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Marlins moving to Las Vegas?

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Marlins meet with Las Vegas officials about a possible move

By TERRY SPENCER

Associated Press Writer

MIAMI (AP) -- The Florida Marlins have met with Las Vegas officials about a possible move, saying that negotiations for a new stadium in Miami have lasted longer than the team anticipated.

Bruce Rubin, a spokesman for Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, said Thursday team officials met with Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and others for about 90 minutes Wednesday.

"These were social discussions, a get-to-know-each-other meeting," Rubin said. "Simply, Vegas wants a baseball team and the Marlins are a baseball team. It was decided that the two sides should get together."

He said the Marlins are still negotiating with Miami city and Miami-Dade County officials over a proposal to build a 38,000-seat, retractable-roof stadium next to the Orange Bowl. The Marlins currently play in Pro Player Stadium, which was built for the NFL's Miami Dolphins.

The Marlins say South Florida's wet and hot summers hurt attendance and that they need a roofed stadium if they are going to be competitive and financially viable. The Marlins have offered to pay $192 million of the projected $420 million price tag for a new stadium with taxpayers picking up the rest. One of the holdups is over who would pay for any cost overruns - the team or taxpayers. The team had hoped to have a deal in place last May and then by October.

The Marlins began play in 1993 - drawing more than 3 million fans their inaugural season - and won the World Series in 1997 and 2003. Attendance plummeted after the 1994 players strike and the 1998 dismantling of the first championship team by founding owner H. Wayne Huizenga in a payroll purge. Attendance has rebounded somewhat in recent seasons, but is still among baseball's worst.

"The Marlins are committed to South Florida. Nobody wants to win another World Series more than Jeffrey Loria," Rubin said. "At the same time, Mr. Loria needs to examine all of his options."

He would not say whether the Marlins have met with other cities besides Las Vegas about a possible move.

Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess said he was not surprised the Marlins met with Las Vegas officials, but said a deal for a new stadium in Miami is close.

"My feeling is that they genuinely want to stay in South Florida and if they genuinely want to, then I think there is a deal to be had," Burgess said.

Gov. Jeb Bush said he wasn't going to comment on the various ideas for financing a new stadium, but said: "I hope they stay in Miami, or South Florida." He opposed a previous plan that would have taxed cruise ship passengers to finance a Marlins stadium, but has supported a plan that would let the Marlins keep about $60 million in sales tax revenue the new stadium would generate.

Goodman told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he has felt that teams used his city for negotiating leverage in the past. But he didn't think that's what the Marlins were doing. Goodman was planning to see Marlins officials again this weekend at the baseball winter meetings in Anaheim, Calif.

"I asked them if they were married, and if I should bring the showgirls along with me," Goodman told the newspaper.

The Montreal Expos' recently approved move to Washington will be baseball's first since after the 1971 season. Las Vegas was a finalist to receive the Expos.

Loria owned the Expos before selling them to the other 29 teams before the 2002 season. He then purchased the Marlins from John Henry, who headed the group that bought the Boston Red Sox.

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I hope they don't leave. I wish the county or whoever's involved would get moving with a new stadium. It would be nice to have it in downtown, but I doubt that will happen. I just don't like suburban stadiums.

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Not likely. I'm sure the marlins are just using this to get the state moving on their tax refund. I hope they stay, but at this point I don't really care. Las Vegas can have them, but I don't think MLB will want that. South Florida is too big of a market not to have a team.

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im guessing a Vegas stadium would have to be enclosed. no way can they play in 115+ degree heat.

Well i doubt theyll leave though. Like you say, Brickell, South Florida is too big a market not to have a team. It would be a shame if they left... Maybe with a spiffy new stadium in a more central location(near downtown) that'll attract more crowds.

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http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/...th/10365897.htm

WYNWOOD

Commission could OK streetcars

The Miami City Commission will vote today on a study that will examine putting old-fashioned streetcars at Midtown Miami.

BY DAVID OVALLE

dovalle@herald.com

A streetcar named . . . Midtown Miami?

The Miami City Commission will decide today whether to approve a $613,000 study aimed at placing streetcars through the Midtown Miami development in Wynwood.

The study is part of a wider plan to create old-fashioned-style streetcars for thousands of new residents expected to move into the area between the Performing Arts Center and the Design District in the coming years.

Though financing must still be ironed out, transportation planners hope to have the street-level, electric streetcars in action in about three or four years.

The citywide streetcar plan -- financing and design -- must still be approved by the City Commission.

The Wynwood portion of the study is being pushed now because Midtown Miami, a 56-acre development of residential condos, townhomes and retail, already has begun.

