Questionable Unsolicited Bid Revealed Following City Staff Attempt To Block Property Advisory Board Request To See New Unsolicited Bids

Ariel Fernandez

Founder & Editor
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At the Property Advisory Board on February 9th, the Deputy City Attorney Cristina M. Suarez was invited to speak by Asset Manager Zeida Sardinas about the Committee’s monthly request for a report on unsolicited bids.

The Board has had a standing item on the agenda for several months to have staff report about any unsolicited bids received by the City related to properties the board advises on. The board advises the staff and the City Commission on uses, leases and sales of CIty-owned properties.

“You Need Commission Approval”

Deputy City Attorney Suarez informed the board that the item needed to be removed from their future agendas, as the board is not eligible to see unsolicited bids unless the Commission specifically allows for this. If they wanted this item to remain on their agendas, they would need to seek the authorization of the Commission.

City Attorney’s Statement

Gables Insider reached out to City Attorney Miriam Soler Ramos, who released the following statement about the incident:

“The Deputy City Attorney attended the meeting at my request for the purpose of explaining to the board the procedure for directing staff. If the board wishes to have staff proactively or routinely provide them with certain documents, they simply need to pass a resolution asking the City Commission to direct staff to do so. We are treating their previous vote as such and a resolution will be placed on a March City Commission agenda for the City Commission’s consideration. Of course, any member of the board can make a public records request but requiring the staff to provide records as a matter of course, needs to be done by the City Commission.

The City is very appreciative of the time that our board members dedicate to the City; we simply need to ensure that the appropriate process if follow.”

Board Members Question Intent

Suarez’s words did not sit well with some members of the Board.

One board member observed during the meeting, “We have gone on for several meetings and gotten a response that no unsolicited bids had been received. Clearly, an unsolicited bid came in and they don’t want to talk about it and they have gotten the City Attorney to come in and basically tell us that we can’t get the information that we have requested.”

“If we feel self defensive about this, it’s because all the sudden you know we’ve been doing something you’ve been providing information and now the deputy of City Attorney comes, and it’s the first time that you have an unsolicited bid, and basically try to come up with some legal gymnastics about why we really can’t ask about an unsolicited bid. It seems silly, its public information,” he added.

Process And Prior Unsolicited Bids

The board discussed the process that normally is followed to have items come before the board. Most were not pleased with the fact that they were being brought in once things are done.

The chairman explained that, “for the mobility hub, this committee was an afterthought for the commission.”

Another board member asked about the current process in place. “Is the process that is in place the same one used with the garage, where some of the board members here were concerned that it came to us at the last minute, right at the altar when everything had been done and all the vetting complete. And at that point we were to be a master rubber stamp, because the bid had not arrived to us at a time where there could be meaningful review. Is the current process that you think is sufficient, the one that we have been dealing with, where it is all wrapped up with a bow, sort of arranged before it gets before this committee and it is just for us to up or down vote it?”

The board discussed its exclusion from the process during past unsolicited bids. Sardinas stated that only one unsolicited bid had been received by the City, which was Barreto Hospitality’s original bid for the location of Burger Bob’s.

However, past City communications with Gables Insider refute that, as the City had claimed that the current tenants of the Coral Gables Country Club had also submitted an unsolicited bid following an RFP the City deemed they did not qualify for.

Sardinas was asked point blank by a board member, “Is there an unsolicited bid in the last month?” She replied, “there is.” He asked, “can you tell us about it?” “Well, I can provide you with a public record, if you do a public record request, you can certainly have copies of it,” she replied.

Sardinas, as you will recall was involved the deal for the sale of the lot at 350 Greco Avenue.

The board voted to send a resolution to the Commission asking for approval for this item to remain on their agenda.

The New Bid

During the meeting, Gables Insider followed Asset Manager Sardinas’ recommendation and filed a public record request for the unsolicited bid she mentioned. She had described it as an insignificant bid for a small surface parking lot on Navarre near the Police and Fire Headquarters. The public record request showed a different picture.

The bid is dated January 28, 2022. It was a letter of intent sent to City Manager Peter Iglesias by Location Ventures, LLC, for a 99-year lease of the 20,000 square foot surface parking lot located at 234 Navarre Avenue. (Click here to see a copy of the bid).

The bid offers the City a $214,375 annual payment for the first 5 years with an adjustment every five years after that. The proposal offers as public benefits, to: “provide public parking as part of the City-wide’s master mobility plan; dedicate a public green space on Minorca and Salzedo, congruent to the new public safety building’s open space frontage; pay approximately $150k annually more than the Property currently generates; and pay approximately $100,000 annually in City (excludes County) real estate taxes.” So far, it does not sound like such a bad deal.

