Concrete Canyon to Take Over Miracle Mile?

At October 27th City Commission meeting, commissioners took up an updated city-wide zoning code for approval on first reading. As part of that update, changes proposed would allow for remote parking combined with height and density formulas on Miracle Mile. According to the new code proposal, current single-story parcels can re-develop up to six stories (70 feet) in height.

The item passed 4-1, with Vice Mayor Vince Lago being the sole dissenting vote. Commissioners Michael Mena and Jorge Fors, made it clear that while they were voting yes on first reading, it does not mean they agree with the proposed changes as written and does not guarantee their vote on second reading. Regardless, the item is one vote away from passing at 2nd reading which has concerned residents nervous.

As explained in our previous story and as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. Allowing properties to take advantage of remote parking allows developers to build more in regards to height and density within the building envelope. Currently, properties would need to build parking, which is not feasible for most of the properties along Miracle Mile. As a result, the look and feel on historic Miracle Mile has remained the same since 1922.

Prior to the meeting, Lago wrote a memo outlining his position on the zoning code wanting a lower height and density requirements. He wants to keep the building heights to no more than 3 stories with significant setbacks. Lago agrees with remote parking and does not want to see parking garages right on the mile.

Commissioner Patricia “Pat” Keon lead the charge to quickly pass the nearly 1,000 pages of a new zoning code because the city has already invested $25 million re-doing Miracle Mile streetscape. As per Keon, the city now needs to help developers redevelop Miracle Mile. What would the struggling business owners say about more construction disruptions?

“In doing remote parking, what we are creating is a tool to be able to achieve that vision as to how the Mile will develop. Is it a gift? Is it not. Listen, one way or the other, it’s a tool to be able to achieve a vision” said Keon who is not in favor of restricting density or height on Miracle Mile.

Keon went on to say that restricting massing would not please developers.  “I think maybe, it takes more meat off the bone than you really want to do. I think you need to leave enough meat on it to encourage people to develop,” said Keon.

In contrast, Lago wants to ensure that massing is reduced, which is aesthetically a lot more appealing. “We need to consider what we’re doing here, because we need to protect the integrity of Miracle Mile.” said Lago. He wants to see Miracle Mile to be more in line with Worth Ave in Palm Beach or Rodeo Drive in L.A. in terms of scale.

Lago says there are developers looking at opportunities to build massive structures if Keon gets her way, citing the Barnes & Noble site in addition to a hotel without parking across from Hillstone’s known as 220 Miracle Mile. Gables Insider has also learned that the owner of the site of the former Navarro Pharmacy at 93 Miracle Mile also wants to build a hotel if this zoning re-write is approved.

After the vote, Keon asked Lago why he keeps on bringing up 220 Miracle Mile. She asked, “What is 220 Miracle Mile?” Lago reminded her of the project, which appeared before the commission that was out of scale and was not buildable within the current code.

“The reason why we have the zoning code here, you may differ, but the reason why we’re here today is because there has been an internal push to get this project pushed — of epic proportion like I have never seen. … But let’s be honest with ourselves, you have pushed for this project [220 Miracle Mile]  and have pushed and pushed and pushed to the extent that you have even attended a Planning and Zoning meeting to make sure this gets rammed through.” said Lago.

Keon quickly responded, “I didn’t”. Lago then raised his hands with marked pages from the July 29th, 2020 Planning and Zoning meeting in which her testimony appeared in three separate pages.  She appeared before the city’s board seemingly lobbying in favor of developers. Lago called her appearance before a lower board unprecedented and heavy handed.

Gables Insider learned that Keon also attended a prior Planning and Zoning board meeting on October 17, 2018, in person.

Vice Mayor Lago addressed Keon saying, “I hate to remind you, you don’t work for the developers, you work for the residents.”

Commissioner Keon continued to seem ‘forgetful’ on the dais, also claiming that the project at 220 Miracle Mile had not gone before the city. However, staff corrected her saying that the project did indeed come before the commission and several boards earlier this year.