Representatives of Midtown Miami could not be reached for a comment Monday or Tuesday.

The study will look at how at least one station and a two-track route, estimated at a length of 3,000 feet, would be integrated into Midtown Miami. It will examine everything from electric wiring for street lamps to soil condition at the site.

Midtown Miami is expected to be a catalyst for change in Wynwood, a blue-collar neighborhood that has seen major improvements in recent years, including many new art galleries.

The development features thousands of residential units and big-box retail stores at the old Buena Vista rail yard between Northeast 29th and 36th streets.

The city is also kicking in about $100 million to help build roads, sewers, parking and a plaza on the site, an amount planners hope will be covered by future property taxes spurred by development there.

City Commissioner Johnny Winton supports the streetcar concept.

He said it was important to get the study going in Midtown Miami so the public sees that infrastructure planning -- especially transportation -- is keeping pace with the wave of redevelopment sweeping the city.

''With the huge increase in development going in Wynwood and points north,'' Winton said, ``I think it's very important to create a new transit system that can move people from neighborhood to neighborhood.''

The money for the study will be drawn from Miami's portion of the county's half-cent transportation tax.

Henry Mojica, program director of the Rafael Hernandez Housing & Economic Corp., welcomed the idea of street cars. His organization builds affordable housing and fixes up facades of businesses in Wynwood, .

''It'll bring more people to the area and they'll spend more money,'' Mojica said. ``Not just for the arts, but other businesses will hopefully gain from this. It'll send out a positive message that this is a positive area.''

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this excites me to no end. I'd rather have a few street cars running than see metrorail expand. I'd love to have both, but if it came down to it, i'd prefer street cars.

I'd also like to see some:

go down 8th street.

coral way bewteen coral gables and brickell.

27th ave/coconut grove

Kendall Rd.

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^I share your excitement! The corridors you mentioned would be perfect for streetcars...

I'm a little more partial to heavy rail though, for the grade separation and potential for subway through Overtown. Plus the views, especially over the Miami River are extraordinary...

I'm picturing Metrorail as being the "express" system and the Streetcar serving as the "local" route.

Luckily to everyone's benefit, the Miami Streetcar project is being done by the City of Miami with its allocated share of the transit tax money, so Miami-Dade County will be able to expand Metrorail and it shouldn't delay the start of the City's project.

Hopefully...

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right... and Las Vegas doesn't seem to be large enough of a market to sustain a team on its own. It'd be like a fish out of water (bad pun intended).

<rant> Miami-Dade County and City of Miami have practically bent over backwards and the Marlins have been whining and stalling and trying to squeeze out every public dollar they can... Of course this is a stunt to see who blinks first. </rant>

Anyways, to add more kindle to the fire:

----------------

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/10389146.htm

Pro Player to evict Marlins after 2010

BY BARRY JACKSON

bjackson@herald.com

Pro Player Stadium, owned by Dolphins and former Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga, has informed the Marlins they will not be permitted to use the facility after the 2010 season, an official close to stadium management told The Herald Friday.

The surprising twist adds even more urgency to the Marlins' attempts to resolve their longterm future, an issue at the forefront in recent days with news that team officials met this week with Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who is courting a team.

Pro Player Stadium President Bruce Schulze confirmed the Marlins will be bounced after 2010, the last of a series of one-year lease options for the team, and said the move will allow the facility to pursue other events such as cricket and soccer.

Marlins president David Samson confirmed receiving the letter, dated Nov. 16, but has not yet responded. He said he was not surprised or angered.

''The owner is free to do what he chooses,'' Samson said. ``What this does is make it very clear the need for the Marlins to have a new place to play is no longer just about economics. It's about survival.''

In Samson's first public comments since the Las Vegas meeting -- which he did not attend -- the team president said he ''firmly believes'' a deal will be completed for a $420 million retractable roof stadium near the Orange Bowl and the issue of how the Marlins would cover cost overruns, which had been a sticking point, is ``on the cusp of being resolved.''

Schulze said PPS is unable to acquire some events because of problems created by the infield dirt during baseball season. He said the fact the Dolphins have had problems kicking field goals off the dirt was not a factor in the decision to eventually cut ties with the Marlins.

''Longterm, there are many things we can do that wouldn't conflict with baseball,'' Schulze said. ``The dirt is a big operational issue to deal with. The management of the dirt ends up problematic for other events, such as international soccer matches. Those events shy away because they don't want dirt on their fields.''

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http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/10383377.htm

Marlins look to a glitzy alternative

The lack of progress on talks with Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami for a proposed stadium near the Orange Bowl has spurred the Marlins to look toward Las Vegas for relocation.

