Tuesday, August 3, 2010

30 vs Thousands

There was, predictably, noisy national clucking over local news reporting the Heat's elimination of 30 seasonal ticket-sales positions due to the early sellout of ticket inventory courtesy of Wade, James & Bosh.

There is, predictably, deafening national silence as reports emerge to support forecasts the "new" Heat would stimulate Miami's economy, likewise courtesy of Wade, James & Bosh.

The coming months, seasons, will only underscore the childish & untenable among legions of envious Heat-bashers.

The coming months, seasons, will also underscore Miami's growth & revitalization expressed through jobs plus wages a hundred, thousand, perhaps and eventually ten thousand-fold over 30 seasonal ticket-sales positions that expectedly expired during one momentous, tumultuous July.


The Business of Sports: South Beach hotels look to capitalize on Miami Heat's Three Kings
July 20, 2010
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

There are still three and a half months until the new-look Miami Heat takes the court for the 2010-11 season, but South Beach hotels are already offering up specials in honor of the Three Kings – LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

The Gansevoort Hotel in Miami Beach (2377 Collins Ave.) has created a "Heat Suite" to give high-end guests a chance to experience life like a superstar basketball player. For a mere $2,500 a night, the suite package includes a one-bedroom suite with an ocean-view balcony; use of a Ferrari F430 for a day; and a private VIP cabana at Plunge, the hotel's rooftop lounge; the Three Kings' jersey of your choice; and passes to David Barton Gym.

There's more: get snacks endorsed by James – Sprite, Powerade, Lightning Lemonade Bubblicious gum; and an iPod outfitted with James' favorite music, including by his pal Jay Z. The suite includes "Heat"-style candies such as Hot Tamales and Red Hots, natch.

Meanwhile, the Hotel Victor is offering the public a shot at its penthouse "Fit for a King" – with a retail value of $10,000 a night – for $163 for one night – in honor of the jersey numbers of the trio (Bosh 1; James 6; Wade 3). All the hotel at 1144 Ocean Drive is asking is for fans to "like" its Facebook page – Facebook.com/HotelVictor for a shot at the special penthouse deal.

LeBron James' decision ignites push to market Miami globally
July 16, 2010
South Florida Business Journal

When LeBron James said he'll "take my talents to South Beach," he ignited a resurgent push behind more than just the popular beachfront destination.

The Miami Heat acquisition's statement on national television set greater Miami marketers abuzz. As William Talbert, president of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, told USA Today, "I could not have written that phrase better as a destination marker." James' decision could be worth millions to the market, he said.

With that phrase in their pocket – and in search engine results globally – marketers across South Florida are ramping up their efforts to mark individual regions as unique from "South Beach." Beyond the party town, playground persona, the marketers hope to capitalize on the national – and international – attention.

"LeBron's arrival has effectively changed the conversation in the press from real estate bust and foreclosures to Miami glitz and glam," said Tadd Schwartz, principal with Schwartz Media Strategies. The Coconut Grove firm handles PR for the Miami Downtown Development Authority, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, the Miami Art Museum and office tower 1450 Brickell. James' arrival comes as the national media – including Bloomberg Businessweek, The New York Times and NBC's "Today" – have profiled downtown's transformation, resurgent condo activity and robust nightlife amid the urban core, Schwartz said. "LeBron affirmed that when he chose Miami."

Downtown marketers are preparing for the foot traffic and visitors Heat games will bring, said Robert Geitner, senior manager for marketing and communications with the DDA. In the days following James' announcement, DDA marketing partners met to discuss strategy. The DDA already has been pitching its "I Do It DWNTWN" cooperative marketing effort with area retailers, restaurants and bars. This fall, that campaign will ramp up, Geitner said. While media plans still are in the works, he anticipates the effort will include merchandising, entertainment and other events. Bars are expected to host watch parties for local residents and partygoers who can't get game tickets, he said. The DDA also is in partnership with the CVB, American Airlines and the Beacon Council on its "Miami: Where Worlds Meet" international marketing campaign. How that program may be adapted is still being discussed, he said. Public and media relations campaigns are also being reviewed. But, his task is clear: to help media and consumers understand that downtown and the Heat's home – the American Airlines Arena – are a vital part of Miami. "In next two to three weeks, nuances and messages will start to emerge. We will have to find what's resonating with the media," Geitner said. "People are discovering there's more to Miami than great beaches and hot spots on Ocean Drive."

