Despite some resistance from residents, the 33 Alhambra project in Coral Gables was officially approved at Tuesday’s commission meeting.
The city commission voted 3-2 to give the project final approval. Mayor Raúl Valdés-Fauli, Vice Mayor Patricia Keon and Commissioner Frank Quesada voted yes, and Commissioners Vince Lago and Michael Mena voted against the project.
The development, proposed by TWJ Alhambra, is made up of several plots on a stretch of land that intersects with Navarre and Minorca avenues, Galiano Street and Alhambra Circle. The project calls for a 146-unit structure that will go up to 97 feet high and include 210 parking spaces and about 2,000 square feet of retail.
Commissioners voted on three items: a land-use map amendment from residential multi-family density to commercial mid-rise intensity, a zoning code change from multi-family to commercial, and a mixed-use site plan review.
“Obviously, we’re very pleased with the approval,” said Dean Warhaft, manager of TWJ Alhambra. “We have a vested interest to continue to work with the city and to work with the neighbors to create an advantageous situation for everyone.”
The project has been in the planning stages for the better part of four years. Many neighbors said they felt the project was too large, would negatively affect their quality of life and would create too much traffic.
“The reason you all live in Coral Gables is the reason we all do: the quality of life,” said Magda Granda, who lives near the project. “It doesn’t do anything for the neighborhood or the neighbors.”
Over time, the project has decreased in size from an initial plan that called for a maximum height of 197 feet and 168 residential units. The development team said that it recognized the concerns of residents but felt the site provided an opportunity to attract young professionals to an affordable housing project.
Keon also argued that because the project is in the city’s central business district, the developer has the right to pursue the project, even if neighbors oppose the plan.
“You don’t build by public vote. You don’t, you can’t. The decision has to be made here based on the facts that are before us,” Keon said.
The latest version of the project reduces the number of units from 184 to 146 and decreases parking spaces from 249 to 210. The project also includes a 6,000-square-foot park with a garden that more than doubles the project’s green space to about 17,200 square feet. The majority of the units will be one- and two-bedroom apartments.
Mena, the newest commissioner on the dais, said that while he recognized the developer’s efforts to reduce the project’s size over the years, he didn’t think it was enough of a reduction.
“This continues to feel like we’re trying to fit a square peg in a round hole,” Mena said.
The approval of the project comes with multiple conditions including a signage plan, bicycle amenities and the completion of traffic-calming studies after a year to compare the actual impact with the estimates in the current traffic study. The developers also plan to preserve a historic building at 42 Navarre Ave.