BY BARRY JACKSON

bjackson@herald.com

Frustration with the slow pace of stadium negotiations has prompted Marlins officials to begin exploring relocation options, including a Wednesday meeting with Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.

Though the team isn't ready to move yet -- and the Marlins would need baseball approval, regardless -- several major issues remain unresolved in the team's pursuit of a retractable-roof stadium adjacent to the Orange Bowl:

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I agree, that Metrorail would be more of a long-distance commuter travel and the streetcars would be localized. This route to Midtown would help to connect that area with the CBD and all. Hopefully, they'll include a stop at Government Center. Speaking of that, Gov't Center needs remodeling in my opinion. It doesn't seem to have "flow", and walking in there is like a trip to the past, lol.

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Marlins' Samson says Miami deal close

By Sarah Talalay

Staff Writer

Posted December 11 2004

Marlins President David Samson said Friday he is convinced a ballpark deal in Miami will be completed soon, despite team executives meeting with the mayor of Las Vegas earlier this week.

Samson said the meeting between two Marlins officials and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who wants to lure a major league team to his city, was to ensure the Marlins consider their options for a new home. The team's need to look at alternatives is fueled in part by a Nov. 16 letter it received from Pro Player Stadium management indicating the Marlins' lease will be terminated when it expires after the 2010 season.

"There's a sense of urgency for the Marlins to organize and plan its future," Samson said. "We firmly believe a stadium deal will get done, but getting that deal done is no longer simply about economics.

"It's about the franchise itself."

The team has a series of one-year options at the stadium, owned by H. Wayne Huizenga, that run through the 2010 season. Every December, the team must exercise its option for the year after the coming one, meaning this month the team plans to renew for 2006.

Samson said the team has offered to guarantee cost overruns and remains hopeful it can move to a $420 million retractable roof stadium east of the Orange Bowl by 2008, to stem the losses it incurs at Pro Player. The Marlins pay rent and receive only percentages of concessions and parking and no suite revenue.

"The fact is we are very hopeful and very close to a deal that will keep the Marlins in South Florida, in the city of Miami and the county of Miami-Dade, for the next 40 years," Samson said. "We are a millimeter away."

Team, city and county officials have been negotiating a financing plan for months but have yet to finalize a deal.

As a result, Marlins Vice Chairman Joel Mael and Vice President of Communications and Broadcasting P. J. Loyello met with Las Vegas officials on Wednesday, although both sides insisted relocation was not discussed.

Las Vegas officials hope to lure a team, after making an unsuccessful bid for the Montreal Expos, who will move to Washington, D.C., next year.

"I cannot comment on the Las Vegas trip other than to say with the lack of absolute certainty regarding a stadium deal, it has become necessary to keep an open mind, given that the very survival of our franchise is at stake," Samson said.

The Las Vegas trip angered Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and City Manager Joe Arriola, who accused the team of negotiating in bad faith.

However, both said the city's offer to the team still stands, and county officials remain bullish that a deal can be completed.

Samson said the team has offered a lien on the franchise as well as a method for funding overruns, which have been a sticking point.

"We have all agreed that the partnership itself, the county, city and team, will work together with the construction manager and the architect so that all of us have comfort that the project is being built according to budget and if not there will be early warning indications and agreements in place for the team alone to fund the increase in price," Samson said.

Sarah Talalay can be reached at stalalay@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4173.

Copyright

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Jeff conine is right,what difference is it gonna make,theres no point in making anything if you cant fill up the other one anyway.Well,there might be a chance of increase in attendance,but still its doesnt have to go as far as leaving.They should build a staduim in downtown,probably in Watson Island.Or,bring the Orlando Magic and welcome them here,it'll be great.

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Jeff conine is right,what difference is it gonna make,theres no point in making anything if you cant fill up the other one anyway.Well,there might be a chance of increase in attendance,but still its doesnt have to go as far as leaving.They should build a staduim in downtown,probably in Watson Island.Or,bring the Orlando Magic and welcome them here,it'll be great.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

How exactly would it be "great" to move a team from another city and put a 2nd one in Miami, when it hasn't even supported the one it has now until it got Shaq?

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http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/...th/10419915.htm

Posted on Thu, Dec. 16, 2004

WYNWOOD

Streetcars will get a look in $613,000 study

The Miami City Commission has OK'd a study that will look at putting streetcars through a large Wynwood development.

BY MICHAEL VASQUEZ AND DAVID OVALLE

dovalle@herald.com

Streetcars are one step closer to appearing in Wynwood.

The Miami City Commission has approved a study that will examine putting old-fashioned streetcars through the Midtown Miami development in Wynwood.

