Page 1


A Singular Voice in an Evolving City


COMMISSION SEES WHEELS FALLING OFF SMART TRANSIT PLAN, LOOKS AT PRIVATE PARTNER, PG. 2 PROMOTING OUR GEMS: Miami’s Downtown Development Authority is working on a promotional video that showcases the hidden gems of Miami, said board member Alicia Cervera. “We are working on a video that talks about the city, and I think that’s something we desperately needed because our city changes so quickly that as I tell people, if you haven’t been to Miami lately, you haven’t been to Miami at all,” she said. “I think that it’s important that we have a good video that tells our Miami story.”

The Achiever

By Gabi Maspons

LUXURY AUTO CLUB ON TRACK: Miami-Dade commissioners Tuesday gave the final OK on a lease with 13 Pista LLC to build a $100 million private luxury auto club and track on the 140-acre county-owned property at 2000 NW 47th Ave. The $30 million, 30-year lease requires the developer to build the county a community center, government center and buildings for three local nonprofits stationed at the site. The community center is to have a library, swimming pool, recreational programming and a cycling track open to all residents. The project is to draw economic development to the area, planning for a hotel, shops, restaurants and retail. “This is going to be a great economic engine for the area while providing a substantial amount of jobs and benefits to the local community,” said sponsoring Commissioner Barbara Jordan. CITY BOND RATING UPGRADED: Moody’s Investors Service has upgraded the City of Miami’s primary bond rating from A1 to Aa2 due to the city’s improved financial position, average debt burden and large, strong diversified economy. The rating agency cited the positive nature of the Miami Forever Bond Program as the city was proactively addressing sea level rise and affordable housing, in addition to noting that city resiliency was important to continue to grow tourism, population growth, and downtown development. “This is good news for the taxpayers of Miami,” said Mayor Francis Suarez. “The timing couldn’t be better. This will mean a lower interest rate on the Miami Forever Bond Program and will save our residents the long run.” BOAT SHOW BOON: The five-day 2018 Progressive Insurance Miami International Boat Show over Presidents Day Weekend had 1,100 exhibitors and 1,400 boats on display on land and in water, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association. The show attracted 97,391 attendees from an estimated 35 nations, boosting local tourism, the association said. More than $3 billion in products were on display, and exhibitors reported strong sales on everything from fishing equipment and sailing gear to new yachts. “We are proud to host the greatest boat show in the world right here in Miami, delivering an estimated $854 million into Florida’s economy,” said Larry Berryman, show manager.

Michael Liu

Photo by Marlene Quaroni

Housing director seeks incentives for others to build The profile is on Page 4

Carollo targets $500 million city housing pool By John Charles Robbins

Commissioner Joe Carollo envisions the City of Miami establishing a hefty revolving fund to build thousands of new affordable housing units each year. At a special housing workshop March 1 he detailed his plan, which he promises to introduce in formal legislation soon. Under his plan the city would amass a $500 million revolving fund to pay to build 2,500 to 3,000 dwellings a year, with an emphasis on ownership vs. rentals. Without the need to profit on the construction of affordable housing, the city itself can provide new and safe housing at a much reduced rate compared to private developers, Mr. Carollo said. He wants the city to create a housing authority to handle this new initiative designed to provide real affordable homes to income levels from extremely low to moderate. The daylong workshop brought out all five commissioners and Mayor Francis Suarez at varying times. The city administration hosted the workshop in response to a directive this year from the commission to City Manager Emilio

One officer, one shooter policy eyed

González to study the process to create a housing authority or housing department. That resolution, sponsored by Mr. Carollo and Manolo Reyes, is seen as a first step toward the city building its own affordable housing. “I can give you 101 reasons why we have to go with an authority,” said Mr. Carollo, not the least of which is doing away with the bureaucracy and politics. Bottom line, he said, “it’s going to work quicker.” Mr. Carollo mentioned the $500 million revolving fund, saying, “I’ll show the city how to do it … and it will only work with home ownership.” He spoke of building residences at cost, from $150,000 to $175,000 each. He stressed that he’s not interested in the city building or managing traditional public housing projects. Mr. Carollo said establishing a new housing authority is the way to go, as opposed to a housing department. The bureaucracy of another city department would result in little progress, he said, “and we’d be years down the road and still talking about how to build 20 homes.” A major stumbling block to bringing more

affordable housing to the city is the molasses pace of permitting, experts told the workshop. The mayor and some commissioners agree and have directed the staff to streamline the process. Mr. Suarez mentioned this in his recent State of the City address: “By the end of this year, we will also be modernizing our building review process. In 2018, there is absolutely no reason we should still be using a paper-based plan-review system. I envision a Miami where you can pull a permit from your smart phone, and we are going to make that vision a reality.” Providing more affordable housing will help dent ever-rising rental rates, too, Mr. Suarez said. “If you increase the supply, prices go down,” he said. Partnerships with other governments, like Miami-Dade County, and with the various Community Redevelopment Agencies are crucial, Mr. Suarez said. The city first established a housing authority in 1937 under state law, and managed public housing programs and projects for many years. In 1968, the city transferred all of its public housing complexes to the county.

After the Broward school shooting last month, Miami-Dade commissioners Tuesday discussed the Police Department’s policy for lone officers confronting active shooters. Commissioners are to meet with police in executive session to discuss that privately. “Parkland could have easily been in any community in MiamiDade County,” said Commissioner Dennis Moss. “There was clearly confusion in Broward, and I don’t want us to find ourselves secondguessing what an officer does.” The first officer on the scene at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High didn’t immediately enter, prompting criticism and investigations into the protocol for a single officer at an active shooting. Police Director Juan Perez distinguished between formal policies and department practices and procedures. MDPD officers are trained to first “stop the killing” and then “stop the dying” by getting victims to first responders, Mr. Perez said. Each year, county officers have specialized training, Mr. Perez said, and coincidentally, this year’s focus was active shooter training. MDPD’s preferred tactic is to have two to four officers confront a shooter but that isn’t always possible, he said. “There will be occasions when an officer will find themselves in a very lonely place and have to engage an individual by themselves.” Without getting into specifics, Mr. Perez said officers are trained to stop an active shooter by any means necessary. Barbara Jordan pressed him, seeking more details: “I don’t want to hear ‘whatever we feel is necessary,’ I want to know the policy when a single officer shows up and hears gunfire,” she said. “Does he wait for backup or go in?” “It’s so easy to judge when you’re a civilian,” she said, “but under what standards are we judging?” To discuss protocol and training privately, Mr. Perez is to host commissioners at the department’s training institute.



















