Monthly Archives: February 2007

Airport Expansion Contractors Are to Get Paid Faster

Your money, faster. That shoud be the new motto with regards to the contractors working on the $1 billion South Terminal at Miami International Airport. The airport expansion project, considered one of the most expensive and expansive in the hemisphere, has been delayed now for quite some time. The contractors, as expected from these wishy washy folks, are not adequately staffing the work site nor completely adhering to deadlines, etc. This is typical contractor behavior. So, the county, in an effort to curtail their unreliability and expedite their work, will accelerate their compensation. It would be interesting to see how progress payments are being measured. Paying them faster when their performance track record is suspect might not be the best idea. It almost seems like they are being rewarded for their lack of timely performance. In any case, the objective is to complete the South Terminal by this Summer 2007.


Filed under News, Transportation

I Don’t Want Cupcakes, but leave the Boulevard’s Royal Palms Alone!

Image of the Boulevard’s Royal Palms taken in 1949 (New York Times)

Several people were handing out cupcakes to drivers and pedestrians in Downtown Miami to protest the city’s plan to replace Biscayne Boulevard’s numerous Royal Palms with Live Oak trees. This has to be the most absurd piece of news I’ve heard in a long while. Are we in tropical Miami or mild Atlanta? Why Live Oaks? Apparently the Live Oaks will offer shade where the Royal Palms do not. What about the several skyscrapers that block out the sun for half of the day? There is no lack of shade just lack of reason. Leave the Royal Palms alone! They beautify the Boulevard, represent Miami’s climate, cost less to maintain, and are not as susceptible to hurricane force winds as the Live Oaks. Finally, these wretched Live Oak canopies will block my view of the skyscrapers from my car’s sunroof. Not cool.


Filed under BoB Articles, CBD: Financial District, History, News

Brickell’s Most Repulsive New Building: The Club at Brickell Bay

Who came up with the idea of painting a gigantic bright green parabola on the building sides with accents of royal blue in the front and rear? This is horrible for the skyline! First off, we all have to look at it. Secondly, if you own at the Club, and would like to add dark wood or light marble floors to your unit, what do you do about the bright green wall outside in your terrace area? Nothing. What can you do except hate it? There goes any interior décor harmony. It’s even worse for those with partially painted green walls. This is all part of the parabola effect. As if painting the walls this painful color combination is not bad enough, they painted the steel railings too!

There is a much bigger problem with the color scheme: the bright green and blue will fade. The building is near the bay and salt air will diminish the color faster than if it were farther inland. This means that the condominium association will have to paint the building every couple of years. This is no minor cost. We’re talking a couple of hundred thousand dollars per instance. It all could have been avoided with lighter tones. This means that the condominium association will have to fund their reserves to allocate money for the expected repainting of the green parabola exterior. Funding the reserves, although prudent, is not always done in order to reduce monthly maintenance assessments. The alternative means special assessing the unit owners for the funds—not a desirable option. In the case of The Club, the color of the exterior is so bright that if it faded, it would look too terrible to ignore. This means more maintenance and higher assessments for The Club’s unit owners.

Continuing on a negative note, the building’s parking garage is the biggest and nastiest that Brickell has seen in years. It exceeds the height of the neighboring building to the west. There was no effort to cover it, make it more attractive, or compact. Rather it is a blight spot in the beautiful Brickell skyline. For the nasty color scheme, impractical maintenance implications, blah design, and abhorrent parking garage, the Club is by far the most repulsive new building in Brickell. Congrats!


Filed under BoB Articles, Brickell Village, Residential Developments

Bushy Garages Rock!

Soon the lush vines of this garage at One Broadway in Brickell Village will cover the entire garage facade. In case you don’t already know, I appreciate bushy garages.

