City Manager Breaks Protocol To Push Through Up-Zoning Of Properties Next To Cafe Abbracci, To Bring High-Rise Development

Ariel Fernandez

Founder & Editor
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At the City of Coral Gables Planning & Zoning Board February 9th meeting, the board was presented two items by City Manager Peter Iglesias, to consider zoning changes to properties on Aragon Avenue.

The four properties in question are located between Caffe Abbracci and LeJeune Road. Two of the properties are owned by the City, lots 2 and 4 from LeJeune. The other two are owned by a developer.

Sites to be up-zoned

The sites presently are zoned Multi-Family 2 (MX2), which allows for a maximum of 8 stories and 97 feet with Mediterranean Bonuses. Under Iglesias’ proposal, the properties would be up-zoned to Multi-Family 3 (MX3), allowing for up to 16 stories and 195 feet with potential Mediterranean Bonuses. In other words, Iglesias wants to allow double the allowed height in an attempt to bring the use of the surface parking lots to be the “highest and best.”

No Site Plan

Iglesias’ proposal came with a major missing piece, a site plan.

Most Members of the Board verbalized their deep concerns with the City bringing this up-zoning with no site plan attached. Many chimed in that in their time on the Board they had never seen a project come before them without a site plan.

City Attorney Cristina Suarez defended Iglesias and tried to steer the Board away from their request for a site plan before vote in favor of an up-zoning.

Parking Concerns

Zeke Guilford, owner of the property where Seasons 52 is located, addressed the Board with concerns over the parking issues such a construction would bring to tenants on Miracle Mile. He stated that there is already a lack of parking and a lengthy closure due to construction would have a severe impact on businesses.

Gables Insider can confirm that parking in that lot is presently insufficient and finding parking in the area can be near impossible. Seasons 52, Bellmont Spanish Restaurant, Cafe Abbracci, Tap 42 and numerous others rely on the parking at this location.

Iglesias brushed off his concerns and said they would “work something out,” but was not able to answer the questions.

He stated that the new project would include the same number of parking spaces for public use. However, the current parking situation is insufficient to begin with.

Secure The Up-Zoning To Then Negotiate

Iglesias was asked by Board Member Claudia Miro about the timeline for the project, Iglesias answered, “we would like to move as fast as we can.” He then contradicted himself by saying “this is not something we need to do, so I have no problem walking away.”

“I want to negotiate with the zoning set,” he added.

Miro asked if Iglesias would be able to come back with a site plan at the next meeting, to ease the concerns of the Board. Iglesias said he could not, because this is part of a negotiation.

He then let slip that “unless we can get 200 feet and 20,000 square feet, the deal cannot get done.”

Iglesias intends to secure the up-zoning to then secure a P3 (Public Private Partnership) for the buildout of the lots.

In the end, Robert Behar made a motion to approve the up-zoning and the Board voted 5-1 in favor, with Miro being the only vote against the up-zoning.


28 thoughts on “City Manager Breaks Protocol To Push Through Up-Zoning Of Properties Next To Cafe Abbracci, To Bring High-Rise Development

  1. It’s only a matter of time before I face the sad reality of selling my beloved family home. It’s too big and taxes are insane. At this point the only thing I can say I will miss by not being in Coral Gables is the EXCELLENT FIRST RESPONDERS. The atmosphere has changed, as would be expected, in 35 years, however, this ongoing tendency to overbuild and start looking like Brickell or Biscayne Blvd or Aventura is not something I will embrace. IE:The mobility hub is a lovely design… for SOMEWHERE ELSE thank you. Not the immediate block behind Miracle Mile. Anymore than 16 stories across the street from a residential section of the Gables, and a block off the Mile… where will the line be drawn?
    With this mindset in place, our City Beautiful is losing a lot of of it’s charm. And I don’t for a minute believe change will stay limited to commercial areas. Too much integration with multiple, multi-use humungous buildings going up everywhere.
    As it is, some of the new housing construction in residential areas completely defy the Mediterranean concept. One such is one and a half blocks from my home… just plain ugly.
    Meh, maybe that’s the point.. get the old farts to leave and futuristic Gables comes along…

  2. It would be curious to hear the vision that the current commission has for the future of the city. Coral Gables is the only city I have seen in S. FL that has a sense of community. Coming from the north, we prized the sense that a city was more than a collection of buildings. It is the infrastructure, the housing and commercial stock that is maintained in a way to promoted steady increase in the value of all property and the sense that the people that live and work in the city are the fabric that creates a livable community.
    The Miracle Mile is an example of the poor planning that has allowed both attention and foot traffic to move away from what should be the center of the community. People want to move offices here because they can walk to lunch, to buy a shirt and to get prescriptions filled. The insistence on requiring new large scale building to have commercial space in the ground floor has diluted to draw of the Mile and scattered the service businesses all over the area.
    It is disappointing to see a government that hasn’t though about how CG can be a complete city entity rather than a bedroom community that is close to downtown Miami. Yes to development but only well planned, additive development that leverages the core benefits of living and working in the city.