The Insider PRESENCE SENSED: Sensors are being installed in parking spaces around Coconut Grove in a pilot project spearheaded by the Miami Parking Authority aimed at alleviating traffic congestion, maximizing parking occupancy, and reducing unnecessary fuel emissions by obtaining an accurate parking picture. A parking sensor is a small electronic device installed in the ground of each parking space that detects and records the time a vehicle arrives and departs. The sensors will help motorists find parking more easily through a free online application compatible with all types of smart phones. The sensors will also be installed in some limited-waiting spaces like loading zones. This will support local businesses by ensuring that deliveries can be made while still allowing customers to find a place to park quickly and easily, according to the authority. The sensors don’t collect any information about the vehicle aside from its presence. NO GUNS IN CLASS: While Miami-Dade commissioners discussed police protocol for active shooters Tuesday, Barbara Jordan weighed in on the debate to arm teachers. “My position is absolutely not,” she said about giving teachers guns. Law enforcement wouldn’t be able to quickly differentiate between a teacher and an active shooter, she said, putting black teachers at risk of being misidentified and killed. “If you’re black, you might be shot,” she said. “I fear for a black, male teacher with a gun.” Commissioner Rebeca Sosa agreed, saying “there should never be a gun in the classroom.” PLAYING POLICE: While scheduling an executive session between Miami-Dade commissioners and the Police Department to discuss active shooter protocols, Police Director Juan Perez offered to host the commissioners at the training institute “to play around with all of [their] toys.” Barbara Jordan joked that she would make a terrible police officer. “I went to the SWAT training in Miami Beach,” she said. “They have an aerial setup with pop-ups and I killed every pop-up who came around the corner,” she joked. Mr. Perez assured commissioners they would use simulators Juan Perez and not real firearms. COUPLES THERAPY: While Miami-Dade commissioners fiercely debate the county administration about the direction of the county’s new civil courthouse, Commissioner Jean Monestime joked that the two bodies must work together, equating the administration and commissioners to a feuding couple. “We need to raise this baby together with both parents,” he said, referring to the courthouse project. “We shouldn’t force each other’s hands.” Internal Services Director Tara Smith went along with his analogy: “I do feel like it’s a baby of Jean Monestime mine,” she said. LOCALS WANTED: At the Miami-Dade commission meeting Tuesday, Rebeca Sosa continued her campaign to prioritize local vendors. On a Water and Sewer contract to test and sample water quality, only one of the four recommended vendors had a local address. The legislation said the Internal Services Department looked for local vendors, but none was competitive. “Let me clarify something for everyone,” Ms. Sosa said, “We prefer locals as long as they are competitive in prices, but if they are three times as expensive or can’t provide [the proper services] they are killing themselves.” Rebeca Sosa She herself moved the legislation, conceding that no local vendors were qualified. AIR PASSENGERS, CARGO GAIN: Almost 2 million domestic passengers flowed through Miami International Airport in January, up more than 2% from January 2017, the latest figures from the airport show. The domestic passenger total of 1,998,404 was a little higher than the 1,958,558 international passengers, a total that declined .75% from January 2017. Overall, the airport handled 3,956,962 passengers for the month, up .66% from the prior January. Cargo tonnage also rose for the month, up 1.74% from January 2017 to 193,000 total tons. UBER’S DEBT: After a year and a half of negotiations, Miami-Dade County, Uber and Lyft are in the process of creating a contract that will have the companies pay the $4.5 million in citations they racked up when they were operating illegally in the county, Alice Bravo, director of transportation and public works, said Tuesday. According to Mrs. Bravo, creation of the contract is expected to be done within a few months. Both firms now operate legally here. CITY LEADERSHIP CHANGES: City Manager Alice Bravo Emilio T. González appointed three new directors to the City of Miami’s leadership team. Col. Steven C. Williamson will be joining the city as director of the Office of Capital Improvements and Eugene Ramirez will be joining as director of the Office of Communications. Additionally, Officer James Bernat has been appointed director of Code Compliance. PRESERVING THE PAST: A project designed to help save the remaining Bahamian-style shotgun homes in the West Grove will be discussed at two public meetings, from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, March 10, and 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, March 12. The city’s historic preservation staff will meet with residents at Esther Mae Armbrister Park, 4000 Grand Ave. The proposal is the multiple property designation of the wood frame vernacular residential structures of Coconut Grove Village West. Preservation staff will explain the historic designation process, what it means to be a designated historic resource and what happens after designation. These homes are associated with the overall establishment and continued settlement of the area by black Bahamians, African-Americans from the south, and their descendents. Details: Warren Adams, Emilio González



Commission sees wheels falling off transit plan, looks at private partner By Gabi Maspons

Miami-Dade’s six corridor transit expansion, the SMART plan, this week hit a snag, delaying studies an additional year. Frustrated commissioners said the county has to be more honest with the public and directed the administration to look for privately funded solutions before the studies wrap up next year. “This is very frustrating for us,” said Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava. “We have obviously done a great disservice to the public by missing deadlines.” To receive federal and state funding, the county must first complete National Environmental PolicyAct [NEPA] studies on each corridor. The county hired three consultants last March, with the contracts expiring this month. Ms. Levine Cava said the commissioners were led to believe the reports would be completed this month so the Transportation Planning Organization [TPO] could decide about the corridors come May. On Tuesday, the Transportation and Public Works Department requested the commissioners extend the contracts to study the SMART plan an additional year. Though the year-long extension won’t cost the county added money, commissioners say the department has been dishonest in its communication of the plan’s timeline. “It isn’t that our consultants aren’t working hard,” Ms. Levine Cava said, “it’s just about being honest with the public about the time that it takes.” Of the six corridors in the SMART plan, the Florida Department of Transportation is to cover the cost of three. The county is responsible for funding the other three: the South Corridor, the 20mile long transitway in South Dade connecting Florida City to the Dadeland South Metrorail Station; the East-West Corridor, the 11-mile span from Florida International University to the Miami Intermodal Center at the airport; and the Beach Corridor, the 11.5mile span from the Miami Design District through the MacArthur Causeway to the Miami Beach Convention Center. The Beach Corridor and the East-West Corridor studies will probably be finished by summer 2019, Transit Director Alice Bravo said, while the South Corridor studies should be finished by December of this year. When Ms. Levine Cava asked what happens after the studies are completed, Ms. Bravo said still more studies will need to be done: “That gives you environmental clearance, demonstrating you can use federal and state funding, but then we need to do the PD&E [Project Development and Environment] studies,” Ms. Bravo said. In an effort to bypass the studies and seek alternative funding, Commissioner Dennis Moss asked Ms. Bravo how a potential publicprivate partnership could expedite the process. “It depends on the funding you want to receive from other agencies,” Ms. Bravo said, reminding

‘This is very frustrating for us. We have obviously done a great disservice to the public by missing deadlines.’ Daniella Levine Cava

‘I would just like to get off the dime at some point, but it seems as if it’s not a dime anymore. It’s a quarter, then 50 cents and now a dollar.’ Barbara Jordan commissioners that any state or federal funding requires the studies and also has low-cost financing. “To access those funds, we need to complete the studies.” Ms. Levine Cava said the county needs to find a way to communicate more clearly to the public how long the studies take. Commissioner Barbara Jordan agreed, saying information keeps changing and the community has been left out of the loop. “I would just like to get off the dime at some point, but it seems as if it’s not a dime anymore. It’s a quarter, then 50 cents and now a dollar,” Ms. Jordan said. Chairman Esteban Bovo Jr. who ran for chair on a transit expansion platform, said the delay is “ridiculous.” “We’re caught in a quagmire because if we stop the studies, we’re not helping ourselves, so we have to support” the extension, he said. When Mr. Bovo pressed about the timeline for beginning construction on any corridors of the SMART plan, Ms. Bravo said there are variables out of the county’s control: “The two big variables that affect us are if there is controversy around the corridor leading to more public involvement and the review time of the Federal Transit Administration,” Ms. Bravo said. Mr. Bovo said that he doesn’t

