UM, PUERTO RICO LIAISON: The University of Miami's School of Business intends to bring its executive MBA program and UM faculty to Puerto Rico, enabling professionals there to earn an MBA. The move is awaiting approval from the Puerto Rico Council on Higher Education. Classes would run Saturdays over two years at the Guaynabo headquarters of program partner El Nuevo Dia, a daily newspaper. The program is to emphasize global management, managing global markets, understanding information, finance and people, and leadership development.
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CONDO, HOTEL PROJECT OK'D: Miami commissioners have approved a residential, hotel and retail project at 1700 Biscayne Blvd. Investors listed as Biscayne Arts LLC, Brickell North Investments Inc. and Miami Proarts II Inc. plan a 603-foot tower facing Biscayne Boulevard to house 261 residences and 289 hotel rooms, the permit application shows. The 543-foot second tower is to have 358 residences. The project includes 140,281 square feet of retail and 1,369 parking spaces. Investor James Goldstein, CEO and director of Midgard Development Group — builders of 79-loft condo The Bank at 8101 Biscayne Blvd. — said last week the project is to fill needs of a growing downtown. He said plans are to build once the credit and real estate markets open up and more local housing is absorbed.
EDUCATING THE CITY: Miami's city commission established an advisory board to oversee the city's education compact with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The board is to also advise the commission on education, health, safety and quality of life. Mayor Manny Diaz told commissioners $2 million in approved federal stimulus money will aid city education efforts, and "it is absolutely essential to build the kind of city we want to build that we do everything we can to continue working with the school system to improve our schools in Miami."
BOARDS UNDER REVIEW: The education discussion led commissioners Marc Sarnoff and Michelle Spence-Jones to direct the administration to evaluate current boards for restructures or cuts. Ms. Spence-Jones said some boards seldom meet and some struggle to get a quorum. Mr. Sarnoff also asked for a report on whether the $2 million education grant is to cover administrative and employee expenses of running the education advisory board because he has budget concerns. "There is a storm coming," he said. "Let's have a conversation so we look consistent when we finally get to budget time."
CAN'T APPRAISE APPRAISALS: Miami-Dade officials won't know the size of the budget gap they'll face next fiscal year until property valuations are released — and there's nothing to report yet, Property Appraiser Pedro J. Garcia says. "We are doing pricing right now," he said Monday. But "we don't have any specific numbers yet because we're still looking." He has 90,000 sales to look at, many from foreclosures and short sales. So far, he has observed that "a lot of property is down" but couldn't say how severely. "We want to be realistic. We don't want to give numbers that give an idea in areas, and then we come out with different numbers. In about a month, we should have more realistic numbers." From there, budget staffers will have a better idea of next fiscal year's financial picture. What they do know now: other revenues, such as sales and gas taxes, are down across the board.
SUCCESSFUL SALE: After holding off in February on selling $600 million in aviation bonds to wait out troubled markets, Miami-Dade County sold the lot last week — at interest rates lower than expected. Commissioners set a true interest cost cap of 8% in agreeing to the bond sale early this year. The county secured 5.58%, saving $378 million over the life of the bonds, or $9 million to $14 million a year. "We came in at an interest rate that was much lower than we anticipated," Finance Director Carter Hammer said Tuesday. The successful sale "is a good indication that the market has improved for municipal financings."
COMING TO BAT: Next up, the county plans to go to market to sell up to $563 million in bonds to fund a new Marlins ballpark. Because the revenue streams backing the aviation bonds are different from those backing the stadium deal — mainly tourist tax revenues — the bonds can't be compared directly, Mr. Hammer said. But the successful aviation bond sale is a good sign. "It does provide that there's a greater level of interest in municipal bonds," he said, whereas fourth quarter last year, "you could practically issue nothing." Mr. Hammer met Tuesday with representatives from rating agency Fitch and was to meet with Moody's and Standard & Poor's reps Wednesday. He expects ratings by mid-May. "We have no indication at this point of how it would go," he said Tuesday. "But the presentation went very well."
BALLPARK PLANS OK'D: The Miami City Commission approved development plans for the Marlins ballpark in Little Havana. The major use special permit details plans for a 37,000-seat, retractable-roof stadium, close to 61,700 square feet of retail, 5,800 parking spaces and about 96 residences in a complex planned following the stadium's spring 2012 completion.