The CVB is already running a multimillion-dollar campaign promoting greater Miami as a destination to live, work and play, said Rolando Aedo, the CVB's senior VP of marketing. James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh represent such prospects. Today, the CVB was expected to debut national print and online ads promoting the region. In the end, how the world perceives greater Miami's particular geography might be irrelevant, said Bruce Turkel, CEO and executive creative director with Turkel in Coconut Grove, which handles advertising for the CVB. Visitors may hit restaurants in Coral Gables, clubs in South Beach, the racetrack in Homestead, tennis on Key Biscayne, the culture of Wynwood, or the bars and nightlife found downtown.

They don't know they're in a different part of Miami – or even a different municipality, the Miami Beach native said. In that way, greater Miami is a ship raised by the tide of James' statement. "The big winner is our tourism," he said. "It's just another reason people want to be here – even for people who don't like basketball."

Miami's Downtown Comes Alive as Condos Fill With Young Renters
July 13, 2010
Business Week

Price cuts in the 7,000 unsold condos have drawn college students, young professionals, and empty nesters, revitalizing the city's core


Brandon Klein has done what few Floridians can: go weeks without driving his car. The 26-year-old tax accountant walks three blocks from his condominium tower on Biscayne Bay in Miami to his office at Deloitte LLP. On weekends, he and his friends hang out on the pool deck or share a cab to a local Irish pub. He lives in Downtown, a neighborhood where young people are renting condos built during the 2004 to 2008 boom to attract second-home buyers. Thanks to the housing crash, Klein and two roommates pay about $900 a month each for an obstructed waterfront view, a wraparound balcony and access to a gym, spa and steam room. "Five years ago you wouldn't have kids fresh out of college living in luxury like this," said Klein, sitting in front of the 24-hour concierge in the three-story lobby of his building at 50 Biscayne Boulevard, coordinating happy-hour plans by text message. His friends are concentrated in nearby Met I, which has 447 luxury units and a steakhouse on the first floor. They refer to the building as "Deloitte Dorm" because it's home to so many employees of the accounting and consulting firm.

The 7,000 unsold condos in Miami's core -- a symbol of a building boom that collapsed and dragged the city into recession -- are filling up and giving life to neighborhoods that previously closed after dark. New, year-round residents are cramming into restaurants, nightclubs and bars that didn't exist a few years ago, and enjoying a lifestyle made possible in part by developers and banks seeking to recoup losses by renting luxury dwellings until the market recovers.

"I'm a big city person, and I always thought Miami didn't have a real city," said Dejan Krsmanovic, a 39-year-old biomedical engineer who was on a first date at Segafredo, a busy Italian restaurant and bar that opened in 2008 in the adjacent Brickell neighborhood, where the same trend is playing out. "Miami Beach is not a city, it's a resort," he said. "This is beginning to resemble a city."

The unsold condos represent almost a third of the 22,079 units in 75 buildings, mostly opened after 2004, tracked in a study released in March by the Miami Downtown Development Authority. The report focused on central neighborhoods including Downtown, Brickell and Wynnwood/Edgewater. Occupancy rates in the new buildings, including owner- occupants and tenants, increased to 74 percent in February from 62 percent in May 2009, the study shows. The development authority estimates that the population of Miami's urban core jumped to about 70,000 from 40,000 since the 2000 census, said authority spokesman Robert Geitner.

"For us, it doesn't matter whether they rent or buy," said Miami Mayor Tomás P. Regalado. "The more people, the more business, the more safety, the more progress."

The influx of college students, young professionals and empty nesters from the Coral Gables section of the city and the suburbs intensified about 18 months ago when banks that financed the condo projects agreed to let developers slash sales prices by as much as 40 percent, said Peter Zalewski, a principal with consulting firm Condo Vultures LLC in Miami. That spurred demand from foreign buyers and all-cash investors, many of whom are renting out their units until prices rebound, he said.

The Miami metro rental market is one of the strongest in the country, according to Ron Johnsey, president of Axiometrics Inc., an apartment-research firm in Dallas. That's the case even though unemployment is more than 11 percent, compared with 9.5 percent nationally, and developers are adding to supply by leasing units built for purchase. Effective rents, the amounts actually received by landlords, rose 4 percent in the first five months of the year after falling 2.9 percent during the same period in 2009, according to Axiometrics, whose data tracks professionally managed rental building. Nationally, rents increased 2.75 percent from January to May. The occupancy rate for Miami climbed to 95.1 percent in May from 93.8 percent a year earlier, Johnsey said.