trust the department’s timeline and the studies will probably take longer than advertised: “If you say summer 2019, I’m hearing 2020. It’s the nature of the beast.” Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz and Mr. Bovo said they had both spoken to US Rep. Mario DiazBalart, who is itching to finance the SMART plan for the county but needs the county to hurry up. “He’s sitting on pots of money and wants to help, and we’re entertaining Ford on autonomous vehicles for pizza deliveries,” Mr. Bovo said of the county’s priorities. Commissioner Sally Heyman expressed her frustration with the transportation department. “Mr. Chair, I’m afraid your term may come and go before we even get an idea of how un-smart our SMART plan was,” Ms. Heyman told Mr. Bovo. Even if the department’s timeline is correct, Mr. Bovo said the county couldn’t go out for procurement until 2021 or 2022. “None of us will even be here,” Mr. Bovo said, referring to the commissioners on the dais, most of who face term limits before that time. “We need to energize something,” Mr. Bovo said. “We need to light a candle – no, we need to put a blowtorch to this thing to get it to move.” To move the county forward while waiting on the consultants to finish the studies, Mr. Bovo asked county attorneys if they could begin pursuing public-private partnerships. “Can we push forward an expression of interest [EOI] on all of the corridors and see what the industry brings us?” Mr. Bovo asked the attorneys. County attorneys said the county could issue an EOI to see if there is private interest in developing the corridors, but any federal and state funds couldn’t be accessed until after the studies are finished. After commissioners voted to grant the department its contract extension, Mr. Bovo instructed the administration to prepare a motion within 30 days issuing an expression of interest to gauge the private sector’s interest in helping expand Miami-Dade’s transit system.

A Singular Voice in an Evolving City

Phone: (305) 358-2663 Staff Writers:

Gabi Maspons John Charles Robbins Katya Maruri Sara Marino People Column Michael Lewis





Miami Today is an independent voice of the community, published weekly at 2000 S. Dixie Highway, Suite 100, Miami, Florida 33133. Telephone (305) 358-2663

Solve mystery of vanishing transit riders, halt the bleeding The news about Miami-Dade Transit goes from horrible to far worse. How much more can we endure? And when will we see the county do something more to slow the number of riders who are flat out giving up on our transit system? We wrote three weeks ago about the rapidly increasing outflow of passengers from our trains and buses. We noted that three years ago the system lost 3.8% of its riders. Then two years ago it lost 6.9% of those who remained. The following year we lost a staggering 9.6% of all who were then left. And then in November we lost 11.3% of those who had been riding the November before. Bad as that steep drop-off was, it pales when compared to the latest figures. In December, our trains and buses carried 14.4% fewer riders than in December 2016. That’s right: for every seven riders in December 2016, only six remained 12 months later. In fact, from December 2013 to Decem-

ber 2017, more than a quarter of all transit riders just plain disappeared. Four years, 25.1% gone. Where are the alarm bells in county hall? Commissioners are talking about adding new transit, which would be very nice, but where are the cries of rage about losing 25% of the riders we had? In hard numbers, in those four years we lost exactly 2,277,073 December transit rides as monthly rides fell from 9,060,265 to 6,783,192. Officials will tell you that if we add the six transit legs they seek – which would take more than a decade – we will gain new riders. And they are absolutely correct, six legs of transit at costs ranging from $3.6 billion to $8 billion, depending on who is doing the estimating on what day, will gain new riders. But if you’re talking about riders on new rail legs and figure that those legs could add 150% to today’s rail ridership, those new transit lines that would cost multiple billions would not replace the riders we already had but lost in the past 48 months. Here are the hard numbers: Metrorail in December carried 1,517,341 persons. If we added to that 150% we’d be adding 2,276,012 riders – fewer added than the total riders transit lost over the past four Decembers.

L etters Children’s Museum won’t be leaving Watson Island

As a longtime leaseholder with the City of Miami, the Children’s Museum is certainly not immune to inspection and criticism no matter how well-meaning our programs may be. It goes with the territory. However we do feel it important that when debate occurs that it is reported accurately. In particular I would like to point out the headline in an article in your publication written by John Charles Robbins dated March 1 which stated: “As city looks at larger museum site, it warns museum stay may be short.” If you were to review the video of this meeting you would clearly find that these remarks were a throwaway by Commissioner [Keon] Hardemon and in no way reflected the views of the city and full commission. Not once was the issue of the museum’s current lease mentioned or recommended by anyone else in the room and there was no visible support of Mr. Hardemon’s banter with me. For this to be a focus of the story is not a true reflection of the results of the meeting. The main issue is that we currently have a long lease and we are attempting to move forward to expand our capabilities and make the museum even more responsive to our community. In no way are we moving. This reporting has already created concerns within our partners and members and to some of the 430,000 children and families who come to us every year as well as the 400 children who come to the school each day. We are the true success story of Watson Island by bringing a strong return and value to the community that the city can be proud of. We are here to stay! Deborah Spiegelman CEO/Executive Director

So we could spend billions and billions of dollars and still be down riders from December 2013. Okay, big numbers are intimidating, so let’s keep it simple: We are living “Groundhog Day” over and over every single time our transit department releases figures on riders, but each report is worse and more and more people give up on transit even while driving anywhere in Miami-Dade is also getting worse. The figures prove that. It’s no secret that our buses and trains are dirtier and ignore schedules, we run buses and trains less often to save money, and the transit system’s reputation is in the toilet and deteriorating. Could those be reasons for transit’s accelerating meltdown? If not those obvious suspects, then who has a solution to the “Mystery of the Vanishing Transit Rider”? And why aren’t we hearing the mayor and commissioners telling us what they will be doing right now – starting today – to solve the mystery and stop the bleeding? One thing is clear: money is being set aside for new rail, but there doesn’t seem to be any will at county hall to juggle budgets to spend right now to keep present transit riders on board and bring back those we just lost.

to the

How to Write

Letters for publication may be sent to the Editor, Miami Today, 2000 S. Dixie Hwy, Suite 100, Miami, FL 33133 or e-mail to Letters may be condensed for space.

E ditor

and relies on a 50% funding match from the federal government, which now appears to be quite unlikely as the Congress makes its budget cuts. Jerry Schneider

This is first step toward Plan for everything before train-auto system merger starting on marine stadium Good to see true innovation in the Elected officials at Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami voted to force the taxpayers to pay over $3 billion, including debt service, for the Marlins stadium and garages. Elected officials also voted to let the Marlins keep 100% of all revenues. (Joe Carollo was not an elected official during that era.) Having a plan in place before authorizing a fortune in expenses is an excellent idea. Peter Ehrlich

transportation sector. PRT is more likely to attract car drivers than Light Rail. The ULTra system is running with success in the Heathrow airport in London. PRT is the first step towards a DualMode system where car technology and train technology are merged into one system. Palle R. Jensen

Personal Rapid Transit sharing a lane won’t work

This article shows the major problem with transit in the US – it’s easy to derail concrete, sane, rational plans to build things that pretty much everyone wants by promoting something largely nebulous that will need to be created from scratch. The Hyperloop was the most extreme example, but people mover technologies, and now this, are also more examples. Will this work? While PRT systems exist, none of them have the capabilities described in this article, especially the supposed ability to run on normal traffic-filled streets. PRT has been around since the 1970s, and it’s a testament to its limitations that it’s barely moved forward. The article claims this’ll cost a tenth of the cost of “mass transit” (I assume they mean a Metrorail extension.) OK, well let’s see if that’s true by doing a bet: The companies promoting it should

Unless it’s off the grid and doesn’t share a traffic lane, the thing probably won’t solve our mass transit woes – especially when they max out at six riders. As for that $10 million per mile estimation, that same figure was “estimated” a few years ago for a Disney-style monorail if there was cost sharing by the Feds and state. DC Copeland

