Coral Gables

Gables ‘streetscape’ project among four city initiatives denied state funding

Coral Gables did note fare well under Gov. Rick Scott’s veto pen Tuesday, which slashed funding for $580,000 in initiatives in the city.

The four projects denied state funding were:

▪ $200,000 for drainage for the Coral Gables Miracle Mile and Giralda Avenue streetscape project

▪ $200,000 for renovations and updates at the Actor’s Playhouse on Miracle Mile

▪ $100,000 for an environmental sustainability design education program

▪ $80,000 for a Wet Well Rehabilitation program

The rejection of the funds for the $18.8 million streetscape project —a public and private venture — hit city officials the hardest, with the drainage phase of the project slated for the very near future.

The highly anticipated project is aimed at making the Mile a lively, pedestrian-friendly area, capable of luring new and diverse businesses.

“The City is disappointed that we didn’t get the funding, however we are committed to move the Miracle Mile/Giralda streetscape projects forward,” said the City’s Finance Director Diana Gomez. “The drainage for this project will be addressed. The veto does not put the city commission’s commitment to this project in jeopardy.”

In September 2014 city officials approved going 50/50 with property owners on and around the Mile to fund the project.

The property owners in the Business Improvement District of Coral Gables will split their half, to be paid through a special assessment tax, depending on their location — 35 percent would be paid by properties directly on Mile and Giralda and 15 percent by adjacent properties.

The city agreed to pay interest for the first two years so that property owners won’t be assessed until construction ends and business speeds up again. The city also recently increased parking meter rates by 25 cents per hour to help reduce the fee paid by property owners for downtown parking, effective in October.

“Assessment amounts to the property owners will not increase,” Gomez assured. “Any additional funds needed for this project will be paid for by the City with capital project general improvement funds.”

City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark said that the timing of the governor’s decision to reject the funds didn’t come at the best time.

“We are always looking for viable partners in moving important projects forward however the timing may not allow for extensive discussion,” she said, noting that the process would be lengthy and the project’s strict time-line would interfere.

She added that the city is evaluating all their options “as to what additional funds and the sources of those funds will be.”

“All municipalities are struggling, and it’s important that the state be a partner in funding these kinds of projects,” Swanson-Rivenbark said.

The future design of the Mile and Giralda features wider sidewalks, public art displays and open plaza areas along Miracle Mile, all of which encourage foot traffic.

The renovated areas are expected to include new street lighting, tree grates, benches, better signage for businesses and parking garages, more welcoming connections to garages and alleyways, and permanent valet stations.

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