Tag Archives: south florida business

Tibor Hollo evicting Venezuelan Consulate

South Florida Business Journal

by Brian Bandell, Senior Reporter

Date: Friday, February 17, 2012, 1:47pm EST
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has directed his government to stop paying the rent on its Miami office.

It’s not often a landlord gets to evict a nation, but Tibor Hollo is doing just that to Venezuela and its consulate in Miami.

TWJ 1101 LLC, which owns the office building at 1101 Brickell Ave., filed an eviction lawsuit against the government of Venezuela, its economic development bank and its consulate office on Feb. 7. The building is owned by Florida East Coast Realty ,  led by Hollo, its president.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavezannounced in January that he would close its consulate in Miami after Livia Acosta Noguera, its Miami consul general, was expelled from the U.S. She was subject to an FBI investigation over allegations that she was involved in a potential cyber-attack on the U.S. government – news unveiled by Univision.

Hollo said the Venezuelan officials have cleared out of his building and he hasn’t been able to contact them.

“Since January they haven’t paid rent, so I want to evict them,” he said. “The office is there. Nobody is in the office. All the furniture is there, but they aren’t there. I want my money or my space back.”

Hollo noted that Banco Industrial de Venezuela, a state-owned bank, is current on its lease payments for another suite in that building.

Having a bank office in Miami helps Venezuelans in South Florida with some financial transactions, but the loss of its consulate makes it harder for them to get documentation such as passports.

Given the eviction lawsuit, it looks like a Venezuelan Consulate in Miami won’t be reopened anytime soon.

Miami chamber votes to support expanded gambling, with caveats

South Florida Business Journal by Oscar Pedro Musibay, Reporter

Date: Wednesday, January 4, 2012, 2:55pm EST – Last Modified: Wednesday, January 4, 2012, 4:10pm EST

The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, as part of its legislative agenda for the state of Florida in 2012, has tentatively supported the establishment of destination resorts, as long as 75 percent of the workforce is local and the impacted community supports expanding gambling through referendum.

The chamber’s board of directors voted on the issue during a closed-door meeting Wednesday to discuss both its federal and state legislative platforms. The meeting lasted an hour, with the gambling discussion lasting about 20 minutes, prior to the vote, chamber President and CEO Barry E. Johnson said.

He said the approved platform also required parity between destination resorts and the pari-mutuel industry; however, the tax rate and games available to each would not necessarily have to mirror each other. Additionally, local government would have to receive some of the gambling proceeds to “mitigate for any impacts to the surrounding communities and to provide for improvements to public infrastructure” like transportation, according to a copy of the approved language. The current legislation sends all of the new revenue to the state, Johnson said.

The chamber also wants license holders to enter into a “public-private partnership that contributes to the mitigation of the added social and infrastructure impact on the community,” according to the approved language.

He said the exact number of votes tallied was not immediately available, but the ratio was about 3 to 1 in favor.

On Tuesday, Jobs 4 Florida voiced its support for the pending destination resort legislation by letter. Jobs 4 Florida said it represents about 300,000 people through a coalition that includes Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida, the Gold Coast Builders AssociationLatin Builders Association and Engineering Contractors of South Florida.

“The construction industry in Florida has been devastated during this prolonged economic recession,” the group stated in the letter. “Next to tourism and hospitality, construction is one of the biggest economic drivers for Florida’s economy. We cannot continue to ignore the fact that this legislation would allow for people to come off the unemployment line and get back to work.”

The Genting Group, which is seeking a license for a destination resort for its holdings in downtown Miami, embraced the result of the vote.

“Today’s Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce decision to support regulated destination resorts demonstrates the strong consensus that exists among business and civic leaders who recognize the benefits these projects will bring to our community,” said Christian Goode, president of Resorts World Miami, in a statement. “Local residents and small businesses understand that destination resorts will result in billions of dollars in new investment, millions of new tourists annually, tens of thousands of new jobs, and much-needed relief for businesses in Miami and across the state. We look forward to collaborating with the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and other stakeholders, residents and businesses as Resorts World Miami takes shape.”

Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, co-sponsor of a bill designed to attract large, Las Vegas-style resorts to Florida, is also attempting to address some of the same issues the chamber raised. She is working on a “strike-all amendment” that would replace her original legislation with new language. Some possible features of the new bill include allowing pari-mutuels that invest $100 million to add more games, lowering the slot machine tax and requiring a local referendum on expanded gambling.

The original gambling bill required destination resorts to have at least $2 billion in investment, plus pay a 10 percent tax on revenue from slot machines, a far cry from the 35 percent tax pari-mutuels currently pay.

The suggested revisions Bogdanoff sent to some legislators include a flat rate of 18 percent on all slots.

The Senate Committee on Regulated Industries meets Jan. 9. A bill that is detrimental to pari-mutuels’ competitiveness in comparison to destination resorts is a “non-starter,” Democrats have said.

Nick Iarossi, a lobbyist for Las Vegas Sands Corp. (NYSE: LVS) and a government consultant with Capital Consulting in Tallahassee, said the Jan. 9 vote is important because if the 10-member committee votes the bill down, it’s dead. So, the vote will be closely monitored by a lot of parties.