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Filed under BoB Articles, Miami Beach: South Beach

A Closer Look: Uptown (Midtown Miami)

Getting Started
Midtown Miami is the type of project that forever alters the urban landscape and character of a city. It is hard to put it up against all others. Although all new projects contribute their presence, Midtown Miami is a city within a city. Granted, it will take time for it to be fully built, and there are those that are skeptical it will ever get completely built. However, this project is much too large and already set in motion. Although it can slowdown, it will not stop. Even more important than Midtown Miami’s huge contribution to the urban mix is understanding what stood there before and how it categorically denied any real urban progress in Uptown. Prior to this emerging dazzling array of modern structures was a 56 acre railroad storage yard stacked high with columns of rusted railroad containers. The entire 56 acre area had no infrastructure. It was like a cancerous hole in the city. The storage yard deterred any interest in the entire area, helped diminish Tibor Hollo’s ambitious plans in Omni/Venetia, and hindered the Design District’s allure. To make matters worse, it was centrally located east of the I-95 in the heart of what is now Uptown. In the early nineties, it would have been nearly impossible to fathom that a massive brand new multi-phase mini-city could be built there. Today, because of Midtown Miami, the entire area stands to be catapulted into the new 21st century urban Miami. Yet Midtown Miami itself is not nearly as important as its expected deep effect on the entire area surrounding it. First, one must understand the significant scope and nature of this historic project. Subsequently, its inevitable effects on the urban periphery will become evident.

Midtown Miami At a Glance:
The project has these main components: 2 Midtown, 3 Midtown, 4 Midtown, Midblock, 6 Midtown, and the Shops at Midtown:

2 Midtown: Bernard Zyscovich

2M Mews – A loft segment of the project featuring open unit spaces and extra high ceilings. Mixed use, for both commercial and residential use.
2M Midrise – 62 mixed-use units, 5 levels
2M Tower – 256 units, 29 floors (320ft)

3 Midtown – Chad Oppenheim
3M Mews – A loft segment of the project featuring open unit spaces and extra high ceilings.
3M Midrise – Split level units located at the pedestal level
3M – Tower – 29 floors (309 feet)
3M Penthouse – 7 penthouse split level units at the crown level

4 Midtown – Nichols, Brosch, Wurst, Wolf, and Associates

4M Mews – A loft segment of the project featuring open unit spaces and extra high ceilings.
4M Midrise – Split level units located at the pedestal level
4M Tower – 33 floors (350ft.),

Midblock – Peter Spittler
MB Town homes
MB Lofts and Tower

6 Midtown – Data N/A

The Shops at Midtown
600,000 sq ft.
Managed by DDR

Project size – 18 city blocks on 56 acres with over 600,000 sq. ft. of retail space and over 3000 residential units

Lead Developer – Joe Cayer

Phases Summary
Easily, the most impressive of the Midtown phases is 2, due to its respectable height and unique aspects such as the Midrise portion which has an astounding glass encased multi-cube design. 4 Midtown is also impressive with its taller height and standout crown. Each project has the high-ceiling and open-space loft component featuring split levels. The Mews are those mixed use units at the foot of each building. The Midrise segment consists of those units located at the pedestal level, and the Tower units have lower ceiling heights but soar above all other units in distance from the ground. The Penthouse levels, as expected, are impressive with unique split level floor plans.

Midtown Miami and Uptown
Miami’s skyline cannot be considered mature without a broad area of density. In the recent past, density was loosely centralized around the financial district in the CBD. Brickell had some decent pockets of density as well, but it was not continuous and connected to other pockets of density. Gradually, with so many new developments coming through, the gaps started closing, but in Uptown there were until recently, no pockets of density except the tiny Omni-Venetia enclave. With the construction of the PAC, several projects were announced along Edgewater, but this development was along the bay front away from Biscayne Blvd. and definitely not west of it. This meant that Uptown was emulating Brickell to the south; where density was mostly confined along the bay. This seemed to be the case until Midtown Miami was announced. Then there was a paradigm shift; Not only would there be inland development in Uptown but the westward densification might exceed that of Brickell Village. This was a sudden change in possibilities. Brickell was an established neighborhood. Brickell had the name recognition and posh reputation. Uptown seemed an upstart. Uptown’s viability suddenly rested on Midtown Miami as much as the PAC to the south and smattering of Edgewater developments to the east. Midtown Miami became, arguably, Uptown’s most important urban pillar and therefore Miami’s too. It offered to be an anchor of stability and progress in the center of Uptown. Other development anchors such as the Design District and the PAC combined to develop a certain sense of hype and excitement about the upstart urban neighborhood.

