Developers and landowners on Miracle Mile would like residents to believe that the only salvation for the Mile is bigger buildings, seven (7) stories tall, without any on-site parking. Developers claim that more larger residential, hotel or office buildings on Miracle Mile will draw back the small retailers and restaurants that make the Mile an inviting place to visit. This type of development is not needed to revitalize Miracle Mile for the following reasons:
1. There is ample capacity in the existing zoning code for residential development less than one block from Miracle Mile. For example, behind the SunTrust building at 100 Miracle Mile, a 130-unit residential/office tower with on-site parking and ground floor retail will be built on Andalusia Avenue where a surface parking lot is currently located. The existing zoning code allows for a similar mixed use residential/office tower to be built behind the Barnes and Noble building on the Mile, with on-site parking.
2. More construction on Miracle Mile will naturally drive more patrons away from the existing businesses.
3. Main streets and historic districts with small shops and open space attract both local residents and visitors. See Miracle Mile needs a Historic Start-over, https://communitynewspapers.com/coral-gables-news/miracle-mile-needs-a-historic-start-over/ December 21, 2020 by Dr. Karelia Martinez Carbonell, Coral Gables resident and preservation advocate. The addition of events such as the Umbrella Project on Galiano Avenue draws patrons. See Umbrella Sky has Arrived to Giralda Plaza, https://experiencecoralgables.com/feature/umbrella-sky-has-arrived-to-giralda-plaza/, Coral Gables Business Improvement District featured post, July 2018.
4. Allowing off-street parking for small buildings, like those on the closed section of Galiano Avenue or in other historic main streets in the United States is consistent with the current Zoning Code’s parking requirements. Allowing off-street parking for small buildings encourages small-scale development.
5. Up-grading our parking garages behind the Mile to make off-street parking easier and more attractive will bring more customers for the existing small businesses. The garages need a circulating Freebie to take patrons from the garage to the front door of businesses. Requesting a Freebie from the Freebie app takes too long for random Freebies to serve the garages and residents. The garages also need a red/green light system to increase the efficiency of parking. Having walked the Mile and Andalusia after Streetscape was completed and before the Covid pandemic, I observed traffic backed up on Andalusia waiting to get inside one of the old City garages. Covid drastically dropped that traffic. It is premature to make changes now that we will never be able to rescind — without paying landowners dearly for any lost development rights given away now.
6. The current code requires retail on the ground floor of ALL mixed-use projects – an idea planners implemented in the Gables a couple of decades ago that has drawn more patrons away from the Mile or has left storefronts empty on the Mile and in some of those projects. That requirement must be rescinded. Ground floor residences and “We Work” spaces make sense; more ground floor retail in mixed-use projects will leave us with more empty storefronts.
7. The landowners’ gamble of raising rents on the Mile needs to be seen for what it is. It a business tool used to increase value in their property and cause businesses to move out for lower cost rentals. The allusion of empty storefronts creates concern that the Mile is dying and reaps the business profit of added development rights. If the gamble fails, property values will decrease. Rents collected are an important component of commercial property values. The longer the space is vacant, the more it will decrease. Eventually, the landowner will have to decide whether it is worth “investing” in the increased rents gamble to reap the zoning change desired, or fill those spaces by decreasing rents.
Our choice is simple: do we want to forever lose the charm of our main street to large buildings with more density, construction and traffic? My choice is absolutely not!
Rhonda A. Anderson
Coral Gables Resident and attorney for over 33 years, Former Planning and Zoning Board member and Candidate for Coral Gables Commissioner, Group II