To the Editor:
When my grandfather moved to Coral Gables in the 1920s, he specifically chose the Riviera Neighborhood because it had the strictest building codes and restrictions in the country. These codes are now being threatened by the proposed Paseo de la Riviera mixed-use development, which, if approved, would replace the Holiday Inn on US1.
My parents built their home on Caballero Boulevard in Coral Gables in 1957, and I moved into my own home on the same street in 1973. I have witnessed this neighborhood grow and develop, yet it has remained quiet and peaceful, where streets are safe to walk your dog and for your children to play.
The first disruption to the neighborhood came in the late 1970s. While residents were away on vacation one hot summer, a high-rise building — known as the IRE building — was constructed. Thankfully, Dorothy Thomson, who later became mayor of Coral Gables, placed a moratorium on high-rise buildings along the US1 corridor, leading up to Riviera Drive, protecting the quiet residential neighborhoods, like mine, from commercial development.
Now, the proposed Paseo de la Riviera development, is requesting a major change to the current zoning laws in the Riviera Neighborhood. This development will increase the present height, intensity and site requirements due to its multiple towers and 838 parking spaces.
Specifically, the changes include:
• A Change in Land Use from Commercial Low Rise Intensity to Commercial High Rise Intensity to allow for an increase in height;
• A Zoning Code Text Amendment to delete the subject property from site-specific requirements (that now limit height, intensity and increase setbacks and protect the adjacent low density residential neighborhood);
• AMixed Use – Site Plan Approvall;
• A Planned Area Development Approval (PAD), and
• The release of a 1962 parking covenant that applies to the existing hotel and a 2000 Declaration that applies to the signage.
Change is never simple and requires a lot of thoughtful planning. I hope the Coral Gables City Commission will take the time to think about the impact this development will have on the neighborhood and not rush into a decision. Paseo de la Riviera is not in character with its surroundings.
We recognize that development in the area is forthcoming but not at this height and intensity. Let the University of Miami (former IRE) building, which is universally disliked, be the example that high-rises do not belong in the Riviera Neighborhood of Coral Gables.
I and other residents of this neighborhood are asking the Coral Gables Commission to follow the zoning laws that already are in place. These laws are for our protection and set standards for the future of development along the US1 corridor adjacent to low density residential neighborhoods. Any changes should be made with the complete feedback and approval of the community in mind.
For more information, visit online at http://rivieraneighborhoodassociation.com/paseo.html.
Riviera Neighborhood Association member