Voters would also have to approve allowing pari-mutuels to expand the games they offer to include roulette and other Las Vegas-style games.

Regardless of the details in the final bill, the road will be rough for supporters of expanded gambling.

Miami Beach officials voted against expanding what is already available.

Additionally, Miami-Dade County is asking that destination gambling resort legislation include a section that would mandate a 12- to 18-month local government review process.

At a recent Beacon Council workshop, CEO Frank Nero called for a delay in the legislation to give everyone more time to consider the issue.

Other powerful business groups, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Retail Federation and Florida Attractions Associationalso oppose destination resorts, saying they will hurt the state’s image and existing development efforts.

More Pushback Against Casinos in Miami

More pushback against casinos

South Florida Business Journal by Kevin Gale, Editor in Chief

Date: Tuesday, December 20, 2011, 10:10am EST

Miami Herald headquartersMark Freerks

Preservationists are seeking to protect the Miami Herald’s headquarters building.

Kevin Gale
Editor in Chief – South Florida Business Journal
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Resorts World Miami reacted quickly Tuesday to the notion thatThe Miami Herald‘s headquarters building should be preserved rather than torn down for a $3.8 billion destination resort.

“The Miami Herald Building has long been an affront to smart urban planning and does not comply with Miami 21 code, nor with the City’s Charter Amendment, which require 70 percent active uses, 50 foot setbacks from the water with public access, and a 25 percent view corridor from the street,” a statement attributed to Resorts World Miami President Christian Goode said.

An article in the Tuesday edition of the Herald by Andres Viglucci, who has written extensively about architecture, talked about a move by the Dade Heritage Trust to seek protected landmark status for the newspaper’s headquarters building.

That article and another one, about hotel rates, exemplify the myriad of opposition and obstacles to destination gambling resorts in South Florida.

A local section article talks about the Herald HQ’s status as an iconic example of Miami Modern (MiMo), a mid-century architecture that emerged from Miami’s resorts. The related category of mid-century modern architecture includes Fort Lauderdale’s Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six, with its spires and revolving rooftop restaurant. Preservationists were unhappy that another mid-century modern hotel across the street was torn down, partly because of the parabolic roof by its front office.

Viglucci is on target when he talks about how a lot of people don’t appreciate MiMo. However, a lack of appreciation for architectural history isn’t anything unusual in South Florida. A few years ago, I found a 30-year-old article in the then-Miami Business Journal about plans to raze South Beach Art Deco hotels and dredge a bunch of canals.

Whether preservationists will succeed in their goal with the Herald building is debatable, but it’s another headache for Genting Group as it seeks support to build Resorts World Miami. (If you want to read more about the destination resort debate, here are links to a recent debate in Miami and an earlier one in Fort Lauderdale.)

The article said the existing Herald building might be incorporated into a casino, but how do you successfully meld the curvy lines of Arquitectonica‘s plans for a new resort with a boxy building squatting along Biscayne Bay?

Goode’s statement continued to emphasize economic benefits and pluses for the community.

“Any impacts derived from preserving the Herald building are far outweighed by the benefits that a new master-planned development will bring to the Omni neighborhood, including activating the downtown waterfront, employing tens of thousands of Floridians, generating meaningful tax revenue, and adding value to a depressed area,” the statement said. “Efforts to stall this progress show just how far opponents of sensible development will go in putting their interests above what’s best for everyday citizens in the community.”

The statement’s “just how far” comment is indicative of how the debate is heating up.

So, who’s on the Dade Heritage Trust?

The president is Bertram “Chico” Goldsmith, who began his career in downtown Miami working for the Walter Etling Real Estate Co., according to a biography on the website for Informed Families, an organization he has served as chairman. Goldsmith has focused his efforts on managing his family’s real estate holdings.

I didn’t recognize the names of most of the people on the trustee list, except for Matthew Greer, CEO of affordable housing developer Carlisle Development Group, and bankerDwight Hill. The separate advisory group includes banker Adolfo Henriques, who won the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Sand in My Shoes Award; PR specialistLeslie Pantin; famed architect Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk; preservationist Ava Moore Parks; former Coral Gables Mayor Donald Slesnick II; and Bruce Matheson, whose family was among the pioneers in Miami-Dade County.

For Genting, this could be a formidable opposition, even though the Herald article said some board members thought the move on the Herald building was overreaching.

In the other article, an analysis by Strategic Advisory Group shows Miami Beach hotels have dramatically higher rates than Las Vegas hotels.

That fits in with a general concern that a destination gambling resort, with room rates subsidized by a casino, could drive down overall room rates and hurt existing businesses. Genting is planning 5,200 rooms in four towers, so it would be a big player.

“They’re going to destroy the market inventory,” said Stuart Blumberg, who formerly led the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association.

Last week, the Miami Beach City Commission soundly rejected the concept of a gambling resort.

There are other issues Genting and other would-be destination resort developers face. I’ll cover some of them in a year-end look back in Friday’s print edition of the South Florida Business Journal.