Condos are being purchased by investors and rented out in Phoenix, San Diego and Las Vegas, where thousands of units also went up during the boom, according to Ross Moore, chief economist for Colliers International, a Seattle-based real estate services firm. "It's something we're seeing in many markets," he said. "Miami is an absolute extreme example."

T. Sinclair Jacobs, 87, who founded the Brickell Homeowners Association 20 years ago, watched the developments go up. The group’s original residents lived south of Southeast 15th Road, along Brickell Avenue, in decades-old condo towers, some of which appeared in the “Miami Vice” television series, according to Geitner. Developers then pushed north 13 blocks, putting up about 25 projects along Brickell Avenue, known for its bank buildings.

Development crossed the Miami River to connect with Downtown, adding glass-and-steel residential towers to the area’s mix of courthouses, hotels, warehouses, homeless shelters and stores. The American Airlines Arena, where LeBron James will play next season with the National Basketball Association’s Miami Heat, opened there in 1999.

While Jacobs believes the projects needed better planning, he said they are making Miami a better place to live. “With the greater concentration of residents, there’ll be a beneficial effect on traffic because we’ll have better public transportation,” he said. “We didn’t have the residents before to support mass transit. In the long run, this is going to be one of the great cities in the world.”

The new vitality can be seen at Juan Chipoco's sleek Peruvian restaurant, CVI.CHE 105, on Northeast 3rd Avenue off of East Flagler Street, in the heart of the old Downtown shopping area. ChipPAC, who finished expanding to 220 seats from 65 seats three months ago, said lines sometimes form on weekends even with a $10 valet fee and limited parking. The restaurant also draws customers from Miami Beach and the suburbs.

Diners can choose from a dozen and a half restaurants north of the Miami River that stay open after 7 p.m., compared with two or three a few years ago, said Jose Goyanes, 42, a longtime Downtown business owner who, with his partners, converted a luggage store into Tre Italian Bistro a year ago. The flood of new residents has softened the impact of the recession, he said. "Instead of falling down a precipice, it's like a bungee cord pulling Downtown businesses up."

John Guarin, a 34-year-old real estate broker who rents a one-bedroom apartment in one of the Icon towers for $1,800 a month, said he recognized early that the Miami rental market would explode. Guarin's ApartmentsLLC.net specializes in finding rentals for students from the University of Miami. Guarin, who earned a Master of Business Administration from the school in late 2008, said the idea for the business began with a paper he wrote for a marketing class about the greater downtown area's underserved rental market. "I knew something had to be done with the buildings," he said. "Nobody was buying them."

This is Guarin's busiest time because it's when students look for apartments. He recently took two 22-year-old graduate students, Jean Chang, a Los Angeles native, and Elizabeth Lombardi from New Jersey, on a tour of properties renting for about $2,200. Chang's first choice was Everglades on the Bay, which has a four-story fitness and spa center with a jogging track circling the roof and the "sickest view" of the bay, Chang said. The condo was gone the next day before she could put down a deposit.

Guarin also showed them Axis, where for $2,075 they could share a two-bedroom, two-bath condo of almost 1,200 square feet, with a wraparound balcony on the 36th floor. While they put down $100 to hold the unit, they later chose a place with more evenly sized bedrooms on South Beach, a neighborhood world famous for its nightlife and celebrity sightings.

The broker said it's a matter of taste: many clients are looking to escape the noise of South Beach, which is about 5 miles (8 kilometers) east of Downtown across Biscayne Bay.

Axis, which attracts students from the University of Miami because of its easy access to public transportation, is implementing new rules to keep partying to appropriate levels. The building has received complaints from residents about crowds by the pool, loud music and women taking their tops off, according to Piazza, the project manager. Starting July 4, no more than four guests are allowed for each apartment, and boom boxes are barred by the pool. "If you want to have something like that, you have to go to the beach," he said.

Miami is turning into something that Florida has never had: a densely populated city where professionals live and work, said Alan Ojeda, whose Rilea Group recently finished 1450 Brickell Avenue, one of three new office towers in the city's urban core. The $270 million building has 35 stories, 585,000 square feet of rentable space and 1,200 parking spaces. "It's what's missing in Florida," Ojeda said of Downtown. "Look, it's 9 p.m. on a Thursday. It's not Saturday night fever and the bars and restaurants are full."