A Note on Uptown
Uptown is a new concept, not altogether established, and widely elaborated on in this blog. It is an important idea because it identifies an emerging urban powerhouse of a neighborhood in an area that was development starved for decades. In the next three years Uptown will grow faster in densification than Brickell and the CBD did in 15 years. The latter two saw steady rather uneventful climbs in development through the years. Currently, both are experiencing major new construction activity, and Uptown is lagging bit behind but still Uptown came from nowhere. Take Midtown Miami out of the Uptown equation and the entire area becomes hollow. A vast void is left in the center. Thankfully, that is not the case, and Midtown Miami will beat as a heart in the center of the rapidly booming urban neighborhood.

Midtown Miami and the Design District

Midtown Miami will feel commercial. Its hard for it not to considering the several big name national retailers setting up nearby. These national retail giants add an immediate economic viability to the former urban blackhole. The area’s landscaping is beautiful and refreshing. The streets are new and clean. The buildings have sharp, forward-thinking designs. They compose an array of the finest architectural designs from the drawing boards of architectural stars. The area, still mostly under construction and unoccupied, is already buzzing with activity. It feels like being in the past and peering into an exciting future. As the buildings gradually become fully occupied, new shops will continue to open, and traffic will flow through Midtown Blvd., you will see the boost in car and pedestrian traffic in the Design District. This will give the Design D istrict some much needed visibility and exposure not to mention help boost projects such as Cor and Aria. The two neighborhood’s , although different in character, will come to intermingle in activities and people. Craig Robins will surely capitalize off of the momentum in the Design District.

Midtown Miami and Edgewater

Edgewater, to the east, will benefit significantly from the establishment of this new 18 block urban neighborhood in the interior. The long and slender bay front neighborhood is bisected by 26 or so streets and is not exactly practical to traverse by car, bike, or foot. There is no avenue that runs through the entire neighborhood from north to south. This type of neighborhood lends itself better to residential use. The nearby Midtown Miami project, with its massive retail component, will undoubtedly ignite a retail wave in the area’s interior. This will provide the mostly residential Edgewater neighborhood a conveniently close retail hub. On the other hand, Edgewater, with its numerous high-density, high-end, and newly-developed residential projects will provide a vast pool of potential consumers for Midtown’s retail market.

There have been legitimate complaints regarding the developer. Legally, the developer is obliged to adhere to certain time constraints when it comes to construction and unit owners naturally expect for this to occur. When it does not, confidence in the developer and investment is shaken, plus the developer becomes vulnerable to litigation. It is not altogether clear as to how much the developer has transgressed in this regard, but certainly enough for outside observers to take notice. Negative rumblings regarding the Nirvana project is beginning to fuel some concern among Midtown investors. It is likely that Midtown investors will not lose sight that their role is an historic one. Midtown investors are the quintessential urban pioneers; setting foot in areas once blighted, now new; composing the social fabric that will emit the energy that will define this new and immensely important neighborhood. This should solidify their patience as it will bear fruit unlike any other. The massive scale of the Midtown project and need to attain government funding for necessary infrastructure might explain some of the delays. The reported lack of adequate communication between investors and the developer along with the sale of the majority of the project is feuling concerns, but this all fails to overshadow the project’s overall significance.

To be continued…


Filed under BoB Articles, BoB Series: A Closer Look, Uptown: Midtown Miami

Who’s responsible for this???

Here you have a banner that is supposed to advertise a development right off of Brickell Village near the Roads. It’s hard for me to tell you what the development is because the banner is blocked by a portable restroom. If you look more closely, it’s called One Plaza West Brickell. I’d be worried if I bought a unit at this place, although the project is probably dead in the water anyhow. If it isn’t, then the developer must be obscenely busy to not notice his graffiti-ridden ad banner being blocked by a mobile shitter. If I were the developer, then somebody would be in deep shit. On a lighter note, the partially blocked floor plan looks pretty attractive.


Filed under Brickell Village

Off the Press

Miami-based Related Group continues its expansion with a $1 billion push into Mexico’s real estate market.

NPR reports on developer adaptation to residential unit over supply in Miami.

The Marlins, Major League Baseball, the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County are in talks to finance a nearly $500 million ballpark in downtown Miami and are hoping the Legislature will approve a $60 million sales tax rebate to help complete the deal.

As Jorge Perez and Trump partner up with the Trump Towers project in Sunny Isles, a new partnership has emerged between the two developer heavy weights. Could this trend be longterm?

It seemed that the hot seat was just about to get much hotter until Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez scrapped plans to control procurement.

Miami Police conduct Operation Tornado and arrest 101 suspected drug dealers in the city’s most dense urban neighborhoods.