Gables Insider spoke with former city officials and planning and zoning board members who confirmed its unheard of for a sitting elected official to appear before the planning and zoning board for advocation of an item that will appear before the commission as-a-whole.

In wrapping up the heated debate, Mayor Valdes-Fauli said “Miracle Mile is sick.”, implying that these changes are necessary. However, Commissioner Mena’s responded saying, “Keep in mind that as we approve board swaths of zoning that would bring significant amounts of commercial retail to the downtown area; that will only make it harder for Miracle Mile and its tenants to compete.”

The second hearing for the Miracle Mile proposed zoning re-write will take place in December. It should be noted that Vice Mayor Vince Lago who is eligible for re-election has decided to run for mayor in 2021. Pat Keon, also eligible to run for re-election as commissioner, has been considering a run against Lago. 

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27 thoughts on “Concrete Canyon to Take Over Miracle Mile?

  1. We are seeing the largest development go up in Ponce circle (Ponce Plaza). A real behemoth!!!
    Me and my wife wonder how that got approved by the city? Who got paid under the table?
    It is a shame that even at the level of our city government such corruption goes on.
    The citizens around that huge development are all worried about the impact to our neighborhood.

    Respectfully Ms Keon and Mayor Valdez-Fauli, please find a job directly with the developers you now represent.
    CCG is not Brickell or Kendall! There are strict zoning restrictions and construction codes in this city that must be respected.

    I am amazed CCG is so strict with the color I want for my house or if I need to upgrade my windows yet developers are doing whatever they want.

    Vice Mayor Lago, please keep up the good work. I am sure it is not an easy task.

  2. Let’s be grateful for Commissioners Lago and Mena. Pat Keon needs to go. Now can someone please explain to me how this developer biased zoning code even got to a first reading without public notice?

  3. I have lived here since 1972 – 48 years!! It was the City Beautiful.. residential and downtown. The tallest structure was the office building Ponce de Leon…12 floors!!! But things have changed and not for the better! It will become a concrete canyon-pathetic!

  4. It’s a travesty to change the density on Miracle Mile. We have huge developments with no setbacks all over Coral Gables. The Mile is supposed to be our Main Street and it was recently redeveloped to be a street that would invite pedestrians. We spent a lot of money on that project and now our politicians want to throw it away to pander to developers?

    I think that traffic studies would show that our streets cannot handle the traffic from the currently approved projects, never mind the additional traffic from a Miracle Mile with greater density. I think that it’s time to vote out of office Ms. Keon and company and wonder whose interests they are serving. Keep fighting for us Mr. Lago!

  5. I’m in construction so for my business is good but, personally, as a 16 year resident of C.G., i’m also for development, get rid of the little parking, make developers provide hidden parking like taking existing city garages and doubling them in size in exchange for them to go higher?? People don’t need to be concern with empty stores, developers are then ones taking the risk, more space, means more competition, maybe lower rents for more choice, variety, more stores to come in, the denser it is, the least people will drive, the more people for the stores, etc. More trees, shade, and restaurants on the wide hot sidewalks of today.

  6. Stores are empty, yet they want to allow to build more square footage to remain empty? That does not make sense. Stores are empty because rent is too high and the owners would rather write off the ‘losses’ of unleased space on their taxes. Also, that 220 Miracle Mile project deviates from the reason why Coral Gables is a beautiful place.

  7. The sidewalks of downtown Coral Gables are stained with the blood of so many failed business.
    The Giralda and Miracle Mile projects were a killer and now the pandemic has nailed the last nail on the coffin. Not withstanding this , for the first time the mile has been decorated with a “harvest” motif. Does anyone have a list if all the closings in the last three years??? It must be long.
    There must be a surplus when we can spend funds in this new “endeavor” for the moribund mile.
    The mile is almost empty and many establishments are on their last legs.
    We need a reality check. Paraphrasing the old song: The Gables just ain’t what it used to be many long years ago and it is a pity.

