New Gables Zoning Code

The Profile of Downtown Coral Gables Could be Changing with a New Zoning Code

Downtown Coral Gables has earned a reputation as one of South Florida’s most iconic business districts, featuring a walkable, low-rise Miracle Mile that offers a mix of high-end shops, boutiques and restaurants.

But the profile of downtown could be on the rise thanks to proposed changes to the city’s zoning code designed to encourage small storefront property owners to add a story or two to their buildings for residential apartments or office space.

“Coral Gables is not going to look different in some drastic way,” says Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, the acclaimed architect and urban planner hired as a consultant on the project, which began in early 2018, to revise and update the zoning code. As the city builds and rebuilds, she says, the goal of a revised zoning code is to facilitate “a pedestrian-friendly, urbane, mixed-used downtown, with plazas and courtyards.”

To that end, the proposed zoning changes tweak regulations that now allow builders to scatter required open space around the edges of a building rather than creating more useful space, like plazas, for example. “We are trying to have the city think of itself for what it is, an urban center,” says Plater-Zyberk.

The revised 1,000-page zoning code was the focus of a Sept. 15 commission meeting at which commissioners approved the reorganization of the existing code, but put off a discussion and vote on the proposed substantive changes. Those changes have been endorsed by the city’s zoning department and the seven-member planning and zoning board.

Revisions to the code that could lead to more residents in downtown Coral Gables represent the “most visible changes” in the new proposals, according to Plater-Zyberk. Under the revamped code, all four blocks of Miracle Mile on the ground floor would remain retail. “You don’t want other things happening,” she says. “But there could be entrances for residences or offices, with people working above the shops. That will only help the shops.”