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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Miami, Dade leaders reveal multibillion-dollar downtown plan

By LARRY LEBOWITZ AND MICHAEL VASQUEZ
Miami city and county leaders have forged a multibillion-dollar public-works bonanza that could alter the face of the downtown core -- affecting everything from a baseball stadium to a port tunnel to museums.

The plan, coming together with rare speed in the world of governmental red tape, envisions a holiday bounty of projects aimed at garnering support from constituencies ranging from sports fans to arts patrons.

Announced late Wednesday by Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, the deal would cover everything from a $914 million tunnel leading to the Port of Miami to finally transforming fallow Bicentennial Park into a waterfront jewel with new art and science museums.

By also shoring up the shaky finances at the fledgling Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, the plan's framework would free up additional tax monies that could be used to build a $525 million retractable-roof ballpark for the Florida Marlins.

''This is a great opportunity for all of us -- all of us -- to create an incredible legacy for the urban core,'' Diaz said following a long day of negotiating the multi-party pact -- and then selling it to individual commissioners.

While Diaz and others in the city embraced the so-called ''global'' agreement with the county, many questions remain.

One is whether a deal this complex can actually come to fruition. With so many parts forming the larger whole, it's possible that criticism of one piece of the blueprint could derail others.

Secondly, the intricate financing has been crafted in a way to sidestep a potential voter referendum -- which could embolden critics.

COMMISSIONS TO VOTE

Selling it is key, and the first test comes Thursday when Miami commissioners decide whether to move the multilayered plan forward.

County commissioners would then begin their review of key pieces of the ballpark financing and redevelopment plans Dec. 18.

The framework -- hashed out over several weeks of behind-the-scenes talks with city and county managers -- centers on expanding the Omni Community Redevelopment Agency to include Bicentennial Park and Watson Island.

CRAs are federally mandated special taxing districts that generate extra cash for areas targeted for revitalization. By aiming to expand the key Omni district, Miami leaders envision new infusions of money that would be doled out for multiple big-ticket projects.

The biggest beneficiaries of this new Omni CRA would be the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts and a proposed new ballpark for the Marlins at the soon-to-be-demolished Orange Bowl.

Diaz said the county would essentially receive up to $400 million in CRA revenue over the next 30 years to cover debt service on the arts center.

This will free up somewhere between $160 million and $200 million in tourist taxes from the PAC -- that the county and city could then use for the ballpark in Little Havana.

PARKING GARAGE

Less certain: whether the will, and the money, exist to build a 6,000-space parking garage and one of Diaz's personal projects -- a 25,000-seat soccer stadium also proposed for the 40-acre Orange Bowl site.

By expanding the CRA boundaries over the MacArthur Causeway to Watson Island, the city believes it can also use $50 million in CRA money to pay its share of the $914 million Port of Miami Tunnel over the next 35 years.

Florida transportation officials had vowed to move their $457 million share of the tunnel deal to other parts of the state if the city didn't put up its $50 million piece by Monday.

''I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, no pun intended,'' said City Commissioner Joe Sanchez, who represents the Orange Bowl area.

Miami property owners would also benefit from the expanded Omni CRA, city leaders say.

Diaz said the city would pay off its outstanding debt on the troubled Jungle Island construction loans from the expanded CRA instead of general revenues.

By expanding the boundaries into Bicentennial Park, the city would also use $68 million in new CRA revenue for the development of Museum Park -- including a planned underground parking garage. The CRA money would not be used to build the museums.

OVERTOWN IMPACT

Another question mark: whether city officials will be legally permitted to spin another $2 million a year out of the CRA to pay for ongoing capital improvements inside the park.

A second, more hard-pressed, special tax district would also benefit under the city-county pact.

The Southeast Overtown/Park West CRA, which generates considerably less revenue than the Omni, would be extended to year 2030 and its boundaries expanded to 20th Street on the north and Northwest Seventh Avenue on the west.

The city would spend up to $80 million for affordable housing, infrastructure, parks and job programs in the economically depressed Overtown neighborhood, and it would set aside $35 million for the city's struggling streetcar plan.

Diaz said Miami planned to adopt a pay-as-you-go approach when spending the CRA money on these big-ticket items over the next 30 years, rather than floating bonds to bankroll the projects.

The unstated reason: The projects wouldn't have to face voter approval.

In previous years, the city had contemplated issuing CRA bonds that could net perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars up front, to be used on large public-works projects.

But the Florida Supreme Court ruled in September that any bond issue local governments do with CRA money needs voter approval. Miami responded by abandoning its bond-issue plans.

This plan would sidestep those concerns.