  8. Thanks to Maria and Neighborhood Assoc. for fighting and exposing this undesirable code change. Keep us informed.

  9. Can someone explain the landscape we NOW have in Miracle Mile??? It looks like a jungle (too busy) with NO cohesiveness; not to mention that is not well maintained or made to look “manicured”. Whose planning was this???

  10. While the commission considers changing zoning why don’t the include the Granada golf course into their plan and turn it into a soccer stadium. Now that would catch the attention of the mayor, considering he lives right on North Greenway. City beautiful forward thinking.

  11. Oh Ms Keon knows exactly who she works for: the developers who are obviously trading something of value for her vote. Same story all around whether local ,State or Federal government. The residents need to vote in persons on the commission who love Coral Gables to the extent that they place the City’s aesthetics and future appeal ahead of their need to collect their reward upon developer delivery.

  12. Listed my house for sale this week after having 2 homes here for over 25 years. Million dollar “Tin flowers” for traffic circles, ridiculous prices for unwanted and unneeded “art” and worsening traffic, huge “trash pits” in front of houses, many littered with multi colored “dog poop” bags, traffic signs seem more like a mere suggestion, not the law, etc. City Beautiful is a term that no longer applies!

  13. This continues over and over. For Mayor Valdes-Fauli to say “Miracle Mile is sick.”, clearly shows his bias towards the residents and be on the side of developers.

    Miracle Mile is sick because of policies that he and others have adopted. The recent construction on The Mile shows just how incompetent decisions are made that have driven business away. Take, for example, Flowers & Services. It is my understanding their rent more than double and therefore they had to relocate elsewhere following the re-do on The Mile.

    It seems that the mayor’s office was with a pandemic before there was a pandemic. That is, figure out a way to drive small businesses away from The Mile and other areas.

    Time to have a recall election and/or investigate all finances of the commission and that of their immediate family or both.

    Such a beautiful city only to be destroyed by greed.

  14. How dare any Commissioner forget that we the people are their constituents not commercial developers. We voted them into office to represent our interests. I think a three story height limit is reasonable for such an iconic and historic street as Miracle Mile. Very few residents want to drive or walk through a concrete canyon of development.

  15. A concrete canyon on Miracle Mile will ruin the look and feel of the City Beautiful.

    Tall hotels and remote parking will make it look like Collins Ave in Miami Beach. Is that the intended purpose? More foot traffic is good for business, but Collins Ave? Please not.

    Perhaps a compromise (a rarely used word these days) where we can have structures up to 3 stories high as Lago wisely proposed, but only one such structure on each side of Miracle Mile per city block, for a total of no more than ten 3-story buildings (since there are 5 blocks between 37th and 42nd Avenues). This approach should probably work for the next 20 or 30 years.

    In addition, as Mena mentioned, we may not want to dramatically augment retail supply in a short period of time (2 to 5 years). Market forces (demand), especially in retail, do take time to adjust to capacity to meet supply, and it may very well not be in the best interest of today’s landlords and businesses.

    Finally, when working for a city (just like in politics), conflicts of interest may present themselves from time to time. It helps to remind ourselves where our fiduciary responsibilities are, who pays our salaries, where our loyalties should reside. Serving the greater good of a community is in the heart of being a public servant.

    Thank you for all you do.

  16. Wow, Mr. Mayor you saying Miracle Mile is sick and the only cure is more parking garages when you can’t even keep the ones we already have up to date is completely shortsighted. Most are crumbling and leaking. Someone has to remind you all of the street section which is what gives this main street it’s allure. No one wants more parking when you have so many stores empty because you have not done anything to help small business during this pandemic. You will lose the small town feel of walking around in the Gables. There is enough parking throughout downtown Gables you guys just made a deal with developers to fill your pockets and you don’t realize you will be welcoming the beginning of a ghost town which it’s already starting to look like. You already did it by allowing that huge obnoxious village project to go forward just because it had Mediterranean details to dwarf the circle which is now forever under shadow. Think before you approve and while you are at it please remove the other eyesore from the Coral way circle you call a “flower”. It’s embarrassing what you guys are proposing. Thank you to Mr. Lago for being the only logical person in the room.

