Daily Archives: November 21, 2006

A Philanthropic Michael Capponi

CORRECTING and REPLACING Grassroots Thanksgiving Effort Led by Michael Capponi to Feed and Help Homeless in Downtown Miami Continues to Draw Support and Volunteers
Monday November 20, 2:07 pm ET

Doctors and Addiction Specialists to Offer Services; Restaurants and Philanthropists Underwriting Cost of Food; DJ Irie to Provide Music

MIAMI BEACH, Fla.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Second graph, location address of event should read: …at the Miami Arena, 721 NW 1st Ave. (sted …at the American Airlines Arena.).

The corrected release reads:


Doctors and Addiction Specialists to Offer Services; Restaurants and Philanthropists Underwriting Cost of Food; DJ Irie to Provide Music.

The grassroots effort by hospitality entrepreneur and real estate developer Michael Capponi to feed the homeless in downtown Miami on Thanksgiving Day has grown into a larger outreach initiative that will include the services of physicians, addiction specialists and not-for-profit organizations provided at no charge to the community, Capponi announced today.

“Spirit of Thanksgiving” will take place on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Miami Arena, 721 NW 1st Ave.

Joining the effort are J.R. and Loren Ridinger of Market America and Jim Cavanaugh, president of Janni-King, who are underwriting the cost of more than 1,500 meals; Shareef Malnik of The Forge restaurant, who has arranged and paid for transportation to the event; Dr. Jeff Kamlet, president of the Florida Society of Addiction Medicine, who will provide addiction treatment evaluations and sponsor rehabilitation programs; additional physicians who will give medical aid where needed; representatives from Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Miami Rescue Mission, among other not-for-profit organizations; Eric Milon of The Opium Group, who will provide non-alcoholic beverages; Rosinella restaurant, which will provide desserts; and Miami’s favorite, DJ Irie, who will handle the music and make “Spirit of Thanksgiving” a day to remember.

“Due to the overwhelming response to our first announcement, more than 200 volunteers have called and written to offer their support,” Capponi said. “We continue to welcome Miamians who want to join this effort and lend a hand, as well as donate clothing and blankets for distribution.”

To participate in the “Spirit of Thanksgiving,” please contact Michael Capponi at mc@michaelcapponi.com or call his office at (305) 695-4410.


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The New American Riviera: Sunny Isles




November 21, 2006 — IT is a cloudless, balmy day, and we are strolling past a bright green English-perfect lawn to a white, sandy beach, where we plant ourselves under pretty red umbrellas.

Servers, clad in flowing white tunics, buzz around, bearing trays of tropical drinks stuffed with fresh fruit. A holiday acquaintance from St. Barts stops by to say hello. We experience the sensation, suddenly, of having forgotten where we are.

Oh, yes. We are in Sunny Isles Beach where, until recently, the only reason to drop by (in our estimation) would have been for Jewish classics at the red-naugahyde paradise that is Wolfie Cohen’s Rascal House, one of the Miami area’s truly great restaurant relics.

But everything changes. North Miami Beach will soon feature Canyon Ranch Living (conveniently located across from Dunkin’ Donuts). Further up, you have Bal Harbour imploding on itself in an effort to go even further upscale. Sunny Isles, the next in line as you drive north, is under fire, being promoted by developers as the new hotness.

Right now, Sunny Isles is part construction zone and a lot scruffy old beach town, a favorite with old-timers who have vacationed here for more than a generation. They are now finding themselves having to move their beach chairs out of the shadows of high rise condominiums and package hotels such as the Trump Sonesta and a Le Meridien.

Former Ritz-Carlton president Horst Schulze’s Solis hotel is slated to open just one door north of Haulover Park in 2008.

The Kimpton Group’s Sole hotel (we are now taking bets on which one will change its name first) is due to open nearby next year.

Separating the two will be a Trump development of epic proportions. (Covering the fences lining the streets are ads printed with giant-sized puffy images of Trump and his development partners. Less Trump Royale, more Trump Royale with Cheese.)

Not that development is ruining the community, necessarily.

The kitsch value of properties such as the Thunderbird, the Suez, the Monaco and the Golden Nugget (all now owned by Trump’s partners) is not to be discounted. However, beyond that, the town, filled with miles of gloomy strip malls, has little to boast about.

And while the hotels crow that Miami’s nightlife is a short hop away, 11 miles of driving on congested surface streets seems a trial. Particularly after mojitos.

Hence, and contrary to my usual stance on resorts, the best you can hope for in a Sunny Isles hotel is that it does not have a “sense of place.” You want to be kept as insulated as possible.

A night in the shoulder-width Le Meridien, jammed onto a sliver of beach, revealed that at least one hotel is failing miserably.

Our room was nice enough, with spare, modern furnishings. But a failed attempt at eating dinner in the restaurant, marshaled by a hostess with Hair-U-Wear and no people skills, sent us running for room service.