DETAILS

As in every public project, the key is in the details, and literally hundreds of them still need to be hashed out.

First: Does Diaz have the three commission votes to pass the plan when the body meets this morning?

''God willing, [Thursday] we will approve possibly the most exciting -- largest, certainly -- package of projects in city history,'' Diaz said late Wednesday.

Commissioner Sanchez said of the ''global'' agreement: ``So far, it looks good. . . . It's a win-win situation for everybody.''

Herald staff writers Charles Rabin, Andres Viglucci and Matthew I. Pinzur contributed to this report.

 
Posted at 3:24:14 PM
 
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Updated: Wednesday, May 22, 2019


What Happens When Tariffs Hit Home?

ldquo;Tariffs on goods traded between the U.S. and China have already increased in several stages since early 2018,rdquo; said CNBC. ldquo;Now, President Donald Trump has added a 25 tariff up from his original proposal of 10 on another 200 billion worth of Chinese imports, and China hit back with 5 to 10 percent duties on another 60 billion worth of U.S. goods.rdquo;

Experts say we could be seeing higher prices as a result of this escalation as early as this summer, and that has economists yelling, ldquo;Buy, buy, buy nowrdquo; in order to avoid what a report from Oxford Economics estimates will be an 800 hit to every U.S. household.

There is some question as to how the tariffs will play outmdash;after all, Trump said that China will suffer most of the economic impact. ldquo;Yet experts say the burden will land squa>

So what can you do? Ramp up future spending now, if possible.

ldquo;To get ahead of the next waves of tariffs, University of California, Davis, professor of economics and specialist in international trade Katheryn Russ recommends buying some items now, if possible mdash; such as backpacks and other back-to-school supplies mdash; rather than holding off until later in the year,rdquo; said CNBC. Ditto for things like iPhones; ldquo;The price for an iPhone XS would rise to 1,142, up from 1,000, if the White House implements a 25 tariff on the rest of China imports, J.P. Morgan said in a note to clients.rdquo; Expect a ldquo;similar impact on TVs and everyday purchases, ldquo;where consumers will be harder hit, such as frozen food and paper goods, including diapers and paper towels.rdquo;

Phil Crone, Executive Officer of the Dallas Builders Association, warns of the effect on the housing market. ldquo;From tile to countertops, laminates, lighting, and furnishing, about 450 products commonly found in new homes and remodeling projects are seeing tariffs rise from 10 percent to 25 percent,rdquo; he said. ldquo;According to the National Association of Home Builders NAHB, homeowners and homebuilders nationwide will be paying an additional 2.5 billion.rdquo;


> Full Story

Dont Judge a House by its Photo

If you spend hours on the internet trying to find your dream home by searching through photos or video of properties, you may be overlooking important flaws in this superficial approach to evaluating real estate.

The big question is: What percentage of time are you incorrect in your decision to discard a property based on a photograph?

Judging a property by its photograph may prove expensive when you discard poor photos without knowing if they represent excellent real estate opportunity for you. Just ask yourself, how many selfies does it take to achieve a great and, therefore, accurate picture of you?

Even when you eventually find photogenic real estate to visit, how many better choices or better bargains did you miss out on because you did not approve their visuals?

bull; Have you studied photography and earned the advantage of knowing how to evaluate second-rate equipment or poor photographic technique that results in failure to present a homersquo;s good bones or reveal a hidden gem worth a closer look? Even a good photo may present poorly as an online image through bad decisions regarding lighting, resolution, cropping, coloration....

bull; What percentage of properties are discarded because the photo is unappealing? Listing photos are not intended as works of art. Was this a drive-by photo where the photographer did not get out the car because they had so many photos to take? Was it raining or snowing that day? Just like people, houses have a ldquo;good siderdquo; and a ldquo;bad side.rdquo; Which side is in the photo?

bull; Do you have a magazine or Instagram pic in mind that you are intent on matching? Houses that are beautiful from the curb earn high-value ratings >

bull; You canrsquo;t live in a photograph or even a video. Ideally, a photograph or short video of a property should reveal all the benefits of the buildings and the land. In reality, most photographic representations fall short of this goal. Some are more successful that others, but none are a substitute for experiencing ldquo;the big picturerdquo; first-hand: the feeling of being there, the volume of rooms, the acoustics of the building, the effects of daylight, the flow through the buildinghellip;the reality of inspecting the property yourself. In addition, street-face photos cannot reveal interiors that are in marked contrast to facades: a house with a renovated, ultra-modern interior may maintain its historic exterior.

bull; What percentage of the time are you attracted by a great photo of a house, which you later discover has ldquo;a lot of uglyrdquo; going on outside the photo i.e. beside the house is a high-rise building, auto body shop, shopping mall, night clubhellip;? Or, did you discard a property which, invisible to you, had wonderful green space around it? Since location is the most important value factor in real estate, how
can a photo of a property in isolation enable you to fully evaluate its location value without knowing context?

