MIRACLE MILE REDEVELOPMENT (Coral Gables): The Mayor’s Vs. the Vice Mayor’s Vision

Our residents have a plethora of options including Merrick Park, Brickell City Center, the Design District, Aventura and others, not to mention on-line shopping on Amazon. Miracle Mile is on a downward spiral. Just recently I drove the four- block stretch and was shocked to count 40 empty storefronts. Our leadership is required to ensure that this spiral doesn’t become permanent. Miracle Mile needs to be revitalized.

I believe that the best way to bring this four-block stretch back to life is by bringing back foot traffic to enjoy amenities. While we work with the Business Improvement District (BID) on projects such as Murals on the Mile that we hope will help bring foot traffic, it is by having multi-use development including residences that will ultimately revitalize Miracle Mile. We need to attract residents to the Mile; not only to patronize our shops and restaurants but to live in our city center as well.

Let’s bring Miracle Mile back to life | Miami’s Community News

A few comments are due here:

  • The Vice Mayor has questioned whether the code change will affect the future of Miracle Mile and its small town look and ambience.
  • The Mayor recently drove along Miracle Mile to count the empty store fronts. There have been empty store fronts for a long time because of two factors: COVID-19 and associated unemployment recession; and the long time construction of the so-called Streetscape. Prior to that we can list the housing recession of 2006-2009.
  • A “Midtown Model”: The redevelopment of Miracle Mile with the construction of multi-story hotels and residences of up to many (say 10) floors would indeed repopulate Miracle Mile, but it would lead to many fewer store fronts and wider buildings, leading potentially to the introduction of national and international store chains in the form of min-box stores a la Midtown. This would be the end of the idea of Coral Gables as a “small town.”
  • Business culture: Miracle Mile balances toward medium to small businesses and independent operators and entrepreneurs. The eventual accelerated development might lead to homogenized min-big box stores and tramsient chains of a lesser quality.
  • Building residences: Merrick Park area residences are not leading to actual new store front models or large increases in shopping traffic. The Merrick Park shopping center area has serious financial problems now and any expansion of Miracle Mile will surely hit against Merrick Park shopping and financing.
  • More causes of Miracle Mile decline: The City of Coral Gables has added to the woes of Miracle Mile by promoting Merrick Park shopping and many multi-story apartment buildings. Also, the addition of large development along Dixie Highway near Merrick Park and near the University of Miami will expand an already big traffic problem there attract away business from Miracle Mile. It is understood that rezoning would complement and continue the strong redevelopment and tall buildings along Dixie Highway between Red Road and Douglas Road. This already is hitting and degrading residential areas. Let the traffic be damned!
  • The City of Coral Gables has been preparing and revising its zoning code, one of the famously most tough, complicated codes in South Florida requiring a small army of bureaucrats to enforce.
  • Shifting shopping areas: Only the City of Coral Gables can be blamed for the decline of Miracle Mile. It has expanded large-scale construction away from the Mile in Merrick Park. The Streetscape project has killed off good street parking and the long construction period caused stores to lose money and fail.
  • Transportation and parking: The local transportation hub and busses run away from the center of Miracle Mile toward Dixie Highway along Ponce de Leon. This has been no help to Miracle Mile.
  • Participation: The Mayor asserts in this article that the community has had more than enough time to review the proposed revisions that have been under review for four years. Let it me known that the average interested resident doesn’t know anything about the code changes and only development companies, professionals and owners who understand and have a commercial interest in the complex implications of the code have followed the proposed changes.

FINAL COMMENTS: The “free market” will not resurrect Miracle Mile. Just as the city and its residents were prepared to spend on the Streetscape, the city should be ready to look for financing to shape a significant development plan that keeps the idea of a more scaled down city, small business and a place to bring residents and visitors to participate in excellent culture, dining, shopping and community interaction. These various elements will have to subsidized for them to work. Otherwise, we will be faced with more uncontrolled large-scale development, which is the pattern in Coral Gables in recent years.

City of Coral Gables: Important Meeting on the Zoning Code

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MESSAGE FROM THE VICE MAYOR VINCE LAGO:

IMPORTANT – On Nov 30th beginning at 5 pm there will be a virtual Sunshine Meeting to discuss important zoning code changes that include: Miracle Mile, Crafts Section & MF2 FAR portions of the Zoning Code. Your feedback is highly important and I look forward to seeing you there!

