Around the State- Southeast- Oct. 2001
Miramar is trying to take control as developers target southwest Broward.
By Pat Dunnigan
Broward County's fastest-growing city is on a tear. Tracts of Mediterranean-style homes have been multiplying along the county's western boundary in places like Weston and Coral Springs for the past 10 years. Now the boom is spreading to Miramar, on the county's southwest border.
Like the other cities bordering the Everglades, Miramar is becoming home to more families fleeing Miami-Dade County and other parts of Broward for the large-scale, planned communities along I-75 -- sometimes sneeringly called "East Naples" by the county's more urban residents.
Unlike its neighbors, however, Miramar still has room to grow -- 11 square miles to be exact. Though the 72,739-resident city will celebrate its 47th birthday next year, western Miramar remained largely undeveloped until the mid-1990s. Now, as the keepers of Broward County's last wide-open spaces, Miramar's city planners are working overtime to keep up with demand from developers.
"There certainly has been a burst in residential" construction, says planner Hector Vazquez. "Every month we're breaking new records." In fact, city inspectors cannot keep up with the demand. On any given day, as many as a dozen county inspectors are on loan to the city. Most are deployed at one of four massive residential communities: SilverLakes, with 2,374 homes; Monarch Lakes, 2,219; Riviera Isles, 2,006; and Sunset Lakes, 1,912.
Miramar has also drawn its share of new commercial development, luring an enviable number of big corporations with a collection of commerce and industrial centers. In recent months, the city has lured Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Lucent Technologies' Latin American and Caribbean headquarters and the regional headquarters for the NBC 6 television station. As a result, Miramar can boast 25% job growth, according to community development director Wazir Ishmael.
"I think we're beginning to become our own bedroom community," says Mayor Lori Moseley. Miramar's status as a late bloomer has been an advantage because it is learning from other cities' experiences, Moseley says. For example, she says the city has tried to limit the number of strip malls, to attract clean, quiet industry and to avoid the cookie-cutter look of other suburbs by requiring developers to vary at least every third house.
Build-out is expected by 2020, but at the current rate, Moseley believes it will come a little sooner. But, she adds, "the objective is not to be in a rush. The objective is to get it right. After all these years, what's the rush?"
In the News
Boca Raton -- Engineering and software maker Imprimus Inc. (Nasdaq-INPM) faces possible delisting because it does not meet Nasdaq asset requirements. Also, the company announced the resignation of two directors in early August.
Nursing temp firm Cross Country announced plans for its initial public offering: 7.8 million shares at $15 to $17 each. The company hopes to raise about $125 million. Its planned ticker symbol: CCRN. An IPO date has not been set.
Delray Beach -- Office Depot avoided a class-action race discrimination lawsuit by paying an undisclosed financial settlement and agreeing to increase workforce diversity. Attorney Willie Gary ["The Practice," November 1999] had threatened to file suit on behalf of former and current black employees, saying the office retailer fostered a hostile work environment for black employees.
Fort Lauderdale -- County commissioners are putting an $80-million convention center hotel project back out to bid, ending a troubled three-year relationship with Miami developer R. Donahue Peebles. The deal fell apart amid a spate of disagreements among Peebles, the county and the Dallas-based Wyndham International hotel company, which was to help finance the project and manage the hotel.
Generic drug seller Andrx Group (Nasdaq-ADRX) was ranked fourth on Fortune magazine's list of the country's 100 fastest-growing companies. Andrx's revenues grew at a three-year annual rate of 54%. Earnings per share grew at a rate of 224%, and total return shot up at a three-year rate of 103%.
The 47-year-old Galleria will get a $50-million facelift starting next July in an effort to attract more high-end retailers.
BankAtlantic Bancorp Inc. (NYSE-BBX) has completed a $4.5-million public offering, raising about $36 million. The proceeds will be used to reduce debt.
Floral retailer Gerald Stevens Inc. plans to sell 63 stores. The company, which has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, wants to reduce its store count by half, from 300 to 150.
