Miracle Mile Zoning Revision Wins First Round Approval
In what could signal an end to a controversial, three-year effort to revise the Coral Gables zoning code, the city commission on Tuesday approved a measure that would cap new construction on Miracle Mile at four stories, ban parking garages on the downtown street and encourage small-scale, mixed-use development.
The measure was passed on “first-reading” by a 4-1 vote, with Vice Mayor Vince Lago voting no. Another, final vote is required.
The commission also unanimously okayed zoning changes in the Crafts District – a three-square block area bound by Le Jeune Road (west side), Salzedo Street (east side), Santandar Avenue (south side) and Catalonia Avenue’s alleyway (north side). The changes will allow mixed-used development, capped at four stories on the southernmost block facing the San Sebastian Apartments, climbing to seven stories in the northernmost block, facing Banyan Day School and Sunstate Bank.
Most changes to the city’s 1,000-page revised zoning code had already been approved. Final votes on both of Tuesday’s actions are scheduled for March 23.
The code revisions aimed at Miracle Mile are designed to revitalize the city’s four-block business district, suffering from store and restaurant closures, low pedestrian traffic and fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Where we are today is not working, so this compromise is one we are pleased to support,” Mark Trowbridge, president and CEO of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, told the commission via Zoom prior to the vote.
What to do about Miracle Mile has been hotly debated for months, with many residents voicing fears that any changes to the zoning code would open the door to high-rise development on the street. Even four-story buildings on the Mile would create “a canyon effect,” said resident Sheryl Gold. The zoning for the mile only allows a fourth story if it is set back, however, with three stories the maximum on the street itself. The fourth-story set back allows for rooftop activation on the Mile.
A majority of the commission argued that the current code allows six-story buildings and parking garages on the Mile, and that possibility should be foreclosed. “Change is necessary, change is good,” said Mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli. Lago, a candidate for mayor in the April 13 election, said his “no” vote was based on an objection to the code’s floor area ratio.
Commissioner Pat Keon, who is also running for the mayoral post, lauded the “collaborative manner” in which commissioners worked to craft the revision. “I’m very glad to see this come to a resolution,” she said.
Commissioner Michael Mena, principal author of the compromise proposal that led up to the Miracle Mile vote, said, “This is an exciting resolution. This is going to encourage smaller-scale development, avoid parking garages on the Mile, and [encourage] rooftop dining.”