Douglas Road Goes Off the (Metro) Rails

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Douglas Road Goes Off the (Metro) Rails
Filed under: Scanner

In 2003 the Miami-Dade County Commission selected Miami banker and real estate developer Raul Masvidal to build on county-owned property near the Douglas Road Metrorail station. Masvidal and his partners, Pinnacle Housing and Royal Group Investments, promised a parking garage, a hotel, apartments, a theater, and a retail complex.

Three years of haggling later, Masvidal won't be building anything. The developer won't budge from his offer of $300,000 in annual rent, according to a transit agency memo prepared for the commission's October 10 regular meeting. The county's most recent appraisal determined the site could net $135 to $150 per square foot — about one million more dollars than Masvidal's final offer. Masvidal also radically changed his development proposal, eliminating the theater and hotel components.


Douglas Road Metrorail station

Masvidal, a prominent Cuban-American who helped orchestrate the deal that brought us the American Airlines Arena, declined to comment. Transit Director Roosevelt Bradley could not be reached. This past Tuesday, commissioners were supposed to approve or deny staff's request to end negotiations with Masvidal and rebid the project.

This is not the first time Masvidal has attempted to snooker the county into a bad deal. In 1999 he won a no-bid contract to build on land adjacent to the South Miami Metrorail station. Three years later, the Miami-Dade Housing Agency chose the site for its new office complex and gave Masvidal five million dollars in surtax funds as an "equity investment." Had the new office been completed, the agency would be paying three times the amount of its current rent.

To date, the South Miami project is more than eighteen months behind schedule and an estimated eight million dollars over budget — and still no new office for the housing agency. County Manager George Burgess has since begun efforts to recoup the five million dollars from Masvidal, who blames the delays on the transit agency for failing to inform him about underground utility easements and encroachments on the property. — Francisco Alvarado

A PAC for the Masses
Filed under: Culture

The Carnival Center's opening gala, the "Concert for Miami," went off with only a minor hitch for the nominally best-seated audience members at the oval-shape Knight Concert Hall this past Thursday night. The performances were produced by Miami's crown prince and patron saint, Emilio Estefan; a simulcast of the show was broadcast on screens in the Ziff Ballet Opera House next door.

Emilio obviously considered the audience demographics, assembling the requisite fourteen-year-old Asian musical prodigy flown in from Juilliard to impress the old people who write big checks; Broadway legend Bernadette Peters to delight hordes of gay men via showtunes; and an unending cavalcade of Latin music superstars — Carlos Vives and Arturo Sandoval and Cachao and Albita and, of course, Emilio's wife, Gloria. Even actor Andy Garcia showed up to play bongos. Jackie Gleason's wife told a touching story about her husband filming The Jackie Gleason Show in Miami Beach during the Sixties, long before Miami knew of the Carnival Center or the Asian piano kid or even the royal Estefans themselves. José Carreras then took the microphone, wailed out a few songs, and let everyone know what it sounds like when you can really sing.

So what of that glitch? My blind friend and I were seated in the supposedly prestigious (and certainly expensive) box seats, which were easily accessible for someone with limited mobility — and so close to the stage you could spit your gum into a bassoon. That would seem to be a lucky break, right? Well, no. Because the Knight Concert Hall was designed for orchestral performances, seats go all the way around the stage; speakers hang in the center of the room but point only to the back, away from the stage — away from where we were sitting. Gloria Estefan's opening numbers sounded like they were coming out of an AM radio. Worse, fog machines, attached to noisy generators positioned next to the box seats, ran throughout the show. It was so bad that people began walking out, until frantic Carnival Center managers uprooted the entire section and found open seats elsewhere. Cheap seats.

(This past Tuesday, Riptide attempted to interview Tateo Nakajima, the architect who supervised the tuning of the center's halls, about the sound at the show, but Nakajima's cell phone dropped several calls. Check our blog, Riptide 2.0, for updates.)

In the back, though, way up high in those cheap seats, the sound bounced off the roof, right down onto you — and that much-ballyhooed sound was indeed fantastic for the entire show. Turns out the best seats in the Knight Center are the least expensive ones. Considering the stodgy reputation and high ticket prices performance arts such as ballet and opera have accumulated like so many barnacles to the stage over the decades, Thursday's scene — a jubilant, upbeat display of happy, dancing spectators — was a welcome departure. It would be nice to see the general public buying tickets, and here's a good incentive. If you go to the Knight — which you should — save your money and sit somewhere in the back. Drop the pomp and circumstance; just watch the show. — Dan Renzi

A Voiceover Runs Through It
Filed under: Culture

Reading the New York Times a couple of weeks ago, I came upon Manohla Dargis's review of Old Joy, starring Will Oldham and directed by Kelly Reichardt, a Miamian. Dargis gushes that the movie is "a triumph of modesty and of seriousness that also happens to be one of the finest American films of the year." (Alas, it's not yet playing locally.) She also mentioned Reichardt's first film, River of Grass, which is set here in Miami. So I rented it and can only conclude that River of Grass was not one of the finest American films of 1995. Its narrative is heavily laden with voiceovers in which the main character, a disgruntled housewife named Cozy, asks ponderous and unanswerable questions about life and having children and driving the Palmetto Expressway.

The mix of extensive narration and prolonged silence indicates aspirations toward a subtropical Badlands, but the potency of Cozy's goth teenager philosophizing is diluted by a desperate avoidance of downers. Would-be criminals on the lam botch even their attempts to be bad guys (actual hot water could be depressing for the viewer), and we must suffer through a comedy of errors with very little comedy.

That said, the film is firmly planted in Miami-Dade County from the get-go: "I was born in 1962 at Coral Gables Hospital," says Cozy — voiceover, of course — and from then on we are treated to a visual ode to Miami. Aimless drifters drive zombielike past never-ending rows of low-slung bungalows; men in garish suits drink cocktails in dusky bars reminiscent of Fox's; an out-of-place visitor to the Miami-Dade Police Department balks at (real) photographs of gruesome Miami murders. Reichardt captures the aerial weave of highway interchanges against blue sky, and undulating ripples of tall grass in the Everglades waving in the wind. Like most of our days, the movie ends in a traffic jam.

To be fair, there were a few points that earned a guffaw, like when a getaway down Florida's Turnpike is thwarted by a lack of spare change for the toll. Or when Cozy is drinking domestic beer at a Broward bar and gives a dull glance at the man next to her.

"You're not from around here, are you?" she asks, taking a swig from the bottle and squinting like a bartender in a spaghetti western.

"No," he answers. He puts down his beer and shakes his head with the world-weary air of one who has been to Hell and back. "I'm from Dade." — Emily Witt

Ript from the Blogs
Reynolds Rap
[We] remain OBSESSED with Al Reynolds, which is why we had to quickly report the latest rumor we hear: Al is PISSED at reports that he and Star have moved to Miami, when they indeed still live in NYC. In fact, Al has just been kicking up his heels vacationing in Miami for the past few weeks, but now Star is in town and they are going to make lots of appearances all over town together before returning to NYC. So strap on your Payless, Star’s in the hiz-ouse!
Taken from: The Dirt Miami (www.thedirtmiami.com)

More Riptide Read about the Design District photography show that includes Madonna, Sly Stallone, and Sharon Stone. CLICK HERE.

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