A dozen residential projects are pending in the city's downtown.
By Pat Dunnigan
Charles Palmer's company, Sea Ranch Properties, has been putting up luxury condominiums for 40 years. But when he breaks ground this month on the 38-story luxury condominium project he's christened Las Olas Grand, it will be Palmer's first venture into the downtown residential market.
He won't be alone: The Downtown Development Authority lists a dozen other mostly upscale residential projects slated to follow Palmer's lead. The projects come after a flurry of office tower construction that's just beginning to taper off and will complement an already successful stretch of restaurants along trendy Las Olas Boulevard and the riverfront. "The last piece of the puzzle," says Palmer, "is residential housing."
If he's right, Fort Lauderdale could soon be the envy of many urban centers struggling to put together the mix of commercial, retail and residential that keeps a downtown economy humming even after 5 p.m. The 4.3-acre Las Olas Grand, the most ambitious of the residential projects under way, had sold 40% of its 219 units before crews had finished clearing the land in mid-July, Palmer says. The units sell for between $400,000 to just over $1 million. "I think it's going to be a huge success."
Palmer believes the residential appeal of downtown Fort Lauderdale will sell more than just waterfront property. He believes the city will follow the trend of places like Chicago and New York, where empty-nest couples are selling their suburban homes and joining young professionals moving to downtown apartments and condominiums.
If it all works, it will be no accident, says Douglas Eagon, president of the Stiles Corp. and a longtime member of the Downtown Development Authority. Stiles is building its second downtown office and retail tower, expected to be complete next summer. "I think what you're really seeing now is the culmination of a lot of plans and market forces over the past 20 years starting to come together," Eagon says. The city's efforts, particularly the construction of the winding "Riverwalk" promenade completed in 1998 and investments in the downtown science and art museums and performing arts center, is "textbook redevelopment theory," he says. "I think with the number of developers interested in downtown, that's a reflection of people recognizing that the area has validated itself as a central business district," Eagon says.
In the News
BOCA RATON -- The new publisher and majority owner of the Boca Raton News, Neal Heller, plans to sell the newspaper's headquarters building at 5801 N. Congress Ave. in an effort to cut costs.
Tyco International plans to buy Sensormatic Electronics Corp. (NYSE-SRM) for $2.2 billion in stock. Sensormatic makes electronic security tags. Bermuda-based Tyco, which owns home-security firm ADT, offered Sensormatic $24 a share in August, a 60% premium over Sensormatic's stock price at the time.
FORT LAUDERDALE -- City officials are scheduled to choose this month from among three pitches to renew a blighted site at Broward Boulevard and I-95. Proposals for the 50-acre property include a government and education complex, an office complex with hotel and retail space and a mixed-use condominium project. Now at the partially city-owned property: A public-housing complex, a juvenile detention center and an abandoned park-and-ride station.
SportsLine.com will produce and host the National Football League's website, NFL.com. As part of the deal, which includes Viacom and AOL Time Warner, SportsLine will also help promote the NFL's internet operations.
Two employees of Three S Trucking in Fort Lauderdale were charged with taking payoffs for fixing commercial driver's license tests. Lech Rzendzian, 48, and Felix O. Mamedov, 39, were charged with interstate travel in aid of racketeering. The two allegedly charged $2,000 for fixing the tests.
HOLLYWOOD -- City officials and the Downtown Hollywood Redevelopment Agency have a new logo and marketing plan designed to brand Harrison Street as a high-end art and home-design district. The plan includes an advertising campaign targeting interior designers, art dealers and architects.
JUPITER -- Palm Beach Gardens-based Collins Development Co. will conduct a feasibility study for the development of a "historical coastal village"-style waterfront -- including a 2.5-mile riverwalk -- in Jupiter Inlet.
NORTH LAUDERDALE -- Chancellor Academies, one of the country's largest operators of charter schools, has leased a 46,519-sq.-ft. building at 1259 S. State Road 7. The company will operate a 600-student elementary school, including Pre-K, set to open this month.
SOUTH BROWARD -- Dania Beach officials are considering a 17% property tax increase to offset a $1.5-million shortfall in its $25.9-million budget, the result of overestimates in expected revenues. The hike would bump the property tax rate from $5.83 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $6.81. Meanwhile, homeowners in Oakland Park are facing a 31% tax increase -- from $5.20 per $1,000 of assessed value to $6.80 -- because of a $1.4-million shortfall. The city blamed high health insurance costs for its 246 employees.
WEST PALM EBACH -- ScriptRx Inc., the maker of an interactive prescription and discharge instruction computer system used by hospital emergency rooms, expects to be the beneficiary of efforts to fight prescription fraud, including a recent Florida Health Care Administration decree that all Medicaid prescriptions be written on counterfeit-proof forms. The company plans to issue fraud-proof paper to its Florida customers free of charge. ScriptRx says it has installed 180 of its machines in hospital emergency rooms around the country.
Making His Case?
BOCA RATON -- A lawyer for investors suing controversial former Sunbeam Chief Executive Al Dunlap says new allegations that Dunlap hid a history of accounting fraud accusations will bolster his clients' case.
