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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Why Coral Gables’ Refinancing and Capital Spending Decision Is Not Urgent–What Happened To Community Participation and Consultation?

The city manager of Coral Gables had a few cards up his sleeve, so to say, at the last meeting and he sold the commission on three bad ideas.

First, he said that it is urgent to refinance the city’s debt.  I take it that this is because he believes that interest rates will soon rise.  I guess he believes in that there is inflation at our doorsteps.

The economic facts don’t justify that view in the slightest.  Our economy is growing slower than thought, the Chinese are dampending their growth, Japan is stagnant and Europe, except for Germany, Europe is weak.  Inflation is a recent blip in energy and some materials caused pay political uncertainty in the Middle East.  The Fed has announced that it will continue with its low interest rate policy. There is at least one banker on the commission–he should have known better.

Conclusion:  It is not urgent to refinance without first thinking a bit more about the use of the monies and consulting with the citizenry.

Second, he sold the commission on the idea that the $22 million from the refinancing is free–but it will cost about $35 million.  He says we won’t spend more on debt financing than we are paying now.  That is wrong.  By refinancing existing debt we should spend less, not more.

Conclusion:  Refinancing of existing debt would reduce the amount we pay on the current debt and free up money for other purposes.

Third, the city manager has sold the commission on the idea that he has come up with a good list of capital projects.  But the city manager admitted that he had concocted this list pretty much on his own without community participation, and the new mayor and commissioner apparently did a sort of “shoe leather” test of what we need.  Shouldn’t a new, large spending program be consulted with the taxpayers.

Conclusion: What happened to open government, invited and active consultation and participation–on these terms, the new mayor’s and the commissioners’ campaign promises stand out as pure fiction.

Investiture In Coral Gables: By Invitation Only

As a failed observer of the investiture of the new mayor and commissioners, clearly due to the size of the commission room, there was no space for but a few others than the friends of the mayors and commissioners. People crowded into the room and it seemed they clearly exceeded the fire marshall limits (limits that Mr. Slesnick always used to clear the room).

Why not use the museum space for these sorts of public events to get more direct community participation or even an auditorium at UM.

This de facto invitation-only  event is evidence that community participation is the last thing that our commissioners and recent past mayor think about.  Hoping this anti-participation culture will change in the coming weeks and months.