Will a Proposed 40-Story Tower Hurt the Gables?
Two years ago, developers won a bid to develop a mixed-use project around the Douglas Road Metrorail station on the edge of Coral Gables called The Link at Douglas. It included ad 20-story residential tower – a little above the 189-foot limit for buildings in the Gables, but not atrocious.
Now those same developers – 13th Floor Investments and the Adler Group – have gotten an initial okay to go 40-stories high, and add another 22-story office building to the site. What will rise on the very edge of the Gables is a 450-foot building, taller than anything in South Florida outside of skyscraper-filled Brickell. How can this happen? Because Miami-Dade County controls zoning on the station property (technically inside Miami city limits) and neither Coral Gables nor Miami has any say in the matter. And after its initial approval for 20 stories, the county quietly up-zoned the property, without so much as a nod to the local community.
The rationale for the upgrade – besides and additional $50,000 in annual rent to the county – is to encourage use of mass transit. With proximity to Metrorail and the Coral Gables trolley, There isn’t even enough garage space for all residents to have a parking space, they point out. Of the estimated 770 spots, 300 will be reserved for commuters who drive to the station. The remaining 440 are to be shared by residents, workers and shoppers.
Coral Gables is not particularly pleased with the up-zoning. “I’m in favor of a development occurring on the site… but I think that the height of 40 stories, along with almost 1,500 [residential] units, is unwarranted,” Commissioner Vince Lago said at a City Commission meeting on Oct. 23. “I think it’s going to invade our quality of life.”
The project must still go through a final review by county planners, and the commission wants a representative to address the city’s concerns. But their input will have no power outside of advice – and perhaps outrage. The entire project is predicted to be completed around 2023.