Location Ventures, LLC

Location Ventures, a Coral Gables based company, is the owner of several properties on Minorca Avenue, across the street from the Public Safety Building. The company is owned by developer Rishi Kapoor who according to reports is currently working on two co-living developments in Miami-Dade County.

As defined by Wikipedia, co-living is “a residential community living model that accommodates three or more biologically unrelated people.”

Taking The City’s FAR and TDR’s

The bid explains Location Ventures’ plans with the property as follows: “The Lessee is plans on developing residential units on the northeastern corner of Minorca Ave and Salzedo Street (“Lessee’s Project”). The Property is separated from Lessee’s Project by a public alley. The Property and Lessee’s Project’s future
land use designation are Commercial Mid & High-rise. The Lessee is requesting the transfer of the Floor to Area Ratio (FAR) of 70,000 SF (3.5 FAR x 20,000 SF) and 17,500 (.875 TDR x 20,000 SF) of Transferable Development Rights (TDR’s) from the Property to the Lessee’s Project. The Lessee will build a multistory
parking garage with ground floor retail on the Property to meet the parking requirements for its project.”

In other words, Location Ventures is seeking to use this City owned property’s FAR and TDR’s to build a larger project, at a complete risk to Coral Gables residents.

In addition to building a multi-story parking garage it will use for its high rise and charge parking of City residents to use, build retail space it will rent out, it would also mean that their new high rise tower would benefit from 70,000 additional square feet of floor area ratio.

In addition, the City must move quickly on their project. They explain that “the approval of the Lessee’s Project is necessary for entering into an agreement.”

Staff Connection

Research into Location Ventures also yielded an interesting connection to Asset Manager Sardinas. The company lists its Vice President of Development as Sardinas’ predecessor, former Coral Gables Assistant Director for Economic Development and Asset Manager for the City from July 2011 to March 2019. He was the staff liaison to the Property Advisory Board.

Location Ventures’ website explains that, “Leonard Roberts, Vice President of Development, is responsible for ensuring Location Ventures’ projects obtain the municipal entitlements necessary to achieve the highest and best use.”

Questions About The Bid

Perhaps one of the most concerning parts of this bid is fact that if there is a default or breach of any kind, the City would not be able to recover the FAR or TDR’s gifted to Location Ventures. As has been discussed at recent Commission meetings and the Budget Advisory Board, the concerns over lack of payment by lessors to some City properties have left some wondering whether long-term leases are beneficial to the City in the long-run or not.

Location Ventures intends to seek financing for the construction and will have a mortgage on the property until such time as the construction is complete and they seek a refinance of the debt.

What Comes Next

According to Sardinas, the bid is still being vetted by staff, who would need to make a recommendation to the Commission before any formal steps are taken.

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27 thoughts on “Questionable Unsolicited Bid Revealed Following City Staff Attempt To Block Property Advisory Board Request To See New Unsolicited Bids

  1. Can we get these bad apples fired via a petition? Riding down US 1 and Ponce, it appears we, the city residents, have already allowed our city to be ruined. Who are these big developers paying off? There needs to be an official investigation.

  2. For Federal Grand Jury:
    “Remember the upzoning scandal on Biltmore Way, where Ramon Trias deceived innocent residents. The big developer was very happy with Ramon Trias.”
    Who was immediately all over the changes to the Zoning Code?
    Imagine that, one of the Zoning Board members that is directing Ramon Trias on the changes to the zoning code immediately taking advantage of the changes he made.
    Roberto Behar.

  3. Puppet Patrol,
    Roberto Behar is so conflicted he would be removed by any competent City Attorney.
    The majority of the Boards in Coral Gables, particularly the major ones, are so conflicted that most of them would be rendered mute by any competent City Attorney.

  4. It is about time that the City stops contributing to the massive over-development of Downtown Coral Gables. The transfer of development rights will contribute to a much more massive building on the receiver property. And it will deny the possibility of future additional green space in the densely developed Downtown/North Ponce neighborhoods.

    The City is about to sell TDR’s from two other City owned historic properties, The George Fink studio building and the Miracle Theater. The large amount of square footage will greatly contribute to a substantially more massive new building on the old Mercedes surface parking lots NE from their current showroom

    This is especially ironic as the City fought tooth and nail to deny the ability of the Dade County School Board to sell the TDR’s from the historic Coral Gables Elementary Building because they feared massive over-development.

    Please keep shining the light on the sleaze and backroom deal of this corrupt administration.

  5. I’m disappointed to see that someone is encouraging residents to file bar complaints against Ms. Ramos and Ms. Suarez. You may think that they have incorrectly interpreted/applied the law (albeit judge hanzman also thought they were incorrect)—-however, that is a far cry from malfeasance. I get that you don’t like them. So push your elected officials to fire them but don’t go after their bar license. That is just cruel.