The $613,000 study, part of a larger plan to run streetcars through Northeast Miami, passed unanimously and with little discussion on Dec. 9.

Miami Mayor Manny Diaz said although the streetcar concept -- and stops at Midtown -- are still in the planning stages, it made sense to use the Wynwood project as a ''major hub'' along the route, given its large-scale mix of retail shops and residences.

''It's an integral part of that rail system,'' Diaz said.

Although the city has yet to approve the wider plan, administrators said it was important to begin incorporating ideas for the streetcar stops and tracks into Midtown Miami, the 56-acre residential and commercial development in Wynwood.

Construction there already has begun.

'The worst thing we could do is build all this stuff and then say, `OK, we're going to do a streetcar, and oh, we have to bust up 10 city blocks to do it,' '' City Manager Joe Arriola said at after last week's commission meeting.

The study will look at how at least one station and a two-track route, estimated at a length of 3,000 feet, would be integrated into Midtown Miami. It will examine everything from electric wiring for street lamps to soil condition at the site.

The development is expected to be a catalyst for change in Wynwood, a blue-collar neighborhood that has seen major improvements in recent years, including many new art galleries.

The development features thousands of residential units and big-box retail stores at the old Buena Vista rail yard between Northeast 29th and 36th streets.

''It's a way for people coming from Midtown Miami going downtown to travel around in ease and comfort,'' said Michael Samuel, one of the project's principal developers. ``We've very excited about it and think it's a great idea for Midtown Miami.''

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http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/...al/10472763.htm

Posted on Thu, Dec. 23, 2004

OPA-LOCKA

Business center gets hefty loan

Town Center Properties, which built Opa-locka's first major new office building in several years, received a $2.2 million loan from the Miami-Dade Urban Task Force to help tenants with basic necessities.

BY TRENTON DANIEL

tdaniel@herald.com

The Miami-Dade Urban Task Force issued a loan of $2.2 million Monday for what might be considered office supplies: security systems, computer networks and copiers.

But the loan is representative of something else: a move by Town Center Properties and supporters to spark an economic boom in the financially struggling city of Opa-locka.

''It's difficult for businesses to get capital for projects in Opa-locka,'' said Anthony Williams, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek. The Miami congressman chairs the Miami-Dade Urban Task Force.

''It's easy to get a loan to build something on Brickell. Downtown Opa-locka is another story,'' Williams said.

With the loan, the Urban Task Force, Town Center representatives and allies are hoping to change that.

About 18 months ago, Town Center staffers approached the Urban Task Force with the idea of applying for a loan that would help underwrite the basic office necessities for some of the tenants, including nonprofit organizations, at the four-story building at 780 Fisherman St., said Dennis Stackhouse, managing member of Town Center Properties.

''It enables us to provide a better service to the tenants in the building,'' Stackhouse said in a phone interview Tuesday. ``It covers the gap.''

The loan will help tenants like Sonset Caf

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http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/business/10481918.htm

PORT OF MIAMI-DADE

Port of Miami-Dade profits boosted by the Far East

BY JANE BUSSEY

jbussey@herald.com

Rising imports from China and South America made up for diminishing trade with the Caribbean and Central America at the Port of Miami-Dade, according to numbers the port released Wednesday. The cruise business also took a hit this year.

''The big news here is we are seeing the continued growth from the Far East,'' said Miami-Dade Port Director Charles Towsley.

``It you put China and Hong Kong together, they are our No. 1 trade partner.''

Towsley acknowledged it had been a challenging fiscal year, which ended in September.

The economic slowdown in parts of Latin America, the steady siphoning off of Central American production to Asia, rising security costs, the loss of two large cruise ships and a truckers wildcat strike in July all affected operations at the port.

Port authorities, the terminal operators and independent truckers are currently holding private mediation talks to resolve that problem. All participants are barred from discussing the proceedings with the press.

Hardest hit by the downturn was the number of cruise passengers, which fell from just under four million in 2003 to 3.5 million in 2004, an 11.6 percent decrease.

But the cruise line numbers should improve with the arrival of the Carnival Valor, as well as two new cruise line terminals under construction that should be completed next year, Towsley said.

''In '05, we are going to be back up to four million [passengers],'' he said.

While cargo measured in containers was down by 3 percent for the year, tonnage rose 2.5 percent. The port measures its trade performance in tons and number of containers rather than in the value of the cargo, which is the way the U.S. Commerce Department measures trade statistics.

The increase in trade with Asia compensated for the drop in Central American cargo, according to the port's statistics. Trade with Europe, which makes up one-fourth of the volume of trade at the port, was flat for 2004.