Legendary Developer Tibor Hollo’s grandchild’s Bar Mitzvah was attended by Snoop Dogg. I didn’t know Bar Mitvah’s could be so fun.

Washington Times reports on Cuban-American plans for post Castro Cuba.

Miami replacing fire prone garbage trucks.

Trendy shops add to Miami’s cool factor according to

Bahamas mega casino plans continue to gain momentum

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What About Mayor Manny Diaz’s Legacy?

It has become apparent that Mayor Manny Diaz is a divisive figure in Miami politics. Many argue that his services have been invaluable and there are those that consider his activities to be tantamount to criminal. So what’s the truth? Will time tell? Are the answers before us? I had an interesting interchange with a reader, Manuel Rodriguez, who had some thought provoking claims concerning scandals involving Manny Diaz. Here is the quote of his comment:

“BOB: Miami,
…’unless a scandal ensues’… Did you miss the fire fee scandal? Did you miss the Hammes contract scandal? Did you miss the Johnny Winton “Let’s give my partner Manny Diaz a $58,000 raise in the middle of the night scandal”? Did you miss the Steve Marin no-bid contract scandal? The Johnny Winton arrested at MIA scandal? to name a few…We are told there are 40,000 condos for sale on the MLS. We are told there are 31,000 condos under construction… We are told usually Miami absorbs 8,000 units a year. Real estate taxes have never been so painful. Sound like oversupply to you? Sure tax revenues are going up. Tax revenues are what pay the overpaid government workers. Tax revenues are what pays workers who live in Broward County. Tax revenues going up are what are used to pay for the no bid contracts, the cost overruns, the change orders… Where is the money for the residents? Where are the renovated parks? The increased services? We do not think Manny Diaz will be viewed in a positive light.”

Manuel symbolizes those that are skeptical of Manny Diaz’s contributions. I must admit, I am not altogether 100% up to date on Miami’s political activities nor do I claim to be. I, like many, am rather exhausted of the constant rumblings of fraudulent activity emanating from city hall. The question is: has corruption been reduced since Manny Diaz took the helm? The answer is not so clear.

The mayor’s activities, at times, have been suspect. For one, he, former city commissioner Winton, and city manager Arriola were involved in a questionable real estate transaction in Coconut Grove. I agree that having three city officials dabbling in flipping a multi-million dollar house is not altogether palatable, but worse things have happened. This is not a major scandal.

Johnny Winton’s alcoholism and MIA arrest debacle should not reflect directly on the character or track record of Manny Diaz, so I have to consider that irrelevant to the debate.

The Fire Fee scandal is a bit more damaging to Manny Diaz’s reputation. It is hard to believe that he had no clue that the $7 million dollar settlement was only distributed to the seven plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit. However, Arriola masterminded the ridiculous settlement not Manny Diaz.

The no-bid scandal again falls under the realm of Mr. Arriola. The mayor is his boss, but the scandal is directly related to Mr. Arriola and indirectly related to Manny Diaz by association.

I am not trying to absolve Manny Diaz of his accountability in the context of these scandals. I’ve simply yet to see a major scandal directly affect Manny Diaz. The Mayor continues to receive awards all over the nation for his achievements and rise to eminence from humble immigrant beginnings.

Regarding the MLS listings, the lack of promised increased services, and money for residents, I have to defer to a Bob claim: Miami’s unprecedented development boom is a phenomenon that transcends city hall. When there is so much money being concentrated into construction in one metropolitan area, so many international investment interests, a city literally changing before everyone’s eyes, and all of it with no local precedent, problems will arise. It is easy to blame the head honcho, but the reality is that this whole situation is historic, massive in scope, hard to predict, and even more difficult to control. There has to be some level of empathy when considering the mayor’s performance. The market has slowed but not gone bust. Government development data has been questionable, cancelled projects are rumored to be under reported, and reported construction costs inaccurate, but this is all part of adjusting to this urban development phenomenon.

Manny Diaz won his second term in a landslide with 65% of the votes and has held the top spot during Miami’s greatest real estate boom. The crime rate has gone down. Miami’s international perception continues to become increasingly lustrous. I am simply not convinced that there has been any scandal large enough to taint this mayor’s legacy.