  6. When it comes to the government, I believe the people are not helpless. They don’t have to stand by, accepting conduct from the government that is unacceptable.

    The government is FOR the people, not AGAINST the people. The people can control their government.

    The people in this City hired Miriam Ramos and Cristina M. Suarez. They work for the residents.
    They are not elected officials who we must live with until the next election.

    My instinct tells me the residents can fire the people who they had hired. Especially employees
    like Miriam Ramos and Cristina M. Suarez who, to put it politely, do a very bad job.

    My instinct tells me there must be a correct, legal way to get rid of Miriam Ramos and Cristina M. Suarez. Now, not at the next election.

    Will some knowledgeable resident give us a hand and supply the answer on how to do it correctly?

    Some of us are ready to roll up our sleeves and get it done.

  7. Can concerned residents force the City Manger, Peter Iglesias, and/or the 5 commissioners to fire
    Miriam Ramos and Cristina M. Suarez?

  8. I’m for action but I’m also for talk. I think comments to the Gables Insider show a vibrant, caring community. I want to continue both, for a clean, good government.

  9. Miriam Ramos and Cristina M. Suarez are a disgrace. To avoid further embarrassment to themselves and to help the City move forward with some honor, they must both resign immediately.

  10. Report to the Florida Bar that, as the City Attorney for Coral Gables, Fl., Miriam Ramos abandoned her clients (the City’s residents) in the Wawa scandal. The Judge ruled her contract with Wawa was “blatantly illegal”. She then did not abide by the Judge’s ruling. She allowed Wawa to build its busy store, with cars coming and going, in and out of it, across the street from Carver Elementary School. She protected the interests of the big Wawa corporation and jeopardized the safety of school children and their parents . Those children and their parents are her clients, the residents of the City. Miriam Ramos’ Fla. Bar Number is 581348

    Report to the Florida Bar that, as the Deputy City Attorney for Coral Gables, Fl., Cristina M. Suarez created a conflict of interest for herself. The conflict was between a real estate developer who wanted to use public property and the residents in that neighborhood . She chose to side with the real estate developer and concealed his unsolicited bid from the City’s Property Advisory Board. In so doing, she protected the interests of a real estate developer and abandoned the interests of her clients (the residents of the City). Cristina M. Suarez’ Fla. Bar Number is 29614.

  11. Report the suspected attorneys of wrong doing to the Florida Bar related to their conflict of interest positions on the commission and city then encarcerate plus leave em broke for all goods, properties they have stolen from taxpayers directly or indirectly. Make an example out of them. If that dont work boot them out next election show no mercy just like they do to CG citizens. Its getting old all the talk and no action.

  12. If it was “going to be public eventually,” why did they try to hide it and act this way? Because they wanted to push the deal along in a no-bid fashion and without the cone of silence applying. The developer has no competition AND can lobby the commission. By the time it would have become public it would have been a done deal.

    The City Attorney has revealed herself on this one along with the rest of the staff.

  13. Just to add on to my previous post. $17k/ month for lease payments towards the City would be a dream for the developer who builds a building of, let’s say 150 units, each being rented out for $3k/month is my estimate. So basically rent from 6 units covers the lease payment for the city and the rest is for developer to cover the rest of the expenses. Either way, their margins on this deal in my rough math would be a no brainer for them if they can get that deal.

  14. I’m tired of all the conspiracy theories and everyone in this paranoid state. This deal will have to be brought to the attention of the public so I’m not worried about that.

    That being said, this is obviously a sweet deal in my opinion for the developer based on what they are offering. I’m not a financial expert but them offering ONLY $17k per month in lease payments for them to build and develop on land that they don’t even own is just crazy. Must be nice to pull that off knowing that they won’t have to buy the land that, I don’t know, maybe worth $10-$12 million dollars and plus getting a loan for that amount in this current environment with interest rates going higher fast.

    Oh and they won’t have to pay property taxes on it since the City is the holder of the property. 99 year lease? Just long enough for the developer to make a ton of money without every having to put up the capital to own the property. Man must be nice. Yeah thanks for doing us the favor of paying more than what the current parking lot makes in revenue which won’t be really needed now with the mobility hub coming in to justify the loss of parking.

    Just my two cents. Nothing shady here and in there right to ask. But City should know better on just turning over public land simply because they can earn more than what they do today. For that, put it up for sale and get the $15 million up front.

  15. We know that Lago met with Leonard Roberts at least once before the unsolicited bid. January 7, according to Lago’s Twitter feed. It was “Open Door Friday”. What were they meeting about? Which gets me thinking- is there a record of who elected officials are meeting with during “open door” sessions?