Exports and imports with the Caribbean, Central America and South American comprises more than 50 percent of all the volume of trade at the port.

Some of the largest imports at the port include tiles from Spain and Italy, fruits and vegetables, beer, wine, spirits and apparel, while large exports include newsprint, and textiles.

Revenue at the port dropped nearly 5 percent, from $83.2 million to $79.2 million, the first such fall since 1999.

At the same time that revenue is being squeezed, security costs and capital improvement expenditures are soaring, as the port installs new access roads and other installations to meet the new demands of security.

''Security touches us in very many ways,'' Towsley said.

''Those are all extra costs that are significant,'' he said, adding that the port is trying to trim its expenses in order to avoid raising charges to cruise and cargo ships, which could cause the port to lose its competitive edge.

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Related Urbanplanet.org topic: [ ]

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/10499382.htm

LIBERTY CITY

Seventh Avenue: Liberty City merchants struggle

BY DANIEL de VISE

Special to The Herald

This is one of an occasional series on Miami-Dade County's Seventh Avenue corridor.

Frayed cords lead from an old turntable inside Tommy Lattimore's locked office to a pair of monster speakers near the curb that fill Seventh Avenue with the swelling chorus of the gospel song I'll Take You There.

It's loud enough to peel the remaining paint from the tattered storefronts of a decaying street.

''I'm trying to spread the word,'' said Lattimore, leaning on his cane and raising his voice over the racket, ``to all the crackheads, all the bums on the street, all the kids with their pants down their behinds: There's only one way to come up. The right way.''

Seventh Avenue is the moribund Main Street of Liberty City, a string of woebegone storefronts holding out against eviction and gentrification.

The avenue hums with traffic. And yet, the Seventh Avenue corridor between Northwest 40th and 79th streets feels like a ghost town.

''Seventh Avenue is dead. There's nothing happening no more,'' said Ryann Lasster, one of the younger generation of blacks said to be fleeing Liberty City for the suburbs. He works on Seventh Avenue but lives in North Lauderdale.

Black developer Alonzo Kelly coined the term Liberty City in the 1920s for the subdivision Liberty City Homesite Estate, bounded by Northwest 12th and 17th avenues and 67th and 71st streets.

The heart of the community, at Seventh Avenue and 62nd Street, is defined by a riot. Black citizens revolted over three days in May 1980 following an all-white jury's acquittal of county cops in the beating death of Arthur McDuffie, a black insurance man. Liberty City never fully recovered.

STARTING UP

Tommy Lattimore came down to Liberty City from Albany, Ga., in 1962 on an $11 Trailways bus ticket with 50 cents in his pocket. He grew up the youngest of 17 children on a farm, sleeping on a chicken-feather mattress on an iron bed beneath a tin roof.

He set up the car wash 35 years ago at Seventh Avenue and 52nd Street. A wash cost 50 cents then. It's $7 now.

Lattimore cooks barbecue in a steel drum on Fridays and Saturdays. Loud gospel music crackles from his record player daily. 'I don't play any rock 'n' roll or blues,'' he said. ``This car wash is a religious car wash.''

A message, painted in white against the red wall of the building, reads, Please Black people ask God to help us stick together and we will survive.

Survival is about the best any business owner can hope for here. Abandoned storefronts outnumber open shops by three to one on some blocks. A handful of longtime tenants speak not of bold plans or future prosperity but of just hanging on.

''This street right here should be booming with business. But it's not,'' said James ''Bobby'' Lasster, owner of Bobby's Gym, 5708 NW Seventh Ave.

Lasster, 58, opened his gym 15 years ago with 400 pounds of weights and two benches. Today, the gym is cavernous and hard-core: plain iron barbells; crumbling paint; no air conditioning. There's a photo on the wall of the one-time construction worker at age 27, buff, sporting a handlebar mustache.

Bobby charges $25 a month.

He lived off Seventh for more than 20 years. Lasster left the neighborhood seven years ago for North Lauderdale. Now he shops at the Broward Mall.

''I was just tired, just tired,'' he said. ``I would have moved my business. But I built this from nothing.''

SHUTTERED STORES

Inner City Wings, an ambitious soul-food restaurant across the street, is shuttered. So is Times 2, a failed clothing boutique, and Mr. Muhammad's Dry Cleaning, down the block.

The nearest sign of life is outside the V&M Meat Market, where Muntaquim and Ayesha Muhammad sell cheap DVD copies and flea-market bric-a-brac beneath umbrellas.

Two decades ago, the Muhammads organized a Black Vendors Association and pushed for the government to finance an open-air market along Seventh Avenue. It didn't pan out.

