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miami today update 12/01/04


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County approves dredging off Watson Island for yacht marina

By Yeleny Suarez and Samantha Joseph

Creation of a 50-slip yacht marina - part of a proposed resort off Miami's Watson Island - has passed another buoy.

Miami-Dade County commissioners Tuesday approved the dredging of 15.8 acres of submerged bay bottom for the creation of a mega-yacht marina.

A project proposed by Flagstone Property Group is to include 50 slips as well as luxury high-rise hotels and more than 230,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space. Turkish developer Mehmet Bayraktar plans other amenities that include gardens in a partnership with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and a maritime gallery with the Historical Museum of Southern Florida.

Miami voters approved the Watson Island resort project in 2001.

City Commissioner Johnny Winton attended Tuesday's meeting to encourage county officials to support the project. He said it would create 950 full-time positions and 3,000 construction jobs.

"This project will create an entirely new economic development subset," he said.

"Mega yachts, ships that are at least 100 feet long, typically mean big business for cities that accommodate them."

As part of its lease agreement, Flagstone would have to establish an education center to train the marina's employees in several areas such as hospitality, catering and dining.

The development would bring other public benefits, Mr. Winton said, including a 100-foot waterfront promenade, a fish market, a maritime gallery and $1 million to plan and develop the southern end of Watson Island.

Pending before construction can begin is a review by the US Army Corps of Engineers. There is no deadline for the review, according to Laura Billberry, assistant director of the city's economic development department.

Homeowners on Venetian Island have filed a lawsuit challenging the city's approval of a major use special permit. "We are waiting for the judge to set a date," said Flagstone project director Joseph L. Herndon.

Securing permits would pave the way for financing and hotel operators to move in.

Mr. Herndon said the project is going as planned and Flagstone is following the timeline it had already established.

The city is to collect $1 million in rent a year during the building phase and $2 million once the project is completed, according to the deal with the developer.

In a recent interview, Ms. Billberry said the lease agreement between the city and developers states that all conditions must be completed by Jan 1, 2007.

Mr. Winton underscored the city's interest in the project. Each ship to dock in Miami would reportedly generate about $500,000 in boatyard expenses, brokerage commissions, charter fees and maintenance and repair charges, he said.

"The economic impact on cities is dramatic when those vessels dock in our community."


Developer plans entertainment venue near downtown Miami

By Tom Harlan

A Brazilian developer plans to open a restaurant and entertainment venue next fall in Miami's emerging entertainment district.

Cesar Sotomayor, a Brazil native and vice president of Arrso Restaurant Co., began construction in September on [email protected], a 19,000-square-foot facility at 71 NE 14th St. that is to include a restaurant, a lounge and a banquet room.

Karu, the restaurant, is to accommodate 126 guests with three bars and a dining room. Y, a lounge with a VIP room, is to hold about 300 guests.

The restaurant and lounge are to connect to a 9,000-square-foot banquet room that can hold 1,000 people and is to be used to host private parties, fashion shows, weddings and art galleries. In addition, the room may also serve as a location for production companies to shoot music videos, films and TV programs.

One businessman who has worked in downtown Miami for decades said the idea may be premature. Hank Rodstein, president and owner of HR mortgage, said the planned restaurant may struggle until the Performing Arts Center is built.

Mr. Rodstein said the area, which lacks parking and safety measures, should change into an upscale area like the area of South Beach near Nikki's Beach Club did in the '80s once the center opens. But the center has continuously been delayed and will probably open in 2006, he said.

Until then, potential customers are going to go to Capital Grill, Bongos or upscale establishments on South Beach that are developed and have parking, he said.

"In three years, the area is going to be dynamite, but not today," he said.

Mr. Sotomayor, who has worked at restaurants in Madrid and South America and managed properties for a Long Island developer, said he developed the idea for [email protected] from his passion for the South American aboriginal culture. "Karu" means "eating" in a Brazilian aboriginal language, he said.

Gerdy Rodriguez, a Cuban chef reared in Miami who has worked at several local restaurants, is to prepare the food. Mr. Rodriguez is to serve haute cuisine, which is popular in Spain.

The facility, which is being designed by Pepe Calderin of Levine Calderin and Associates, is to have a water theme because "Y" means "water" in the aboriginal language, Mr. Sotomayor said.

Visitors are to enter the facility by crossing a bridge over a reflecting pool surrounded by thick glass walls and water is to fall from a glass roof above a bar into a reflecting pool in an outside patio.

In addition, Montreal artist Richard Boprae is creating artwork that is to resemble flowing raindrops to cover an entire wall.

Arrso has a marketing team working to attract customers from local hotels and high-end condos under development on Biscayne Boulevard, Mr. Sotomayor said.

Mr. Sotomayor said the company will work with representatives of the Ice Palace film and production facility, the Performing Arts Center and other groups and businesses to attract events to the club.

Arrso originally planned to open a restaurant at the site to serve customers moving into the downtown area, he said. But after looking at the size of the site, company officials decided to cater to dinner and nightclub crowds.

"We're creating an icon," Mr. Sotomayor said. He said Arrso wants the venue to be known worldwide for entertainment - "a destination that can embrace all different types of people."

and in cased you missed it in the other thread


Transit study to examine Metrorail extension to Homestead

By Samantha Joseph

An extension of Metrorail to Homestead is among possibilities to be considered in a $1.5 million study to improve public transportation in the southern end of Miami-Dade County.

As more people move to south Miami-Dade, transportation officials want to be able to see trends coming and prepare for increased ridership.

In Homestead, 12,000 homes are under construction and the population has grown 10% in the past three years. In Kendall, developers have targeted large areas for residential and commercial development.

The rapid growth points to the need for more efficient transit services, planners say.

"The sooner we start strategizing, the better," said Wilson Fernandez, who heads the analysis financed by Miami-Dade Transit. "What we're looking at in this study is long-term transportation feasibility."

The Metropolitan Planning Organization, which determines transportation policy in the county, expects to present its findings and guidelines for the area by January 2006.

The study is the first step in soliciting federal funding, which could complement local financing from the $17 billion People's Transportation Plan.

"We're going to look at a range of options to see what the transportation needs are and how we can meet them," Mr. Fernandez said.

The group will examine ways to upgrade the South Miami Dade Corridor, an 8.2-mile busway that stretches along US 1 from the Dadeland South Metrorail Station to Southland Mall, 20505 S. Dixie Highway.

The busway is being extended more than 11 miles to Florida City, from Southwest 112th Avenue to 344th Street, as part of an $88 million project. Once it is completed by August, it would provide a nearly 20-mile route reserved for public buses.

However, planners say they need to do more to meet future needs.

The study will consider several factors, including population projections, transit ridership and potential costs. It will also examine strategies to speed service along the busway.

In the next four months, transportation officials expect to invite public feedback and suggestions on how to improve services.

"Our main goal," said Metropolitan Planning Organization Director Jose-Luis Mesa, "is to safely move the traveling public in an efficient manner."

Details: (305) 375-4507 or www.buswayconstruction.com.

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