Wilton Manors' mayor is betting that the city's large gay population will speed up redevelopment.
By Pat Dunnigan
Wilton Manors Mayor John Fiore has an ambitious vision for the 2.5-square-mile city where he has lived most of his life. He sees a downtown district modeled after West Palm Beach's successful strip of trendy bars and restaurants along Clematis Street. He sees lush neighborhoods of renovated old homes like those in nearby Victoria Park, where tiny 1930s Florida houses have been transformed into a neighborhood of $300,000-and-up homes.
Fiore's vision is a bit of a reach for what is still largely an unremarkable patchwork of urban sprawl and aging neighborhoods just north of Fort Lauderdale. But Wilton Manors has an unusual demographic that Fiore says is likely to speed things along: The city has one of the country's fastest-growing populations of same-sex couples. Fiore estimates that 30% to 35% of the city's 12,800 residents are gay.
That's not typically the kind of statistic that city planners trumpet in their brochures, but most acknowledge it as economic good fortune, if quietly. "It's a trend that's noticed, but it's still whispered among planners," says Fiore, an urban planner in the county parks department who was Broward County's first openly gay elected official when he first ran for the Wilton Manors City Council 14 years ago. Today, three out of the five Wilton Manors city councilmen are gay.
"If you talk to people who have done redevelopment areas all around the country, you'll hear that the gay community has been important in redeveloping these areas," Fiore says. Gay couples are likely to be childless, two-income families with the time and money to devote to home and neighborhood improvements, he says. Childless couples are also more likely to take a chance on neighborhoods in need of revitalization. It's no coincidence, says Fiore, that some of the most successful neighborhood gentrification projects around the country have a high percentage of gay residents. Examples include the Castro neighborhood in San Francisco, Hyde Park in Tampa and the DuPont Circle area in Washington, D.C.
And so it may be no coincidence that Wilton Manors posted the highest increase in assessed property values last year for eastern Broward County. Wilton Manors has also benefited from its location near downtown Fort Lauderdale and the fact that nearby Victoria Park has become so expensive.
Fiore says he knew more than a decade ago that gentrification would come to Wilton Manors: "We were the next logical location for regeneration. We had larger homes, bigger lots and our prices were undervalued." Now, he says, residents in some neighborhoods are pouring as much as $100,000 into 1950s homes purchased for under $200,000.
Fiore says Wilton Manors plans to cultivate an identity not as a gay enclave, but rather as a quiet, middle-class bedroom community where everyone is accepted.
In the News
Boca Raton -- Computer component maker Artesyn Technologies (Nasdaq-ATSN) has received a $50-million boost from an investment group headed by Bruce Cheng, chairman of Taiwan-based Delta Electronics.
Boynton Beach -- Motorola's pager manufacturing operations continue to shrink. As part of 9,400 nationwide layoffs announced by the Schaumburg, Ill.-based wireless company last year, 275 Boynton Beach employees will lose their jobs by mid-year.
Deerfield Beach -- Development and investment company Greystar plans to develop a 600,000-sq.-ft. business park in Deerfield Beach. The project, which will include five buildings, is expected to be complete by year's end.
Divers Direct SCUBA retailer has acquired North Carolina-based SCUBA Catalog and internet retailer Performance Diver for an undisclosed price.
Fort Lauderdale -- Imaging Diagnostic Systems (OTCBB-IMDS) was awarded a design patent for its laser-based breast imaging system. The patent covers a system for dealing with the large range of light intensity used to develop 3-D, cross-section images.
Hollywood -- The oceanfront Ambassador Resort and Hotel has received permission from city commissioners to dock a 137-foot casino boat behind the hotel to help boost business. Just last year, city officials fought the docking of the SunCruzVI gambling boat after residents complained of noise and traffic problems.
Juno Beach -- Florida Power & Light Co. will boost power at its Martin County plant by 2005. Plans call for the addition of two new turbines and the conversion of two high-demand units to everyday use. The $500-million project will add 800 megawatts of capacity to the plant, bringing its capacity to 3,600 megawatts.
Pompano Beach -- The International Swimming Hall of Fame's search for a new home has moved to Pompano Beach as city officials there move forward with negotiations to bring the facility to an eight-acre site that is now a beach parking lot. Hall of Fame officials were forced to scrap plans to move to Hollywood last November after beach residents objected. The Hall of Fame, now in Fort Lauderdale, will include a training facility, a museum, library and mini-convention center.
Riviera Beach -- Port of Palm Beach officials are negotiating with the Texas Day Cruise company to bring a 400-foot gambling cruise ship to the port's new cruise terminal set to open this month. The ship would be the county's third gambling cruise ship.
Stuart -- A group of airport users, local residents, business owners and government officials charged with reducing noise at the Witham Field airport is considering proposals ranging from a $4.5-million project to insulate and sound-proof nearby homes to a $26-million proposal to buy out homes in the noisiest spots. Some local residents would prefer to see the airport relocated.
West Palm Beach -- The Palm Beach County Metropolitan Planning Organization and the state Department of Transportation have applied for $1 million in federal grant money to start a public water taxi service on the Intracoastal Waterway. Plans call for the operation of three 70-passenger water buses to ferry passengers around West Palm Beach and Palm Beach.
Toronto-based Kolter Property Co. has offered the city $9 million for a two-acre site across from CityPlace. Kolter proposes to build two 15-story condominium towers with 490 units, a garage, a rooftop pool, a pedestrian plaza and 6,460 square feet of commercial space.
Former Sunbeam Corp. CEO Al Dunlap paid $15 million to settle a fraudulent-accounting lawsuit brought by disgruntled shareholders. Another lawsuit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission is still pending.