DEAR COMMISSIONERS: City of Coral Gables

The city authorities have continued to work on local urgent issues. Some of these subjects may be less than urgent.

It is urgent that you create awareness of the renewed acceleration of the COVID pandemic in Florida, which will soon affect Coral Gables, Miami-Dade County and adjacent areas.

Wouldn’t it be time to reach out to our community and urgently raise awareness of the new impact, the new increase in COVID infections and deaths.

Better to respond early than drag our feet or ignore the problem like our state authorities are doing.

Good luck.

Another Lofty Visitor This Week

The wildlife love the canal area adjacent to Doctors Hospital because of the dense green vegetation and buffer.

FLORIDA: Let Us Get Infected–Let Us Die

Thanks to the Johns Hopkins University via the Miami Herald.

Governor DeSantis has decided to follow the failed approach of creating herd immunity by illness and death!

Better herd immunity by universal masking now and vaccinations later.

Coral Gables–Future of Miracle Mile

The rewrite of the zoning code might allow for an increase the scale of the unique area through the height of the building and a thereby a change in the nature of the activities there. Miracle Mile is long known throughout the country and quite recently the city, resident and commerce have financed a upgrade in the streets, side walks and parking at considerable cost to the community.

I attach information from a recent newsletter on the rezoning code.

Vice Mayor Vince Lago’s November 2020 Newsletter Zoning Code Rewrite:

Making Changes While Preserving Our History

As we consider proposals to make changes to the Coral Gables Zoning Code, it is important to strategically plan for the long-term development of the downtown area, especially Miracle Mile.

What makes the City of Coral Gables special is its small-town feel and charming streets like Miracle Mile. Although it is important to incorporate thoughtful planning measures to ensure economic longevity, I do not believe that we should compromise the controlled height that makes Miracle Mile so iconic.

Source: Newsletter Vice Mayor Lago.

The City Commission will organize open meeting about the subject of the zoning code changes, and it was been requested that a internet meeting be held to allow participation of the Coral Gable community.

Please check the City of Coral Gables agenda items.

Beautiful Visitor to Our Neighborhood

Enjoying this beautiful visitor to our neighborhood in this time of COVID staying at home.

This is a view of essential micro-environments for wildlife near the Doctors Hospital valet parking lot here in Coral Gables, FL.

GREEN BUFFER BY DAYTIME: Doctors Hospital Pruning

Neither the management of Doctors Hospital, nor its owner Baptist Health South Florida, seem to care about the eventual intrusion of hospital lighting into our neighborhood with the reduction of the existing green buffer.

This reduction will lead to increased light pollution, traffic noise and the added view of valet parked cars.

The management of Doctor Hospital has never talked to the neighbors. This pruning has come about without providing the barest of information to the affected neighbors.

NEIGHBORHOOD LIGHT POLLUTION: Doctors Hospital’s Pruning

Doctors Hospital very recently did a weekend pruning of vegetation and trees along the canal, cutting back part of the light shield of the neighbors, the noise barrier and partially the green buffer. Hopefully and it is trusted that this is not the start of worse cutbacks and that the City of Coral Gables, owner of the parking lot, will protect the neighbors.

228,000–friends and neighbors

I grew up in a small town with a population of 15,000. These deaths are the sane as 15 of these small towns with all their friends and neighbors.

PROTECT THE MANATEES: Feeding at Coral Gables Canal, Doctors Hospital

The dense green buffer on the parking lot at Doctors Hospital is a place on the canal for feeding and rest for manatees that seek out warmer and quieter waters during the winter. Many manatees and their calves are seen there during the months and feeding directly off the plants that grow out over the water along the edge of the canal in Coral Gables. This is clear and important environmental benefit for many wildlife along this quiet narrow stretch of the canal that deserves serious permanent protection.

