Thursday, July 10, 2014

Surfside to North Miami Beach swap?

The Dezerland Hotel (and other titles at times) sold for $65M according ot exMiami on December 18th while five days later on the 23rd  they report that Dezer has acquired and plans to build "600 Units At Intracoastal Mall In North Miami Beach," the purchase of which cost some LLC of his $63.5M. Seems like a reasonable pivot considering how next to nothing has been done with the throw-back hotel property, but Dezer has big plans for the Intracoastal, including a luxury dinner movie theater.

Seems like a big step up. Just a stones throw away, the Intracoastal mall economically driven by budget brands like "Old Navy" and "Winn-Dixie" will be getting a Sunny Isles facelift to match some of its potential.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mall Expansion Update 5.13

After a long period of inactivity I decided this morning to look for something new regarding the Aventura Mall expansion proposal. Rumors of a food court rennovated initially interested me due to its adgacency with the mall's only Miami-Dade Transit bus stop. Confirmation came months after the initial rumor via Miami Today article breaking the expansion. (I just spend 15 minutes trying to guess how Miami Today came out with the story. Maybe they read monthly agendas?)
With new scope to the matter further research became necessary to understand the fate of the mall bus stop. Miami-Dade Transit had nothing to say on the matter, instead claiming total ignorance, however what makes the situation so interesting is that the ordinance change the mall requires to expand their lot coverage to 44% (current max 40%) necessitates the very transit facility which serves as footnote in most articles on the story. Certainly a millions dollars expansion is a big deal, but in Miami those go for a dime a dozen. The guts of the story involve Aventura Mall Ventures possible manipulating city ordinances meant to maintain benefit the public.
From the proposal to the city:

The request is a policy decision as to whether the continued low height of the mall building and the construction of a centralized multi-modal transit facility on the ground
floor of a new parking structure is a benefit to the community that warrants the
requested increase
in lot coverage.
(Strange formatting mine)
How can Aventura Mall Ventures possibly meet a standard warranting the "requested increase" if they are not even in communication with local transit authorities?
That line of thinking raises all sorts of questions as to whether Aventura Mall is a Community Business, as is the designation they have. What kind of community does Aventura Mall cultivate and perpetuate?

I won't address most of the questions any time soon. At this time I focus on mall expansion and what's to become of the bus stop. While the potential for a well designed transit facility excites me, the reality of transit facilities in this area paint a depressing likelihood.
More to come?
Hopefully soon. No one else has written about it since, it seems!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Strange Death of Alexandre Nicolas

On Saturday, January 25, 2014 Sunny Isles Police pulled 20 year old Alexandre Nicolas over in a stop that resulted in his death. According to the Miami Herald, via police statement, the young Nicolas fled police custody, while in handcuffs, and attempted an escape in a nearby canal. He drowned in that canal.

The Herald Article claims the detainment resulted from some kind of police scanner alerting Sunny Isles Police of a stolen vehicle. An article in WSVN posted one week after the incident, reporting on a memorial held for Nicolas, states his family retained a lawyer to inquire in to the incident. (that article was most recently updated in March)

Aside from these two articles I am unable to find any other original content about the incident.  Vagueness plagues these two reports. Different circumstances elicit less interest, but this tale of a popular and friendly man dying understand strange circumstances raises both eyebrows.
One line from the Herald report stands out particularly for it contradicting or not fitting in with the over-all narrative promulgated by police and the media:

After Nicolas pulled over in the parking lot of Area Code 55 at 16375 Biscayne Blvd., police subsequently identified the vehicle as being stolen from Miami Beach. At that point, Nicolas was ordered out of the car and handcuffed. He ran and drowned.
Notice how in this version of things the stolen car doesn't come up until after Nicolas is stopped over a mile away from Sunny Isles.

Further details may render this a mundane situation, really, but until then questions remain. I have E-mailed the Sunny Isles Clerk with some of these questions in hopes of at least clarifying the situation, and publishing this clarification here so that perhaps the last internet word about Alexandre Nicolas includes more than mild speculation and non-binding police statements.

