West Palm's world-class museum and descendants of the city's founders are at odds over a cemetery.
By Pat Dunnigan
The prestigious Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach sits atop the crumbling remains of a century-old cemetery where 40 or so ancestors of the area's oldest families are buried. The arrangement is part of a 60-year-old deal between the city and the descendants of the families that settled the area.
Until recently, the pioneers' descendants and the museum's ambitious stewards had shared the tract peaceably: The museum grew from a small local collection to a $6.6-million-a-year, nationally recognized institution housing a prestigious collection of 19th and 20th century European, Renaissance, Baroque, American, Chinese and contemporary art. And the Lake Worth Pioneers Association continued to hold its annual picnic on the grounds, still called Pioneer Memorial Park.
But the pioneers group is now in a huff over what it sees as a series of slights by the museum's management. West Palm Beach lawyer and Pioneers Association Vice President Harvey Oyer III, whose great-great grandparents are buried beneath the museum, says Norton officials "became elitist" and have made the pioneers group feel unwelcome. Oyer says association members have been denied access to the gravesites, which lie in a crawl space under the building. In addition, a bronze plaque commemorating those buried there was moved to an "ankle-high" location behind some shrubbery.
Oyer says his group was further insulted when an adjacent street known as "Pioneer Place" disappeared to make room for a museum parking lot. Worse still, Oyer says, is that when he was allowed to visit the crawl space a few months ago, he found only one tombstone where there should have been at least eight.
Oyer believes the museum threw away the tombstones during a renovation. Lawyer Bill Sned, a Pioneers Association member who also happens to represent the museum, says museum officials have no idea what happened to the grave markers.
Both sides acknowledge the mystery may never be solved. In the meantime, the spat has complicated the museum's plans for a three-story addition. The museum will have to satisfy the city's concerns that its lease provisions are being met, including maintaining the bronze plaque.
Navigating carefully between the two parties, Mayor Joel Daves chides the museum gently. He says the city may have been overly accommodating as the museum grew in both size and stature under Executive Director Christina Orr-Cahall. "Throughout the '90s, the Norton pretty much had its way with the city," Daves says. "In the course of that, it lost sight of the fact that it was sitting on a historic site."
In the next breath, however, Daves acknowledges the museum's importance to the community: "It's a figure on the national cultural scene, and we're very proud of it."
In the News
Boca Raton -- Medical Staffing Network has acquired Yorktown Heights, N.Y.-based Excel Staffing Services for an undisclosed price. The acquisition brings the number of MSN branches to 117 in 34 states. The company, which provides temporary nursing employees to hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities, plans to open 50 additional branches this year.
Health Express USA (OTCBB-HEXS), operator of the Health Bites Grill gourmet fast-food restaurant, plans to open a second location at St. Andrews Boulevard and Glades Road. The company's original restaurant is in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
Florida Atlantic University's College of Business was named one of the top 50 business schools for entrepreneurs by Success magazine.
Dania Beach -- Electronics retailer Sound Advice (Nasdaq-SUND) will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Canton, Mass.-based Tweeter Home Entertainment Group under a deal expected to be completed by next month. Sound Advice owns 32 stores in Florida and Arizona. Tweeter owns 105 electronic retail stores in 16 states. The deal calls for Sound Advice shareholders to receive one share of Tweeter stock for every share of Sound Advice stock owned, providing Tweeter stock price stays between $21 and $30 a share.
Powerful Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave up his 35% voting rights in SunCruz Casinos to the estate of slain businessman Gus Boulis, returning control of Florida's largest cruise-to-nowhere empire to Boulis' representatives. A federal magistrate in June recommended that SunCruz be forced to return the SunCruz trademark to the Boulis estate and stop using the name because the new owners never paid for it under a $147-million purchase agreement in September. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after the ruling.
Delray Beach -- Office Depot is buying Delaware-based officesupplies.com for an undisclosed price. The deal includes the company's customers, website and domain name.
Fort Lauderdale -- Subsidiaries of Huizenga Holdings Ltd. have sold two 2.1-acre downtown parcels along New River to General Partner Sea Ranch Properties and Minto Las Olas Inc. for $10 million each. The buyers plan a 38-story luxury condominium and a 31-story luxury apartment building for the adjoining parcels.
ProxyMed (Nasdaq-PILL), a provider of healthcare transaction processing services, is buying MDP, an Atlanta-based electronic claim clearinghouse and patient statement processor, for $10 million. MDP has more than 5,000 physician clients.
Jupiter -- Genetic research and manufacturing company Dyadic International attracted $13.6 million in venture financing, according to founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Emalfarb. The 20-employee company plans to use the money to expand its research into identifying enzymes and proteins that are used to create biochemicals for commercial use. Among other products, the company produces an enzyme used in the process of creating stone-washed denim.
Palm Beach Gardens -- Anderson Moore Construction Corp. will oversee a $1.5-million renovation and addition to Jupiter Medical Center's Ella Milbank Foshay Cancer Treatment Center. Completion is expected in November.
West Palm Beach -- Philadelphia-based Global Spectrum has won a three-year contract to manage the county convention center, scheduled to open in May 2003.
Windsor & York, a West Palm Beach-based manufacturer of women's accessories and embroidered logo merchandise for sports and corporate clients, has signed former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach to a 10-year deal to pitch its products. MediaReach Public Relations of West Palm Beach is developing a multi-media campaign, according to Windsor & York President Peter Newton.
Terremark Worldwide is reinventing itself as a leader in internet construction and services.