See Miami-Dade County protection guidelines cited below:

Manatees and cold weather manatees live in Miami-Dade County year-round, but during the winter, large numbers of manatees move south or to springs and heated discharges from power plants. Manatees suffer from the cold when water temperatures fall below 68 degrees. They may become ill or die if they are unable to find refuge in warmer waters over a prolonged period. In Miami-Dade, canals and rivers that are influenced by warmer groundwater flows provide refuge for cold-stressed manatees. It is important that manatees be able to reach these shelters and rest in them with little or no disturbance from human activities. The best way to help manatees in cold weather is to avoid disturbing them, watch for signs of stress or injury and notify the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission of any manatee in distress.

Manatee Protection – Miami-Dade County

Neighborhood Light Contamination: DOCTORS HOSPITAL

This is the existing night time light contamination from Doctors Hospital, penetrating through the city-owned valet parking lot and penetrating through a very dense green buffer along the Coral Gables Waterway. The alternation, removal and installation of new landscaping may very significantly increase light contamination to the neighbors. Also, it is not known at this date if the city will allow for additional lighting on the future expanded parking lot after it is sold to Baptist Health, as planned.

Doctors Hospital: No Green Buffer (2008)

These 2008 images show the Coral Gables-owned municipal parking lot #24 that was leased to Doctors Hospital since the late 1980’s. The lease contract requires that the hospital maintain the landscaping, which should hide the view of the building and sustain a green buffer in the neighborhood. Here in 2008 there was neither.

This is suggestive of what the valet parking lot may look like in the future if not carefully managed and overseen by the City of Coral Gables.

Doctors Hospital 2008

Green Buffer Hides Doctors Hospital from Neighbors

Green Buffer, Coral Gables Waterway

This photo shows that the Doctors Hospital buildings are completely out of view of the neighbors; and many neighbors have renovated their houses over the years to favor this natural untouched view of the canal.

It is projected that the hospital will eliminate appreciable green areas, thereby, increasing noise, light pollution, views of parked cars and traffic, buildings with lighting, street lighting, disturbing wildlife, decreasing property values….

Environmental Initiatives Statement: City of Coral Gables

The City of Coral Gables recognizes that sustainability must be a key focus of the City’s policies and services, with targeted investments in energy, water and waste efficiency. Creating this sustainable city requires a commitment of leadership and coordination across the organization. Whereas, the City will consider the environmental impacts of its operations, and develop creative and practical solutions that will minimize our ecological footprint. We will integrate sustainability in the places residents and employees live, work and play, and provide the guidance and resources for our businesses and citizens. The City is committed to strategic and comprehensive sustainability planning throughout all departments and divisions. We will design, build and maintain our facilities, parks and streets to the highest of standards that promote efficiency and safety for our residents, visitors and employees. We will integrate technology to monitor and track our environmental investments, and will review our performance and cost savings. We will support businesses and organizations that are aligned with our mission, and foster relationships and opportunities with key institutions. By advancing these local sustainability initiatives, we will improve the environmental, social and economic health of Coral Gables.

City of Coral Gables – Environmental Initiatives

193,962

Green Areas Environmental Benefits: Doctors Hospital Parking and Canal

The local canal waterways provide very significant environmental and community benefits along the canal to our residents.

This is especially evidenced along University Blvd in front Doctors Hospital at the corner of Pisano Ave.

The many community benefits of the green areas:

  • Provide wildlife habitat (birds, fish, reptiles, manatees…) diversity
  • Traffic calming and noise mitigation
  • Impeding views of car traffic, valet parking, buses and ambulances
  • Impeding view of Doctors Hospital buildings
  • Mitigate Doctors Hospital lighting
  • Wind and temperature mitigation in storms and hurricanes
  • CO2 capture
  • Favor canal users’ recreational boating and fishing
  • Bolster local property values

Coral Gables Waterway Green Neighborhood Buffer

Environment and Wildlife on Coral Gables Waterway

The City of Coral Gables is negotiating the sale of a green area environment and the Doctors Hospital valet parking lot.

In this green buffer environment there resides wildlife including feeding manatees, an occasional alligator, ducks, turtles, herons, fish, among others. Boaters visit the canal that ends at the Pisano Ave Bridge by the University of Miami.

Some typical wildlife residents and visitors to the area for feeding, reproduction and rest are as follows:

Manatee

Protect the Canal Green Environment

A dense green buffer (shown here in part on the Coral Gables Canal near the University of Miami, abutting the Doctors Hospital parking leased from the City of Coral Gables) provides significant community, environmental and ambient benefits to residents and homeowners in the City of Coral Gables.

