PORT SIGNS BIGGEST CARRIER: The Port of Miami will redevelop 81 acres at a $39 million cost in a lease approved Tuesday with one of its three cargo terminal operators, Miami-based Seaboard Marine. The county commission approved a 20-year amended lease with two five-year options for the company, whose 41 ships serve Central and South America, the Caribbean and other US ports. The company "contributes approximately $5 billion to the local economy," said port Director Bill Johnson. Seaboard is to pay $1.65 million up front. Work on the redevelopment is to begin immediately and be done by 2014. County commissioners were told the port would be guaranteed $9.6 million a year in revenues under the lease, with estimated actual revenues of $13 million. Seaboard's 70 sailings a month to more than 25 nations take more cargo in and out of the port than any other carrier, the company says.
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INCREMENT FUNDS FOR JACKSON: A Civic Center Community Redevelopment Area might soon fund expanded health care services at cash-strapped Jackson Memorial Hospital. The Miami-Dade County Commission's Economic Development and Human Services Committee voted last week to ask the Public Health Trust, which oversees the county-owned hospital, about creating a new redevelopment area, larger than the Civic Center Community Center area now in the county's master plan, to expand health and technology economic development, create related office space and build high-density affordable housing for the area's healthcare workers. A key element: use of tax increment revenues in the new area to fund Jackson, which since 1991 has received funding from a half-percent sales tax addition and is guaranteed that county support will not be diminished as a result. The measure next goes to the full county commission.
CONVENTION CENTER PROGRESS: Though Miami Beach elected officials have placed localized projects ahead of a long-needed convention center revamp in the past, they voted last week to request qualifications for a company to design a Miami Beach Convention Center campus master plan. Miami-Dade County general obligation bond monies would fund it. The plan is "intended to "look outside of the box' at possibilities to make the facility competitive in today's convention and meeting business climate," city documents say. A revamp would include a ballroom, cited often as one of the center's greatest needs. The plan would also cover the current center site as well as some surrounding parking and Convention Center Drive between 18th Street and Dade Boulevard. Some county commissioners pushed for action at the center last month.
COSTS RISING: Miami's Overtown Community Redevelopment Agency is facing cost overruns for its $4.32 million Third Avenue business corridor streetscape project. "They made a mistake" in installing a water line near an electrical line, Commissioner Tomás Regalado told fellow board members. Ola Aluko, director of the city's Department of Capital Improvements, said the city is working to determine who is at fault — the city or a contractor — and who must pay to fix it. The Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Authority also required a line upgrade after the contract for the project was bid out, so the city must pay, he said. It could cost up to $1.6 million, though the city has negotiated down to $1.3 million and still seeks more savings, Mr. Aluko said. Miami's recent revamp of Flagler Street downtown ran millions over budget.
COMP PLAN COMMENTS: Miami commissioners approved changes to the city's comprehensive land-use plan last week and they're headed to the Florida Department of Community Affairs for approval. But it's not too late to weigh in. "We're always interested in hearing from the public," said department spokesman Jon Peck. But "it's not a popularity contest." Plan amendments are evaluated based not on how many people speak up but on whether they comply with state growth management requirements. The requirements "dictate that any changes to the comprehensive plan properly account for demands for roads, for water supply, for schools, really for all the facilities that you would need to take care of the growth," he said, "and also to make sure natural resources are protected from that growth and that other impacts are accounted for and minimized." Comments on Miami's proposed revisions can go to 2555 Shumard Oak Blvd., Tallahassee, FL 33399-2100. Division of Community Planning: (850) 488-2356.
RIVER RESTRICTIONS: A major debate during the city's comprehensive plan revision centered on whether to continue calling the Miami River a "port" within the plan. Commissioners voted not to. Marine industry players say this could mean the end of the industry on the river. Mr. Peck of the Department of Community Affairs said the state does not approve or deny amendments based on economic concerns. However, Andrew Dickman, an attorney representing the Miami River Marine Group, said he thinks the state could take issue because it requires port facilities be addressed in a mandatory port and aviation facilities element and also because residential development should not be addressed in such a section, though the city is attempting to.
HATUEY RISES LIKE PHOENIX: Bacardi U.S.A. re-launched Cuban lager Hatuey to South Florida on Tuesday. Pepín Argamasilla, global director of archives and brand centers for Bacardi Global Brands Inc., said distribution in South Florida ceased in 2005 because of an expired contract with a previous brewery. The new brewery is based in Wisconsin. South Florida is the only American distribution point for Hatuey "because this is where you have a large Cuban-American community, and, also, the company in the US is based in Miami," Mr. Argamasilla said. Hatuey's recipe, formulated by brewmasters G. J. Freidrick and Joaquin Bacardi, stays the same. Hatuey was named after a Taíno Indian chief who was burned to death by Spanish colonists in Cuba. Ernest Hemingway mentioned the beer in "For Whom the Bell Tolls."
FLUIDITY: North Miami residents might soon buy their water from Miami-Dade County wholesale instead of producing their own in a treatment plant that's nearly 50 years old and at risk of failure. The county commission's Government Operations and Environment Committee voted last week to ask the county administration to open talks with the City of North Miami about service terms and rates so that the city doesn't have to build an expensive plant to replace the Winson Water Treatment Plant that the city's water utility runs. The resolution also asks county officials to talk with the South Florida Water Management District to seek permission to sell the water. The resolution says "the county has existing plant capacity to provide potable water on a wholesale basis to North Miami." The resolution next goes to the full county commission for action.
CAMERA READY: Miami commissioners are to be asked today (5/22) to accept a $500,000 grant from the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency for a police security camera pilot program. Commissioners sitting as the agency board already OK'd the program.
