The Long-Awaited Approval for City Center is Again Delayed
The reconstruction of the two city parking garages on Andalusia Ave. between Ponce and Le Jeune has been an ongoing discussion since May of 2013. That discussion will continue until at least the Jan. 22 City Commission meeting, following another request for changes by commissioners at their Nov. 13 meeting.
To be built by The Allen Morris Company, the proposed structures would consist of 700 parking spaces plus ground floor retail, with office space or residential units above. At issue are the commission’s demands for change, mostly relating to the scale of the buildings.
“We have responded to all the city requests and actually have revised the project… 19 times up until last week,” said developer Allen Morris.
The mixed-use structures would replace the aging Municipal Parking Garages #1 and #4, and would echo the iconic Mediterranean-style Alhambra Towers that Morris completed in 2002. The two new buildings would provide additional parking to residents and double the parking income to the city. “It’s a win for the city and it’s a win for the public,” said Morris.
Commissioner Vincent Lago questioned the scale, even if it fell within the city’s 189-foot height restrictions (which it does not). “I’m doing everything in my power to reduce
the scale of this project. I don’t want to build 700 parking spaces if I don’t have to,” he said. “I do not approve massive buildings in the city of Coral Gables in height and in scale,”
he pointed out. “This will cast a shadow on Miracle Mile.”
Several residents spoke at the meeting in favor of the development, including Mark Trowbridge, CEO and president of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce. “The garages that we have today that are serving our public obviously are not up to snuff,” he said. “And so, while there’s a lot of discussion about the number of spaces and where folks will park, clearly we have a need for better parking.”
Trowbridge also believes the retail aspect of the buildings will benefit the city, saying that new stores will help existing ones in the downtown. Civic activist Jackson Rip Holmes, who posted a YouTube video the night before the commission meeting urging support for the development, went one step further. “We need to strengthen Miracle Mile with a department store,” he said.
The proposal will be revisited at the second commission meeting in January, looking at variations for a combined 600, 650 and 700 parking spots.
– Lizzie Wilcox