Things did not improve at the Trump Sonesta. Good luck navigating the ugly interior up to an antiseptic pool, elevated so far above the beach that you run out of energy to tackle the narrow staircase leading down to it.

We’d almost given up guessing what anybody sees in this town besides the location. But then we checked into the Acqualina, a brand new, 96-room, Rosewood-managed resort in a 51-story residential confection whose exterior unapologetically thieves both from Italian villas and the Vegas hotels that rip them off.

A surprising thing happened once in the lobby, with its Venetian-ish marble columns, sky-high coffered ceilings, red and gold velvet and damask furnishings: We were transported.

To where, we weren’t sure, but it was far away from the flickering Subway sign across the street.

The front desk, which had been alerted to our arrival by the valet, whisked us up to our room.

I remembered why I like Rosewood’s flagship, the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, so much. It keeps telling you it is European, but it is actually European filtered through the lens of a wealthy lady from Dallas. Opulent and slightly inappropriate, but endlessly gracious.

Since this was low season, our room had been automatically upgraded two levels from an Intracoastal Waterway room. Our large oceanfront room was light and beachy, in cream colors with classic dark wood furniture.

An old-school bar with real-sized bottles stood in the corner. A huge, flat-screen TV swiveled 360 degrees to the plush couch and retracted into a white upholstered box at the base of the bed. Sounds cheesy, but it actually (almost) resolved the sticky interior design question of what to do with the tube.

Our room also looked over the outdoor area of the new ESPA spa, whose rooftop lounge area was still in the works (it will open next month).

Unlike other area hotels, Acqualina has carefully considered its outside spaces, with three distinct pools (one for adults only), separated by green lawns and punctuated by bright red upholstered furniture, all looking out to the resort’s particularly nice beach.

Here, one may -as we did – avail oneself of delicious specialty pineapple mojitos from the Costa Grill, the poolside restaurant that is mostly open to guests and residents only.

We were a bit thrown off by the presence of New York’s Il Mulino. While some people might leave home to eat the same food in the same atmosphere, we decided on the resort’s signature restaurant, Aaria, for its creative mish-mosh of Asian and Mediterranean (delicious but for the chef’s accident with a saltshaker).

Pricey, yes, but for an evening we were sitting on a terrace overlooking some other stretch of ocean, in another country, millions of miles away from Route A1A and the strip malls, just out the front door.

Gordon (who, like a wealthy lady from Dallas, is opulent and slightly inappropriate), always travels anonymously at the Post’s expense.


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Cameo Demolished to Make Room for Portico

Affordable housing oasis demolished


A homeless man leaves the Cameo Apartments after he and a companion were awakened by the sounds of the stairs being demolished outside the apartment where he was sleeping.


EXIT PLEASE: A homeless man leaves the Cameo Apartments after he and a companion were awakened by the sounds of the stairs being demolished outside the apartment where he was sleeping.

Demolition workers on Monday began knocking down the Cameo Apartments, a building that once offered affordable housing on Miami’s expensive east side but had become a haven for vagrants after tenants were forced out in June.

When the concrete 1950s-era building at 1825 NE Fourth Ave. is leveled and the debris is trucked away this week or next, the land will be ready for Portico, a 43-story condo tower approved for the site, according to the property owners.

The building and its tenants were the subject of a Miami Herald article this summer that examined how the condo boom was contributing to the loss of affordable housing.

Victor J. Labruzzo, one of the building’s owners, said Monday that a deal is pending with a developer in Tennessee, although financing must still be secured. The deal may be an outright sale or a joint venture. The new building was designed by Arquitectonica.

”We’ll have a clean, safe, fenced lot ready for project Portico,” Labruzzo said.

The Cameo land, east of U.S. 1 near Biscayne Bay, has been surrounded by construction for months as other condo towers rose around it.

Even though the building was swept for people before demolition began Monday, two people — a man and a woman — emerged from a second-floor apartment after workers had already torn off the front staircase. Both were able to make their way safely from the building using a back stairway.

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28-unit 90 Million Dollar Project for SoFi

MIAMI-A developer has secured a $90-million construction loan for South of 5th, a 28-unit condominium project at 125 Ocean Dr. Demolition work on the site has started, with the project expected to be completed within 18 months.

The loan was secured by New York City-based Carlton Advisory Services executives Romano Tio, Marc Sznajderman and Will Lee. Sznajderman tells GlobeSt.com that the loan will pay for all the construction costs of the project.

The project, on one of the last available beach sites in South Beach, will include three cabanas in addition to the condominiums. It is bordered on the north by the South Beach Marriott Destination Resort and on the south by the Bentley Beach condominiums. The architects on the project were Nichols, Brosch, Wurst and Wolfe. Prices for the units range from $1.5 million to $10 million.

