Coral Gables

Gables commission approves Paseo de la Riviera project

A rendering of the proposed Paseo de la Riviera project as seen from Jaycee Park in Coral Gables.
A rendering of the proposed Paseo de la Riviera project as seen from Jaycee Park in Coral Gables. NP International

The Paseo de la Riviera project is coming to Coral Gables.

City commissioners approved three ordinances and a resolution clearing the way for the proposed mixed-use project that will replace the existing Holiday Inn on US-1 and includes an apartment building and hotel, along with commercial and open spaces.

At Friday’s meeting the commission agreed to a modified plan — part of which was presented at a meeting Tuesday night where there was no vote — that reduced the height of the project. The apartment building will drop to 112 feet after early proposals of more than 150 feet, and the hotel building will decrease to a height of 126 feet from a previous proposal of 142 feet.

The City Commission voted 4-1 to allow for a land-use map change, from low-rise intensity to mixed-use development, and a zoning amendment removing site specific regulations only for the Paseo project. Commissioner Jeannett Slesnick voted against both items as they were legislative changes.

The planned area development ordinance, which includes specific regulations and restrictions for the project, and the mixed-use site plan resolution, which creates a mixed-use district, were both approved unanimously. Those items will be up for review and are the first steps for the development, at 1350 S. Dixie Hwy. The building heights apply to the sides that face US-1; the sides that face Madruga Avenue will be 46 feet high.

The process has been contentious since the plans began to take shape earlier this year, and some of that tense discussion spilled over Friday morning. The commission chambers were packed with residents, but there was no opportunity for public comment.

Sue Kawalerski, a board member of the Riviera Neighborhood Association, has been vocally against the project along with many of her neighbors. She said the plan’s approval has damaged her opinion of the commission’s priorities.

“The residents feel our voice has been trampled by an out-of-town developer,” Kawalerski said. “It is obvious that the commissioners are more for developers than for the residents.”

Tucker Gibbs, the attorney for the neighborhood association, said Friday that he objected to the meeting’s lack of public comment and did not think residents had enough time to view the latest version of the plan.

“Once this thing is built, they’re living it and it’s there, the gift that keeps on giving,” Gibbs said.

Slesnick, before casting her votes, said she was concerned about the precedent the Paseo approval might set for future large developments on US-1.

“I’m not anti-development; I think we need to encourage it. But I think the city needs to be in charge of changing their zoning codes,” Slesnick said.

The approval comes with several conditions for the developer, and more were imposed Friday morning.

The developer will pay for traffic studies in the Riviera neighborhood, Paseo employees will have parking within the project and the developer will explore plans for financing the project’s parking and other alternative transportation options. Also, apartment tenants cannot sublease their parking spots.

Shared parking became a point of contention as Gibbs argued that the developer did not give him and his planning expert enough time to study a shared parking study, which was included in Friday’s documents. Staff agreed to work with the developer on the plan’s implementation and on potentially adding permitted parking in the Riviera neighborhood.

There are also plans for traffic mediation including routing incoming and outgoing traffic onto US-1 and containing service and delivery truck access to a private road within the project.

Jeffrey Bass, the developer’s attorney, said he and his client will continue working with the city and the neighbors as the development moves forward.

“We are delighted, we are thrilled, we are humbled and we are so appreciative of the city’s thoughtful, caring and courageous endorsement of this exemplary project,” Bass said.

The Paseo de la Riviera project will add to a series of new developments and renovations across the city including the Mediterranean Village project and the Miracle Mile/Giralda Avenue Streetscape project.

The approval comes after months of discussions including multiple planning and zoning board meetings during the summer months and meetings among neighbors, the developers, staff and commissioners.

“We put everyone through the wringer, the developers, the neighbors, because we really wanted to vet it as much as possible,” said Vice Mayor Frank Quesada.

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3