Letters to the Editor

Coral Gables faces identity crisis

As we ride another building boom, some of Miami’s neighborhoods have been taking this opportunity to define distinctively their exclusive “urban” identity in order to differentiate themselves from the norm and to gain long-term market share.

For example, there is the Wyndwood Art District, The Design District and downtown, including Brickell City Center. All these urban neighborhoods have a clear vision of what makes them unique.

However, the city of Coral Gables will experience an identity crisis if it approves a proposed mega project called the Urban Village of Ponce Circle which is a 9.5 acre development parcel located in the northeast sector of the city of Coral Gables, less than ¼ mile south of Coral Gables Miracle Miles Shopping District.

The Urban Village project is proposing almost double buildable square feet of development than its predecessor — The Old Spanish Village- which was not built due to the bust. The Urban Village project is the biggest, tallest, and densest public area development project ever proposed in the city; and, it is proposing buildable square feet using the form-based code which was implemented in the development of downtown Dadeland.

In a retail market study contracted by the developers, the analysts assert that the city is able to absorb the proposed 250,000 square feet of retail space, but they suggest that the retail stores developed should target the Dadeland and the Fall Mall tenants due to the saturation of high-end stores in the Design District and Brickell City Center.

The study assumes that Gables’ residents prefer lower-end stores with added traffic and congestion, which reduce real-estate property values in the long-run. Although the developers have made a good faith effort to design following city’s standards, the issues are size, scale, density, traffic and managing the city’s identity.

How the city differentiates itself from other urban cores that are emerging in Miami will dictate its identity and value. We can strive to be like Santa Barbara, California, or we can develop to be more like Dadeland in Kendall.

Which one will it be?

Maria Cristina Longo, Coral Gables