As more change, modernization and development come to Coral Gables, city staff is working to find a balance between the old and new in the North Ponce neighborhood.
The city is considering the creation of two zoning overlay areas that would both encourage commercial development on Ponce de Leon Boulevard and preserve the residential character of the neighborhoods around the road.
Gables staff welcomed about 25 residents to the St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church for a community planning meeting May 5 to present them with the proposed zoning changes and receive their feedback. Similar meetings held last summer partly shaped the latest plans for the area.
The North Ponce neighborhood is bounded by Alhambra Circle, Southwest Eighth Street, Douglas and LeJeune roads.
“We would really like to see this remain a residential community of a scale that is very livable and walkable,” Commissioner Patricia Keon said.
Staff’s proposal is for a conservation district in the two neighborhoods off of Ponce, on the east and west sides. The city would then create a North Ponce mixed-use overlay for the land along Ponce and in the city’s business district.
The conservation district would encourage the development of small businesses like bed and breakfasts and home offices. Buildings in the area would be capped at 20,000 square feet and three stories high.
The district also includes proposals like matching every car parking space with a bicycle parking space and providing a bicycle rack for each new building.
Meanwhile the mixed-use district along Ponce would encourage larger buildings with a minimum of 20,000 square feet and mandatory step-backs from both the main street and the residential district.
In addition to the potential zoning changes, the city hopes to do additional studies and create pedestrian and bicycle mobility plans for the area while also exploring the creation of residential permit parking.
Staff is also considering the addition of new park spaces in the area and the use of vacant lots to develop community civic spaces or build larger apartments along Ponce.
Residents at the meeting seemed encouraged by the idea of protecting the residential areas, but some expressed concern about large development on Ponce.
“Once you have everything going up you can’t tell one developer no if you did it for the other one,” Mayra Diaz said.
Staff said that the plan is a work in progress and finding a balance between new commercial growth and conserving the residential feel of North Ponce will be their challenge.
“I do think when we get done, this area is going to be very similar to what it is now,” planning director Ramon Trias said.
Staff will take the residents’ feedback and present an updated plan to the City Commission at a future meeting.