Transit X technology costs less, is less intrusive

Check out a PRT technology called Transit X – lower costs, higher speeds, less intrusive, significant benefits that convention light rail transit can’t provide. Where I live, a current 12-mile light rail proposal has a price tag of $2.5 billion

Any good business person will tell you it’s far less costly to keep present customers using your product than it is to get an equal number of new customers. Translated to transit, that means spending X dollars effectively to boost what we already have will get far more riders per dollar than spending the same amount to get new riders elsewhere on new transit lines. This newspaper has always sought added mass transit. It’s vital. But it’s doubly vital today to serve – and retain – the customers we already have who are jumping off the bus and train right into deathly slow highway traffic. There is only one reason for most of that: transit riders find a traffic jam on Dixie Highway or the Palmetto or wherever vastly preferable to riding our transit. Unless the county puts its primary emphasis on keeping today’s riders and getting more people onto our present trains and buses – and backs that up with enough money and creativity to make it happen – it can build all the transit it wants for billions of dollars and still be carrying fewer people in a decade than it was four years ago. Nobody says the solution is easy, but isn’t it obvious? So why is county hall oblivious to the obvious?

PRT, active since 1970s, has barely rolled forward

put up a bond, to be held in escrow, of what a mass transit system would cost. They then build the system. Once it’s built, if it meets all the requirements specified and implements every feature promised, they get the bond back plus 10% (the “one tenth of the cost of the Metrorail”). If they don’t, they get nothing, and the bond is used to pay for a Metrorail extension, to be spent immediately, no more alternative proposals being considered. I’m about 99% sure that if we made that the guiding principle of all “alternatives to Metrorail” proposals, with no proposals being accepted where the company proposing them wasn’t going to put up the bond, we’d stop seeing the Metrorail extension being continually delayed by “alternatives,” because I think 90% of them are bunk, with deliberately low-balled estimates designed to appeal to politicians who are afraid to spend taxes on things taxpayers actually want. Paul Harrison FOUNDED JUNE 2, 1983 VOLUME XXXV No. 41 ENTIRE CONTENTS © 2018

To contact us: News Advertising Classifieds Subscriptions Reprints

(305) 358-2663 (305) 358-1008 (305) 358-1008 (305) 358-2663 (305) 358-2663

Editor and Publisher / Michael Lewis Vice President / Carmen Betancourt-Lewis

MIAMI TODAY (ISSN: 0889-2296) is published weekly for $145 per year; airmail: to Europe $190 per year, the Americas $145 per year. Published by Today Enterprises Inc., 2000 S. Dixie Highway, Suite 100, Miami, Florida 33133, USA. Periodicals postage paid at Miami, FL. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to MIAMI TODAY, 2000 S. DIXIE HIGHWAY, SUITE 100, MIAMI, FLORIDA 33133.



DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT US Subscribe to our E-paper only $60 a year • Easy to read and navigate • Unlimited access to 11 years of searchable archives • New issues available before print edition Go to for a free demo

Wherever you are, Miami Today can be

MiaMiToday A Singular Voice in an Evolving City






Commission tells administration to prioritize parks funding By Gabi Maspons

While approving a $115 million adjustment for the 2016-2017 budget, Miami-Dade commissioners on Tuesday directed the county administration to prioritize funding the parks in the future, saying it’s a county asset that is routinely overlooked. “We have done parks a disservice in funding,” said Commissioner Barbara Jordan. “We have been negligent in providing the parks what they need just to keep things going.” Ms. Jordan said she has wanted to develop services at the county parks in her district, but the staff doesn’t have the time or resources to help. “This is no criticism of the management of the parks,” Ms. Jordan said. “Our parks department just doesn’t have what it needs.” Daniella Levine Cava agreed with Ms. Jordan, saying this has

been one of her priorities since becoming a commissioner three years ago. Ms. Levine Cava brought up the hiring freeze across county departments that hit parks especially hard this year: “It impacts parks programming, as many of the [employees] are part time and temporary” now, Ms. Levine Cava said. Budget Director Jennifer Moon said the hiring freeze was necessary to account for an impending gap in the county’s budget, and that no employees were laid off. ‘We are facing a signifi“We are facing a significant budget gap of $95 million start- cant budget gap of $95 ing two years from now,” Ms. million starting two years Moon said. Newly enacted ordinances and from now.’ changing state policies about the Jennifer Moon county’s homestead exemption charter “make it more expensive moving forward,” Ms. Moon said. To cut costs, the county froze “We didn’t eliminate positions, about 1,500 positions countywide so it didn’t impact the deliverabilthroughout all departments. ity of service,” Ms. Moon said.

The county chose this course of action to avoid future layoffs, she said. Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz said it’s time to re-prioritize parks on the dais and in the budget. “Parks are always on the negative and trying to catch up,” he said, “It comes down to our priorities.” Javier Souto agreed with his fellow commissioners, saying parks are where “young people take refuge from drug issues and neighborhood problems,” and the county desperately needs to start generously funding the department. Commissioner Dennis Moss said he grew up using county parks and would like to see more full-time parks managers engaging with the community. “Parks can provide what we want them to provide if they have the resources,” he said, “and we can do something about this.”

To help address the underfunding of parks, Commissioner Sally Heyman suggested charging for parking at all public parks to add a dedicated revenue stream. “You can go to Disney World and pay $100 to get in and still have to pay $20 to park,” she said. Today, some county parks charge for parking, while others don’t. “We should make it fair” and charge for parking at all parks, Ms. Heyman said, arguing that residents wouldn’t be deterred from using the parks even if they had to pay a fee to park. “I don’t think it will keep people from having a great time in our parks, and a couple of dollars isn’t cost prohibitive for what our parks offer,” she said. Moving forward, Ms. Levine Cava said she would also be meeting with the administration to talk about the positions in the Parks Department that were frozen.

Informal OK puts Personal Rapid Transit into Baylink study By Gabi Maspons

Amid commissioners’ complaints that the SMART plan for the county’s transit expansion has a moving deadline and no momentum, Miami-Dade may soon find relief in one of the six planned corridors. Commission Chairman Esteban Bovo Jr. gave the informal OK for the county to include Personal Rapid Transit [PRT] in its study of Baylink, the corridor crossing Biscayne Bay to connect Miami Beach to downtown. Commissioner Xavier Suarez hosted a meeting with Commissioner Bruno Barreiro last month discussing PRT vehicles of four to six people to solve Beach traffic and draw more dollars from tourists. This week, Mr. Suarez hosted a second meeting with Mr. Bovo to pitch the idea of PRT and get feedback. “We talk about supporting the SMART plan and this is a way to kick-start something that isn’t moving forward,” Mr. Suarez said. The personalized autonomous PRT trains are light-weight, fully electric and the elevated tracks are half the width of bus lanes or traditional rail. Mayor Carlos “Giménez calls the columns smart poles,” Mr. Suarez said, “and you could rightfully wonder if they could carry traffic,” he said, referring to their small size. PRT costs about one tenth the price of traditional rail, as Me-

“I can see wealthy people using this to do their groceries,” Xavier Suarez said of Personal Rapid Transit.

