MUSEUM MONEY: Miami-Dade administrators are asking commissioners to release $8.4 million in general obligation bond funds to the Miami Art Museum for its planned Bicentennial Park facility — even though the project's un-finalized lease would normally prohibit turning over the money. The museum has received — and spent — $14.88 million of $45 million in pledged private sector contributions to the project, as well an already released $235,000 general obligation bond contribution. "It is essential to provide the next allocation of GOB funds necessary to sustain work on the completion of the planning and design phase of the new building and to maintain this project's tight timetable," county documents say. Though Miami commissioners approved a lease in December, it's contingent upon development and environmental agreements still in negotiation — meaning the project doesn't meet bond program requirements. Still, because commissioners approved the lease and officials are making progress on the missing pieces, the documents say, "we feel confident enough" in the city's commitment to recommend releasing the more than $8 million.
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KING COMING: A Spain-Florida Business Conference is to convene Feb. 20 in honor of a visit to Miami from King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain. Gov. Charlie Crist is also expected to attend, along with local Spanish representatives and experts from the renewable energy sector. Visiting Spanish companies plan to attend seeking opportunities in the sector, particularly solar energy, water treatment/desalination and biomass. The event is to run 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Four Seasons Hotel, 1435 Brickell Ave. Details: (305) 446-4387.
NEW DRIVERS: The chairman of the Miami-Dade County Commission is now chair also of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, a transportation planning agency governed by a board of local elected officials. The board elected Dennis Moss to steer the organization at a meeting last week, along with Miami-Dade School Board member Perla Tabares Hantman as vice chair. They replace County Commissioners Bruno Barreiro and Barbara Jordan, also former chair and vice chair of the commission.
FIRE FEE POSSIBLE: Instating a fire fee down the line is not out of the question for most Miami-Dade commissioners, they indicated in an informal vote last month. In discussing whether to shell out nearly $800,000 for a consultant to study and structure a proposed fee, administrators stressed that approving the contract did not mean approving a fee. Still, some insisted it would be nonsensical to OK a study if there were no chance they'd agree to impose a charge later. "Is there the political will of this body to impose a fire fee?" asked Carlos Gimenez, commissioner and former Miami fire chief. If not, and the commission agrees to pay a consultant, it's like "throwing it [the money] out the window," he said. In a straw vote, a majority indicated they'd be willing to impose a fee in the future. They also officially approved the contract with consultant Government Services Group by a 6-5 vote. If passed, the fee would help prevent an impending financial fire in the county fire department. Proceeds would be used only for fire suppression services — not emergency medical services — to keep the fee legal.
LONGTIME BANKER BACK: BNY Mellon Wealth Management has appointed Craig Sutherland president of the bank's operations in the Southeast, overseeing the firm's rapidly expanding operation in regions such as Florida and Georgia. He left Miami eight years ago to work for the bank's Boston offices, where he focused on strategies and practices for sales, marketing and client services. "Despite this difficult environment for the financial community, this is a good time to gain ground," said Mr. Sutherland, who has 28 years in banking. "I can reconnect with lots of past associates and clients." His appointment is the result of a growing interest of BNY Mellon Wealth Management in expanding its presence in Florida.
BALLPARK FORUMS: A new citizens' group, Coalition Against Marlins Bailout, is to hold a press conference protesting a proposed deal for a new ballpark for the Marlins at 11 a.m. Feb. 10 outside downtown's Government Center, 111 NW First St. The group is also encouraging residents to turn up at the planned Feb. 13 vote on the deal, though Miami-Dade Chairman Dennis Moss said "the core issues of the agreements aren't the subject of a public hearing." The Marlins have promised Town Hall meetings allowing for questions from attendees at a planned Feb. 7 FanFest, noon to 6 p.m. at Dolphin Stadium.
THEME PARK BEGINNINGS: Miami-Dade County is seeking developers for a water park, family entertainment center and hotel adjacent to Miami Metrozoo to push forward a vision for an entertainment district there. The county may consider other ideas for development within the entertainment area. The idea is for the park to include features such as a wave pool and slide towers, the entertainment center to house attractions such as an ice or roller skating rink and food and beverage areas, and the hotel to offer around 200 rooms on about 15 acres of the 26-acre site. View the request for proposals at http://services.miamidade.gov/DPM/SoliticationList.aspx.
20 FEWER FEET: In an effort to reduce its budget by nearly 25%, the Miami City Ballet did not offer contract renewals to eight of its 53 dancers, says Executive Director Pamela Gardiner. "We have in our contract with our dancers an obligation to inform them Feb. 1 if their [contract is] going to be renewed for the following season." Along with the eight dancers, who were in the ballet's corps and apprentice levels, she said two additional dancers will be retiring to attend college and won't be replaced for next season.
MOVING FORWARD: All committees of a Miami Beach Blue Ribbon Task Force that's to battle recessionary challenges have met, says Chairman Stuart Blumberg, who is also president and CEO of the Greater Miami & the Beaches Hotel Association. They're to make interim reports Feb. 17. "We're moving along," he said. "They're all doing a very good job." The diverse group of local volunteer industry professionals is reviewing special events and culture, the airport and seaport, the Miami Beach Convention Center, marketing, and film and fashion, among others. The task force is to report finding to the city's mayor and commission March 18.
RIDE 'N' SPEND: Downtown Development Authority board members say more local businesses need to participate in Bike Miami, monthly biking events the city is sponsoring downtown. Some streets such as Flagler Street and South Miami Avenue are partially shut down for cyclists, skaters and pedestrians to stroll. Board Chairman Joe Sanchez said restaurants, cafes and retailers need to do more to market themselves and attract riders to stop and shop.
