Around the State- Southeast- Aug. 2002
A BASIN IN THE SUN
Hoping to change a basin's name, a Hollywood commissioner stirs up a tempest in a seaport.
by Pat Dunnigan
Thousands of passengers board and disembark from the cruise ships at Port Everglades blissfully unaware that the port sits on a body of water currently designated as Lake Mabel. The port's basin got its name in the 1870s from Mabel White, the paramour of a grateful federal surveyor who named the "lake" in her honor.
Now, a seemingly innocuous effort to rename the basin Hollywood Harbor has turned into a political water polo match between Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale.
Hollywood City Commissioner Keith Wasserstrom reasoned that since Mabel was neither a significant historical figure nor a Broward County native, the Lake Mabel name might be sacrificed in the interest of gaining a little name recognition for his city.
Fort Lauderdale city officials at first didn't object to the idea of a Hollywood Harbor but later voted unanimously to oppose renaming such a significant piece of real estate. The port lies mostly in Hollywood (83% to be exact, as Hollywood boosters will tell you), but carries a Fort Lauderdale address.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle says he doesn't like the idea of erasing a part of the region's history, particularly since there are so few landmarks named for women.
Wasserstrom is convinced it's more a matter of "sour grapes -- we came up with the idea, and they didn't." It's time for Fort Lauderdale to stop hogging the spotlight, he says. "It's been a constant battle. Everyone feels that Fort Lauderdale gets special treatment."
The Broward County Commission, whose seat is in Fort Lauderdale, has decided not to take sides for the moment. The decision rests with a little-known national agency, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, that tends to favor non-controversial requests.
Wasserstrom says he will not give up in his quest to secure a beam of limelight for his identity-challenged city. "It's a free opportunity to ... market and promote Hollywood," he says.
Naugle, however, says it's not going to happen. On the other hand, he doesn't totally object to the idea of a name change. "I think we should rename it Port Lauderdale," he says. He's laughing, but he doesn't dismiss the idea as a joke. "We're the dominant city. I think Broward County sooner or later will be Greater Fort Lauderdale." Hollywood, he says, "will get over it."
IN THE NEWS
Boca Raton -- Trustees of Cascade International will collect $3.35 million for the company's estate under terms of a settlement reached with the law firm of Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart. The company's trustees sued the firm in a dispute over legal services.
Coral Springs -- Model home specialist P&H Interiors is opening a new 12,000-sq.-ft. office at 475 Ramblewood Drive. The new facility will house the company's 16 employees.
Fort Lauderdale -- Pediatrix Medical Group (NYSE-PDX) ended 2001 with revenues of $354.6 million, up 46% from fiscal year 2000. The acquisition of Magella Healthcare Corp. in May 2001 accounted for the bulk of growth, but the company also reported same-unit revenue increases of 7.6%. The company operates pediatric specialty practices across the country.
The 41-year-old Fort Lauderdale Stadium could soon be history under a proposal by city staff, which is recommending demolition over expensive repairs that would be required to get it back in shape for spring training baseball. The stadium has been the spring home of the Baltimore Orioles since 1996 but is in need of a new roof as well as other repairs.
A reorganization plan filed by NationsRent (OTC-NRNTQ.PK) will leave major lenders holding virtually all of the company's stock. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December, listing debts of about $1.2 billion and assets of $1.6 million.
Port Everglades was awarded more than $6.8 million in federal grants for beefing up security against terrorism. Port officials have put the overall cost of security improvements at $30 million, but the federal money will fund the construction of perimeter walls, security operation centers and a closed-circuit television system, among other improvements.
Hollywood -- The city has given developer Gordon Deckelbaum permission to begin planning for the redevelopment of downtown Hollywood's Young Circle. The project, as envisioned, would mean the demolition of a Publix supermarket, a Walgreen's drugstore and a Greyhound bus station in favor of a residential complex and a new home for the Hollywood Playhouse theater. In exchange, Deckelbaum's company, Premier Developers, would build a $10-million arts park for the city at no cost.