trorail costs about $100 million per mile and PRT less than $10 million. Commissioners say using PRT could expedite the Beach Corridor of the SMART plan by reducing financing time and delivering an innovative service to riders in need of a timely traffic solution. The trains can take riders directly to their final destination without stopping at every station, Mayor Giménez said at the meeting last month. “I like the point-to-point system,” Mr. Giménez said. “It’s much faster than a car,” PRT trains average about 28

miles per hour, while the average car speed in Miami-Dade is about 16 mph, recent data shows. The trains can also be designed to operate off the tracks, Mr. Giménez said, leaving the rail, navigating the city streets autonomously and later joining up with the rail again. The last mile option would attract wealthier residents, Mr. Suarez said. “Imagine being able to get off in South Beach and service those condominiums. I can see wealthy people using this to do their groceries,” he said. The MacArthur Causeway is

the preferred spot for the PRT rails. Mr. Suarez said the system would probably start at the Genting property near the Omni station or at Museum Park. An additional feature could allow residents to “bring their own vehicles to load onto the rails,” Mr. Suarez said, making it even more versatile. Mr. Suarez said the PRT system is an “ideal solution” to cross the bay, saying tourists would likely pay up to $25 to cross the bay, and the county could have a reduced rate for residents. “We could make it a spectacular, signature monument with mul-

ticolor lights,” Mr. Suarez said. While Mr. Bovo said he was willing to hear more about the PRT system, he worried that considering the option might further delay environmental studies underway for the corridor. “At some point, we’re going to have to make decisions,” Mr. Bovo said. “Continuous studies may be good for engineers and those who profit, but not for the public.” Mr. Bovo expressed concerns about personal train cars being able to support traffic. Stephen Hamilton, a resident and activist promoting PRT who introduced the concept to commissioners, told Mr. Bovo that the capacity depends on the vehicle frequency and the system could carry about 3,600 passengers per hour per direction if the headway was about two seconds. Mr. Hamilton said the headway could even be as short as one second apart. Funding options for the corridor are already underway, Mr. Suarez said, as Miami Beach is considering a special taxing district to help the county finance the Beach Corridor. At the first meeting, Mayor Giménez and Transportation and Public Works Director Alice Bravo expressed support for PRT, saying it’s the future of transit. While no formal action was taken at the meeting between Mr. Suarez and Mr. Bovo, the commissioners proved the county is gaining consensus on the PRT solutions for Baylink.

With Jackson funding in balance, legislature goes to overtime The News Service of Florida

Florida lawmakers will go into overtime because of an impasse about hospital spending in final negotiations over a new state budget. House Speaker Richard Corcoran told House members Tuesday night that lawmakers will have to extend the session, scheduled to end Friday, or hold a special session. He said a “best-case scenario” would be

finishing the session Saturday. But he also said it was possible the session would be extended to Monday or that Gov. Rick Scott could call a special session that might start as soon as Monday. It will mark the second year in a row that the Legislature was unable to complete its annual session in the allotted 60 days. Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley said the House and Senate were continuing to negotiate payments to Flor-

ida’s hospitals. Part of the issue involves whether to scrap a long-standing payment system for a new system that would increase base Medicaid rates paid to every hospital, regardless of Medicaid patient load. The House’s proposed spending plan for hospitals in the upcoming year is essentially a continuation of the current year’s budget. But the Senate has proposed redistributing $318 million in Medicaid “automatic rate enhancements” currently paid to 28 hospi-

tals with large Medicaid caseloads and use it to increase the rates paid for all hospitals. The Senate budget also includes $50 million to offset the recurring effect of the current year’s budget cuts on hospitals. But the Senate proposal would reduce Medicaid payments to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami by as much as $58 million. House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo of Miami said the House would not let safety-net facilities face steep reductions.




Downtown & Brickell 50-story-plus towers to surround renovated ex-Macy’s site By Sara Marino

Plans to possibly renovate the historic Macy’s on Flagler Street downtown are in early developmental phases with the addition of two adjacent 50- to 55-story buildings that are to be built from the ground up as well. This Macy’s, long considered one of downtown Miami’s landmarks, is to close this year as part of the corporation’s nationwide cutback plan. Aetna Realty Group bought the building in 2013 and plans to renovate it as well as build two new buildings, one on each side of it. “That particular site, being right next to people mover and right off of Flagler, is a very important site for downtown Miami and we’re working to maximize the uses and types of tenants that are going to be coming into the area,” said David Braka, vice president of Aetna Realty. “We’re trying to finalize the retail.” According to Mr. Braka, the first few floors of all the buildings will be retail with the upper floors being a mixture of offices, a hotel and residences. “We’re still in talks with various different developers for all of the various different uses we’re looking into putting in the buildings, and we’re hoping within in the next three years it’ll be in the ground with potential building going on,” he said. “Hopefully everything goes to plan and hopefully within three years we’ll be there.” Aetna Realty Group wants to build the two new towers primarily, Mr. Braka said, because the company sees the idea of a building that’s customizable to its taste as a plus.

‘Downtown is vibrant and it’s active, and I think the building itself could be very cool, but it all depends on one single factor, which is the cost to convert the building.’ Photo by Marlene Quaroni

Randy Olen

With downtown Macy’s to close, owner Aetna Realty Group plans to renovate its site and add two towers.

“There are plans to keep the original building, but most of the engineers and the architects are guiding us to a new building,” he said. “There aren’t any necessary problems with the old building, but the benefit of starting brand new is you can build it how you want it to satisfy the tenants’ needs.” One of the main reasons the corporation is looking to provide residences, Mr. Braka said, is because “the area is truly becoming more of a neighborhood, versus before it was mainly offices and commercial properties. Now there’s a lot of residences in the area and I think there’s going to be a lot of demand.” Randy Olen, a principal at Foundry Commercial and a member of

Miami’s Downtown Development Authority who is not involved in the Macy’s project, said the market in downtown Miami is good now and will continue to get better, which in turn means the building would probably work well as a space for offices on its higher floors. “Downtown is vibrant and it’s active, and I think the building itself could be very cool, but it all depends on one single factor, which is the cost to convert the building,” he said. “If it costs $100 a square foot to convert it to office space, that means you now need to account for that as well as elevators and other things.” As of now, the projected amounts that the new buildings and the possible renovation will cost are still

being calculated. “We are in the process of defining all of the parts and getting estimates to see how much it would be,” Mr. Braka said. The next step for this project is for the corporation to speak to different developers for the different parts of the buildings. Currently, some retail companies have contacted Aetna Realty, but names won’t be released until specific companies are picked. “There are a few companies out there that are approaching us, but right now it’s still in the beginning stages,” Mr. Braka said. Jacqueline King, manager of South media relations for Macy’s, wrote in an email that 105 Macy’s employees will be impacted by the

store closing. “While closing a store is always a difficult decision because of the impact on our customers, our associates and the community, Macy’s is delighted to have served this community over the years,” she wrote. “We deeply appreciate the loyalty of our customers and associates and remain committed to the greater Miami area.” Mr. Braka said he believes one of the biggest positives that will come out of this project is that it will “fill the void now that Macy’s is leaving.” “It’s going to fill up the retail void and it’s going to increase foot traffic on Flagler,” he said. “It’s going to be a very good positive push for the area.”

