The latest mixed-use project in Coral Gables has officially been given the green light.
In a 3-2 vote, commissioners gave final approval to the Gables Station project at Tuesday’s meeting while placing conditions on the developers, NP International. Mayor Jim Cason, Vice Mayor Frank Quesada and Commissioner Patricia Keon voted in favor and Commisioners Jeannett Slesnick and Vince Lago voted against the project.
The developer’s plan calls for a hotel, commercial space, housing and about two acres of park space at 215 and 251 S. Dixie Hwy. The developer will be allowed to build up to 160 feet, which is 60 feet higher than the current height limit. The same group is also developing the Paseo de la Riviera project farther south on U.S. 1.
Commissioners voted on amendments to the city’s comprehensive plan map, the zoning code and the zoning map, along with creating a planned area development and to create a mixed-use site plan. The developer has offered to purchase a trolley car and to pay for two years of operational trolley costs to be part of the city’s system. They will also provide amenities such as bicycle parking and landscape improvements at the MacFarlane linear park in the nearby historically black MacFarlane Homestead District.
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Leona Cooper, a longtime resident in the district, said she’s happy to see the project approved as it will give the area its first notable development.
“It’ll be the first time in almost 100 years that there will be something pleasant there and something pleasant to look at,” Cooper said.
Gables Station will include three buildings all roughly shaped like an H. They will house a combined 460 residential units and will also have arcades running along the building with plantings between them and the curb on U.S. 1. The building closest to Grand Avenue will include an extended-stay hotel with 66 units and some ground-level retail. The other two structures will include parking garages. The building near Grand Avenue will be the tallest of the three structures at 160 feet. The other two each will be 148 feet.
The developers also plan to include in the project some of the history of the African and Bahamian settlers who helped George Merrick build the city by including art and displays that highlight some of those settlers. Gables Station will also include pocket parks, fountains, trees and other amenities on the development’s green space.
In addition to being close to the Douglas Road Metrorail station and the proposed Underline development, the project is situated near the Village of Merrick Park and the Gables Ponce apartments. The developer will also fund improvements for a section of the Underline.
As with many recent developments in the city, the members of the public and members of the commission were split in their support and opposition to the project.
The project’s architect, Jorge Hernandez, said he was encouraged by the fact that many people who spoke, including opponents, said they thought the project was attractive.
“It’s always about envisioning one place and making that place a landmark that everyone recognizes,” Hernandez said.
Commissioner Lago stuck to his promise, from the commission’s first vote in June, that if the project’s height weren’t reduced, he wouldn’t support the item. Opponents pointed out their concerns over height as well and also questioned whether the project is truly close enough to the Metrorail station that people will really use public transportation, not their cars.
“If this project was 10 stories high and they brought it down to what is allowed, I would have no problem with it,” Slesnick said.
Gables Station will join another large mixed-use development, the Link at Douglas, just outside the city’s borders at the Douglas Road station.