key. City commissioners will decide today (1/11) whether to pay the company $650,000 to secure the former landfill and contain potentially hazardous waste materials. Miami-Dade County officials set aside $45.6 million as a remediation grant for the landfill. The money must be used by 2010.
HELPING SMALL BUSINESSES: The City of Miami's economic development department requested $200,000 in community development funds to help grow Accion U.S.A. Inc., the department's micro-lending program for small businesses in the poorest sections of the city. Part of the department's ACCESS Miami anti-poverty initiative, Accion has generated $3.65 million in more than 766 loans for small businesses throughout the region. The program has also created more than 40 new jobs.
MARLINS STADIUM UPDATE: Diverting Community Redevelopment Agency money to build a downtown Miami baseball stadium for the Florida Marlins is not a priority for agency chairwoman and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones. Miami Mayor Manny Diaz reportedly expressed interest in expanding the CRA's tax-increment district to help pay for the stadium. "The bottom line is with any CRA funds coming out of Overtown, the focus has to be on housing, infrastructure to prepare the area for growth and supporting existing businesses," Ms. Spence-Jones said. "The preservation of historic sites also must be addressed before we think about a stadium. The idea of having a stadium downtown could be great, but we have to think about the people first." There have been no discussions between the mayor's office and CRA officials about using agency funds for the ballpark, Ms. Spence-Jones said Tuesday.
WEIGHING CRA PROPOSALS: CRA officials are weighing about 20 requests for tax increment funds from private developers and non-profit organizations for redevelopment projects. The proposals were for funding from tax-increment funds of $340 million projected to be raised with the district over the next 20 years. CRA chairwoman Michelle Spence-Jones said the proposals are under review for eventual prioritizing.
BROKERS SWITCH: Commercial leasing and sales brokers Benjamin Eisenberg, Walter Byrd and Thomas Kresse, formerly of Trammell Crow, have joined the South Florida office of Transwestern. Mr. Eisenberg and Mr. Byrd joined as managing directors; Mr. Kresse is a Transwestern vice president.
CRUISING: Carnival Cruise Lines has been chosen preferred cruise supplier for the Travel Professionals of Color National Association, which promotes education, training and networking opportunities for minority travel professionals. The Miami company will also participate in the organization's fifth annual conference and trade show in Fort Lauderdale April 19-22. Details: (800) 901-1259 or www.tpoc.org.
BEACH HONORS: The Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce is to honor three people at its 85th annual dinner gala March 3 at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. Michael Aller, city tourism and convention director and chief of protocol, will receive the Leonard "Doc" Baker Lifetime Achievement Award; Norma Quintero, publisher of Social Affairs magazine, will receive the Jan Pfeiffer Distinguished Service Award; and Shareef Malik and his family, who have owned The Forge since 1969, will be honored collectively as citizen of the year. Details: (305) 695-6825 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
STALLED SEARCH: Coral Gables' hunt for a city architect continues as officials advertise again for candidates after receiving few applications during the first go-round. "We'll begin to interview, but we'll leave the ad open and see if we can't generate a little more interest," said City Manager David Brown at Tuesday's commission meeting. The position is designed "to have someone on staff in a role to support the board of architects," said Dona Lubin, assistant city manager.
COVERAGE CONCERNS: Coral Gables Mayor Donald Slesnick asked the city's insurance advisory board to conduct a special meeting to "come up with some ideas and instruct our lobbyist" on how to represent the city during a special state legislative session regarding property insurance. The potential exclusion of multimillion-dollar and second homes from coverage by the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. will affect the city, said Roger Serola, chairman of the advisory board, at Tuesday's commission meeting. "With rising property values in Coral Gables, that's going to be a tremendous problem," he said. Commissioner William "Bill" Kerdyk Jr. suggested inviting House Speaker Marco Rubio before the commission.
OPEN MARKET: Coral Gables' Farmers Market, 405 Biltmore Way, will open Jan. 13 for its 16th year. It will remain open 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays through March 31, offering fresh produce, baked goods, plants and activities such as Tai Chi in the Park, cooking demonstrations by local restaurants and gardening workshops. "We can't sell anything if we can't sell quality of life," said Cathy Swanson Rivenbark, the city's development director. Details: (305) 460-5311 or www.coralgables.com.
WAREHOUSE IN THE WORKS: Berger Commercial Realty has begun its warehouse condo conversion at Palmetto Expressway Business Park II, 4702-4732 NW 165th St. and 16305-16315 NW 48th Ave. in Miami Gardens. Prices in the 95,718-square-foot complex range from $125 to $145 per square foot. Bays range from about 4,800 square feet to 23,000 square feet and will feature between 10% and 30% finished office space. The 123,435-square-foot retail showroom warehouse condo conversion Palmetto Expressway Business Park Phase I is about 80% sold with 2,500- to 2,600-square-foot units selling for $180 per square foot.
SOLO ACT: Former CB Richard Ellis Vice Chairman Jay Massirman has formed real estate investment, development and advisory company The Massirman Group, 444 Brickell Ave. It will initially serve multifamily communities in the Southeast. Mr. Massirman had a 20-year tenure with CB Richard Ellis.
GLOBAL FILM FEST: Seven world premiers, 32 international, North American and US premieres and 45 East Coat premieres will highlight the Miami International Film Festival March 2-11 at venues throughout Miami and Miami Beach. "Black Book," from director Paul Verhoeven, will be the opening-night film. The Awards Night film will be "Ira & Abby," from director Robert Cary. The festival sponsored by Miami Dade College is to present 92 features and 20 shorts from around the globe and introduce "new cinematic voices from Germany to Spain and Italy, from the US and Canada to Mexico and Paraguay, from Egypt to Indonesia," said festival director Nicole Guillemet. Details: (305) 237-3456 -3456 or www.miamifilmfestival.com.
SHOPPING CENTER SOLD: Equity One has purchased the 300,000-square-foot Concord Shopping Center, 11381 Southwest 40th St., for $48.4 million, or $218 per square foot, according to Terranova Chairman Stephen Bittel, whose company handled the sale. The shopping center is anchored by Home Depot and includes Big Lots, Dollar Tree and Winn-Dixie. Equity One was involved in the plaza's sale in 1999 to an institutional client for $20.8 million, so the transaction represents a gain of nearly $30 million, Mr. Bittel said.