DirecTV Latin America laid off 150 Fort Lauderdale workers, or 44% of its workforce there.
Juno Beach -- Florida Power & Light Co. is adding a new office building to its operations in Juno Beach. The expansion will make the facility one of the company's largest sites, beefing up employment there -- now at 1,300 -- by 500 to 700.
Palm City -- Luxury-home builder Toll Bros. will begin construction on the 150-home Palm Cove Golf & Yacht Club this fall. The development will feature a private club, full-service marina and 18-hole golf course. The company operates 150 communities in 21 states.
West Palm Beach -- The Norton Museum of Art has broken ground on an expansion and renovation project expected to be complete in early 2003. When the project is finished, the 60-year-old Norton will be the state's largest art museum, with 112,500 square feet. Meanwhile, museum officials have resolved their dispute with the descendants of West Palm Beach area pioneers who once used the museum site as a cemetery for some of the area's oldest and most prominent families ["White-Gloves Spat," August 2001]. Harvey Oyer III, vice president of the Lake Worth Pioneer's Association, says the museum agreed to install a permanent monument to the pioneers, rename an adjacent street "Pioneer Place" and install a "Pioneer Place" sign in a landscaped traffic circle next to the museum.
Agriculture: Battling Sugar With Sugar
WEST PALM BEACH -- The Save Our Everglades group is hoping its latest battle against Florida sugar farms that drain fertilizer into the Everglades is especially sweet. The environmental group is selling its own brand of sugar -- grown in Texas and Louisiana and marketed by its own Apura Everglades Co. -- to compete with Florida Crystals, U.S. Sugar and Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida. The Apura sugar is sold in Publix, Albertson's and Winn-Dixie stores in Florida and Georgia. All the profits from Save Our Everglades Sugar benefit The Everglades Foundation.
A Whopper of a Job
With sales cooling, Burger King's new CEO is prepping the company for a spinoff or sale.
By David Villano
Burger King announced a year ago that it would build a new headquarters in Miami rather than relocate. But while the company -- founded in Miami in 1954 and now owned by Britain's Diageo -- is staying put, it is by no means standing still.
Changes are coming fast and furious. Last February, John Dasburg, who rescued Northwest Airlines from near-bankruptcy, became Burger King's seventh CEO since 1989. Among his first moves: Shaking up top management, naming outsiders as COO, CFO, chief marketing officer and chief legal counsel. Dasburg also announced a reorganization designed to eliminate division barriers. Under the new structure, he will take direct responsibility for North America, which accounts for nearly 85% of company sales.
The moves are part of a larger plan to shore up operations before spinning off Burger King from Diageo in 2003. Executives say either an IPO or leveraged buyout will be announced perhaps as soon as December. Plans to sell 20% of the company on the NYSE were shelved after dismal second-quarter earnings scared off investors. In the six months ended last December, same-store sales dropped 6% from a year earlier; its operating profit dropped 7%.
With the fast-food industry becoming increasingly competitive, Burger King has had a tough time adjusting to consumer demand for high-quality, health-conscious menu items. The mad cow and foot-and-mouth diseases in Europe have compounded the problem. The company has also struggled to match the success of last year's highly successful Pokemon promotion. And underlying all the challenges, analysts say, is the clear market dominance of archrival McDonald's. "Burger King doesn't have the deep pockets McDonald's has," says Michael Bleakley of Credit Suisse First Boston in London. "First and foremost, they've got to set themselves apart with the quality of the food."
Burger King's current strategy is an acknowledgement of just that. The company will delay its highly touted image makeover first announced in 1999, which prescribed a new logo, sleeker drive-through windows and other cosmetic changes. Instead, franchisees will be asked to upgrade kitchen equipment and procedures, providing faster preparation and, it is hoped, an improved charbroiled taste. Marketing campaigns will focus on the widely recognizable Whopper brand name.