  • What kind of scan/inquiry alerted police to the stolen car? Did police respond to an automated alert technique, or a manually initiated search result?
  • Why wasn't Nicolas pulled over sooner? reports indicate he stopped more than a mile away from Sunny Isles. The westward stretch of 163 street from Sunny Isles to Biscayne Blvd boasts more than enough parking lot space for a police stop.
  • Was the vehicle/license plate in question actually stolen? Note that media reports do not claim the vehicle or the platers were stolen, but only that the plate was identified as stolen. There can be a difference.
  • Was Alexandre Nicolas alone? Were there any witnesses?
  • What exactly happened? At what time did Nicolas jump in to the canal? Did anyone attempt to go in after him? At what time? How long did he spend in/under the water before removal?
Perhaps other important questions do not appear above. If you have questions or information which could clarify the situation feel free to contact me.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Is Aventura Mall gutting their food court?

For months rumors floated about a possible renovation of the Aventura Mall food court. My interest concerns the bus stop outside the food court which services Miami-Dade Transit, Broward Transit, and serves as a taxi stand. Any closure of the food court would also seal off the entrance to the mall nearest the bus stop.
Though I tried to gather some information I came up empty handed until last week the press picked up Aventura Mall's proposal to the City for expansion, included a transit facility; the scope of the project obviously much larger than the initial rumor purported.
Unsatisfied with the reports I visited the City of Aventura planning department to view the design and see what Aventura Mall proposed.
While my primary interest is the future of the transit hub (which I use to get to work) I found the proposal altogether interesting: women's Macy's will finally extend their store per a previously approved expansion; seven story parking garage featuring a ground level transit facility. The garage, abutting JC Penny and the mall extension, can potentially unify the different transit options currently available, often at different parts of the mall. Finally, a three story extension of the mall from where the food court already exists.
One wonders what's to happen to current food court tenants when the construction begins. More curious than that is where the food court will be once the construction completes.
I admit total ignorance in the skills of reading design plans. Check if you can see something I don't: the future food court. I can't place it. It gives me the impression that there won't be a food court in the mall. Can anyone see it?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Miami Noted News

Miami Beach

After a judge ruled (days before last Novermber's voting) that the Miami Beach Convention Center bond initiative could not be on the ballot before a contract was available for public presentation, the city commission voted to scrap the plan altogether. Beheading the draft outcome of an already rather long-winded process, the commission claims it wants to focus on the convention center, and not bundling other amenities in to the project.
The city now cancels a proposed project, Lincoln Lane, which Curbed Miami claims faced hampering corruption scandals. The resolution canceling the Lincoln Lane North project RFP claims three reasons for cancelling: the recent change in city leadership; changes in the real estate market; and an impending Lincoln Road Master Plan process.
In both cases I wonder to what extent, if any, the new leadership came to the table with projects of their own already in the works. In either case one hopes their efforts have a better impact on the City of Miami Beach than otherwise.
With public-private partnerships the community should be reasonably weary of the potential for nepotism, mismanagement, and poor oversight. While I don't support any more municipal big-bond projects which seem always to benefit private contractors more than public well-being, I hope the citizens of Miami Beach put pressure on the commission to be responsible and transparent in their dealings.


On February 12 Miami Today News broke the story of  an Aventura Mall expansion. They don't specify how they found out, but I was able to hunt down a January City of Aventura Document Titled "CURRENT DEVELOPMENT & APPLICATIONS IN PROGRESS," which Google dates to February 9th. According to the official document this project is in "Developments in Review Process", or phase IV of a four stage process ending in phase I, complete projects. The two in-between stages are approval and construction.

Rumors in the mall for a few months now suggested the food court would close for some renovation. I had no clue it was an expansion until the 12th. Back in January I tweeted Miami-Dade Transit about what this would mean for the transit hub which services both MDT and Broward County Transit:

They haven't gotten back to me, but perhaps if they did I could have broken the story about Aventura Mall's expansion. Consider my ego bruised. Especially since in the Miami Today News story Aventura Community Development Director Joanne Carr makes some kind of claim about "transit facility," which may potentially unify the Malls currently somewhat disjointed transportation options. Inquiring minds may want to dive in to an Aventura planning document which gives details on the Mall's request for a zoning ordinance which seems to hold construction of a transit facility as part of the justification for the change.
After a public record request Yemar Reus, MDTs document manager said this regarding the future of Aventura Mall's transit hub,  "Where the mall will be placing the hub you will need to check with the Mall Operation MDT has nothing to do with the temporary relocation."