The above list of flawed reasons for discarding properties based on photographic representations explains how you may allow your lack of knowledge, on many levels, to limit your ultimate success identifying desirable real estate. Select only the ldquo;pretty picturesrdquo; and you may inadvertently eliminate properties that would be ideal and perhaps less expensive purchases for you and your family.

The Smart Approach

Wersquo;re not advising that you view every listed property. Instead, work with experienced real estate professionals whorsquo;ll process listings, visit properties using your criteria, and, therefore, save you time by selecting the best prospects for you to view.

Describe what yoursquo;ll want in a new home and the professional will converse with you to clarify that description for you and for them. Buyers are often surprised when these conversations reveal how much they had not realized about what they thought they wanted and needed.

Search out a professional who makes it their business to know area product from the outside in. Theyrsquo;ll share their insider view, so you wonrsquo;t miss out on what could be your dream home. This informed culling of properties will save you from having to view too many properties that are a poor fit for your needs and dreams.

ldquo;This house was a big surprise inside; from the outside, it looked much smaller,rdquo; is a common buyer observation. Most buyers, particularly first-timers or first-time-in-a-long-time buyers, are not experts at architecture or construction, nor have they inspected as many properties as experienced real estate professionals.

Your secret weapon is your real estate professional who makes it their business to keep up-to-date viewing area listings. They understand the advantages of knowing the whole property and its entire potential, not just its street face. They appreciate the difference between a real estate dream and a home thatrsquo;s a dream to live in.

Professionals are also aware of smart buying strategies based on poor photos or less inspiring facades. For instance, if yoursquo;d like to invest in the best location your budget will allow, there may be advantages to viewing properties in choice neighborhoods with less attractive street faces. When there is value in the location, interior, and backyard, over time the curb view can be improved on, increasing property value in the process.

Online buyers of clothing who >
> Full Story

What to Expect When Applying for a Jumbo Loan

A jumbo loan is one where the loan amount exceeds current conforming loan limits. Conforming loans are those that conform to standards issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. One of the many requirements for a conforming loan is the loan limit which is currently 484,350 in most parts of the country. In higher cost areas where home values are much greater compared to the rest of the country, the conforming limit can be as high as 726,525. Beyond that is jumbo territory. When applying for financing to purchase a higher end home, jumbo approvals are issued in much the same manner as other types of loans, itrsquo;s just a bit more difficult to qualify for one.

Conforming loans can ask for a down payment for as little as 5.0 percent of the sales price. With a down payment of less than 20 percent however, private mortgage insurance, or PMI, will be needed. PMI insures the difference between 20 percent down and the actual amount of down payment. with a 5.0 percent down payment, the insurance would cover 15 percent. With jumbo loans however there is no PMI available. That means the loan amount for a jumbo loan should be no greater than 80 percent of the sales price. This equates to a 20 percent down payment, but slightly better terms are offered with a down payment of 25 percent or more. There are some niche portfolio products that ask for a lower down payment but in general this is what you can expect.

Credit score minimums are also higher for most jumbo loans. Conforming loan programs can go as low as 600 or so but jumbo loans need higher scores. Minimum scores can vary from one lender to the next but not by very much. Many jumbo loans ask for a minimum credit score of 700 while a few programs need a score of 680. Better rates and terms are typically available with a credit score of 740. If there are two borrowers on the same application, the lender will use the lower of the two qualifying scores.

Finally, jumbo loans typically require a bit more documentation both from the borrower as well as third parties. For example, a jumbo loan program might need two appraisals instead of just one. Again, if there are two appraisals, the lender will use the lower value for approval purposes. Jumbo loan applications are also fully documented. There are no ldquo;statedrdquo; type loans where income or employment is not verified via third parties. There are a couple of programs out there that review 12 months of bank statements in lieu of paycheck stubs or W2s, but the bank statements must show regular monthly deposits from a verified source.

On these statements, there needs to be sufficient cash to close for the down payment, closing costs and cash reserves. Lenders can separately mail a Verification of Deposit to the financial institution asking the bank to verify how much cash is in the bank as well as an average of recent balances.

Jumbo lenders can set their own guidelines because theyrsquo;re not bound to conforming rules which means qualifying at one lender may be easier or more difficult compared to another. Your loan officer will tell you what types of documentation yoursquo;ll need to provide, but once submitted, your jumbo loan application will be processed just like any other.


> Full Story



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