The City of Coral Gables likes to pride itself on its appearance.
Before the exterior of a home can be painted, the color of the paint must be approved by the city. For more than 50 years, the city banned pickup trucks from parking out in the open overnight in residential areas. Its pride has a notable exception.
The city operates two parking garages in the Miracle Mile area. The first is located behind the Miracle Theater at 245 Andalusia and the second is located one block west, at 345 Andalusia, across the street from Publix. For 20 years, the city and successive waves of commissioners, mayors, and city administrators have talked about replacing or renovating the two garages.
But until recently, all the city seemed to be doing was talking about the problem. The city issued a Request for Proposals on what to do with these antiquated parking garages. In 2016, The Allen Morris Company and The Related Group teamed up and submitted the winning proposal.
What would the city get? The Allen Morris Company/Related Group proposal included a total of 940 public spaces, up from the 630 the city currently has. On top of one garage they would build an office tower, and on top of the second garage, a luxury residential project. The two projects would include walkways with direct access to Miracle Mile.
The two companies have gone above and beyond their proposal, accommodating the city’s requests for modifications resulting in the current adjustments to the proposed project.
In speaking with Allen Morris, he informed me that the issue has been the project’s scope. Morris said that he “understands that the commission’s task is to ensure the best project possible for the city.” And that “while they are working towards an agreed upon scope,” he said that “our common ground is to provide the city with the most ideal solution.”
Even with all the work put in by the Morris/Related venture, the city still is considering canceling the award and razing the two garages and build new ones in their places.
On Feb. 12, this process will once again come to a head, as the Morris/Related team will provide the city with what Morris called “win/win” options, “hopefully meeting everyone’s needs.”
Morris told me that the city’s own estimate pegs the cost of building the new garages at $40 million, money that would have to come from general revenues or bonds the city would issue in a climate of climbing interest rates — or the city could go through with the plan put forth by the Morris/Related venture.
They already have reduced the square footage in the office tower from 150,000 square feet to 116,000 square feet. The residential tower has shrunk from 320 apartments to 246, with the height of the building capped at 150 feet. And, rather than costing the city money, the proposal promises the city a hefty flow of revenue. Allen reiterated that “combinations of these options” were still in play in order to “fully accommodate the municipality.”
In addition, the project is in keeping with the boom of re-urbanization that several cities across the country are experiencing. The project will put a group of daytime office workers who will be the natural consumers of the goods and services the merchants of Miracle Mile have to offer. And it will put a large number of new urban residents who will fill up the Mile in the evenings and on weekends.
For Coral Gables and its residents, this is a clear “win/win” situation. We urge the city to accept the Morris/Related plan for the new municipal garages at its Feb. 12th meeting.