  3. “A professional politician is a professionally dishonorable man. In order to get anywhere near high office he has to make so many compromises and submit to so many humiliations that he becomes indistinguishable from a streetwalker”.
    ~ H. L. Mencken


    To answer the question posed in one of the comments, “what about the building that was knocked down for the project?” I will remind our community that decisions have consequences.

    In 2018, the City had an opportunity to purchase the building [known as *La Salle] from private owners and preserve, not only the structure, but also the area surrounding it [lots 2, 4] in order to create a harmonious plaza across from City Hall and next to Miracle Mile. This never materialized [bad decision] and today we must grapple with the consequences of that decision. Sixteen-story high-rises that will require more concrete, add more density, bring more traffic, and allow more encroachment to our historic downtown area.

    Before it was known as La Salle [“the building that was knocked down”] the 1923 building stood as the birthplace of Coral Gables. It was the first office of the Coral Gables Construction Company–George Merrick’s company– responsible for building vast portions of the City in the 1920s. This building preceded Coral Gables City Hall. THIS PLACE MATTERED.

    However, it was demolished in 2019 because a year earlier the Coral Gables Historic Preservation Board disregarded the recommendation of the City’s Historic Resources Department and rejected designation [bad decision]. Equally significant in this case is that the “La Salle Building” met all four designation criteria [only one criterion is needed to warrant designation] under the City’s preservation ordinance. If any building should have been designated historic, it was this one.

    It is also ironic that it happened in a city that states that its zoning code is the main document that “preserves the distinctive historic and architectural character of the municipality.” Have the words “preserves” and “historic” become meaningless?

    Coincidentally, the same year La Salle was denied designation, a resolution was passed to give Historic Landmark Designation to the Coral Gables Historic City Plan. A good decision that did not prevent a bad one.

    Decisions have consequences [sometimes good, sometimes bad], but one premise should always guide us: preserving the cultural patrimony of our community each and every time it presents itself.

    Because once a decision is made, one must be prepared for the consequences.

  5. Stop complaining about the city manager already and realize that L’Ego is pulling his strings. Who works in the construction industry – which he reminds us every chance he gets? What about the building that was knocked down for the project. Remember how L’Ego stood up for it? No, because he didn’t. RVF was even involved in the project and still managed to not recuse himself. So, enough already with Iglesias bashing. He has One master and that’s the narcissist you elected.

  6. When will the City mayor and commissioners have the balls to address the issue of affordable and work force and senior housing in the city. Development in the downtown core, following City guidelines is good but not addressing that these new constructions must be for affordable and workforce housing and senior housing will ultimately destroy the downtown core. We have many new restaurants and stores yet none of the people that work for these businesses can afford to live near their work. This causes climate change issues, traffic congestion and a strain and burden on service workers. This is a major issue for the Gables yet no one has addressed it in any forceful way.

  7. And you guys were up in arms over bike lanes 🤣🤣. Quiet, zero emission infrastructure. Here come the cars!

    Peter and Cristina take orders from the Commission. Whoever the developer is has met with every Commissioner before Peter would move this. Not sure why residents will not accept this fact. No developer will risk wasting their time without the support of 3 Commissioners to advance a project. and if the developers are smart, they probably have met with the candidates…..well Lago’s candidates.

  8. This week’s puppet award is to be shared by two people, both in Coral Gables, Fl. They are the City Manager, Peter Igelsias, and the City Attorney, Cristina Suarez.

    Both are the puppets of any big developer. Any big developer just pulls the strings, and any developer gets whatever they want.

    But, the puppet show may close in April, at the election, so the big developers should move fast.

  9. The City Attorney, Cristina Suarez, and the City Manager, Peter Iglesias, were handing out lots of presents to any big developer, so that they can both be financially comfortable, after they both are kicked at of office following the April election.

  10. Just plain shock at all the trash going on in the Gables. New City Attorney appointed because she will go along with the manager, him being the ruler of this City. Never had a search for a candidate. Rotten eggs. Then the board approving such an outlandish proposal as they are puppets for the manager. A mayor who lied to us with Anderson and Menendez in their campaign promises. Every week it is more trash from our Leaders. Do not vote for BUCELO, he is in Lago’s pocket. We been the pushback from honest politicians, not get rich under the table leaders we have now.