By David Villano
To development officials, the recent opening of the NAP of the Americas in downtown Miami marks the region's emergence as a key center for telecom: It is only the fifth network access point for internet traffic in the U.S. To executives at Terremark Worldwide, the builder, owner and operator of the $60-million facility, it marks the transformation of their Miami-based company from a regional real estate firm to a pure player in the global telecom industry.
"Our strategy is to use the NAP as a springboard into Latin America," says Terremark Chairman and CEO Manny Medina. "We've been very focused on getting this completed right and on time, and now we're turning our attention to similar projects in other countries."
For Terremark, such ambition has required a rapid makeover. Medina founded the company in 1980 as a privately held real estate development firm. Coconut Grove's Cocowalk mall was among his projects. In the early 1990s, the company nearly went under when General Development Corp., a principal tenant, filed for bankruptcy. The company rebounded after landing lucrative contracts to rebuild Kuwait after the Gulf War. But three years ago, with Latin America spending billions to upgrade its telecom infrastructure, Medina spotted an opportunity.
Medina methodically retrenched. Over the past two years, he acquired a string of companies -- mostly through stock deals -- that brought telecom contacts and experience:
Miami's Post Shell Contractors and New York-based Telecom Routing Exchange Developers (T-rex) allowed the company to form a telecom contracting arm. Spectrum Telecommunications, a provider of telecom services in Latin America, and IXS.net, a California company that provides internet data services in China, gave it footholds in two of the world's fastest-growing internet markets.
Along the way, Medina took Terremark public through a reverse merger with AmTec Inc., a small New York telecom provider. Gone are nearly all of the company's real estate holdings, which were sold off. Today, Terremark hopes to build NAPs and data centers in Latin America and Asia.
Its only firm project besides the NAP of the Americas is a NAP in Beijing. But David Joyce, an analyst with Guzman & Co. in Miami, likes the strategy. "The metamorphosis of Terremark makes sense -- they see a convergence of real estate and telecom." The only stumbling point, he says, is a tight capital market.
Medina says that building the structure for using the internet is far more appealing than traditional real estate. "We're pretty confident that the internet is something that's here to stay," he says.
In the News
Miami -- An all-star roster of south Florida business leaders has purchased the National Hockey League Florida Panthers team from AutoNation Chairman Wayne Huizenga. Among the group of eight principal investors are Andrx Corp. Chairman and CEO Alan Cohen; Precision Response CEO David Epstein; AutoNation President Mike Maroone; and former University of Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar, who runs the investment capital firm KCE Corp. The sale price was not disclosed, but the deal is believed to be in the $100-million range.
MyAlert.com, a 2-year-old internet services provider with offices throughout Europe, has opened a Miami branch. The company, which aims to create 30 jobs, expects investments of $1.5 million.
Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has opened a Miami office, creating at least 30 jobs. The company's principal products are power systems and industrial machinery. It also provides engineering services.
Boston Scientific, whose Miami-based subsidiary, Symbiosis, is one of the world's leading manufacturers of disposable surgical devices, is planning a $10-million expansion of its Miami design and manufacturing facilities. The company expects to create more than 150 jobs over the next two years.
Former West Miami Mayor Rebeca Sosa has been elected to the Miami-Dade County Commission. She replaces Pedro Reboredo, who resigned to avoid a possible grand jury indictment. Reboredo pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of exploiting his position when he paid two aides thousands of dollars for work they never performed.
Bishop Victor T. Curry has resigned as president of the Miami-Dade County branch of the NAACP over a disagreement with the national leadership. Bradford Brown, who has been involved with the NAACP for 39 years, is the group's new president.
The city of Miami violated securities laws on $116 million worth of bond issues in 1995 by painting a rosy picture of city finances when deficits were piling up, an administrative law judge has ruled. Judge Brenda Murray concluded that the securities violations charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission were intentional and issued a cease-and-desist order. The ruling is expected to have little effect on Miami's current bond rating.
Miami Beach -- Hoping to spur economic development in the North Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach, the city commission has approved a proposal from The Related Group of Florida to develop a four-acre parcel of city-owned land. Commissioners envision a $50-million mixed-use project that will include retail shops, restaurants, a community theater and 16-screen movie complex. Despite the worldwide popularity of South Beach as a tourist destination and second-home community, North Beach has been largely ignored by visitors and development interests.
Miami-Dade -- Miami's first film trade show will be held Sept. 3-5 at the Coconut Grove Exhibition Center. The Florida Film Market will provide an opportunity for film distribution companies and film buyers and agents to purchase film and video products for Latin and Caribbean audiences. Film and video production is one of Miami-Dade's largest industries. Event promoters hope to make the show an annual event in Miami.
According to Census Bureau figures, Miami-Dade has the highest percentage of Hispanic residents of any large county in the nation, with 57%. Bexar County, Texas, which includes San Antonio, is second with 54%.
Delroup Inc., a subsidiary of Argentina's Delsat Group, has opened a Miami office to help it expand into North America. The company, a maker of telecommunications equipment and software, expects to hire 35 locally.
Miami-Dade County has filed a $450-million lawsuit against 17 companies it says dumped fuel and toxic wastes at Miami International Airport. County officials say it is the largest environmental lawsuit ever filed in Florida. Among the defendants: Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Hoover Industries and Florida East Coast Railway. Some of the allegations date back decades. Officials say the county has spent more than $200 million testing and removing the waste, some of which has penetrated the Biscayne Aquifer -- the region's main source of drinking water. In a separate suit, the county is asking the U.S. Department of Defense for $200 million for the department's role in polluting airport lands. The airport housed a major air base during World War II.