Customers pull up every few minutes. ''Hey, man,'' one asks, ''You got Rude Boys?'' Later this week, Muntaquim replies.

''This is what's real,'' Ayesha Muhammad said, gesturing to the table of bric-a-brac.

''We need people on the street,'' Muntaquim said. ``It just brings the street alive.''

Shopkeepers say the avenue needs landscaping, new sidewalks and palm trees. They keep hearing about government grants and wonder why none of the money reaches them.

Inside the Seventh Avenue headquarters of the redevelopment group Tools for Change, urban-renewal expert John Mills tells a more nuanced story.

Seventh Avenue shopkeepers mostly operate without formal business plans, without cash reserves, without decent credit. If the shopkeepers, individually or collectively, came forward with a credible plan to improve the street and offer a well-reasoned service to the community, they'd get the money.

They seldom do. Federal money earmarked for Liberty City is routinely redirected to other causes, Mills said, for lack of an organized merchant community. ''They look to the government to back them,'' he said. ``That's not the right approach.''

Tools for Change has surveyed businesses up and down Seventh Avenue. They've found mostly tragedies.

Take Jack's Rite Taste. The Jamaican fish restaurant once netted $30,000 a month, Mills said, on foot traffic from nearby housing projects. The projects shut down, the tenants moved away, and now the restaurant sits virtually empty at the peak dinner hour.

''I don't have an answer to it,'' said Jack Sherwood, standing by the doorway in his chef's apron at lunchtime with nothing to do. ``I only have the good days to remember.''

But there are some success stories: Cafe Nanking, a popular eatery at 65th Street with clean tables and large portions, and Esther's Restaurant, at 46th Street, a successful soul food restaurant that has prospered despite a shooting in 2000 that killed one employee and wounded two more.

Esther's began in 1960 as a traditional Cuban cantina, delivering boxed dinners. Today the clientele is predominantly black.

A prominent sign reads, No refunds or exchanges without your food. Food is served cafeteria-style from large steel tubs: oxtail, liver and onions, BBQ short ribs, nothing over $7.48.

''Cuban soul food,'' joked Tony Suarez, co-owner of the chain. His family learned from an African-American cook to blend Caribbean spices into the traditional Cuban sauces, and to add ''a bit of grease and black pepper'' to the soul food.

The restaurants serve 600 pounds of oxtail a day.

''They know their food,'' said Dennis Lewis, waiting in line on a recent morning. ``Everybody loves it.''

The best-known black-owned shop on the avenue is Afro In Books & Things, at 56th Street, nationally known for literature by, for and about blacks. Opened in 1978 by two Dade school administrators, Afro In remains a thriving cultural center.

Inside, the shelves brim with books about African-American icons -- Spike Lee, James Brown, Tiger, Ali.

''I was so idealistic,'' recalled Eursla Wells, co-founder of Afro In. ``We had a little sofa in there, a little love seat, and people just started coming in.''

Wells recalls a time when every storefront on the block was filled.

OBSTACLES

What went wrong?

Apathy. Shopkeepers, those who remain, are ''mostly resigned'' that gentrification will ultimately force them from the neighborhood, said Mills, the redevelopment official.

Flight. Younger, upwardly mobile blacks are leaving for the suburbs, the elders say, and those who stay find somewhere else to shop.

Edison Plaza, once home to a Winn-Dixie supermarket, sits mostly empty now, awaiting redevelopment. The supermarket opened with great fanfare in 1985, rising from the ashes of the 1980 riots and the looted Pantry Pride market. It closed four years ago.

''They messed up when they took the Winn-Dixie away,'' said Profairo Black, 32, a local man hanging out at a meat shop on a recent afternoon.

But the most profound adversary faced by Seventh Avenue may be parking.

The avenue is an official diversion route for Interstate 95. All four lanes of traffic must, in theory, be kept clear at all times in case of gridlock. Police bent the rules for years, allowing customers to park at the curb for a few minutes. Last year, they cracked down. Business owners raged. Most stores have no designated lots.

A compromise, reached last summer, allowed shoppers to park along Seventh Avenue storefronts except during rush hour. The compromise is considered temporary; eventually all parking will be prohibited.

Said Mills of Tools for Change: ``It will be catastrophic.''

AREA DEMOGRAPHICS

Here is 2000 Census information for the Seventh Avenue corridor through the Liberty City area, roughly from Northwest 40th and 79th streets, Interstate 95 and Miami Avenue.

Racial breakdown: 92 percent black, 6 percent Hispanic and the rest non-Hispanic white, mixed or other.