Some downtown nightclub owners are chafing after a city crackdown on nightspots that serve alcohol after 2 a.m. nightspots that serve alcohol after 2 a.m. without a permit. The required permit is issued only after input from neighbors and police.
Miramar -- Oakbrook, Ill.-based DeVry University, a private business and technical college, has named Miami native Julio C. Torres president of its second Florida campus, which is under construction at 2300 S.W. 145th Ave. The school is scheduled to open in November with an expected enrollment of 300 to 400 students. Torres was previously dean of finance and administration at the school's Orlando campus.
Palm Beach -- Deutsche Bank's Florida private banking business, formerly known as Bankers Trust Florida N.A., has been renamed Deutsche Bank Florida N.A. as part of an effort to strengthen the company's international brand.
Plantation -- Independent theater operator Sunrise Cinemas has reopened the Fountains Cinema, which had been closed for two years. The theater, formerly owned by General Cinema, is Sunrise Cinemas' seventh south Florida operation.
Aircraft parts distributor D&D Enterprises has been acquired by Wright Aero Industries Ltd. The company's new headquarters will be in Plantation.
Pompano Beach -- Broward County Transit reports that bus ridership grew nearly 14% in 2001, with 29.7 million passengers. Director Robert Roth attributes the increase to a two-year effort aimed at improving service and marketing. The system had experienced stagnating growth for nearly 18 years.
Sunrise -- As part of ongoing efforts to restructure its business, Mayor's Jewelers (AMEX-MYR) is trying to seal a deal to sell 58% of its common stock to Canadian jewelry retailer Henry Birks & Sons Holdings for $11.5 million in cash.
City commissioners have approved a plan for a 16,000-sq.-ft. site on the city's border with Weston. Plans call for a bank, restaurant and retail establishment. The remainder of the 8-acre site is in Weston, where plans call for additional restaurant, retail and office space.
Burt & Jack's, Left Bank Close
FORT LAUDERDALE -- Two well-known Fort Lauderdale restaurants closed in June: Burt & Jack's, which boasted waterfront dining from Berth 23 at Port Everglades, and The Left Bank. Burt & Jack's opened in 1984. Owner Jack Jackson says increased security at the port had driven off too many customers. The port has added numerous security checkpoints and measures like car searches in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Actor Burt Reynolds was an original partner in the restaurant but was not involved in running the operation. The Left Bank had served French haute cuisine for 26 years.
Rallying the Vote
Miami-Dade business leaders close ranks to protect the county's gay rights law.
By David Villano
In a gesture of civic solidarity rarely seen in Miami-Dade, business and political leaders across all ethnic lines are urging voters not to strike a provision from the county's Human Rights Ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. A coalition of religious and community groups, working under the name Take Back Miami-Dade, collected enough signatures to force the Sept. 10 referendum.
"We need to be perceived as an open, tolerant community that is supportive of all people," says Jack Lowell, the chairman of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce who has made defeat of the measure one of his top priorities. "We're already battling the image that everything nutty in the world happens here."
Joining Lowell are Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, Joe Garcia of the Cuban American National Foundation, auto magnate Norman Braman, black activist and attorney H.T. Smith, pop star Gloria Estefan, University of Miami President Donna Shalala and more than 100 other prominent figures.
In May, many of those leaders signed a petition calling for voters to reject the ballot measure. Meanwhile, other opponents of the referendum have launched a lawsuit challenging the validity of the signatures collected -- about 35,000 are required to force a referendum. Election officials have thrown out more than 25%, citing a variety of irregularities. A court ruling is not expected until after the vote. A year ago a similar petition drive fell short in Broward after officials rejected thousands of signatures.
