Coral Gables

Coral Gables finalizes plans for park under old oak tree

The elderly oak tree, known as Sherman’s Oak, will be preserved as part of a public park. Coral Gables commissioners met for a ceremony to finalize their purchase of the lots containing the tree off Lisbon Street between San Benito and Santa Cruz Avenues.
The elderly oak tree, known as Sherman’s Oak, will be preserved as part of a public park. Coral Gables commissioners met for a ceremony to finalize their purchase of the lots containing the tree off Lisbon Street between San Benito and Santa Cruz Avenues. ldixon@miamiherald.com

Sherman’s Oak in Coral Gables will continue to stand and provide shade to a future public park.

Coral Gables leaders and neighbors gathered Tuesday morning for a ceremony that finalized the city’s purchase of two lots to be used as open space off Lisbon Street between San Benito and Santa Cruz avenues.

The city bought two lots from developer Palmcorp, which initially wanted to build a more than 2,000 square-foot home on the lot with the tree. The city and Palmcorp reached an agreement in November 2014 and the developer will build a smaller 1,900 square-foot home and two 2,400 square-foot homes on the adjoining lots.

The purchase was approved at the Nov. 10 commission meeting and cost the city about $900,000, with $800,000 being paid in cash and the rest being used for impact and permit fee credits. The sale comes after more than a year of resident outcry and negotiations between Coral Gables staff and the developer.

All of the involved parties said it would have been tragic to lose the tree but gave credit to the neighbors who appealed the initial development and fought to protect the 125-year-old tree, named for the late Sherman Reynolds, a longtime area resident.

“It’s great that you the neighbors brought this tree to our attention so that it could be preserved,” Mayor Jim Cason said.

The two people key in preserving the tree, Jorey Friedman and Bruce Lecure, live directly next to the lot that contains Sherman’s Oak. Friedman said that if they hadn’t reached out to city leaders, things might not have changed.

“Had I not gone to the the commission, [the development] would’ve flown through,” Friedman said. “It’s great for the community and my husband and I are thrilled.”

Other neighbors said they were encouraged by the successful appeal and grateful that the city and the developer were able to reach a compromise that will lead to the park.

“I think the most beautiful thing is to see the process work,” Susie Diaz said. “We’re a tight community here in the North Gables and this will be another way to make that grow.”

Commissioners said they hope to purchase or develop more lots to be used as public open space and as pocket parks across the city.

“North Gables has not been at the forefront in reference to open space but you will be now,” Commissioner Vince Lago said.

The city plans to meet with neighbors to discuss plans for the park, which remains unnamed, and they will be able to continue to do so under the cover of Sherman’s Oak.

“Two, three decades from now we might forget what happened here today but people will never forget this tree,” City Attorney Craig Leen said.

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3

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