  17. We will have to get rid of Ms Keon in the next election. Residents’ interest must never be placed under developers’.

  18. I’ve lived in Coral Gables since 2003. I totally hate Miracle Mile. It was an ugly place in 2003 and it remains an ugly place in 2020. The “facelift” that was done is totally absurd. It widened the sidewalks without increasing shade so that, in the summer (which in Miami lasts about 360 days) and during the rain (a good 200 days per year!) you can’t really walk it. Plus, all of the little stores don’t have any sort of architectural harmony. The “street parking” there is a joke and one might just do away with it altogether.

    Allowing taller buildings should allow the city to press developers for more arcades to provide shade as well as gain other concessions.

    As a long time resident, I’m 200% in favor of trying to improve it as well as in favor of taller buildings.

  19. Miracle Mile is hideous. No one can honestly say it’s a pretty street. Giralda on the other hand is gorgeous.

    Someone got greased on buying those pavers which look dirty! When developers build on miracle mile they will want more rent and will avoid mom and pop stores as tenants. The few that are left are in jeopardy. Merrick park also has vacancies galor. What do they plan on doing about that. We are still in a pandemic like it or not and they need to accept that fact and focus on the residents not the developers. They will be just fine.

  20. Big mistake, I think we love it just the way it is, to approve it so fast puts you to think why and what is going to happen how it will afect the city growth I don’t think we want more construction they should preocúpate on how to lower expenses and taxes instead of creating more income to be able to cover the growing expenses

  21. In 1946, George K. Zain patented the Zain Plan for Off-Street Parking and Miracle Mile was the example of what turned out to be very a popular down town design for many communities. Lincoln Road was designed in much the same manner. Parking in the rear of the commercial stores with open access from the rear of the stores as well as through various Paseos accessed from the street. The idea was to reduce the amount of traffic and keep the street as pedestrian as possible. The streetscape took us back to the parallel parking concept. Remote parking, behind the street is nothing new to Miracle Mile. But using it as a way to get around parking requirements for high density buildings and hotels was never the intention. Let the developers have their buildings, with setbacks that keep the Mile intact. And with parking that will accommodate the density they are creating. And never forget the employees parking as well … a Class A Hotel will employ the equivalent of one person for every room. 150 rooms – 150 employees. They’re not all going to take the trolley to work.

  22. We need more retail places that can be visited by the residents with products and services not costing us a lot of money – boutiques are nice but exactly how many residents can pay expensive prices??
    And why do we absolutely NEED a HOTEL on the Mile – totally absurd!!!
    It was so nice years ago to be able to walk along the Mile and visit numerous shops for different and unique items but now we need to visit Dadeland Mall or other malls for shopping – even the restaurants are pricey so I wonder if the city caters to residents or to visitors – and after all the work on the streetscape that cost a lot and created problems for businesses you all want to do more construction??? All that is on the Mile now are a few restaurants, some boutiques, and lots of empty storefronts – why???
    Bring back Miracle Mile for the residents’ needs and purposes not for tons of constructions!!!!

  23. I’m all for development. And get rid of street parking on Miracle Mile. It just complicates things for so few spaces. Push cars to garages. Opens up sidewalks for outdoor dining and more.

  24. It’s about time to call it as it is! Our elected officials should put their ears to the ground and listen to the residents. We chose Coral Gables because we liked the way the City was. If we wanted high-rises we would have moved to Miami Beach or Brickell!
    Our elected officials need to represent us and not the developers! I have never, ever seen a commissioner fight so hard to please a developer! Ms Keon needs to decide who she works for!

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