October 30, 2014

Miami-Dade: Growth- Oct. 2003

David Villano | 10/1/2003
The south Miami-Dade community of Kendall is a poster child for sprawl. Miles of walled subdivisions along a swath of suburbia from U.S. 1 to the edge of the Everglades are separated only by an occasional strip mall. Roadways are backed up day and night.

But that soon may change. Construction is under way on a host of projects that county officials hope will bring both a heart and a soul to Kendall. The plan, dubbed Downtown Kendall, is an effort to create a dense urban core within this suburban morass where residents can live, work and play without a car. Approved in 1999, the plan lays out strict zoning rules.

"This allows us to bring a bit of order to the chaos," says Luigi Vitalini, an architect working on one of the larger developments in the area. "It's kind of the antidote to sprawl."

Planners envision a central district of high-rise residential towers connected by pedestrian-friendly promenades lined with cafes and service-oriented retail shops. Parks and other public spaces are plentiful. Public transportation zips residents to work and school. Moving outward, building heights descend, creating a tapered skyline.

Five major projects are under way, including:

The Metropolis, with two 25-story towers, will bring about 400 midpriced housing units when it opens in early 2005.

The Colonnade will add 548 more in four 10-story buildings.

Downtown Dadeland -- projected to be a "village within a city" -- is the most ambitious of the bunch. It is a 7.5-acre mixed-use development. Located in the heart of the designated urban zone, the project calls for a small grid of narrow streets within a tightly packed cluster of office space, shops and restaurants and 416 condos. Parking is underground. The developer, Gulfside Development Corp., is reserving retail space designed to boost the residential aspect: A bakery, hardware store, dry cleaner and doughnut shop.

"The future of multifamily development lies in the urban qualities -- convenience, access to daily needs, access to mass transit," says Stefan Johansson, a Gulfside Development partner. "People are tired of getting into their cars and driving for an hour to and from work."

But not all residents believe the plan will relieve crowding. Critics, including many in a citizens group pushing for Kendall's incorporation as an independent municipality, say the plan's high densities create a false hope, attracting thousands to an area already burdened by crowded schools and inadequate resources. Downtown Kendall, they say, is about 40 years too late.

Johansson is resolute: "If just 100 people move here and give up their cars, then there's going to be 100 less cars congesting our streets. Little by little that can make a big difference."

IN THE NEWS

Hialeah -- National Partitions, a maker of modular walls for warehouses, factories and other commercial buildings, will relocate to Pembroke Pines in Broward County, where it will construct a 130,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility. Executives say the company received no financial incentives to move.

Miami -- Citing reduced crime, affordability and strong political representation, Hispanic magazine has named Miami the No. 1 city for Hispanics to live in, just ahead of San Diego and Austin, Texas. It is the first time Miami has earned the top spot.

Developer Craig Robins, who has led much of the revitalization of downtown's historic design district, has begun $40 million in new construction projects in the district. The plan calls for a new street, two commercial buildings, a pedestrian plaza and two single-family homes. Robins, one of the early visionaries behind the rebirth of South Beach, owns about 1 million square feet of office and commercial space in the area.

As part of its plan to reduce costs while under Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, United Airlines has announced it will transfer 279 flight attendants from Miami to other U.S. cities. About 400 flight attendants will remain in Miami.

Miami-Dade -- Former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla has announced his candidacy for the 2004 county mayoral race. He is considered a front-runner in the increasingly crowded field.

The latest local official undone by scandal: Miami-Dade Fire Chief Charles Phillips, who announced his resignation amid allegations that he routinely ordered an employee to attend college classes and complete academic assignments on Phillips' behalf.

A study commissioned by the governing board of Jackson Memorial Hospital has found that 26.7% of county residents under age 65 carry no health insurance, a rate 20% higher than four years ago. The rate is among the worst for major U.S. cities. The national average is just under 16%.

Miami-Dade tourism continued inching up toward pre-Sept. 11, 2001, levels in the first half of 2003, according to figures compiled by the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. During that period, average daily hotel room rates topped $118 and occupancy rates reached 66%.

Miami Beach -- Ending a 12-year legal battle, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by the landmark Joe's Stone Crab restaurant, leaving intact a damage award of more than $100,000 to two women who claimed sex bias in the company's hiring practices.

Suggesting Miami Beach could become the next Mecca for architecture enthusiasts, city commissioners have given the green light to a plan by the New World Symphony to build a $40-million concert hall designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. The symphony will pay $1 per year to lease the land for the hall, which will rise from an existing parking lot behind the symphony's current Lincoln Road home.

The 75-year-old landmark The Bath Club, once a posh oceanfront gathering spot for Miami society, will be reborn as a $157-million condominium community to be called The Residences at The Bath Club. Developers include R. Donahue Peebles, who says he was the club's first black member.

Compensation
HEFTY PAYDAYS

MIAMI-DADE -- County officials are among the nation's best-paid administrators, in some cases earnings tens of thousands of dollars more than counterparts elsewhere. For example, the county's budget director earns $197,000 -- $58,000 more than New York City's budget director. The study was commissioned by former County Manager Steven Shiver in his battle to curb cost-of-living raises for non-union officials.

Tags: Miami-Dade

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