STADIUM JOBS: With job opportunities a big concern of commissioners, Assistant City Manager Bill Anido said Miami will work through Miami-Dade County's small business enterprise programs to hire local workers for the stadium and parking facilities. He said the city plans a session within a month for businesses wanting to learn about ballpark project jobs. City Manager Pete Hernandez added: "We will have community outreach for all trades and people interested in working on the project."
MORE RETAIL SPACE: Commission Chairman Joe Sanchez added as a condition to the ballpark permit that the design team's 61,700-square-foot retail blueprint showcase bigger spaces to attract chain restaurants and stores. He said a successful stadium must be surrounded by successful businesses. "You don't want impediments on businesses that want to come in but don't have the right space."
LEO A. DALY HIRED: The city commission last week approved a $4.9 million contract with Omaha-based Leo A. Daly Co. for architecture and engineering for four parking garages and six surface lots at the stadium. Ola Aluko, city capital improvements director, said the head of Daly's Miami offices, Agustin Barrera, has been directed to build parking that costs less than $94 million. The city also intends to hire a construction manager at-risk to build the garages and lots, Mr. Aluko said, coming in early in the design process to advise the city and architects if costs are exceeding budget. Mr. Barrera told commissioners five of the seven firms making up the design team have offices in Miami. "We don't have a problem looking at vendors in the city of Miami, and if we find one that is appropriate and can add value and enhance the team, we have no problem including them in the team." The management-at-risk arrangement guarantees the city the project will be built within a specified budget.
CHILDREN'S TRUSTEES: The Children's Trust's board has elected Maria Alonso, Citrus Health Network's chief operating officer, chair, and Chet J. Zerlin, chief assistant state attorney for operations with the State Attorney's county office, vice chair. Ms. Alonso will serve until 2011, then be eligible for reappointment. Gov. Jeb Bush appointed her to the board in 2003. The tax-backed trust was formed in 2002 and now has a $161 million budget. It aids children and families throughout Miami-Dade County.
OCEAN FRESH: Fresh Market, a family-owned gourmet market founded in North Carolina in 1982, is to open early 2010 at 18th Street and West Avenue in Miami Beach. The company, which operates 86 stores in 17 states, entered this market in 2005 in Coconut Grove.
U FACES: The University of Miami's Board of Trustees has named Philip George, a retired plastic surgeon and 20-year board member, chair of the governing body. His term begins June 1. Dr. George will be joined by new board members Matthew E. Rubel, CEO of Collective Brand Inc., who will serve as alumni trustee, and T. Mechelle Francis, a doctoral student, who will be student trustee.
KNOWN NAME: The UM board also added ex-Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez as national trustee based in Washington. He'll continue as a non-resident scholar at the university's Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies, where he works with an ongoing program that recruits businesses interested in professional advice on a post-embargo Cuba. Before serving under President George W. Bush, he was CEO of the Kellogg Co.
HEALTHY PRACTICES: Mark B. Rosenberg, veteran Florida International University professor and administrator and recently chancellor of the State University System, takes over succeeding longtime leader Modesto A. Maidique as president sometime in summer. The date's not yet set, Dr. Rosenberg said, but he's to return to Miami next month after a sabbatical at Vanderbilt University. Since late February, he's lectured at the Tennessee university, focusing on higher education attainment challenges in the US and Latin America. While in Nashville, he's also been meeting with Vanderbilt officials "to try to understand how their best practices work," he said. The university is a top-ranked workplace, so "I've tried to understand what they're doing that's right," he said. A highlight: "They have a second-to-none healthcare package for their employees. It's really a healthcare and wellness program, so it's very impressive. That would be the most important thing really at this point that I can point to."
MILESTONE: The 2˝-year-old Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts welcomed its millionth patron April 16 when Miamian Toya LaRenn showed up for a performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She was given upgraded tickets for the performance as well as a "Supporting Level" membership, a subscription to the 2009-10 "Broadway Across America" series and an oversized ticket commemorating her as the center's millionth guest.