Miami-Dade's gay rights provision has a long and tumultuous history. In 1977, the county passed an ordinance protecting people of all races, religions, gender and sexual orientation from discrimination in jobs, housing and banking. Later that year, following a high-profile campaign led by entertainer Anita Bryant, opponents succeeded in getting voters to remove "sexual orientation" from the ordinance. In 1998, the county approved an amendment reinstating the language. The September referendum asks voters to remove it once again.
Business leaders are worried about the fallout of such a move. The entire state of Colorado faced a boycott in 1992 after Colorado Springs approved a ballot initiative banning gay rights laws in that city. The measure was later repealed. Other municipalities have faced similar threats. "This is a human rights issue, but it's also a business issue," says Lowell. "The business community knows what's at stake. They know we don't need another black eye."
IN THE NEWS
Hialeah -- Canada's MX Alarms has opened an office here to service U.S. and Latin American markets. The move will create 20 jobs.
Thirty new jobs will be created over the next three years as paper products manufacturer DiversityPro Corp. spends $500,000 to expand its 20,000-sq.-ft. facility in the Hialeah Enterprise Zone.
Miami -- Caja Madrid, Spain's fourth-largest financial institution, has opened an office in Miami's Brickell Avenue district, hoping to expand its investment banking services throughout markets in Latin America.
According to figures from the 2000 Census, Miami again holds the distinction of being the poorest large city in America. With just over 29% of its residents living below the poverty level, Miami edges out Newark, New Orleans, Buffalo and Cleveland.
Alienware Corp., a maker of computer game machines and high performance workstations, is expanding its Miami operation, doubling its current employment total of 100. Alienware is one of the nation's largest Hispanic-owned businesses.
Miami Beach -- After months of debate, the Miami Beach City Commission voted to renew its tourism promotion contract with the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. Mayor David Dermer had opposed the contract extension, characterizing the bureau as ineffective and overpaid. The bureau has been responsible for the city's tourism marketing for the past 17 years.
Hyatt Hotels will enter the South Beach market with a deal to operate the Victor Hotel on Ocean Drive. It will be the Hyatt's smallest domestic hotel. ZOM Development of Orlando, which owns the 90-room hotel, expects its $50-million renovation to be complete by late 2003.
Miami-Dade -- In spite of fierce opposition by environmental groups, Miami-Dade commissioners approved a plan for a massive warehouse and office complex in the western reaches of the county, pushing back the Urban Development Boundary for the first time in nearly a decade. Opponents worry that the move will open the door for additional developments, complicating the Everglades restoration program.
Miami-Dade-based Farm Stores Grocery Inc. has reconfigured all 43 of its Miami-Dade drive-through stores, hoping to increase point-of-purchase sales by adding grocery items, including fresh produce, and by improving product placement. The new stores will be called "Express Markets." All 104 of the company's stores statewide should be reconfigured by late summer. Earlier, the company announced it will lay off just under half of its 104 store managers, a move officials say is necessary to help it refocus on customer service. Farm Stores employs just over 600.
Despite protests from nuclear power opponents as well as ongoing threats of terrorist attacks, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended the licenses of Florida Power & Light's two South Dade nuclear power units at Turkey Point for 20 years beyond their original decommission dates of 2012 and 2013. The units were built in 1972 and 1973.
Miami Springs -- World Fuel Services (NYSE-INT), which markets and finances fuel products and services, plans to create 50 new jobs at its Miami headquarters.
Now Arriving: Consultants
MIAMI-DADE -- Miami International Airport plans to hire a consultant to help it attract international airlines and low-fare domestic carriers. Airport officials worry that passenger growth will tumble if low-cost carriers such as JetBlue and Spirit Airlines shun MIA in favor of Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, where landing fees are lower. Officials also hope to attract more carriers from Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Meanwhile, the Miami-Dade County Commission plans to renew the contract of Dade Aviation Consultants, charged with overseeing the airport's $4.8-billion expansion. The company came under fire earlier this year when reports revealed it had spent millions on gifts to airport officials and on donations at the request of elected officials.