According to published reports, Dasburg, who's been keeping a low profile the past few months, will receive a bonus of up to $20 million for negotiating a high price for the company in a sale or public offering. "Dasburg was brought in to sell off the company," says Bleakley. "And there's no question he wants to make shareholders very, very happy."
The company's already made Miami happy. Burger King expects to occupy its $40-million home near Miami International Airport by mid-2002.
In the News
Coral Gables -- The Coral Gables City Commission voted to scrap plans for a $16.5-million administration building already under construction ["The Price of Success," July 2001]. The project had become a rallying point for many residents fed up with increased traffic and wasteful spending. The cost of abandoning construction could be as high as $3 million.
Key West -- It's becoming more dangerous to swim in the beaches off the Florida Keys -- and not because of shark attacks. The Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C., says the number of beach advisories and warnings because of improperly treated sewage doubled last year for certain Monroe County beaches -- from 30 in 1999 to 60.
Miami -- South Florida stands to lose $35 million from the flight of the Latin Grammys to Los Angeles, the Miami Herald reported. More than 10,000 people were expected to file into town for the awards show, which pulled out after concerns about disruptions from Cuban exiles.
Shell Oil Co. has teamed up with Miami's Continental National Bank to provide up to $7.5 million in loans to minority and women-owned businesses.
For the second consecutive year, Miami is hosting Design + Architecture Day, the nation's only community-wide event celebrating the role and impact of design on contemporary society. The event, to run throughout October, will feature lectures, architectural tours, panel discussions, a film festival and a design competition. Similar events are held in Spain, France, Germany, Canada and Brazil.
Last dredged in 1933, the Miami River will be cleared of decades of debris and muck during an $80-million cleanup scheduled to begin next year. The river has long boasted one of the state's most active cargo trades, servicing smaller vessels that supply Haiti and other island nations with consumer goods. The 5.5-mile-long river dumps into Biscayne Bay near the heart of downtown.
Donald Warshaw, whose 28 years of public service to the city of Miami included stints as police chief and city manager, has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison for embezzling close to $70,000 from a police department charity for disadvantaged children. He also has been ordered to pay a $30,000 fine and has been placed on three years' probation.
A battery charge against Mayor Joe Carollo was dropped after he completed a family counseling program. Carollo allegedly hit his wife in the head with a cardboard tea container in February.
Miami-Dade -- New York-based online staffing provider Hotjobs.com has opened an office in Miami-Dade. The company says up to 60 positions will be created over the next several years.
Through May, Miami-Dade boasted the highest hotel occupancy rate of the 25 major travel markets in the U.S. With an average occupancy rate of 75.6%, Miami-Dade edged out Oahu, Hawaii (75.4%), and New York (74%). The national average was 60.5%.
Miami-Dade's unemployment rate jumped to 6.3% in June, up from 4.9% six months earlier. The statewide average: 4.3%. It is the first time in two years that Miami-Dade's unemployment has exceeded 6%. As of June, almost 69,000 county residents were out of work, an increase of about 16,000 since December.
South Florida -- As part of the Internet Coast initiative to promote south Florida as a hub for high-tech expansions and start-ups, six universities have announced plans to collaborate on a range of projects. Development officials say the alliance is similar to those created in Northern California, Boston, North Carolina and other technology centers. The alliance will include Florida International University, Florida Atlantic University, Miami-Dade Community College, Nova Southeastern University, Barry University and the University of Miami.
MIAMI-DADE -- An ad hoc committee of Miami-Dade civic and business leaders charged with finding solutions to public corruption has recommended overhauling county laws that regulate campaign finance, lobbying and contract procurement. Among the recommendations: Limiting the value of contracts requiring commission approval to $1 million, leaving the county manager responsible for larger contracts. The Alliance for Ethical Government, formed three years ago following a rash of high-profile corruption scandals, also has recommended that the annual stipend for county commissioners be increased from $6,000 to $76,000.
The county commission, which must approve any reform package, has been lukewarm to most of the alliance's recommendations.