  11. Less talk and more candidates opposing the incumbents.
    If Ariel doesn’t win, it’s over for the “City Beautiful”.

  12. Is this really the same Peter? This article surprised me. 25 years ago when I was trying to get my business open, we went through unnecessary hell when he was in the building department. A good portion of the bad rap the city enjoyed was because of him. Don’t get me wrong. I like him very much. But, I always assumed he was by the book. After all the money and construction in our old building, we eventually had to move from Aragon and LeJeune becuase of the inadequate parking.
    I can’t imagine taking what little parking is left there.

  13. More tall buildings will only make Gables traffic worse. Per yesterday’s Herald, Miami among the 5 worst US cities with regards to traffic. Cheap gas, Uber & corrupt politicians are the culprits. Uber lobbyists buy the politicians who later tell the police not to enforce traffic rules & eliminate red light cameras.

  14. Pimper’s Paradise, that’s where we live. Quick fix: eliminate that darn Mediterranean bonus. Friends of Miami-Dade bused in protestors, posing as trailer park residents, to oppose the Little Gables annexation. Maybe we should do something similar: buy some peaceful retired or unemployed people a free lunch, and place them with signs outside city hall, or politicians homes, to get more attention?

  15. Aren’t there term limits for Board Members? It seems like Behar has been there for 20 years … always voting on the side of developers.

  16. So many questions………Could this be another legacy project for the City Manager? Isn’t the Mobility Hub still in the plans? Should we start considering a new statue in front of City Hall? Would that satisfy his ego? When are the elected officials going to remind him that he is there to do what they tell him, as a body, to do? Or is he really the one interested in making this happen? Or perhaps, could he just be doing the bidding of the Commission?
    How could the P&Z Board go along with this? Were they aware that, with or without their approval, it was already another done deal? Is the City in such financial straits that we need to produce more funds at whatever cost?
    Can someone, anyone, provide Mr Iglesias with a script and a teleprompter so he doesn’t flip flop so much?
    Can he give a straight answer?
    Does anyone remember any time when other City Managers got such latitude from the Commissioners? Salerno? Riverbank?
    When are the residents going to stand up and say ENOUGH?

  17. Same old same old. It’s never what’s on top of the table. It’s what’s under it that we never get to see. Enrique Lopez has it all buttoned up perfectly. They can’t tell us what they’re going to build. They just push thru whatever the developers want so they get their “perks”.

  18. less parking instead of more parking! someone is being paid off….and to think I thought this only happened in the City of Miami.

  19. Developers always know what the zoning is when a property is acquired, but they also know they can get their way to up zone, etc. It’s common knowledge and practice here. You try that on your single family home and the result is much different. Why is that? Why does this keep occurring???? FRUSTRATING!!!

  20. How is it possible that the board voted in favor? How can you vote on something against what the city stands for without even looking at the project?

  21. Another shady deal in Coral Gables… Not at all surprised or shocked about the City Manager’s actions as we all know, from his disastrous tenure at the City of Miami, that he’s always looking out to help his friends. Very disappointed in RJ Behar for pushing this atrocity tough. Another “professional services provider” with his tentacles all over the place. No wonder a couple of District Commissioners at the City of Miami have practically “banned” him from getting work. Let’s choose carefully in the next election, folks. These people have to go, starting with the Mayor.

  22. Why are the City Manager and City Attorney pushing so hard to make these changes ? Are they looking to future jobs with developers? 16 story buildings and the parking is insufficient as it is. The traffic is awful.
    The road system cannot hold the traffic we now have in the City. Where are our elected officials ? They all support no changes to zoning and that we get these projects that are not good for existing residents. Fire the City Attorney and City Manager!!! 8 story buildings are enough !!! Vote for Ariel!!!!

  23. Same old suspects on the boards rubber stamping the sold out administration and staffers who have no shame. I wonder about side gifts, dinners and possible renumeration we will never find out about that these developers bestow on their insiders who help them ram these projects through. Coral Gables is but a ghost of its days of glory. Only in name is it the City Beautiful. City Manager and City Attorney are all cut out of the same mold. They can only survive in government as parasites and leeches of taxpayers, with side bonuses from their real bosses, the developers. Excited about the upcoming election and our representation in the commission. Make your vote count to rid our city of the rot. We deserve and demand better.

  24. More housing is a good thing—though I can’t imagine these new apartments will be anywhere near affordable. Still, more housing sounds better than another parking lot. Maybe a big influx of apartments will lead the city or county to look toward better public transport.

  25. I can’t believe the Planning and Zoning Board approved this! That is so wrong. Who is the developer? He knew what the zoning was when he acquired the property. This proposal is so out of scale with its surroundings, not to mention the parking issue. Why do we need this? How does it enhance the quality of life in the Gables?
    Dolly MacIntyre

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