Goal of underground power lines could cost $40 million By Sara Marino

Plans to put all downtown Miami power lines, including telecommunication and electricity lines, underground are in an early stage, with exact dates to complete the project unclear. The project, which is expected to cost $30 million to $40 million, became a priority after Hurricane Irma swept through Miami-Dade and made traditional power lines a safety hazard. “It seems like the logical thing to do for us is to start dealing with those power lines in a more contemporary way than just putting up poles and hoping that the wind doesn’t knock something into the lines,” Alicia Cervera said Alicia Cervera, managing partner of Cervera Real Estate. “I think that ship sailed a long time ago in Miami and we need to upgrade that process.” Currently, the project is set as one of the top priorities for the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), an independent agency of the City of Miami

Miami’s Downtown Development Authority is seeking to bury overhead lines like these.

that focuses on local development, but construction for the project is not supposed to start until 2019, according to a DDA press release. “With all things in a democracy, it starts with the community standing up and saying, look, this is important to us, this is a priority and we’re looking

at our infrastructure and what the city is going to look like in 10 to 20 to 100 years. It should a situation where the underground power lines have been addressed,” Ms. Cervera said. “What’s happening is that one line from the street to a building and it causes 300 or 400 people to be without power.”

Ms. Cervera said she believes the community should “address it now, before we forget what we suffered through.” “We need to address it now and prioritize it now and move forward from there,” she said. While the timeframe for completion is still being discussed, the DDA has rough estimate for how much the project would cost in each region. According to the press release, the conversion to move the lines underground for the Arts & Entertainment District should cost $20 million to $25 million, the Central Business District should cost from $800,000 to $1 million, and the Brickell financial district should cost $5 million to $7 million. According to Ms. Cervera, the areas throughout Miami-Dade that did have underground power lines did not lose power when Hurricane Irma hit Miami last September. “In areas where it has been addressed, they didn’t experience power outages at all,” she said. “The people that got hit badly during Hurricane Andrew, when they rebuilt they went with the underground power lines. So I think Cocoplum is an example of a success story.”





Swire plans next residences, on site of old Tobacco Road By Rebecca San Juan

Financing trends may make units at a new Brickell development by Swire Properties and Isanic Hyundai Trading Inc. ripe for the picking. Swire plans to collaborate with Carlos Mattos’s company, Isanic Hyundai Trading Inc., to develop 72,000 square feet of land at 650 S Miami Ave., a Swire spokesperson confirmed by email. Across the street from Swire’s massive Brickell City Centre, the developers see the terrain as an extension of center – which features a high-end shopping mall, residential towers, a hotel and office buildings – and picture a large majority of the new development as being residential. The design lies on the patch of land that once housed local favorites, including the Tobacco Road bar that operated for 102 years. The Swire spokesman would not elaborate on plans, but George C. Jalil, broker and chairman of the Miami Association of Realtors, says the spot is sure to attract buyers and renters. He says the closer high-rises are to the water and downtown the better. “As you get closer to downtown, and Swire is right there on Miami Avenue, you can cross the bridge right over and then you’ve got everything there,” he said.

Tobacco Road in the middle of the block as it appeared in a 2012 photo. Swire plans its next project there.

Residents won’t have to venture far for entertainment, food and retail. Mr. Jalil said Brickell City Centre is a huge attraction: “Within a 10-minute walk [you] get to a lot of restaurants and activities.” Traffic concerns may be a flaw for some residents. He said he hopes more public transportation options ease congestion in the area. However, some residents might not weigh a morning commute into their decision-making. “If you work in downtown,” he

said, “then it’s really not that big of an issue because you’re close already.” Mr. Jalil also sees an increase in potential buyers as a result of more mortgage companies lowering down payments. With the median sale price at $345,000, according to the latest Fannie Mae 1004 MC report, a typical down payment now ranges from 20% to 25%, meaning buyers fork over $69,000 to $86,250 up front on an average condo. Swire’s prices are likely to be far above average.

“A large down payment makes it harder for a new building because you’re removing a large segment of the potential buyers,” Mr. Jalil said. For many young professionals and newlyweds, the large mortgages kick Brickell out of a first-time homebuyers’ market. More mortgage companies are dialing down that percentage for homes less than half a million dollars. Mr. Jalil sees organizations lowering rates, some as low as 3%, something buyers haven’t seen in

‘The financing that is starting to become available now, by the time Swire starts selling their units, is going to benefit them tremendously.’ George Jalil the area for at least a decade. He says that if Swire Properties sells some units at $450,000 or less by the time the project is completed, more lenders are likely to provide a lower down payment. Prospects for the residences are good, Mr. Jalil said. “I think that will help Swire a lot. The financing that is starting to become available now, by the time Swire starts selling their units, is going to benefit them tremendously.”

Growing supply pushing Brickell condos, rents downward By Katya Maruri

As the number of condos for sale in Brickell remains high, values and rents continue to trend downward as a result of supply averages being higher than the norm, says Ron Shuffield, president of EWM Realty. “We have definitely seen the values trending down and rents trending down in all price ranges,” Mr. Shuffield said. “In the over $1 million market we saw prices begin to trend downward in August of 2015, while in the under $1 million market and single-family homes market we’ve seen increases in value because that’s where the majority of buyers are.” For example, he said, of the 2,569 currently listed condos for sale in the three zip codes comprising the Brickell market (33129, 33130 and 33131), 86% of the condos are priced less than $1 million, while 14% are priced more than $1 million. The inventory of Brickell area

‘The encouraging news is that even though inventories in the under $1 million Brickell condo market increased in 2017 by 4%..., sales in this price range increased 12.3%.’ Ron Shuffield condos priced under $1 million, he said, increased from 670 units at the end of December 2012 to 2,137 units on Dec. 31, 2017, which is an increase of 219% over the past five years, while the annual number of condo sales in this price range dropped by 25.1% between 2012 and 2017. This increase in inventory and drop in sales over the past five

years, he said, has pushed the overall months of supply from 5.8 months to 27.4 months in the under $1 million market. Meanwhile, the inventory of Brickell area condos priced over $1 million saw an increase from 150 units at the end of December 2012 to 352 units on Dec. 31, 2017, which is an increase of 135% over the past five years, while the annual

number of condo sales in this price range dropped by 33.3% between 2012 and 2017. As a result, this increase in luxury inventory, and drop in sales, over the past five years has pushed the luxury months of supply from 14.6 months to 66.4 months. “The encouraging news,” he said, “is that even though inventories in the under $1 million Brickell condo market increased in 2017 by 4% over the 2016 inventory, sales in this price range increased 12.3% year-over-year.” However, the inventory of Brickell condos priced in excess of $1 million increased 29% in 2017 over 2016, while the number of sales in this price range fell 4.8%. As for what people should be looking forward to from these markets, Mr. Shuffield said, “the energy of Brickell will most likely continue to draw tenants to amenity-laden condo buildings, which are now the center

of work and social life for those who have found ‘convenience and community’ within one of the trendiest cities on the globe.” In addition, he said, the rental market, which has seen some slippage in rental rates over the past three years, will continue to be a part of the Brickell fabric moving forward. As for condos that are for sale in Brickell, he said, “the current number of available condos for sale in the Brickell area is the highest in history.” However, he said, real estate industry leaders are sensing a high level of pent-up demand for downtown and Brickell condos, particularly when it comes luxury condominiums. As a result, he said, ‘right pricing,’ coupled with the excitement of new amenities, such as the now fully completed Brickell City Centre, is creating a growing level of new energy within this particular market.