With growing weakness in the South Florida condominium market, Carlton faced challenges in obtaining the financing, Sznajderman says. “There are a number of lenders that are not pursuing financing for condo project,” he says. “You have to be more aggressive to get your clients the financing they’re looking for.”

South of 5th has a number of favorable attributes, including a high number of pre-sold units and a premier location. “With great real estate and great sponsorship, you can still obtain financing,” he says.


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Westward Expansion of Lincoln Road

Westward Expansion of Pedestrian Mall Backed by City Board
West End of Lincoln Road to Be Closed to Cars

“The openness and the flow of landscaping design really celebrate the nature of the pedestrian road.”

West Lincoln Road after the closure, as depicted by an aerial rendering.

By Randy Abraham

Miami Beach’s Historic Preservation Board agreed to recommend to the City Commission the closure to traffic of the west end of Lincoln Road, during its Nov. 14 meeting.

The proposal came from the city’s Planning Department and is to be in conjunction with the redevelopment of the SunTrust building at 1111 Lincoln Road. If the plan is approved, the closure will be paid by the city without any assessment required from Lincoln Road property owners.

Board members praised plans presented by the architectural firm Herzog and de Meuron and landscape architect Raymond Jungles.

HPB member Beth Dunlop said although she was concerned about providing enough space for vehicles to drop off theater-goers, she felt the concept will further the design of famed MiMo-era architect Morris Lapidus, who designed the original pedestrian mall in 1960 that closed Lincoln Road to traffic. The move was part of a city effort to revitalize the street in the face of declining tourism revenue and increased competition from Bal Harbour Shops and suburban shopping centers.

Lincoln Road between Alton Road and Lenox Avenue, which is adjacent to the Regal Cinema megaplex movie theater, was reopened to vehicular traffic in the early 1990s as part of the city’s more recent renovation project.

“If he [Lapidus] was alive, he would have done this,” said Dunlop. She also complimented the proposed landscape design and said the city should consider having the firm landscape the rest of the street and also Alton Road.

Board member Jean-Francois LeJeune shared Dunlop’s concerns regarding traffic heading to the movie theater and said more attention should be placed on the intersection of Lincoln Road and Lenox Avenue to improve traffic flow. He said he also felt the streetscape design should be simplified and made less “busy.”

A few local residents also expressed concerns about traffic flow near the theater, but noted that the new design could add to the district’s cachet. Said local resident Elaine Sevin, “I’m concerned about the safety of people letting off people at the theater. If you close off the road, you need an area for drop-off and pick-up,” she said.

Lincoln Road property owner Michael Comras supported the concept but added that perhaps the city should consider leaving one lane open to vehicular traffic in each direction. He did note that “the block doesn’t work in its current configuration.”

Board Chairman Randall Robinson said he agreed with Comras. He said that during past visioning sessions for Lincoln Road, he initially supported opening the street up to traffic, but noted that many now feel otherwise. Robinson added that he doesn’t support either all-or-nothing approach – closure or maintaining vehicular traffic. “I’m not sure if either extreme is correct,” he said.

Miami Design Preservation League member Arthur Marcus added, “For once I think the architects and the developers made the right decision.” He recommended the city add signs directing motorists to parking and said the design would bring a sorely-needed western gateway to the street. “The openness and the flow of landscaping design really celebrate the nature of the pedestrian road,” he said.

In February, when the board approved plans for a new parking garage with ground floor retail space as part of Robert Wennett’s proposed redevelopment of the SunTrust Bank building at 1111 Lincoln Road, city staff encouraged him to explore with them the possibility of extending the existing pedestrian mall and closing the block in front of the building to vehicular traffic.

In a memo to board members, Planning Director Jorge Gomez wrote, “Staff believes the extension of the very successful pedestrian mall will benefit this portion of Lincoln Road and reinforce the pedestrian experience of Lincoln Road from Washington Avenue through to Alton Road.”

The proposal was not without detractors, however. Sherna Brody, who with her husband owns two buildings in the 1000 block of Lincoln Road, said she believed the closure will hurt tenants and aggravate traffic conditions at the Regal Cinema.

“For them to say this is the update to Lapidus’ vision is ridiculous. He [Lapidus] designed a nice deep drive in there for a reason. What I see in the proposal for the drop-off for the theater looks like little blips; I don’t think they are going to be effective,” Brody told the board.

Brody also questioned the landscape rendering’s depiction of large mature trees and doubted they could flourish in the available space. She said she circulated a petition opposing the proposal and has more than 10 signatures from business owners opposed to the plan. She added she felt that the closure would only benefit the 1111 Lincoln Road project. “They need a plan for the whole thing,” she said.