BALLOON BANKRUPTCY: After SkyLift Holdings, which runs the observation balloon in Bayfront Park, filed for bankruptcy last month, the Bayfront Park Management Trust requested legal help during bankruptcy proceedings. Commissioners are to be asked today (5/22) to agree to enlist attorney Jordi Gusto and the Berger Singerman law firm. The city attorney would be required to report costs quarterly. SkyLift defaulted on about $103,000 in payments due to the trust before filing for Chapter 11 reorganization.
STELLAR PERFORMANCE 1: The Beacon Council, the Broward Alliance and the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County were jointly recognized this week with a state award for their innovative South Florida Canada Initiative, in which the three organizations joined forces to target the Canadian market under a united South Florida region. The Florida Economic Development Council recognized the effort, in which the organizations jointly published South Florida marketing materials, with one of the Councils Stellar Awards. Canada's presence is growing here, with more than 25 Canadian companies employing more than 1,500 persons in South Florida.
STELLAR PERFORMANCE 2: The Beacon Council's 2007 Report to the Community publication also received a Stellar Award from the Florida Economic Development Council at its meeting in Tampa.
HIGHWAY HIRE: Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos this month appointed Gus Pego District Six secretary. He replaces Johnny Martinez, who left to head Miami-Dade County's capital improvements department. In his new capacity, Mr. Pego is responsible for planning, design, construction, operations and maintenance of the state highway system in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. He oversees a budget of more than $2.5 billion and a staff of 573. He has been with the department 29 years, most recently as director of transportation operations.
GROVE RERUN: The Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce's executive officers all were re-elected for one-year terms Friday. They are Vice President Gary Ciuca of Wachovia Securities, Treasury Anthony Noboa of Coconut Grove Bank, Secretary Carol Hawks and at-large officer Monty Trainer of the Coconut Grove Arts Festival. President Liliana Dones of Creative Tools begins the second year of a two-year term.
LANDLORD: The Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority could be landlord to new art and science museums in Bicentennial Park should Miami commissioners agree today (5/22) to lease the land to the authority, which would in turn sublease it to the museums. Some county and city commissioners have resisted the arrangement. The authority is landlord already to the Miami Children's Museum on Watson Island.
KUBIK'S BACK: Kubik at Morningside, planned for 5600-5780 Biscayne Blvd., is to be proposed to commissioners today (5/22) as two 14-story buildings with two design options: 293 residential units, 41,745 square feet of retail and restaurant space and 422 parking spaces; or 293 residential units, 33,046 square feet of retail and restaurant space and 362 parking spaces. The project was approved in 2004 and again in 2006. Circuit Court sent it back to the city for a new hearing after residents sued because of the size. Commissioners deferred the item in March due to scheduling conflicts between opposing counsels. Commission Chair Joe Sanchez pledged at the time that "this item will be heard come rain, shine, storm, tsunami" at today's meeting.
ORANGE BOWL SITE: Miami commissioners may decide today (5/22) to discontinue a portion of public right of way, including Northwest 15th Avenue from Northwest Third Street to Northwest Sixth Street; Northwest Fourth Street from Northwest 14th Avenue to Northwest 16th Avenue; and Northwest Fifth Street from Northwest 14th Avenue to Northwest 16th Avenue, to "allow a unified development site for the proposed Miami Marlins Stadium," according to city documents. The documents say the areas were never actually developed as roadways because the Orange Bowl sat on the site.
GROWING GROCERIES: Milam's Market in Coconut Grove could expand should Miami commissioners today (5/22) give final approval to a law that would allow grocery stores in certain commercial districts of Coconut Grove to be 40,000 square feet without special permission or a public hearing.
WYNWOOD ARTS DISTRICT: A Wynwood Arts District could be created today (5/22). Miami commissioners are to vote to create it by eliminating city distance requirements for liquor licenses to allow 15 nightclubs, restaurants, coffee shops and bars to "benefit from close proximity to one another" within the district, city documents say.
BRICKELL PROJECT: Miami commissioners are to vote today whether to allow setback variances for the proposed 888 Brickell project. The city's planning department recommended denying the requests. The project would be comprised of a 31-story mixed-use building of 29 live/work units, about 3,018 square feet of retail space, about 164,001 square feet of office space and a 3,214-square-foot child daycare center.
FILLED UP: Miami ended the first quarter atop national rankings for hotel occupancy, becoming the only visitor destination in the US to rise above 80% occupancy, says William Talbert III, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. "We led the nation in the Top 25 [markets] for the first quarter, and we were Number Two for average daily rates," Mr. Talbert told the Miami-Dade County Commission's Airport & Tourism Committee last week. Miami ended the first quarter last year in second place nationally for occupancy. Summer business is expected to sizzle as well, according to the bureau, which reports that the American Society of Travel Agents' 2008 Hot Spots for Summer survey ranked Miami Number Five among the most popular domestic summer destinations booked by travel agents. While the domestic destinations in the top 10 have remained the same since 2006, their rankings have not. Miami moved up two slots to number five, the bureau reports.
HOSPITALITY = JOBS: Job growth in the Miami visitor sector grew 1.6% in April from April 2007, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau reported. Employment in the leisure and hospitality industry climbed to record 107,000 compared to 105,000 in April 2007.
DESTINATION USA: The US is on the verge of making tourism a national cause. The federal Travel Promotion Act, which would establish a national tourism promotional agency, is close to passage in Congress, Mr. Talbert said. Florida's two senators and its House delegation have endorsed the measure, Mr. Talbert told the county commission's Airport & Tourism Committee. "This is going to pass," he said. "It will pass soon."