As Coral Gables prepares for major changes on Miracle Mile and Giralda Avenue, city leaders are also discussing changes that they hope will bring more residents downtown and encourage creative development.
At several meetings before the city’s planning board and in the community, city staff and members of the Business Improvement District have presented plans for a new downtown overlay district they believe will allow developers to utilize more of their property’s space.
Some of the proposals in the downtown area include smaller parcels of land that would be allowed to have residential uses and wouldn’t have minimum parking mandates. On Miracle Mile and the 100 block of Giralda Avenue, properties would be allowed to have extended business hours and quicker outdoor dining approval.
The district is intended to work in conjunction with the Miracle Mile/Giralda Avenue Streetscape project.
“Streetscape is the hardware, that is the physical improvements to the area,” said Marina Foglia, executive director of the BID. “What we’re talking about is the software, the activation of our streets.”
The city and BID have received a good amount of support from business owners, merchants and residents that live near the downtown area. They say the changes will encourage more younger professionals to live downtown and also reduce vehicular congestion.
“When you allow more pedestrian-friendly traffic, that doesn't rely on things like parking, you reduce traffic,” said resident Kenneth Garcia at a recent planning and zoning workshop.
Some people are skeptical of the change to the district, including former city commission candidate Jackson “Rip” Holmes.
Holmes, who owns property on the Mile, argues that allowing the larger heights for smaller properties will change the character of Miracle Mile.
“This is the end of any real claim that Coral Gables is a suburb,” Holmes said. “The merchants could like this, but the city needs to really give a significant chance for public input.”
Staff members said that there have been several public meetings to discuss the changes in the district and note that there won’t be any changes to the zoning of the various parcels on the Mile or Giralda. Both roads allow for various commercial uses.
“If we stand still, if we don’t invest, not just in our public spaces but in our private spaces, we'll die,” said Gables economic development director Javier Betancourt during a recent meeting.
Planning and Zoning Director Ramon Trias said that while there have been several meetings, the city is still tweaking the plan and is in “listening mode” for additional recommendations.