Post Script: Diaz remains a partner in the legal practice of Diaz & O’Naghten, L.L.P. Mayor Diaz is also an advisory board member for both the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Civic Innovation, the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Urban Research and the Mayors’ Institute on City Design. In 2004 he was named Urban Innovator of the Year by the Manhattan Institute. Diaz is a member of the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees for the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM). He serves as Chair of the Arts, Parks, Entertainment and Sports Committee, Co-Chair of the Faith-Based and Community Task Force for the USCM. He is also an advisory board member for both the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Civic Innovation, the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Urban Research and the Mayors’ Institute on City Design.


Filed under BoB Articles

Architect Profile: Borges + Associates

Borges + Associates is a Miami-based international architectural firm with over 25 years of collective experience. They have affiliates in Dubai and Barcelona. B + A is a firm that has yet to become instantly recognizable in terms of their brand name and portfolio. Their most ambitious project to date will be Infinity I and II at Brickell, which at 224 meters is estimated to be Miami’s 15th tallest building by 2009. Despite the comparatively meager height scale of their projects portfolio, their designs are still impressive. Rosabella Lofts and District Lofts, although not high profile projects, have well thought out designs. They are not yet built, and in fact, like the B+A Vista development, may never come to fruition. Still, should the developers pull off the necessary maneuvers, these projects—all located in Uptown—will be instrumental in the densification trend of Edgewater—which is teeter tottering on the brink of high rise and mid rise.

Their Civica Towers development in the Civic Center will reshape the urban hub. The design blends sharp lines and carves well. Their influence extends throughout the community from Miami Beach with the Royal Palm to Loftika in the Gables Corridor and Mayfair Lofts at Coconut Grove. The advent of Infinity may indicate a more high density vertical push for the Architectural firm, but there is no additional high rise project yet publicized to mark the trend. Reinaldo Borges performs conducts consul;tative business in Dubai and has claimed that Miami’s development boom in many respects parallels Dubai’s—which has at least an estimated 50,000 units in the pipeline). This level of international involvement by the firm may help facilitate a more broad architectural perspective that can be translated in their designs. Borges + Associates has a firm foothold in the Miami architectural market and their international affiliations smell of expansion. It will not be surprises to see Borges + Associates pick up steam as a major architectural player. They are in all the right neighborhoods. To get more noticed, they simply have to take their design to new heights.

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Miami’s Pedestrians Fearless, Cops Busy, and City a Toilet, According to Fox Sports

I came across this funny tid bit of information regarding the Super Bowl and the author Kevin Hench’s thoughts on his visit to Miami.

Regarding pedestrians:

There’s nothing pedestrian about Miami foot traffic.

“If there were a Super Bowl for pedestrians, Miamians would be the ’72 Dolphins. They are aggressive, fearless and — despite their best efforts in front of my car this week — unblemished. They come at you so fast and hard off the sidewalk that you start worrying not about hitting them but about getting hit by them. There were a couple of times I had to punch it to avoid getting T-boned by a guy with a serious need to get to the other side. I was flying down Washington in Miami Beach when I thought this young woman had decided to commit suicide. She bolted in front of me while her friend put on the brakes and held up. The near-death experience hardly dampened their moods as I could see them sharing a laugh across the thoroughfare in my rearview mirror.”

Regarding Civic Pride

Miami is hardly overflowing with civic pride.

“On 560 A.M. Friday morning, the hosts were rattling off a list of things listeners were worried that Super Bowl tourists were going to discover about Miami. After rattling off a Top 10 list of all that ails the city, one of the hosts punctuated the bit with ‘I wonder if they’ll figure out that South Beach is only a few blocks long and the rest of the city is a toilet.'”

Regarding Miami’s finest:

Miami’s finest must be fighting real crime.

“How you would even begin to police traffic laws in this nebulous matrix of 9-point font signage and wacky civil engineering is beyond me. But the good news for me is that when you make an illegal left turn right in front of a cop, apparently he’s got bigger fish to fry. Not one but two sirens went off behind me just after I swung my proscribed left off Flagler and onto Miami Avenue (missing your street could mean another 45 minutes in traffic, so you have to weigh “no turns” signs accordingly). I was already working up my little-boy-lost, out-of-towner defense when both cops turned off behind me.”

Suffice to say, this article was not at all flattering, but still rather amusing. Coming from a sports media source, I take any information regaring my city’s hospitality with a grain of salt.


Filed under News