A plan for a large mixed-use project in Coral Gables got a mixed reaction from the city’s planning and zoning board Wednesday night.
The board gave two positive recommendations and two neutral recommendations to the Paseo de la Riviera project planned for South Dixie Highway, set to replace the existing Holiday Inn.
Dozens of residents packed the board meeting to discuss the project after the board voted at its August meeting to continue discussion of the project. The vocal crowd was filled with supporters and opponents of the plan and ultimately that split was reflected in two tie votes that led to the neutral recommendations.
The board, which had only six of its seven members present, recorded 3-3 votes on a requested land use map amendment and a zoning code amendment that would remove site-specific zoning rules related to the project’s front and rear setbacks.
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The board approved recommendations for a mixed-use site plan review and a planned area development review for the project. Those items passed 4-2 with conditions, most notably asking that the developer lower the proposed height of the project from 142 feet to 120 feet. Board members Maria Menendez and Frank Rodriguez voted against the items.
The project will still require final approval from the City Commission after two public hearings.
Jorge Hernandez, an architect for the project, said the development team remains optimistic about the project as they prepare to eventually present it to the commission.
“I think the commissioners will look at and consider those two favorable recommendations,” Hernandez said. “The developer has shown he’s flexible and listening to the community.”
The developers, NP International, are proposing a multi-faceted project including a 13-story residential building (which includes a five-story parking garage) with 234 units and a 10-story hotel with 252 rooms. The nearly 2.7-acre site would also include 4,364 square feet of restaurants, 46,948 square feet of open space, 14,853 square feet of retail and about 830 parking spaces.
Supporters praised the unique design and noted the proximity to UM, Metrorail, a city trolley stop, the proposed Underline project and the potential for foot traffic through the future pedestrian bridge planned for the area.
One of the main sticking points for residents and members of the Riviera Neighborhood Association is the proposed height of the building, which was based in part on the height of the University of Miami’s neighboring Gables One Tower.
The Gables One Tower, which is also 142 feet high, was built in 1971 and until 1979, city zoning laws in that area allowed buildings up to 142 feet tall. City officials eventually changed the zoning code in 1980 to reduce the cap to 77 feet. The developer is requesting a zoning exemption to build above that cap.
Some residents and board members said that using Gables One Tower as their comparison point was poor planning on the developer’s part.
“From 1971 to 2015 there’s been nothing like this,” said board member Frank Rodriguez. “I’m not sure we should look at that building as anything other than an anomaly.”
Jeffrey Bass, an attorney for the developer, said the proposed development should be taken in consideration with the recently approved Mediterranean Village project—which has a main building with a proposed maximum height of 218 feet.
“We would hope that people would appreciate the diminutive nature of our project when compared with Mediterranean Village,” Bass said.
Still, beyond the height and aesthetic concerns, many residents are worried about potential traffic problems and the impact on neighboring Jaycee Park.
“In the park you feel nice and in the open, this would be like the proverbial urban canyon,” said resident and RNA board member Stuart Rich.