Wennett, who also attended the meeting, denied that the closure would be self-serving and stressed the proposal is entirely separate from his project. “My project stands on its own merits. Everyone – city staff, the Design Review Board, the Board of Adjustments, the Miami Design Preservation League and local businesses – agree that that has always been a dead block. We accepted that, and agreed to explore the closing of Lincoln Road,” he said.


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New 335-unit Two Tower Project in Little Havana

Real Estate Review: Urban Forum
Mixed-use project set for Little Havana

By: Oscar Pedro Musibay: Daily Business Review

Attorney Oscar Rivera persuaded six property owners to simultaneously close on his client’s purchase of 13 parcels, making the planned mixed-use Altos Plaza possible in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.

Rivera, a partner at Siegfried Rivera Lerner De La Torre & Sobel, worked on behalf of Tampa-based retail developer Brandon Partners and Miami-based B Developments.

Rivera also is managing the legal work for B Developments’ plan to develop three nearby sites slated for hundreds of new residential units, retail space and offices. The other projects are Altos Miami, Altos Pointe and Altos Center. All four are on 22nd Avenue west of downtown.

The site of the two-tower, 24-story Altos Plaza on three blocks between Southwest First and Third streets cost $13 million two years ago, and the project received its permit from the city last year.

B Developments’ Miguel Angel Barbagallo plans 335 condos at Altos Plaza plus 40,000 square feet on the ground floor for the first Publix Sabor, a Hispanic-oriented experiment by Florida’s biggest supermarket chain, and other retailers. The plaza also would have 40,000 square feet of office spacefor lease.

The developer has razed structures and expects to begin construction next April, said Gonzalo Negrete, B Developments’ design development manager.

Sales have not begun at Altos Plaza, but the lender is providing the construction loan because of the quality of the project, Publix’s commitment and other retail leases, Negrete said. He would not identify the lender, but said it was a national bank.

The Altos Plaza assemblage was complicated by the bankruptcy of Only Liquors Inc. The case was before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert A. Mark.

The liquor store held a lease on one of the parcels and threatened to upset the lending agreement, Rivera said. The lender mandated the six simultaneous closings and would not lend the construction money if the agreement was compromised.

The leaseholder wanted to stay, and the attorney successfully petitioned Judge Mark to force the closing.

“There was a lot of tension. Each of the sellers had their own lawyers. The lender had a lawyer. Brandon Partners out of Tampa, which tied up parcels and negotiated the contracts, had their own lawyers,” Rivera recalled.

He also said the developers of Altos Plaza were concerned about the impact that a homeowners association could have on the commercial use, so he created separate land and air rights and made B Developments responsible for the ground floor retail, the shell and roof. Publix would not have signed its lease otherwise because its future would have been in the hands of the homeowners association, Rivera said.

He used truck deliveries to the Publix as an example of a potential area of conflict with homeowners, and “residents are going to want things quiet.”

“When you have a shopping component on the ground, you don’t want the residential component telling the commercial what they can do,” he said. “The commercial piece loses value if the residential above it dictates what can happen.”

Barbagallo’s company also has the 17-story, mixed-use Altos Miami under construction at the northwest corner of Flagler and Northwest 22nd Avenue. The project as planned has 122 residential units including 100 under contract, 15,000 square feet of office and about 9,500 square feet of ground floor retail. Altos Miami should be delivered by February, Negrete said.

Buyers in Altos Miami signed contracts three years ago at $215 a square foot. The remaining 22 units will be marketed at $300 to $350 a square foot, Negrete said.

Barbagallo is still working to get major permits for two additional mixed-use projects in the vicinity.

He has proposed Altos Pointe on nearly an acre on the east side of Southwest 22nd Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets, and Altos Center is planned on three-quarters of an acre on the west side of Southwest 22nd Avenue at First and Second streets. Both will combine residential, retail and office space.

Barbagallo also is developing two other projects in Miami.

The 324-unit, two-tower Terrazas River Park Village is under construction on the south shore of the Miami River at 1861 NW South River Drive. The towers would be 27 and 21 stories.

Units were marketed at an average of $350 a square foot, and about 80 percent are under contract. The project, which is next to the city’s Sewell Park, is slated to be completed in early 2009.

Terrazas Coconut Grove is next to the Metrorail station at 2900 SW 28th Lane. The project will have 10,000 square feet of retail space, 75,000 square feet of offices and 93 condo units being marketed at $390 a square foot. Construction is expected to begin early next year.

Barbagallo, a native of Argentina who moved to Miami 10 years ago, said he chose to focus on Little Havana because the area’s proximity to downtown made it a good location. He said he has two other sites under contract in Miami-Dade but wouldn’t identify them.

As for the cooling residential market, Barbagallo said he expects his condo units to sell by targeting the work force niche. He said he has weathered booms and busts before during his decades of developing projects in Argentina.

“Life is long,” he said. “We have a permanent job in development.”


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