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The controversial Mobility Hub returns to the Coral Gables City Commission, as City Manager Peter Iglesias will be seeking an additional $640,000 for the Mobility Hub at the April 12th meeting.
Gables Insider had reported on March 17th, in”Mobility Hub In Limbo, As Rising Costs Bring Estimated Price From $28.9 Million To Over $62 Million,” that the Mobility Hub was initially proposed to residents as a $28.9 million project. However, the rising cost of construction labor and supplies had brought the estimate from the city’s contractor to over $62 million. (Click here to see Weitz’s estimated budget).
Iglesias’ “Legacy Project”
Gables Insider has since learned that Iglesias, who is in the sunset of his career and has stated that the Mobility Hub is his “legacy project”, has made it his priority to negotiate with the contractor, The Weitz Company, and reduce the final price. Sources at City Hall informed Gables Insider that Weitz has agreed to reduce their estimate to somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 million. Something that would bring the total project cost to just over $44 million, as many other components are not factored into Weitz’s contract.
Can they deliver? No one can give an assurance, as the cost of construction supplies and manpower have continued to grow on a month-to-month basis setting all-time records.
Using the Police and Fire Headquarters as an example, that project went over budget by almost 50% of the estimated final cost. That project was also managed by Iglesias.
More Money For Controversial Design
One such non-factored component is the controversial design. Although some members of the Commission claim that there are a majority of residents who support and like the design, a public records request by Gables Insider showed that the Commission had only received 4 such emails supporting the design. Two of them from former City staff. Another 36 had been received against it. In fact, 1,060 residents signed a petition asking the Commission to stop the project, specifically due to the design.
Gensler, the company hired by the City to design the project has already been paid over $2 million by the City. Yet, on Tuesday’s agenda, the City Manager is seeking another $640,000 for the design based on a percentage of the project cost.
Iglesias had already asked the Commission to approve additional funding last month when he proposed a change order for $1.5 million to demolish the current garage. That was also not factored in, although it should have been in the initial budget. Sources at City Hall explain it was a miscalculation of what the demolition would cost that required this change.
One of the items driving up the cost is the insistence to build the garage with 12 foot ceilings to allow for its future transformation into usable space in the event that cars are not being used as much and the need for parking disappears. But is this necessary?
No one knows. However, at a meeting of industry and government leaders in 2018, the estimate of reduction of vehicles expected on the roads at the time was non-existent in the near future in areas such as Coral Gables. A true reduction in vehicles, in their eyes, would only be seen as a possibility in areas such as Brickell where people live walking distance from employment and entertainment. Residents have been clear on this issue, they do not want Coral Gables to be like Brickell.
When asked about the impact of the 12 foot ceiling heights, an architect consulted by Gables Insider explained that a change to industry standard garage height would reduce the total height of the building by over 35 feet and potentially reduce the construction costs by at least 20%. A savings of $8 million or padding for potential cost overruns.
The financials of the project have also come into question. No one has explained to residents where the money for the construction of this project will come from, other than the need to secure a bond to cover the costs and incur debt on behalf of residents.
Cost overruns, which every single project under construction today is enduring, have been problematic for the City in recent years. The Police and Fire Headquarters cost overruns resulted in the need to sell the Greco parking lot for $3.25 million and depleted funds for other projects including the renovations of City Hall to cover the expenses.
In this case, the City has no such funds to deplete anymore, which will undoubtedly result in higher taxes and/or the need for additional debt.
Last month, Gables Insider polled Coral Gables voters about the possibility of taking out debt for the Parks Master Plan. Over 57% of residents are against raising their taxes at all.
The Commission will consider the item at the April 12th Commission meeting.