Vacancies near all-time low, Brickell Class A offices hit high By Katya Maruri

Although data point to downtown office vacancy rates remaining elevated, Class A Brickell asking rents have reached an all-time high, according to Marc Miller, research manager at JLL. “I would be cautious when using the word ‘struggle’ when referring to downtown’s office space occupancy rates,” Mr. Miller said. “Although vacancy rates are elevated, downtown is still meeting demand and has for the most part been stable in regards to rental rates.” As for Brickell, he said, “Class A rents eclipsed $52 per square foot to start the year amid near

record-low vacancy.” According to a 2017 JLL Office Insight Report, downtown’s vacancy rate increased to 22.3% ‘I would be cautious to close out the year, which is 290 when using the word basis points higher than what was reported in JLL’s Q4 2016 report. ‘struggle’ when referThe slight increase, Mr. Miller ring to downtown’s office said, “can mostly be attributed to Wells Fargo giving back roughly space occupancy rates.’ 132,000 square feet at Southeast Marc Miller Financial Center.” As for how much combined Class A and B inventory is available in downtown and Brickell, the report Average direct asking rents sit at states 14,991,214 square feet are available in the Central Business $40.84 per square foot. “Nationally the CBD is not as District (CBD), which is 184,179 strong compared to others,” Mr. more square feet than last year.

Miller said. “However, Brickell City Centre and the addition of Miami Central Station are definitely factors that will contribute

to a stronger and healthier market moving forward.” As for what the future holds for downtown’s office space occupancy rates, he said, “Right now Brickell is pretty much built out, which bodes well for downtown in the sense that it has more space to offer tenants.” “Although rental rates are fairly high compared to other markets,” he said, “downtown’s rates are still cheaper than Brickell.” Moving forward, he said, “I would look to downtown for occupancy gains due to the long-term shift that is happening as a result of redevelopment and construction in the area.”





Three more years of construction in makeover of Bayside By Rebecca San Juan

No makeover happens overnight, as Bayside Marketplace proves. The downtown openair market spanning almost 17 acres, which hosts over 180 businesses, plans to continue construction for the next three years. It unveils its progress as it goes along. Construction work dates to 2016 as the marketplace first looked toward updating its north building, which sits closest to the American Airlines Arena. Zyscovich Architects leads renovation efforts. “We started in the north building and redid our restrooms, which were in dire need of being renovated and remodeled,” said Pamela Weller, senior general manager at Bayside Marketplace LLC. With new banisters, fans, fresh coats of paint, LED lights and an added structure to the neutral piers, that wing stands at 85% complete. Custom-made awnings provided by Miami Awning, the same company that provided the original ones 31 years ago, will take the team to 100% completion in four to five weeks, Ms. Weller said. Ms. Weller’s team also is addressing changes toward the south wing with Pier 5. That area checks in at 95% complete. Ms. Weller said, “We redid every stall, putting new fans, lighting, music throughout the north and south buildings.” Ms. Weller confirms plans moving forward with the SkyRise observation tower on the bay just off the marketplace’s water side. Its developer, Jeff Berkowitz, leads construction work behind Hard Rock. Developers expect to complete the observation deck by 2020, including its attractions, among them a zero gravity tunnel and a transparent slide. City of Miami residents approved financially supporting the project in a referendum vote in 2014. Ms. Weller says Bayside can work within a $27 million to $34.5 million budget. Ms. Weller said she looks forward to the final product in a few years. “It’s really an evolution of connectivity between each of the areas, but the final project will be within the next three years,” she said. Being in the shopping center industry, her team did not want to disrupt tenants’ flow of business, so work begins at midnight Monday through Thursday. “All of our work is being done at night, which limits us being able to move quickly throughout the project because of the lighting and other variables when you have an open shopping center,” Ms. Weller said. Other than the addition of new awnings, Ms. Weller looks forward to the two next steps. “We started working on our pavilions.” she said. “We put on these new polyurethane roof structures that are actually special orders for us from Italy. It’s a green polyurethane roof that actually has LED lighting behind it. It takes us about four weeks to do each pavilion.”

She said updated LED lighting should come to the entertainment stage soon too. While Bayside Marketplace remains the number one attraction in Miami, Ms. Weller says, and ranks fifth statewide, some locals believe the changes to the open-air market will attract more Miamians. Zach Winkler, senior vice president and retail lead for South Florida at commercial realty firm Jones Lang LaSalle, says the site primarily draws tourists and cruise passenger traffic. The pool of visitors may widen with the changes, Mr. Winkler said. “I think by them upgrading with renovations it becomes something that is welcome and appreciated by people that work in the area, live in the area, or maybe people that live just in Greater Miami,” he said. “What that does is it sparks some continuity between Bayside and the rest of downtown rather than it being its own standalone asset.” Senior General Manager Pamela Weller in Pier 5 in the south wing before renovations took place there.





In first state of city talk, Suarez puts spotlight on resiliency By John Charles Robbins

Its new mayor, Francis Suarez, believes the City of Miami can be a global resiliency leader as it deals with climate change and sea level rise. The historic passage last November of general obligation bonds by the city’s voters positions Miami as being one of the first major cities to allocate capital Francis Suarez improvement dollars in a sizeable sum to battle sea level rise and related challenges. Hurricane Irma may have played a major role in giving South Florida just a taste of the reality to come. Sea level rise is just one of numerous topics explored in Mr. Suarez’s first State of the City Address, delivered to a capacity crowd at Miami City Hall. “We are on the front lines when it comes to climate change, and

we received a wake-up call after Hurricane Irma last year,” the mayor said. “We were blessed to avoid a direct hit, but we still learned a lot from it.” As deadly Hurricane Andrew of 1992 helped municipalities in the region learn better ways to deal with wind, Hurricane Irma may be the catalyst for resilient solutions to rising oceans. “After Hurricane Andrew, we gave the world the gift of wind resiliency. Now our job is to give the world the gift of water resiliency,” Mr. Suarez said. “We often look at water as an enemy, but we need to harness it and start seeing it as an asset. That begins with the completion of our updated stormwater master plan, which will take into account sea level rise. “We must also work together with the county and our neighboring municipalities, including Miami Beach, to take ownership of this issue and find solutions to improve our regional resiliency,” he said. “This past November, our residents put their faith in us to be

good stewards of their taxes and we must make sure the Miami Forever Bond is spent correctly and transparently. I am happy to report that [the city commission] approved, on first reading, the creation of a citizen oversight board to ensure just that,” Mr. Suarez said. The Miami Forever Bond will support infrastructure projects that will keep property values high and the streets dry, city officials say. These types of improvements can also help lower individual flood insurance premiums by increasing the city’s Community Rating Score. Resiliency projects might include stormwater pumps to keep the streets dry, raised roadways to prevent flooding, and seawalls to protect neighborhoods. The five broad categories approved as part of the $400 million bond proposal were: ■$192 million for flood prevention and sea level rise mitigation. ■$100 million for affordable housing and economic development. ■$78 million for parks and

cultural facilities. ■$23 million for roadway improvements. ■$7 million for public safety. Mr. Suarez said he’s on a mission to build and maintain Miami’s brand, and part of that effort involves fighting what he called “counter-branding” tactics employed by others against the city. “The reality is that we are in a global competition, and when you have a sunny, cosmopolitan city with a favorable tax environment, other cities are going to find some reason to attack you,” said Mr. Suarez. “In Miami’s case, the counter-branding we get is all about resiliency: ‘Don’t go to Miami,’ they say, ‘or you’ll be under water in five, 10, or 15 years.’ How do we fight that counter-branding? We do it by making Miami the most resilient city in the world,” he said. The new mayor said transparency, community outreach and staying in touch with residents will also be priorities for his administration. During his first 100 days in of-

fice he has held the first of many neighborhood town halls, starting with Allapattah in December, moving to Coconut Grove in January and most recently Model City in February. He said resident feedback is extremely important to him, and he’s committed to continue holding the town halls in a different neighborhood each month so he can stay connected to the residents. “I also held my first Office Hours, where I met one-one-one with City of Miami employees from across various departments. These sessions are crucial to understanding what is happening on the ground in our government, and I intend to hold them regularly,” Mr. Suarez said. The mayor said he and his team will work every day to make Miami resilient, compassionate, smart, mobile and safe. “Together, we are solidifying Miami’s status as a global city,” he said, “and while there may be rainstorms, I know that after each one, together we will find the rainbow.”

