Two years ago the University of Miami and the city of Coral Gables entered into a major 20-year development agreement that provides a blueprint for improvements on the sprawling Gables campus and also offers cultural, athletic and medical programs for city residents.
As part of the agreement, the Coral Gables Commission and UM Board of Trustees agreed to a yearly meeting to exchange information about how the program is working and to unveil coming plans. The commission, including Mayor Jim Cason, and UM leadership, led by President Donna Shalala — met Monday morning at the Coral Gables Museum.
Each side listed numerous accomplishments since last year’s meeting:
- According to the city, Coral Gables has shored up its finances with $12 million in reserves, despite lowering the property tax rate for three consecutive years; shaved $4 million in pension costs; repaved 30 miles of lane north of US1, with improvements ongoing to 25 miles of lane south of US1 and downtown and has begun a number of street beautification projects.
- UM raised $1 billion for the second time in less than seven years for its Momentum2: The Breakthrough Campaign, began construction on several new buildings and, through a mobility plan, addressed the parking problem on campus. By adding on-site activities for dorm-bound students and an aggressive parking management program, UM has seen a 16.5 percent reduction of peak traffic north of the campus’ central Lake Osceola in the first year of the agreement, according to the school.
As for the partnership?
“Terrific, dramatic improved relationship between the city and the university,” said UM trustee Charles Cobb. “The best it’s ever been and it wasn’t that great when I was chairman and that was a great frustration to me at the time.”
Cason noted that the partnership would only seem natural given that “there are 14,000 alumni that live in the Gables, that’s a third of our population.”
Shalala didn’t miss a beat.
“Remember that next time we ask for something,” she quipped. “George Merrick was right. Great cities and great universities go together.”
Joe Natoli, UM’s senior vice president for business and finance, noted that part of the agreement mandated that Gables residents would be provided with a number of free tickets to major events on campus. Last year, 3,138 tickets were distributed to residents — 138 football tickets and 1,000 each for men’s and women’s basketball and baseball team games.
In addition, “as the economy has picked up we’re getting back into the building business, though not quite as aggressively as a few years back, but there are a number of cranes on campus today,” he said.
Campus projects under construction or in the planning stages include:
• The Student Activities Center, which will house more than 260 student organizations, lounges, study center and a new Rathskeller. Scheduled to open next fall.
• Interdisciplinary Neuroscience and Health Annex, will sport wet labs, classrooms and faculty offices. Opening in the spring.
• Theodore G. Schwartz & Todd G. Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence promises an academic center, locker and training rooms for student athletes. Fall 2013.
• Patricia L. Frost Center for Experiential Music, set to feature recital halls, practice rooms, studios and classrooms. Fall 2014.
• UHealth Coral Gables & Central Energy Plant, a clinic and outpatient surgery center to serve the UM and general community. Permitting is underway.
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