Coral Gables

Coral Gables

Publix wants to replace downtown Coral Gables store

Publix wants to replace its downtown Coral Gables store with a new 18-story condo tower with a parking garage and ground-floor supermarket.

The Lakeland-based grocer wants to redevelop the whole block where its 2551 Le Jeune Road location currently stands. To replace the current 43,000-square-foot grocery store and adjoining parking lot, Publix would build a 57,000-square-foot store a 282-unit condo tower and a 793-space parking garage to accommodate residents and shoppers.

Aris Garcia of architecture firm Wolfberg & Alvarez Partners presented Publix’s plans to the city’s Development Review Committee last week. The committee, made up of professional staff from city departments such as police, historic preservation and parking, does not make any decisions on projects like this but provides feedback to the applicant.

Apart from technical points like proper ventilation of the garage and placement of the entrances to the garage and store, the biggest concern was the traffic the project would bring to Salzedo Street, Valencia Avenue and Andalusia Avenue.

“Clearly, this is going to have a significant traffic impact,” said Ramon Trias, the city’s director of planning and zoning.

Carlos Mindreau, city architect, said the company will need to study traffic and infrastructure in the area to make sure the plan is doable.

“I think it’s a very aggressive project,” he said. “You need to make sure the city and surrounding areas can support this kind of project.”

Under Florida law, local governments can require developers to have adequate infrastructure such as roads in place at the time the development opens, a policy called “concurrency.” That means developers may have to pay for improvements such as new stoplights or road upgrades to offset increased traffic attracted to their projects.

A few neighboring residents who attended, like Francisco Roig, made it clear they were concerned about adding more congestion to an already-dense area.

“I’m concerned with this project and the amount of more cars and more residents,” he told the committee.

A 2012 traffic study commissioned by Publix notes no anticipated changes to the levels of service of nearby roads. Similar to school grades, levels of service are rated A to F. According to the study, the traffic flow on streets and intersections around the block would stay at C and D, but committee members suggested Publix update the study to account for recent growth in the area.

The developer now has to present the project to the city’s planning and zoning board before it reaches the City Commission. A public hearing will be scheduled at least two weeks before the planing and zoning meeting.

The Publix stands across the street from two public garages that will also likely be redeveloped, as the City Commission wants to expand parking in the area from 627 to 1,000 spaces. The commission prefers to lease the land under the garage across from the Publix to a private developer for a mixed-used development with one level of parking in exchange for a larger garage behind the Actor’s Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre.

City leaders would also like to see a streetscape project along Miracle Mile happen in the next few years. Interim City Manager Carmen Olazabal said Tuesday all the future development in the area would not happen at once.

“The city will phase the construction of these projects to keep the disruption of the downtown area to a minimum,” she said.

Follow @joeflech on Twitter.

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