Merill Davidoff's clients allege that Dunlap overstated company earnings to boost Sunbeam's sale price. Davidoff says the allegations that Dunlap was accused of similar misdeeds while he ran the Nitec Paper Corp. in the 1970s -- reported by the New York Times -- reveal a pattern of behavior and undermine Dunlap's credibility. The suit is scheduled to go to trial in January.
School of Hard Knocks
Despite a less-than-warm welcome, new UM President Donna Shalala savors Miami's mix of ethnic politics.
By David Villano
The red carpet didn't exactly roll out last December for newly appointed University of Miami President Donna Shalala. Within days of the announcement that the outgoing Secretary for Health and Human Services would replace Edward "Tad" Foote II to become the school's fifth president, Cuban-American lawmakers in Tallahassee, still fuming over the Clinton administration's handling of the Eli?n Gonzalez case, warned that millions of dollars in state funding the school receives each year could be in jeopardy if a Clinton ally took the post.
Shalala, whose term began June 1, shrugs off the controversy as political posturing. The threat has not been carried out. "I guess my reaction was that if I was in their situation, I'd be pissed off too," she says.
Sipping a Cuban coffee in her office at the University of Miami's sprawling Coral Gables campus, the 60-year-old Cleveland native insists that the volatile mix of ethnic politics is largely what attracted her to Miami. Prior to her eight-year stint in the Clinton Cabinet, Shalala served for six years as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin. "I wasn't looking for the same kind of job I'd already had," she says, referring to the differences between Madison, Wis., a small college town in the heart of middle America, and Miami.
While proud of her work in Washington, Shalala is quick to point out that she has always been first and foremost an academician. She is a noted scholar of political science. She taught for seven years at Columbia University. Before moving to Wisconsin, she was president of New York's Hunter College.
Convincing critics that politics plays no role in academia is one of her first challenges, Shalala says. "When you are a college president, you are non-partisan. It's that simple." Indeed, the man credited with coaxing her into accepting the post is University of Miami trustee and search committee Chairman Charles E. Cobb Jr., a prominent Republican fund-raiser.
University of Miami Board of Trustees Chairman Carlos M. de la Cruz Sr., chairman and CEO of Eagle Brands Inc., says Shalala brings instant name recognition to a relatively young university -- the school celebrates its 75th anniversary this year -- still struggling for recognition. He says Shalala's political affiliations had no bearing on her selection and should have no bearing on her tenure as president.
"Some people may be suspicious because I came out of the Clinton administration," Shalala says. "But at the end of the day, I will be judged only by one thing: My contributions to the University of Miami and to the community over a long period of time."
In the News
CORAL GABLES -- Just months after being acquired by Italy's Luxottica Group, eyewear retailer Sunglass Hut International is closing its Coral Gables headquarters.
MIAMI -- Millennium Trade, an Argentine firm that provides business assistance to companies relocating from South America to North America, has opened a Miami office. Ten jobs will be created.
Just weeks after being named incoming chairwoman of the Beacon Council, TotalBank CEO Adrienne Arsht has withdrawn from the post. Arsht's term was to begin in October. A replacement has not been named. Insiders say Arsht's decision stems from personality and management differences with Beacon Council President and CEO Frank Nero. The Beacon Council is Miami-Dade's economic development agency.
Fresh from a buying spree of up to 120 new aircraft that will triple its fleet, Transportes Aereos Regionais, Brazil's No. 2 airline, will expand its North American headquarters in Miami, increasing local employment from 45 to 70.
Two years after the prestigious Reed Midem organization canceled its annual Latin American and Caribbean music conference in Miami, a former Midem executive has announced plans for a similar event: The
MusicaExpo Latin America, to be held in Miami Beach Sept. 5-8. The trade show will bring together recording artists, promoters, producers and others from the Latin music recording industry. Miami will host the Latin Grammy Awards later this month.
MIAMI BEACH -- Desperate for new capital, Miami-Beach-based Yupi Internet has agreed to be acquired by T1msn, a joint venture between Microsoft's MSN and Mexican phone giant Telmex. The once-high-flying Yupi, a Spanish-language portal, laid off 160 of its 270 employees last December.
Money Woes in Homestead, Miami
HOMESTEAD Facing a budget shortfall of as much as $15 million for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, Homestead is on the brink of financial insolvency, prompting some leaders to call for a state takeover of city finances. Contributing to the fiscal chaos: Auditors have discovered more than 50 bank accounts containing city funds -- with more possible -- at a variety of banks.
Former Homestead Mayor Steve Shiver, who has been Miami-Dade county manager since February, is trading barbs with Homestead officials over who is to blame. The community is among Miami-Dade's poorest.
Meanwhile, a state appeals court has struck down as unconstitutional a parking surcharge in Miami, jeopardizing the city's financial recovery. The $20 million collected over two years has helped stabilize city finances after auditors discovered a $68-million budget deficit in 1996. The city is looking at other revenue sources and cost-cutting to make up the difference.