Median household income: $17,500 to $24,000 along the corridor, highest to the south, lowest to the north.

Poverty rate for individuals: 41 percent.

Nativity: 90 percent native-born; the dominant foreign-born group is Haitian.

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Fascinating... That is a place I would love to see revitalized for the benefit of its residents. With some initiative it can be successful.

Back in 1983 my father was on the roof of what is now the Wachovia Financial Center and he recalled the vastness of the fires as seen from above during the Liberty City riots. What a shame; it's always been a place on edge ever since.

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River walks among city projects for new year

By Yeleny Suarez

Miami Today

Early phases to create a Miami River greenway are among 11 capital-improvement projects the City of Miami plans to launch in January.

The greenway project is a four- to five-year plan to build waterfront walkways and a tourism destination along the Miami River in an effort to highlight the area in a way that will co-exist with planned commercial development as well as existing industry.

Work on an accompanying $1.8 million streetscape project is the first step in the project and would add road milling and resurfacing, sidewalks, drainage, landscaping and lighting.

Miami River Commission Managing Director Brett Bibeau said Tuesday that 60% of documentation for the streetscape project is completed and workers should break ground early next year.

"One exciting section currently under construction is Lummus Landing on 404 NW Third St., the oldest park in the city of Miami," he said. "The park has been blocked by a chain-link fence for more than a decade, and once riverfront construction is finished, the fence will be removed."

The Florida Department of Transportation is providing about $6.2 million to build the greenway, which is to stretch 11 miles along both sides of the 5.5-mile river. The Knight Foundation gave $2.5 million, which was used for engineering and construction plans.

Another $7.5 million from a bond issue passed in November by Miami-Dade County voters is expected to go toward the greenway project.

Miami officials say they have 21 capital-improvement projects planned through May at a total estimated construction cost of $43 million. All have been approved by the city commission.

Contractors for individual projects need to be hired before the work can begin. The selection process could affect the city's timetable.

"Dates are subject to change forward or back depending on when the pre-construction meetings are scheduled and the outcome of them," said Danette Perez, Miami's capital-improvement coordinator.

One of the city's other projects will be $3 million in improvements to Memorial Boulevard between Southwest Eighth Street through Coral Way and 13th Avenue. Work will include road repairs, upgraded storm drainage, intersection enhancement and asphalt surfacing.

Other projects on the city's 2005 schedule that officials plan to have under way by May include:

*$9.1 million for changing one-way traffic to two-way along the Flagler Street Marketplace. Workers will resurface pavement, add landscaping and lighting.

*$6.7 million for a two-phase drainage project in Liberty City.

*$2.6 million for right-of-way and site improvements to Shenandoah Park.

*$2 million in road improvements on Northwest 14th Street.

*$1.4 million to restore the old police precinct and museum courthouse at 1009 NW Fifth Ave. for use as a museum and community center.

*$1.1 million for sewer and pump-station installation at Virginia Key Beach to serve existing and future development.

*$1.1 million for Northwest 15th Street improvements.

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County hires firm to oversee arts-center construction

By Samantha Joseph

Miami Today

The new year will bring a new manager to oversee construction of the Miami Performing Arts Center, a project that has fallen nearly two years behind schedule and exceeded budget by more than $67 million.

The county will begin a 20-month contract Jan. 1 for up to $4 million with URS Corp. to oversee construction of the center. URS, currently project manager for the center, will provide onsite management and take over daily administration of the work, including inspections and construction monitoring.

The company has worked on the project on a monthly basis since last summer, receiving about $2.3 million. When the county advertised for a long-term consultant in September, the firm was the sole respondent.

Under the agreement, URS will report indirectly to assistant Miami-Dade County manager Bill Johnson through the Performing Arts Center Management Office.

The addition of URS to the management team comes on the heels of a long list of troubles plaguing the center's construction.

Its hiring follows the demotion of construction manager Gail Thompson earlier this year. Ms. Thompson, who received $170,000 salary and about $20,000 in benefits annually, resigned in July.

After her departure, County Manager George Burgess named Mr. Johnson project director and sought permission from commissioners to hire 10 URS executives at hourly rates of up to $150 on a monthly basis.

Repeated construction delays have pushed estimated costs from $255 million to $412 million.

Center officials announced in May that they needed $19.4 million to meet preconstruction cost increases if the center was to be completed by spring 2006. The center's opening date since has been postponed to September 2006.

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County: Arts center project has sparked economy

By Samantha Joseph

Despite problems associated with its construction costs and schedule, the Miami Performing Arts Center project is creating jobs and generating work for small businesses.

As the largest project under way in one of the county's empowerment zones, the center is expected to be a major boost in revitalizing Miami's Omni area.

