Coral Gables is facing a major change, and how it reacts will define its next 100 years.
Almost a century ago George Merrick set out to create “The City Beautiful,” with 10,000 acres and a focus on design. The master plan had residential neighborhoods, an industrial district, and a central business district. 95 years later, his ideals and codes are being tested by a wave of development not seen since the initial construction of the city.
Over 3,000 residential units and almost 2 million sqft of commercial space have been recently completed or are in the approval process around downtown gables. From larger projects like 2020 Salzedo with over 200 units and 48,000 sqft of office space to smaller ones like 210 Valencia with just 8,200 sqft of retail, the gables growth has exploded and is evident primarily in the central business district.
This growth has been catalyzed by the streetscape improvement project on Miracle Mile and Giralda, as well as the steady increase of Coral Gables as a center for commerce. The streetscape improvement has brought an onslaught of restaurants and neighborhood improvements that are making it more and more desirable to live in its proximity. Developers see this and are building for this apparent demand, creating a viable alternative urban neighborhood to Brickell. The proximity of Coral Gables to major centers of commerce in Miami (MIA, Doral, Brickell, Coconut Grove, etc.) also adds to its value as traffic worsens, and getting around Miami continues to grow more difficult.
Coral Gables has traditionally only allowed for a slow trickle of development, keeping new units controlled and able to be absorbed easily. However, the current commissioners have approved multiple large projects which are being built simultaneously such as the Plaza Project (413 res units & 600,000 sqft commercial space), Paseo la Riviera (449 res units), and Gables Station (713 res units). They have been more bullish than past commissions, accepting this development and it has not come without its pains.
Construction of the streetscape improvement caused multiple business closures and relocations due to its almost 3-year construction schedule (See my previous article on the streetscape construction here). Changes in the North Gables have begun pricing out lower-income residents as new development creeps northward, and transient workers are now eyeing the traditionally low-turnover neighborhoods.
George Merrick’s vision was to create a beautiful city that had everything in it. The development of downtown gables as a true live, work, play environment required an increase in the density and weekday life in the area. With the approval of 3,000 residential units and almost 2 million sqft of commercial space, this density will help Coral Gables reach that level. The true test is if the city can take the next step. An increase in transit options, the creation of affordable housing, the preservation of its tree canopy, and the heightening of Coral Gables’ famous standards of beauty. Without that, what would the City Beautiful be?