The impasse of a proposed pedestrian bridge that would rise above U.S. 1 and connect with University Centre, the strip center that includes T.G.I. Friday’s, Bagel Emporium and Pier 1 Imports, was the topic of discussion Monday as the Coral Gables/UM Community Relations Committee held its biannual meeting.
Committee member Juan-Carlos del Valle expressed disappointment over the failure of the county and the shopping center owners to reach agreement about where the bridge should be located.
“This is something that is very important to the city, to Ponce Middle, and all the other stakeholders in that area who want to bring to a resolution as quick as possible,” said del Valle, the UM’s assistant vice president of government and community relations.
Since 1989, several UM students have been killed or seriously injured trying to cross U. S. 1 to get to the retail spots on the other side. After nearly eight years, the county has approved the project. About $6 million in funding at the state and federal level has been allocated and a Mediterranean-style overpass has been designed.
The county offered the strip center owners $1.85 million to compensate for the loss of five parking spaces needed to anchor the pedestrian bridge across the street from the Metrorail station and the nearby UM. In addition, the county has offered 10 parking spaces at the Metrorail station across South Dixie Highway for a net gain of five spots.
But the University Centre’s owners —listed with the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser’s Office as Louis Grossman, trustee, Theodore Roy, Fredi S. Consolo and Gail C. Gidney — have refused to cooperate.
Toby Brigham, an attorney representing one of the owners, said the placement of the overpass at that corner would block the mall’s visibility and its signage, hurting business.
One of the center’s main signs, listing T.G.I. Friday’s, Baptist Health Urgent Care and Doctors Hospital Sports Medicine, sits where the foot of the bridge would land.
“The owners seek no public funds. Their real estate taxes and the mall’s sales taxes contribute to public funds,” Brigham said in an email Tuesday. “Rather, the mall owners believe there is a better location for the pedestrian overpass, which would not blight the University Shopping Center as excessively as the county’s engineers have unalterably demanded.”
He suggested the county should find another location to anchor the bridge.
“The same pedestrian overpass structure can cross U.S. 1 at various points south of the corner at Mariposa. Most of the pedestrian traffic is walking to the UM’s office building and would not travel any further if the pedestrian overpass were moved to the mid-point of the mall’s frontage or further south, for example, connected by a sidewalk on land already owned by the county on the station side of U.S. 1,” Brigham said.
The county is considering constructing a sidewalk along the western side of U.S. 1, extending it to a point directly across from Gables One Tower, a UM-owned administrative building just south of the mall. The bridge would then go from the sidewalk across to Gables One Tower.
But placing the bridge at Gables One Tower would require a circuitous walk to get to the retail center, said Albert Hernandez, assistant director of engineering, planning and development for Miami-Dade Transit. Hernandez favors the Mariposa intersection as “the natural crossing’’ but added the county is working with UM to consider all options, including moving the bridge farther south, upgrading the pavement marking and adjusting the lights to allow more time to cross the road.