November brought a string of trades for the Marlins’ best players, causing a big enough fan outrage that it’s weighing on both the Miami Dolphins and the Miami Heat as those teams ponder new deals with Miami-Dade County over tax support for their venues.
7. Design District goes Mainstream
South Florida’s most eclectic shopping district picked up some major brand names in 2012. Luxury retailers including Cartier, Louis Vuitton and Prada opened stores in the northern Miami neighborhood, striking a blow to the dominance of the Bal Harbour Shops, which since 1965 has been the premier place for the affluent to shop. This is only the beginning of developer Craig Robins’ broader plan for the district, which calls for 40 to 50 luxury brands by 2014.
The influx marks a big turning point for a district that less than five years ago had no national brands. And it continues the momentum underway in that area, with Midtown Miami as a big draw for shoppers and diners, while Wynwood shifts from edgy warehouse district to edgy arts district.
6. Citizens’ rates up amid controversy
Citizens Property Insurance Corp. raised rates 11 percent at a time when goodwill isn’t exactly flowing toward the state-backed insurer. It was a year of scandal for Citizens, with reports of $600-a-night hotel stays by executives, an interoffice sex scandal and the disbanding of the agency’s internal-affairs unit. The revelations led to resignations, stern letters from Gov. Rick Scott and a general sense that an organization crucial to Florida’s housing market was under siege. By year’s end, there were calls for Scott to appoint an outside investigator for Citizens.
5. Univision and ABC bring new cable network to Doral
When Univision and ABC announced a deal to create an English-language network aimed at Hispanics, the venture seemed like a natural for Univision’s home base of Miami. But that was never for sure, as Univision shopped for sites in other Spanish-heavy metropolitan areas, like New York and Los Angeles.
But in October, the announcement came that the joint network would operate out of a studio in or near Univision’s headquarters in Doral. In exchange for $3.5 million in state and local subsidies, the new network pledged to create about 350 jobs during the next five years. More importantly, the deal ratified Miami’s status as the capital of Latin media.
4. Costa Concordia shipwreck
The debacle may have happened half a world away, but the wreck of the Costa Concordia on the Italian coast instantly rattled South Florida’s cruise industry and the ship’s Doral-based owner, Carnival
On Jan. 13, a skipper inexplicably rammed the 950-foot-long ship onto the rocks of the Tuscan island of Giglio, nearly capsizing the Costa and killing 32 people. The images were so dramatic, and the tales of survivors so scary, that cruise bookings quickly took a hit. Carnival CEO Micky Arison came under fire for staying out of the public response to the accident, and profits sunk at the company, one of South Florida’s largest private employers. After posting a loss in the second quarter from the Costa wreck, Carnival saw third-quarter profits drop 57 percent from the prior year to $93 million. In December, Arison called 2012 the toughest year yet for Carnival.
Cruise demand remained down through the end of 2012, no small concern for a region that sets more cruise passengers to sea than anywhere else in the world.