UM Complains Against City of Coral Gables

Link to MiamiHerald.com | 01/18/2007 | UM blames Coral Gables for $50M in delays

Authorities (President and Board of Trustee members) of the University of Miami raised fierce public complaints against the City of Coral Gables for delays claimed in approving changes in the University’s Master Development Plan. Mayor Slesnick clearly layed out the history of the issue with the City. The City Manager responded that the UM had not reached a development agreement that would have included impact payments (in lieu of property taxes) to the city for services provided to the university and the increasing effects of the universities growth on adjacent residential areas. The university going public seems like a crude and heavy handed negotiating ploy to publically pressure the City to convey agreement to a long list of changes in its master plan, whose consequences have not been properly studied.

The university held only one meeting to consult with Coral Gables’ residents on the proposed changes–far too little for a plan that encompasses more than 25 categories of changes in the construction program. This nominal consultation seems to stem from a distrust by the university of residents (who complained for past developments) and fear of mobilizing the community against the changes some of which may have non-trivial impacts on the community.

One of the greatest concerns of the local residents is the rapid increase in traffic around the university and the lack of disincentives for students to drive their cars to the university.

Another issue is that the Master Plan seems to involve pushing the less desirable buildings (especially parking garages) to the fringes of the university and moving the construction of these facilities bordering closer to community streets.

One may wonder if the university could try to architectually and esthetically project out to the community with a better face, moving the parking into the campus, create incentives and systems to discourage students from parking on the fringes of the university campus and build the campus vertically.

The new aggressive approach of the university is not likely engender and gain support from the local community.

About Stephen E. McGaughey
International consultant in economic development programs and projects

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