Palm Beach County's 2001 office vacancy rate rose 3 percentage points, bringing the vacancy level to 15.6%. The increase was blamed on sluggish activity in suburban areas.
Homeowners Seek Class-Action Suit
FORT LAUDERDALE -- Some south Florida homeowners believe they were not fairly compensated for the value of citrus trees cut down in the state's war on canker and have asked a Broward Circuit Court judge to allow them to pursue their lawsuit against the state as a class action.
Two Degrees, No Separation
Miami-Dade County's dual enrollment program gives students a leg up on a college degree.
By David Villano
This June, more than half of the 200 seniors at Miami-Dade's School for Advanced Studies will pass two milestones: In addition to graduating from high school, they will earn a two-year Associate of Arts degree from Miami-Dade Community College.
The School of Advanced Studies (SAS) is one of a handful around the state that offer high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to earn college credits even as they finish high school. (Such programs, known as dual or concurrent enrollment, differ from advanced placement courses, which prepare students for a standardized test that measures their comprehension of college-level material.)
On average, about 60% of SAS students complete two years of undergraduate course work by the time they graduate from high school. "We may view them as high school students, but in every sense they are college students too," says Melissa Patrylo, principal of SAS, which is part of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system.
From 2 to 5 p.m., students attend traditional high school classes on one of three SAS campuses at Miami-Dade Community College locations; the rest of the day they attend college classes with other community college students. The county pays for all the students' college expenses -- tuition, books and related fees.
Founded in 1987, Miami-Dade's dual enrollment program is the state's oldest. Patrylo says it was designed for high academic achievers who struggled -- emotionally or socially -- within the traditional high school setting. Over time the program's mission evolved to include any student seeking a head start on college. Admissions requirements are minimal: A 2.5 GPA, a teacher's recommendation and a passing score on the state College Placement Test.
Small enrollment fosters a sense of campus community. Upon graduation, students routinely transfer to some of the nation's most elite schools, including Harvard, Cornell and MIT. Each year 100% of SAS graduates receive some form of financial aid for their remaining two years of college.
Two years ago, Newsweek ranked SAS the 67th-best public high school of 22,500 nationwide. SAS' strength, says Patrylo, lies with Miami-Dade Community College -- the largest community college in the nation. Students may choose from among hundreds of courses approved for dual enrollment credit.
Many students, however, may not be ready for the added responsibility. "You're really asking a lot of a 16- or 17-year-old," says Dorene Ross, interim director of the University of Florida's School of Learning and Teaching. "At that age many students still need the structure and discipline of a traditional high school."
"There are trade-offs," says Patrylo. "We can't offer everything that a typical high school does, but our students get ahead, save money, and they get an awful lot of individual attention."
In the News
Coral Gables -- Following a national survey of university wages, the University of Miami Faculty Senate is proposing pay increases for contract workers and other low-skill employees that could nearly double their salaries. Most of the employees involved work for maintenance provider Unicco Service Co. and Chartwells, a dining services firm. The senate is pushing the school to adopt the Miami-Dade County living wage standard -- $10.09 or $8.81 an hour, depending on health coverage.
Miami -- Venezuela's Sereca Security Corp. plans to open its U.S. headquarters in Miami, creating at least 400 jobs over the next three years. Sereca provides a range of security and investigative services, including employment background verification, asset protection and uniformed security personnel.
Univision Online has cut at least 35 jobs from the Miami headquarters of its Univision.com subsidiary. The cost-cutting move is a response to the weak economy and sluggish advertising sales. Meanwhile, the Miami Herald has announced it will eliminate at least 20 positions in response to falling ad revenues. Most of the cuts will be achieved through voluntary buyouts and by eliminating unfilled positions.
Amid mounting financial troubles, Miami's Hamilton Bank (Nasdaq-HABK) has been placed in receivership by the FDIC. About half of the bank's insured deposits have been assumed by Israel Discount Bank, which reopened Hamilton's three U.S. branches. Bank officials, including prominent Miami businessman and philanthropist Eduardo Masferrer -- Hamilton's chairman -- say regulators acted with insufficient grounds and vow to fight the takeover in court.
Miami-based Burger King, a subsidiary of British beverages giant Diageo, will open 35 restaurants in Britain this year. The expansion is part of a plan to increase the value of Burger King prior to a spinoff from Diageo perhaps as early as next year.
Miami-based Chancellor Academies and Beacon Education Management of Westborough, Mass., are merging, creating the second-largest school management company in the country. The new company, Chancellor Beacon Academies, will serve about 19,000 students at 81 primary and secondary schools nationwide. Company headquarters will be in Miami.
Miami Beach -- The 45-story Blue and Green Diamond condominium towers, the tallest on Miami Beach, have gone into foreclosure and bankruptcy. Although nearly 80% of the twin towers' 630 units have been sold, sluggish sales in 2001 led to missed loan payments by the Brazilian-controlled developer, New Florida Properties.
Miami-Dade -- Donald Trump has teamed with developers Michael and Gil Dezer to develop an 11-acre oceanfront tract in Sunny Isles. The three-phase project, to be called Trump Grand Ocean Resort and Residences, will include a 32-story condominium hotel and two 47-story high-rise condominium towers. Completion is expected in August 2003.
Miami Lakes -- Citing a weak economy, Miami Lakes-based Applica (NYSE-APN), the maker of Black & Decker appliances, will reduce its North American workforce of 650 by about 10%.
Miami International Airport
Two Terminals in the Works
MIAMI -- Miami International Airport has broken ground on a new $780-million south terminal due for completion in 2005. Also under way is a north terminal built for American Airlines. The $1.3-billion project is scheduled to open in mid-2006. Despite a recent reduction in passenger forecasts -- from 43 million to 37 million annually in 2010 -- airport officials say the projects will help reduce crowding at one of the nation's busiest airports.