In the past two years, county records show that 3,140 people have worked at the site, which sprawls across 5.9 acres on both sides of Biscayne Boulevard between Northeast 13th and 14th streets.

Current employment at the construction project stands at 550, according to arts center officials. Project officials expect to add workers before the project's targeted completion date of summer 2006.

As part of an employment strategy with the county, center officials agreed to hire about 200 workers from three areas that included the Central Business District and unincorporated Miami-Dade County.

An agreement to hire of unemployed and underemployed workers in some of the county's most depressed communities resulted in jobs for 342 workers who live in Wynwood, Overtown and other areas surrounding the site.

"It's part of a commitment to hire people who need work," said Gail Eaton, chief marketing officer of the Performing Arts Center Trust.

The center has generated about $35 million in work contracts for local businesses since 2001 but still needs to award millions more to other companies as part of a county requirement to include small firms in the project. About 21 companies are now involved in the center's construction.

Repeated delays and planning problems have driven up estimated costs of the Performing Arts Center project from about $255 million to $412 million.

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Six retailers sign on at Mary Brickell Village

By Sherri C. Ranta

Miami Today

Six new shops and stores with leases for 19,050 square feet have been added to the tenant list at Mary Brickell Village, a mixed-use project under construction in Brickell.

French furniture store Bois et Chiffons, which had been considering Miracle Mile in Coral Gables for its entry into the US, chose the 192,000-square-foot Brickell project because of the amount of residential construction planned and under way in the area, said Kerry Newman, senior associate at leasing company Koniver Stern Group.

Bois et Chiffons, which has more than 100 stores in France and Europe, leased 6,000 square feet.

Mary Brickell Village, on 5.7 acres along Southwest First Avenue at Brickell Plaza and on South Miami Avenue between Southwest Ninth and Tenth streets, is expected to open in the summer. It is a joint venture that includes developer Constructa US.

Another French company, La Romainville bakery shop, will make its US debut in 1,600 square feet at Mary Brickell Village. The store will be the flagship location for a US expansion.

Other newly signed leases are with Rosa Mexicano restaurant for 8,000 square feet, Coral Gables cooking school Ars Magirica for 1,000 square feet, florist Kabloom for 600 square feet and wine retailer the Grape for 1,850. The Grape will enter South Florida with the Brickell store.

Rosa Mexicano will open its fourth US restaurant, Mr. Newman said. The eatery will be designed by New York architect David Rockwell.

Union Planters Bank is expected to lease about 3,500 square feet, he said. It is to be the only bank in the two-story retail portion of the project.

"People will come here to do their banking," he said, "go to the florist, get milk, buy a shirt, get their hair cut, go to the spa, work out. There's a lot of reasons to go to the project not just once a week but three or four times a week."

About 28 tenants, including anchors Bally's Total Fitness at 25,000 square feet and Publix grocery story at 30,000, are signed. The project will also include Skyline Mary Brickell, a 369-unit condominium tower by developer Skyline Realty, FLA. Publix will occupy the base of the building. Residential construction is expected to begin early next year, officials said.

Retail space is available at Mary Brickell Village, Mr. Newman said. He said rental rates have increased more that 50% since construction began last year. Rates start at $55 to $60 per square foot on the first floor, he said.

Other signed tenants, according to the project Web site, are Adelle Dallas, a South African resort-apparel shop opening its second US location; AT&T Wireless; Bikini Shop; Blue Martini; Caf

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thanks for the update. it's nice to have someone else around here keeping an eye on things...

i'm still not sure what to think about this place.

the retail will be a much needed shot in the arm to the urbanity of the area, but it seems to have a suburban flare to it. the local shops there seem to be having a hard enough time as it is. I guess i'm just worried about it turning into another cocowalk.

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http://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/st.../27/daily3.html

Water Taxi to add S. Beach stop

Starting Tuesday, Greater Fort Lauderdale's Water Taxi said it will begin weekly service to Miami's South Beach, in addition to its regular Saturday service, and will add a stop at a Hollywood hotel.

The now twice-weekly excursions depart at 8:45 a.m. from Water Taxi's main Fort Lauderdale terminal at 651 Seabreeze Blvd.

The new stop en route is to be the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood. Water Taxi is to depart from the hotel at 10 a.m. and then continue to South Beach.

The water taxi is to depart from South Beach and arrive at The Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa at 5:45 p.m., returning to the main terminal in Fort Lauderdale at 7 p.m.

The fare for the round-trip ride between either the main terminal or the Westin in Greater Fort Lauderdale and Miami's South Beach is $17

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