Coast Guard weighs regulatory plan for Virginia Key racing By John Charles Robbins

The Coast Guard is considering a local regulatory plan for a speed boat race planned for April in the historic Miami Marine Stadium basin of Virginia Key. As part of the process, the public is encouraged to comment on the event via a federal website. As of Tuesday, three comments had been posted, two specifically objecting to the event being held in the basin and a third noting that the basin is a refuge for manatees and dolphins. Comments and related material must be received by April 2. The website is and the event docket number is USCG-2017-1076. A summary of the proposed rulemaking says the Coast Guard proposes to establish a special local regulation (SLR) for the Miami Grand Prix of the Sea. “This action is necessary to provide for the safety of the public, spectators, vessels, and marine environment from potential hazards during high-speed, offshore-style boat and Personal Water Craft (PWC) races during the Miami Grand Prix of the Sea,” it reads. The SLR would establish two regulated areas; a safety zone and no anchoring zone. Nonparticipant persons and vessels would be prohibited from entering, transiting, anchoring in, or remaining within the safety zone unless authorized by the captain of the Port Miami. All vessels would be prohibited from anchoring in the no anchoring zone. Powerboat P1 USA LLC laid out its plan for the Miami P1 Grand Prix of the Sea at a meeting last week of the Virginia Key Advisory Board. Plans filed with the City of Miami – which owns the stadium and basin – show the event is planned with setup Friday, April 20, and racing Saturday and Sunday, April 21 and 22. The event will include power

A map on the Coast Guard website shows a large safety zone designated just off the Virginia Key shore.

boat races and personal water craft (Jet Ski) races. The boats are 24- to 28-footers with stock Mercury outboard motors. The organization said the Miami event will open its 2018 P1 USA Championship racing season, will be televised and will be free to view. The advisory board supported the event. A few residents spoke against holding the event in the basin, saying it is not the appropriate place for such a high-impact activity. One was Joyce Landry, a rower who has used the basin for years. She was one of the first to post her opposition on the Coast Guard website, saying: “I am opposed to the use of the Virginia Key Basin for the Miami Grand Prix of the Seas. There hasn’t been a speed boat race in the basin for 28 years and the environment has changed dramatically since then. The area has become a sanctuary and breeding ground for Great Blue Heron, dolphins, manatees, rays, tarpon and other wildlife. Because of the no-wake zone and low impact of

the area, the wildlife have adopted this area and I think it is a mistake to allow this race to continue. The basin should be preserved for passive water sports only.” The comment of Steven Leidner, the Sierra Club’s representative recently appointed to the Virginia Key Advisory Board, began with the word: “NO!” He listed 10 reasons including that the basin is environmentally sensitive, is best utilized for nonmotorized boating, the boat show already limits public access to the basin for multiple months, “safety of hovering helicopter above crowds and effect on wildlife/ Bill Sadowski Critical Wildlife area that abuts basin,” the race would establish a precedent for more motorized basin usage, and more. Mr. Leidner was at the Feb. 27 advisory board meeting, where the vote to support the race was 6 to 1. Mr. Leidner told Miami Today he abstained as he is a new member and didn’t feel he had all the facts. As we reported last week, Peter Ehrlich voted to oppose the event. Robert Mahoney posted a com-

ment on the website about the special nature of the basin: “The Marine Stadium basin eco-system has restored itself – with increased seagrass and other marine resources. The State of Florida designated the Sadowski Critical Wildlife Area along the basin shoreline. The Marine Stadium basin is a refuge for manatees and dolphins, which are frequently seen in the area.” On the website is a Coast Guard National Environmental Policy Act Record of Environmental Consideration. It says that as a condition of the permit, the sponsor agreed to protection measures designed to mitigate impacts to marine life and seagrass. Among the protection measures is a requirement for aerial, onwater and landside manatee observers during the event with the authority to halt the race should a manatee or sea turtle come within certain distances of the event. “Based on a phone conversation with Miami-Dade County Environmental Resources Management (DERM), the agency is

likely to issue an Administrative Authorization based on the assumption the event will have ‘no environmental impacts’. The Administrative Authorization will carry conditions to mitigate concerns over manatee protection,” the record says. Another measure requires a 5-foot clearance between a vessel’s propeller and sea bottom. Depth within the basin ranges from 7 to 12 feet. Furthermore, safety and no-anchoring zones outside the basin will prohibit spectator vessels from anchoring over seagrass during the event. “In an email dated Feb. 14, 2018, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicated they ‘would not expect the racing activity to impact seagrasses considering they are able to maintain 5 feet from the prop and the bottom and operating in 7-9 feet of water,’” the record says. The document also notes: “The Miami Marine Stadium was built in 1963 specifically for water sporting events and powerboat races.” The city closed the stadium in 1992 in the wake of Hurricane Andrew, but has launched a multimillion-dollar restoration project.

F ilming


M iami

These film permits were issued last week by the Miami-Dade County Department of Regulatory & Economic Resources’ Office of Film and Entertainment, (305) 375-3288; the Miami Mayor’s Office of Film, Arts & Entertainment, (305) 860-3823; and the Miami Beach Office of Arts, Culture and Entertainment-Film and Print Division, (305) 673-7070. Imagina Content LLC. Miami. Bridges Production. Swale Parking. VOX VMP – Demeter. Washington. No Passport Required. Crandon Park Beach. University of Miami. Coral Gables. Breaking Skateboards. Coconut Grove Branch Library. First Option Productions Inc. Miami Beach. Grazie Magazine. Countywide. N House Productions. Miami. Blancheporte. Countywide, Miami Beach citywide. N House Productions. Miami. Next Directory. Countywide, Miami Beach citywide. Miami Dade College School of Entertainment & Design. Miami. Rose of el Rio. 140 Building – Metro Flagler Building. University of Miami School of Communication. Coral Gables. Doe, Jane. A.D. Barnes Park. Cape Crystal Productions Inc. New York. The Bow-Chelor. Haulover Beach Park.




S W BMOW 00E N 0 1 L R SA E V O ON


NEW 2018 BMW 320i



Lease Per Month WITH



Down OR



FlexPay One Pay Lease

M I A M I ’S #1 B M W D E A L E R

2060 Biscayne Boulevard • Miami, Florida 33137 • 305-704-8189 •




New 2018 MINI Cooper Hardtop 2 Dr.



Lease Per Month OR



FlexPay One Pay Lease

For a Limited Time Get Up To

6,000 OFF MSRP


on Remaining New 2015, 2016 & 2017 Models.*


2060 Biscayne Blvd., Miami FL, 33137 • 305.571.1200 •


Miami Today: Week of Thursday, March 8, 2018  
Miami Today: Week of Thursday, March 8, 2018  

Special section on Downtown & Brickell. Just a preview of some of our top stories this week. Includes editorial page. To subscribe, visit ww...