  16. Puppet patrol award for this week goes to Robert Behar, the smallest puppet ever appointed by City Hall. He gets it because he annoyed Maria Martucci.

    Robert Behar’s award is so small (like him), you need a high powered microscope to try to see it.

  17. Robert Behar is a tiny puppet, controlled by the big over-developers. Get rid of him and also all the other tiny puppets (peter iglesias, miriam ramos, ramon trias, etc). Cut all their string pulled by the big over-developers. Result = good, clean government.

  18. I attended the board meeting on 2/9 via Zoom but only listened to the first agenda, the 301 Madeira Building. First of all, so disappointed in Mr. Behar and his diatribe before the hearing started. Secondly, disappointed in the way this building made its way to this board. I received a letter in the mail about this building at the last minute, after all had already been planned and done. Why bother going through different steps when the City and its staff and architects have already decided what is being built and how it is going to look. After listening to various comments, another project that the City wants to ram down the citizens’ throats with disregard to all the traffic and parking issues, as well as George Merrick’s vision of Coral Gables since two 1920s apartment buildings are being torn down to build this monstrosity.

  19. Iglesias, Trias & Atty. Ramos have to GO! Has anyone in City Government has taken the time to go to the Douglas Entrance Bridge to check IF with all these tall buildings going up all over our City the view to the Biltmore Hotel has been blocked? This is on the City Charter, one of the windows facing West has a plaque that states that The View to The Biltmore Can Not Be Blocked from that window!! I wonder, Respect for the Past?

  20. When the 5 city commissioners and the city manager, Peter Iglesias, are not cutting up boxes, they love to talk about the awards they have won for the city.

    Well, today, they have a new award to talk about.

    The National Associations for Assistant City Attorneys Who Abandon Their Residents have given this month’s award to Assistant City Attorney Cristina M. Suarez, Coral Gables, Fl.

    This rare award can be placed very visibly for all to see in front of the desks where all 5 commissioners and city manager, Peter Iglesias, continuously tell the residents what a good job they are doing.

  21. I have been reading different informations about the city and properties and my conclusion is that the City Attorney Cristina Suarez is working for her own and not for the voters of Coral Gables. She should be investigated. To many issues on her table.

  22. This will end when ALL RESIDENTS get down to City Hall and DEMAND an end to these backroom deals. Should we call Help Me Howard? I’m not kidding!

  23. Very disturbing. Thank you for exposing and explaining what’s going on in our community. I agree with Enrique Lopez this just does not sound like something in our community’s best interest nor on the up and up.

  24. City Hall does nothing for me.

    Do you remember the City attorney, Miriam Ramos, entered into a contract with Wawa. The judge ruled her contract was “blatantly illegal”. Miriam Ramos didn’t care. She allowed Wawa to continue to build its store across the street from Carver Elementary School. Miriam Ramos favored the big developer; she turned her back on the kids and their parents from that school.

    Do you remember the “mobility hub’’, the big glass box for cars? More than SIX HUNDRED residents signed a petition AGAINST it. Not ONE resident signed a petition FOR it. In a democracy, the “mobility hub” lost. Remember, there is no democracy in Coral Gables. All FIVE commissioners voted FOR the “mobility hub’!!! Adding insult to injury, the residents must now pay over $40 million for a glass box it doesn’t want. The big developer had a big smile when he saw all the commissioners’ votes.

    Remember the upzoning scandal on Biltmore Way, where Ramon Trias deceived innocent residents. The big developer was very happy with Ramon Trias.

    Remember Burger Bobs, where the City Manager, Peter Iglesias, favored an insider to change it into a fancy restaurant, against what the residents in the neighborhood wanted.

    Now, the City attorney’s office won’t disclose unsolicited bids. Could it be because more corruption would be exposed?

    My guess is a lot of residents will send comments to the Gable Insider complaining about the new corruption. Complaints are all well and good. But, they don’t result in permanent change.

    So, when will the majority of residents get to the point they have had it and really do something
    that lasts?

    Don’t count on Peter Iglesias and all his puppet commissioners and city attorneys.

    A federal grand is needed to investigate the mountain of corruption in this City and lock up every crook.

  25. Ladies and gentlemen, the smell of rot seems to be a constant in the City under the present administration with support of some commission members.. It is time for the residents to start calling these “suspects” out and demand they be terminated. I thought a couple of prior city managers were dubious, but the present one and staff take the cake. Time to go, Trias, Iglesias, Kinney, et al. Ariel, thank you for your continuous exposing the City Beautiful’s ugly side. Very necessary and what we are learning. They must shudder at the sound of your name. Keep it up. I am all in to start the clean up. Enough is enough.

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