Despite Some Concerns, the First of NRI’s “Book Ends” on U.S. 1 Makes its Debut
By Doreen Hemlock
When Brent Reynolds set out to develop Paseo de la Riviera several years ago, he envisioned an “Urban Living Room” where residents, neighbors, students and visitors could gather and share. Starting in May, his dream will become reality, with event programming to include “Innovative Thinkers and Unique Minds,” a series for entrepreneurs to pitch ideas, and “Art Walks,” a monthly mixer with local artists.
Reynolds’ team planned Paseo as the southern bookend for Coral Gables on the U.S. 1 corridor, with his partnership investing some $215 million. They’re joining with South Florida’s James Beard award nominee Chef Niven Patel, who will open two restaurants onsite: Mamey, a tropical tapas bar, and Orno, featuring a wood-burning oven and farm-to-table cuisine.
Many developers build to sell, but newly renamed Nolan Reynolds International (formerly Nolan Partners International) is committed to long-term ownership. The construction-hospitality group is launching its new Thesis hotel brand at Paseo, offering 245 rooms and a presidential suite, Patel’s eateries, event spaces and other amenities in what it hopes will become a community hub.
“We want to curate something that feels authentic and truly immerses you in the local culture,” says Reynolds, CEO of the company that also owns the Casa Chameleon hospitality brand in Costa Rica and has completed over $6 billion in projects in Latin America and the U.S.
Paseo is debuting in stages: The main areas of the hotel and Paseo’s 204-unit apartment building will open in May and other retail, restaurants and amenities will launch this summer. Prices for the mid-to-upscale hotel rooms likely will start around $180 per night and rents in apartments at some $3 per square foot, targeting locals that include students at the nearby University of Miami.
Reynolds also is busy completing what he calls the northern bookend for Coral Gables’ U.S. 1 corridor: The $330 million, 496-apartment Gables Station project set for completion next year. It aims, like Paseo, to link with Metrorail transit and offer a “live-work-play environment.”
Not everyone is thrilled about NRI’s developments. Vice Mayor Vince Lago objected to the scale of Paseo and voted for height reductions that kept it in line with adjacent structures. He opposed Gables Station for being far larger and taller than its neighbors. In early March, Lago led a workshop aimed to revive a long-touted study on the U.S. 1 Corridor that could lead to a master plan, covering buildings, pedestrian and bicycle access, open space, landscaping and other basics.
“We don’t want to have Coral Gables reduced to piecemeal projects not properly defined,” says Lago, concerned about prospects for other new ventures on U.S. 1 and 57th Avenue. “We want a master plan to provide guidance for the entire Corridor.”
What people object to is how close the two large projects are to U.S. 1 itself, though many smaller buildings are already adjacent to the six-lane road. But Reynolds, who conceived his $545 million Gables bookends while commuting on busy U.S. 1, says he believes a street wider than 100 feet warrants larger structures with varying heights close to the street, rather than set back behind parking lots, “to create more of a boulevard feel.” Larger structures, he suggests, can be placed “closer to the road in a thoughtful manner that still provides a welcoming pedestrian experience.”