LeBron means big bucks flow to Miami
July 10, 2010
Miami Herald

Like a shot of espresso to a recessionary hangover, news that the NBA's most sought-after free agent is "bringing my talents to South Beach" created instant excitement Friday for tourism promoters, hotels and others who stand to win when stars swarm into Miami. Call it the aura of LeBron James, one that brings with it the cachet of celebrities in and out of the game, and the prospect of fresh dollars flowing in. "LeBron isn't just a basketball player, he's a brand, and that brand is sold worldwide," said accountant Tony Argiz, a partner with Morrison, Brown, Argiz and Farra. Argiz threw out an economic impact estimate of $500 to $600 million, factoring in the increased value of the Miami Heat franchise, the multimillion-dollar homes Bosh and James are expected to buy, and the potential bonus of multiple Miami playoff series over the next five years.

Neisen Kasdin, lawyer and former Miami Beach mayor, said he thinks the Heat triple play could be more significant to the city than the Marlins stadium now being built in Little Havana. "This will have some of the Art Basel effect on Miami," said Kasdin, referring to the cultural and business development spurred by the highly successful fair. "You have a happening event that draws the world's attention to the community in a way that makes people want to invest."

That kind of real economic impact takes years. But already Friday, the LeBron Effect was showing up downtown as well as in Miami Beach, where ailing boutique hotels like the Gansevoort South, Shore Club and Sagamore could use a boost. James was ensconced overnight in one of the 25 rooms he'd rented at the W Hotel in South Beach. The reservations team at the Fontainebleau Resort was busily fielding inquiries for package prices with Heat tickets and had received "numerous requests" from sports agents about throwing events at the resort's cabanas and restaurants and nightclubs, said president and general manager John Rolfs.

"You couldn't have scripted it better," said William Talbert III, CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The signings brought an immediate shift in press coverage. "Look at what has happened in the last 24 hours," PR specialist Tadd Schwartz, who promotes downtown, said. "We've spent the last year talking about the condo crash, foreclosures and the oil spill. For the past 48 hours, all of that has changed. Now we're talking about LeBron and what that brings."

South Beach restaurant magnate Myles Chefetz of Prime 112 reported a jam-up of text messages from pro athletes, sportscasters and regular diners wanting to make sure they'll still be able to get a table at Prime 112, the sports celebrity haunt where D-Wade watched James' nationally televised lovefest on ESPN Thursday night. It's at places like Prime 112 where the NBA-celebrity connection thrives, and hospitality types are salivating that heat over the Heat could help pull the Beach and a developing downtown scene out of the stubborn economic slowdown.

Former Miami Dolphins safety Louis Oliver, who now promotes social events that attract professional athletes, likened the buzz to the Beach of the 1990s, when it shot into the stratosphere as an international party center. "You may have to make reservations months in advance to go to top places," Oliver said. "It'll pick up everything from hotels to taxis." "It will be the same thing that happened in the Madonna days," predicted Terry Zarikian, director of product development for China Grill Management.

"Players are attracted to things attached to Miami Beach, South Beach," said Miami Beach-based Drew Rosenhaus, the No. 1 National Football League player agent. "I've been inundated with phone calls from clients. They want to not only to go to the games, but the hangouts, shopping and the restaurants."

The benefits may be significant for the burgeoning restaurant scenes in Midtown Miami and the Design District. Heat fans already flock to Sra Martinez, the casual-hip Design District space owned by super-chef Michelle Bernstein. "We've got people who come before and after the Heat games, and we know for sure that's going to add more people," said manager Jorge Anaya-Lopez. "If they really start to win a lot, we'll see more T-shirts and jerseys in here on game night."

The LeBron Effect showed up Friday in ways big and small -- even pumping a little energy into the real-estate market. Edgardo Defortuna of Fortune International Realty said he had phone calls from fans in Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina -- including one Argentinian who told him he'd buy an apartment at the Icon in downtown Miami if de Fortuna could score him Heat tickets. Agent Penni Chasens of Cervera Realty said LeBron's move convinced a buyer to cough up an extra $100,000 to sign a near-$1 million deal at a condo at the Marquis near the American Airlines Arena.

South Florida Wal-Mart stores announced they would stock LeBron James Heat jerseys beginning Saturday at select stores, starting at $14. At the Shake Shack in Miami Beach, the "Le-Brat James" -- a griddle bratwurst with "Heat" from Tabasco-simmer onions -- was already on the menu. At $5.75, its price was far more affordable to regular tourists than those at Prime 112, where Garrettsville, Ohio, car salesman John Grondin and his teacher wife Tina were chuckling in disbelief over the $30 Kobe hamburger and $88 Porterhouse for two. The couple enjoyed a swim Friday in South Beach, and its "clean, smooth, crystal-clear" beaches had left the Grondins impressed. Even if they would have preferred that LeBron stick to being a tourist himself.