The Coral Gables Planning and Zoning board on Wednesday voted to continue its discussion on Sept. 16 regarding the Paseo de la Riviera— a mixed-use project that would replace the old Holiday Inn on South Dixie Highway.
Board members said that on Wednesday they didn’t have time to accommodate more than 45 residents who waited in line to speak before city staff.
“It’s seven minutes to nine o'clock; per the city's code, we need to end at nine o'clock,” said Jeffrey Flanagan, the Planning and Zoning chairman. “We either extend the meeting or else we end at 9 o clock.”
Board members voted unanimously to continue discussing the item in mid-September. Both the developer and his team, along with an attorney representing a chunk of angry residents, each presented their sides Wednesday night for a span of almost three hours.
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City staff also gave their recommendation, approving the project with conditions regarding height limitations.
“We need to discuss what the max height is. From the back of the building it needs to be generally lower,” Trias told the Miami Herald. “We need to see how tall it is on U.S. 1 and how low it needs to be to be compatible with the residential neighborhood in the back.”
The project application details the plans to revamp the strip-mall-dominated corridor on U.S. 1 that splits Coral Gables. Proposed are a 13-story residential building with 234 units, and a 10-story hotel with 252 rooms. It would replace the current 155-room Holiday Inn across from the University of Miami.
Built on 2.7 acres, the main building would be 142 feet tall, have 4,380 square feet of restaurants, 14,094 square feet of retail, and 903 parking spaces, as well as three sculptures. The project would feature shops and restaurants on the ground floor and a pedestrian passage, dubbed the Paseo (72 feet wide, 325 feet long) connecting to the adjoining neighborhood.
Although city staff plan on recommending the project to the Gables commission, the project would come with conditions, said Ramon Trias, the Planning and Zoning board director.
The multifaceted building has levels with different heights. As the projects stands, the section that would face U.S. 1 would be 142 feet tall; the structure that would face the neighborhood is slated to be 56 feet tall.
“It’s about 10 to 15 feet too tall in the back,” Trias said. “They also need to discuss the maximum height further and hear more public input.”
Developers are asking the city to make a zoning exception on the parcel, allowing their project to be 142 feet tall, instead of 77 feet.
The plans to build big in the midst of a residential neighborhood has divided residents who live directly behind it. Some believe the Paseo will reshape the South Gables and its tight-knit neighborhoods, serving as a lunching pad for other high-rise developers to move in, build and make some money. Others think it will manifest a traffic nightmare.
Developers however, see the location as a benefit to residents, saying the project has strategically been placed in a transportation hub — right across the street from UM, Metrorail, trolley route stop, bike paths, as well as on the block of a future pedestrian bridge.
The project’s developer and architect hope that the building across the street, UM’s Gables One Tower, which also reaches 142 feet in height, will convince city officials to vote in favor of the Paseo.
Until 1979, Coral Gables zoning laws in the area allowed buildings up to 142 feet tall. After Gables One Tower was built, city officials in 1980 reacted to the aesthetics and changed the zoning code, reducing the height cap to 77 feet.
During Wednesday’s meeting, some residents got rowdy, causing City Attorney Craig Leen to call for order several times.
“Please maintain order or I’m calling the sergeant-at-arms,” Leen said into the microphone.
This is the second time that this item has been continued. The first time was from July 29 to Aug. 12 at the developers request. The second time was Aug. 12 to Sept. 16, per the city’s code.
IF YOU GO
The Coral Gables Planning and Zoning board will meet at 6 p.m. to hear public input on Wednesday, Sept. 16 at Coral Gables City Hall, 405 Biltmore Way.