BILLBOARD ECONOMICS: The slumping economy is forcing Clear Channel Outdoor to cut the rent it pays for land for its billboards, according to letters it's sending to local property owners. Clear Channel is asking them to cut its rent by 35% for two years or 25% for three years, their choice. Otherwise, the letters state, the company "will be forced to consider the termination of the lease and the removal of our outdoor advertising structures from the premises." A spokesman said policy prohibits discussion of landlord tenant relations.
MIAMI'S REACTION: Pieter Bockweg, a City of Miami project manager, said via e-mail he asked Clear Channel about the notices and was told they "were sent out to all property owners around the country due to the downturn in the economy." Commissioner Tomás Regalado said some property owners have complained that they will take a hit with a rent cut. "Some people use those billboard rents to pay their property taxes," he said. Mr. Bockweg said the city doesn't get involved in business relationships between property owners and billboard companies.
BUDGET TALK: During an audit advisory board presentation at the April 23 city commission meeting, Commissioner Tomás Regalado asked the board to develop a report on the budget process, noting how high a deficit might be and what potential income shortages are. "I think this commission will have to perform heart surgery come budget process, so a second opinion from a surgeon is important," he said. The audit board chair said the board would discuss the request. City Manager Pete Hernandez added that the city plans an estimating conference at the outset of budgeting. Budget Director Michael Boudreaux said via e-mail the conference to review estimates for next fiscal year is slated for July or August, following the budget's preparation.
LAND SETTLEMENT OK'D: Miami's city commission voted to hand over land currently part of a city lawsuit against Miami-Dade County for what it claims was a wrongful takeover of three Overtown land parcels — two slated for affordable housing. The commission voted to return land behind Overtown's Lyric Theater to the Community Redevelopment Agency to be handed to the Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida to build its offices and expand the theater. City consent last week follows a county commission OK, completing needed approvals for the partial settlement.
WOMAN'S CLUB FUNDED: The Omni Community Redevelopment Agency's board, made up of Miami's city commissioners, Monday granted the Miami Woman's Club $1.95 million for repairs needed to win 40-year recertification of its historic building at 1737 N Bayshore Drive. The agency awarded a first installment of $1.8 million last year to fund recertification. Noreen Timoney, club president and wife of the city's police chief, said the structure's renovation totals about $12 million and the club has raised $350,000 for it. She said the club plans more aggressive fundraising once recertification is awarded. The board's first vote deadlocked 2-2 last month when Tomás Regalado and Marc Sarnoff voted no and Angel Gonzalez was absent.
MIAMI CIRCLE MEET: The Historical Museum of Southern Florida, which oversees development at the National Historic Landmark site Miami Circle, is organizing a showcase to recap work done at the Circle at the mouth of the Miami River, ongoing construction to repair the seawall, development of a site master plan and long-term expansion plans. Speakers are Jorge Zamanillo, the museum's curator of object collections; Ryan J. Wheeler, state archaeologist and chief of the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research; and landscape architect Jay R. Hood, of Orlando-based Glatting Jackson Kercher Anglin Inc. The meeting is at 5 p.m. May 6 at the museum, 101 W. Flagler St.
CRA HUDDLE: Developers and business operators with new or expanded developments above 10,000 square feet slated for completion within 10 years in Southeast Overtown and Park West are to attend a Community Redevelopment Agency meeting to incorporate them into the Development of Regional Impact, also known as DRI. The agency wants developers and business owners to bring renderings and project information. The agency has hired The Curtis Group to develop this DRI's third increment. The meeting is 10 a.m.-12 p.m. May 11 at the agency's offices, 49 NW Fifth St., Suite 100.
CRA RENEWS LEASE: The Community Redevelopment Agencies, Southeast Overtown/Park West and Omni, board approved renewing the office lease with Citadel Arena Corp. another year for its site at 49 NW Fifth St. The lease, which starts Sept. 1, is for $14,800 a month, totaling $177,800 yearly, including taxes, utilities and use of 16 parking spaces.
STAPLES GOES GREEN: The retail sector is seeing the value of building green. Office product store Staples has opened its first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold-certified store in Miami at 2121 Biscayne Blvd. It's Miami's and Staples' first store to receive LEED gold certification for building to maximize energy efficiency and sustainability.