Coral Gables Commission Debates Building Height and Public Park Space

The Coral Gables City Commission recently engaged in a discussion over a proposed development project on Alhambra Circle, which involves a trade-off of increased building height for the creation of the largest recreational park in downtown Coral Gables. The highly anticipated proposal has stirred varied public opinions, with some residents expressing support for the additional green space and others raising concerns about building height, density, and potential traffic impacts.

Central to the meeting was the proposal to rezone a midblock parcel from MX2 to MX3, which would allow for the construction of a new building with live-work units and a pedestrian arcade, while simultaneously providing an increase in open green space. The developers highlighted that the project would shift the building height to the center of the block, away from residential areas, and provide 12 times the amount of open green space required by current regulations, thus addressing the downtown area’s need for more recreational spaces.

Jennifer Garcia, an official, provided an overview of the project, detailing the comprehensive plan map amendment, zoning code map amendment, and mixed-use site plan and encroachments involved. The proposed changes include designating the new park as commercial low-rise intensity and creating a pedestrian path to link to the back alley. The developers emphasized that the proposed building would stand 50 feet shorter than the existing buildings in the area.

The debate at the meeting reflected differing perspectives, with supporters citing the benefit of a new public park to the community and opponents concerned about the scale and design of the proposed building’s compatibility with the surrounding area. The developers’ efforts to obtain community support were noted, including the mention of a letter of support from a proximate individual initially opposed to the project.

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Public comments during the meeting revealed varying stances among residents. Christopher Nef and Adriana Nef voiced safety concerns for children playing outside and support for the potential park, while Alisia Bakik expressed enthusiasm for the development’s positive impact on lifestyle and green space needs. Conversely, Arjon Hit raised objections concerning architectural features, increased traffic, and the community impact of additional rental units.

The commission also tackled the zoning and development regulations in the Central Business District (CBD), focusing on height restrictions for buildings. A key point of contention was a covenant that limits building height, with the City Attorney explaining that any modification would require a plan amendment and a supermajority vote of the city commission. Moreover, the meeting addressed the role of petitions in zoning decisions, clarifying that they do not constitute substantial competent evidence in the decision-making process.

In addition, there was discussion about the accuracy of square footage calculations for parcels of land and how this affects building height allowances under the zoning code. Questions were also raised about the historical significance of certain properties, the clarity of information in staff reports, and the rights of property owners regarding alley usage and property connectivity.

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An issue discussed was the use of a Covenant L for zoning purposes, particularly whether two properties were contiguous or if this was a legal fiction created by combining properties under the covenant. The City Attorney and Planning Director provided interpretations of the zoning code in this regard, debating the implications for future development and zoning ordinances.

The meeting further considered the potential impact of the development project on the downtown area, including traffic studies, residential and commercial zoning, and the donation of park space to the city. The proffer of park space by the applicant was scrutinized, alongside concerns about the shadow cast by the proposed building on the park.

Deliberations included the zoning of a 12,000 square foot property, with discussions on the developer’s interactions with the board of Architects, and the decision to change the bottom floor from commercial to work-live use. The motion to approve the additional building height was passed, despite dissent from some members, highlighting the complexities involved in urban development and the balance between commercial interests and community needs.

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Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Mayor:
Vince C. Lago
City Council Officials:
Rhonda Anderson, Kirk R. Menendez, Melissa Castro, Ariel Fernandez

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