The many community benefits of the green area:

  • Provide wildlife habitat (birds, fish, reptiles, manatees…) diversity
  • Traffic calming and noise mitigation
  • Impeding views of car traffic, valet parking, buses and ambulances
  • Impeding view of Doctors Hospital buildings
  • Mitigate Doctors Hospital lighting
  • Wind and temperature mitigation in storms and hurricanes
  • CO2 capture
  • Favor canal users’ recreational boating and fishing
  • Bolster local property values

The City of Coral Gables is negotiating the sale of the parking lot land to Baptist Health (Doctors Hospital). This could lead to a reduction in the green environmental buffer for the local residents and visual invasion of Doctors Hospital into the quiet neighborhood.

It is hoped that the City of Coral Gables will fortify the residents by setting clear limits on future land use. Otherwise, this raises questions about the sale of the property.

The city should prohibit the construction of structures (buildings, walls..) of any kind on the land and guarantee the future maintenance and sustainability of landscaping just as dense and beneficial as the existing green buffer. A mechanism to regularly review the maintenance and sustainability of the green area should be considered.

CANAL VIEW HOSPITAL AND PARKING HIDDEN

Endangered Green Area: Overview

This is a satellite view of the Doctors Hospital (Baptist Health) parking lot leased from the City of Coral Gables showing the lot and the green barrier between the lot and the neighborhood streets (Granada, Carillo, Pisano).

The City of Coral Gables plans the sale of the parking lot and the green area to Baptist Health for an estimated $3.0 million.

The green buffer hides views of the Doctors Hospital building, traffic and parked cars from the area residents and supplies numerous environmental benefits.

It is worrying that Doctors Hospital will re-landscape the area with the subsequent loss of the environment and local property values.

The City of Coral Gables should require that no buildings or other construction (walls) be allowed on the property and that the green buffer be fully retained or significantly improved.

If the City of Coral Gables cannot ensure the permanency of the dense green buffer then the land sale may be questioned.

City of Coral Gables FL on Sustainability, the Environment and Climate Change Response

A very recent resolution of the City Commission:

RESOLUTION NO. 2020-
A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF CORAL GABLES, FLORIDA, DECLARING A CLIMATE EMERGENCY, AND URGING THE STATE OF FLORIDA AND THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE FOR RESILIENT AND SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES AND PROPER STEWARDSHIP OF THE ENVIRONMENT

This is the description of City of Coral Gables sustainability and environmental initiatives:

The City of Coral Gables recognizes that sustainability must be a key focus of the City’s policies and services, with targeted investments in energy, water and waste efficiency. Creating this sustainable city requires a commitment of leadership and coordination across the organization. Whereas, the City will consider the environmental impacts of its operations, and develop creative and practical solutions that will minimize our ecological footprint. We will integrate sustainability in the places residents and employees live, work and play, and provide the guidance and resources for our businesses and citizens.

https://www.coralgables.com/sustainability

Green Goals in the City of Coral Gables:

The City of Coral Gables will take measurable steps towards becoming a “sustainable” community by providing a healthy setting for residents, workers, property owners and visitors and increase awareness of green development practices and ways to have a significant impact on the City’s environment including the following: protecting the quality of air, water, land and other natural resources; conserving native vegetation, fish, wildlife and worldwide ecosystems; minimize the carbon footprint; and reduce greenhouse emissions.

https://evogov.s3.amazonaws.com/media/91/media/165649.pdf

City of Coral Gables–The Environment

In recent years the City of Coral Gables has introduced a number of valuable sustainable development and environmentally relevant policies and programs.  Recently, the City Commission has approved a statement of its concerns for mitigating climate change effects. There is a strong concern for the protection of green areas, preparation for sea level rises and ensuring sound environmental principles in all programs and projects.

Coral Gables Canal near Doctors Hospital

FLORIDA COVID-19: Wake Up Politicians

Anecdotally, many mask-less people today at the bank ATM. Wake up people, wake up politicians, wake up community leaders. We are headed for more trouble here in South Florida.