There are a few aspects of this story I would like to explore further:

  • Given the number of people public transit brings to the mall (employees, locals, and droves of tourists) to what extent  does MDT and other transit services behold themselves to the whims of Aventura Mall? The current transit infrastructure is poorly designed and causes undue confusion to riders. Does Aventura Mall have any responsibility to transit organizations and their riders? Is there any written agreements or contractual obligations between any political body and Aventura Mall?
  • What kind of transit facility design is being proposed and what are its benefits and short-comings?
  • What role, if any, does the promise of a transit facility play in the approval of the zoning ordinance Aventura Mall requested?
I hope to get around to some of these questions in the next week, including photos of the plans proposed by the mall. Anyone one with recommendations on what to look for, or further information are welcome to comment or e-mail me directly.

Monday, February 3, 2014

in consideration of the purpose and uses of the sunpass express lane

The opportunity to help a friend necessitated driving down the local interstate highway, i95. Though rare enough to see me in a car, the trip downtown from the northern outskirts of the county fails to elicit some measure of excitement.
But imagine my confusion in 6:30 am 15 mph traffic. (Mind my share of rush hour horror for the last decade.) I could not imagine how rush hour's lethargic fingers reached back in the morning, so early in fact the sun had not yet risen.

The segment of 95 near the 826/441/Golden Glades interchange display chronic congestion conditions, but I assumed congestion began at 8 am. The early standstill adds kindling to a contrary notion that Miami's economy has bred a class of people who spend significant time in traffic.

Miami-Dade County developed an electronic toll express way with time or traffic variable pricing.  (find links about prices) Ranging from the current lowest of 25 cents to over five dollars in my own experience. Use of the express lane, other than through participation in a specialized program requires one purchase a SunPass branded device.
The SunPass express lane guarantees participants 55 mph speeds, but I'm here to state otherwise. And in doing so I have two points I'd like to bring up.

What got me thinking about this program is a Miami Herald article published on Sunday explaining that people speed in the express lane. That has been the case on some occasions I used the express lane. While I cruise-controlled my way at 60 mph, many people sped right past me, at some points right to the back of a bottleneck caused by other drivers going the actual speed-limit.
How many people use the express lane only so they can speed?
With such a characterization of the express lane, the response given by the authorities is questionable. They propose to have more enforcement of the limit by putting boots on the ground. Does that bother anyone else? Pulling people to the side of a highway to ticket them strikes me as extremely dangerous. Why don't they consider an electronic ticketing system? Perhaps there are ulterior motives.

On an occasion where I paid more than $5 to use the express lane I found myself at some point in stop-and-go traffic. How did that happen and why was I being charged so much for such an experience?

All of this completely disregards opinions and complaints about the program related to its legality, and whether or not it equitably serves the community. And overall, what I have considered leads me to the obvious question: what is the goal of the sunpass program, and is it succeeding?

Monday, January 27, 2014

emptiness is next to godliness

Exmiami reports that the old Miami Herald building has not had any advertising on its sides for ten days. These advertisements face a highway, which is not only technically illegal (though god forbid the City of Miami ever do it's actual job) but an exploitive distraction.

I hope Genting, the company which is tearing down the Herald Building, keeps the adverts down too!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

the two-tiered first ammendment protections of presstitutes and citizenry

The slew of citizen journalist arrests at protests deemed unauthorized demonstrates a clear double standard in the protections municipalities and their police grant regarding the first amendment. While orders to disperse from public streets are constitutionally questionable on face, the arbitrary discrimination between government condoned journalists and anyone else on the scene raises startling questions with human rights violation implications.
As if working together like members of a team, corporate sponsored mainstream media representatives are literally given a game plan by the policy media liason, as everyone else is treated like a criminal for what is a clear expression of the constitutionally protected right to assemble freely.

While I am interested in any cases which have augmented the 1st amendment to allow governments to impose time or place restrictions, the wording itself suggests no scope of time or place, which implies all collective spaces more than any other are subject to this constitutional protection.

Let me tell you why I've brought it up:
When journalists, "the press" are not as much watchdogs of power, but rather than lapdogs, it's becomes increasingly difficult for the population to understand what goes on around them. I won't purport any conspiracy about the unhealthy relationship between the powers that be and those charged to report on them, but rather, take a look at this youtube playlist featuring a segment from the Conan show called,  "media matters" In the segment Conan demonstrates the reality of a corporate local news affiliate feeder system whereby dozens of organizations across the country all report the same stories, in many cases with the same words.
Homogeneity in journalism is a big a problem for society. When everyone is getting the same news from the same voice, and that voice is not a free voice, we should all be terrified.