SOME ALREADY ARE: Jose Goyanes, restaurant, barbershop and beauty supply store owner, said "both (bike) events have been the best Sundays we've had in a while." He said it exposes people who usually don't come downtown to visit the area. Boutique department store La Epoca owner Tony Alonso, who said his sales were up 25% this month, cashed in on the event by offering free bike valet service at his store.
EPIC CRUISE: Norwegian Cruise Line's new Norwegian Epic is to sail year-round to the Caribbean from the Port of Miami beginning in summer 2010. The 4,200-passenger Epic is to offer alternating seven-day Western and Eastern Caribbean voyages through April 2011. The addition of the ship to the port's 2010 lineup adds 100,000 passengers and about $1.5 million annual revenue, according to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
BILL BAILEY COMES HOME: Bill Bailey, who joined Holly Real Estate as vice president of property management in June, has returned to Allen Morris to take back his old post of leasing director. He went back in the fall because "it's a great company, top notch," he said. He's working now to lease the company's Ponce de Leon Towers, set to open in 2011. "We're talking to several large companies and we hope to make an announcement shortly," Mr. Bailey said. New York-based Rockefeller Group Business Centers is set to establish its first Eastern Seaboard location outside of New York in the Coral Gables tower.
FORE! The Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce's Annual Golf Classic Feb. 6 at the Miami Beach Golf Club benefits the chamber's Miami Beach Education Foundation and is sponsored by Boucher Brothers Management Inc. The 19th Hole After Party includes dinner, cocktails, networking and live music from DJ Irie. Cost is $50. Details: (305) 695-6834 or RSVP@MiamiBeachChamber.com.
CAMPAIGN CONSULTING: Commissioner Joe Sanchez is hiring Bendixen & Associates, a research and political consulting firm, to run his campaign for Miami Mayor. "We will work with him to handle strategic media messaging and management," said Fernand Amandi, the firm's executive vice president. The firm recently finished work on Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton's Hispanic outreach efforts during their run in their election campaigns.
CAMPAIGN KICKS OFF: Commissioner Sanchez, who waited months after Commissioner Tomás Regalado announced his mayoral candidacy to start campaigning, is now kicking it into full gear. With a top political consulting firm by his side, Mr. Sanchez hopes to spread his campaign's message under the theme "Neighborhoods First." One big commitment is to "bring the mayor's office to the people," he said, by clearing his calendar weekly to speak with residents without an appointment. He said the economy is another priority. "I'll push for all shovels to be put on the ground to come from our neighbors," he said. "We need to give people jobs and invest in our communities," adding he wants no less than 20% of jobs in city-funded construction projects going to Miamians.
BID FOR RE-ELECTION: Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones wants another go at district 5. The only female and black Miami commissioner announced last week her plans to seek re-election. She could not be reached because she is on maternity leave. Her office said she'll offer details on her campaign when she returns in March. So far, only one opponent has entered the race, former Opa-locka Deputy Police Chief Jeff Torain.
MASTER PLAN HUDDLE: The Downtown Development Authority is holding a special meeting to review the downtown master plan designed by Zyscovich Architects and thoroughly reviewed by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. The meeting is from 3-7 p.m. Feb. 18 at the authority's headquarters in the Wachovia Financial Center in downtown.
"FIRM' AWAITS TRIAL: Former City of Miami workers known as "The Firm" from the capital improvements department — who left the job in handcuffs a year ago for doing private work on city time — still await trial. They're waiting to have their cases heard in court, with court dates subject to change, said a spokesman at the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office. The arrest came during a scandalous 2007 for the city, when in a matter of days the director of capital improvements, Mary Conway — who blew the whistle on her staff — was fired and the city's housing chief, Barbara Gomez, was also fired for assigning contracts to an agency her ex-husband ran and funding a non-profit where her son was employed.
RACK 'N' ROLL: Racks Italian Bistro and Market is to open this month in North Miami Beach. The 4,000-square-foot, 204-seat eatery's menu is to be based upon small plates, everything under $20, with recipes that use locally grown produce and ingredients that are regularly imported from Italy. A full range of Italian groceries is to be for sale, as well as complete ready-made takeout lunches and dinners. Executive Chef Matthew Danaher is former executive chef at Vic & Angelo's. Founder Gary Rack also started Boca Raton's Coal Mine Pizza. Racks is to be open from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday-Saturday and 8 a.m. to midnight Sundays. It's at the Intracoastal Mall, 163rd Street and Northeast 36th Avenue. Details: www.RacksMiami.com.
KEEPING IN TOUCH: Florida International University has launched a multimedia news Web site offering a look at what's going on in and around the school. Currently, "News @ FIU" provides campus news with college-specific updates, arts and culture information and a section on employee life. Details: news.fiu.edu.
DINNER AND A SHOW: Starting in April, a visit to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts could be complemented by a sit-down dinner by restaurant owner and caterer Barton G. The Miami-based company is to open a pre-theater restaurant, with an in-house kitchen, in the Dolores and Sanford Ziff Opera House and a lounge in the center's Carnival Tower. "I want to transform this center into a world-class venue for dining and special events," said Barton G. Weiss, president of Performing Arts Catering by Barton G. "Soon, patrons will come to the center for a complete entertainment experience combining the best of food and drink with the best of the performing arts." During December, its first month as center caterer, sales were $112,000, up from $80,000 in December 2007 under former caterer Restaurant Associates.
INDIGO CELEBRATES: Hotel Indigo Miami Lakes will celebrate its grand opening with a ribbon cutting and poolside cocktail party from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Feb. 12. Details: RSVP at asimon@HotelEquities.com or (305) 556-0100, ext. 7004, by Feb. 6.