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Over the last two years, the City has sold the parking lot at 350 Greco Avenue, the parking lot in front of Doctors Hospital and has preliminary authorization by the Commission to sell the unused TDRs (Transfer Development Rights) of the Coral Gables Museum and Miracle Theatre.
Now, the City Commission will be discussing granting the City Manager the ability to negotiate a lease or sale of the parking lot at 234 Navarre Avenue.
As previously reported on Gables Insider, the item came to light in February, following staff’s attempt to block the City’s volunteer Property Advisory Board from seeing unsolicited bids after months of the item being on the board’s agenda.
Due to Assistant City Attorney Cristina Suarez’s presence at the meeting and discussion on why they should not receive the report, members of the board asked if an unsolicited bid had been received during that month and they were informed a bid by Location Ventures, LLC had been received.
The bid is dated January 28, 2022. It was a letter of intent sent to City Manager Peter Iglesias by Location Ventures, LLC, for a 99-year lease of the 20,000 square foot surface parking lot located at 234 Navarre Avenue. (Click here to see a copy of the bid).
The bid offers the City a $214,375 annual payment for the first 5 years with an adjustment every five years after that. The proposal offers as public benefits, to: “provide public parking as part of the City-wide’s master mobility plan; dedicate a public green space on Minorca and Salzedo, congruent to the new public safety building’s open space frontage; pay approximately $150k annually more than the Property currently generates; and pay approximately $100,000 annually in City (excludes County) real estate taxes.” So far, it does not sound like such a bad deal.
Location Ventures, LLC
Location Ventures, a Coral Gables based company, is the owner of several properties on Minorca Avenue, across the street from the Public Safety Building. The company is owned by developer Rishi Kapoor who according to reports is currently working on two co-living developments in Miami-Dade County.
As defined by Wikipedia, co-living is “a residential community living model that accommodates three or more biologically unrelated people.”
Taking The City’s FAR and TDR’s
The bid explains Location Ventures’ plans with the property as follows: “The Lessee is plans on developing residential units on the northeastern corner of Minorca Ave and Salzedo Street (“Lessee’s Project”). The Property is separated from Lessee’s Project by a public alley. The Property and Lessee’s Project’s future
land use designation are Commercial Mid & High-rise. The Lessee is requesting the transfer of the Floor to Area Ratio (FAR) of 70,000 SF (3.5 FAR x 20,000 SF) and 17,500 (.875 TDR x 20,000 SF) of Transferable Development Rights (TDR’s) from the Property to the Lessee’s Project. The Lessee will build a multistory
parking garage with ground floor retail on the Property to meet the parking requirements for its project.”
In other words, Location Ventures is seeking to use this City owned property’s FAR and TDR’s to build a larger project, at a complete risk to Coral Gables residents.
In addition to building a multi-story parking garage it will use for its high rise and charge parking of City residents to use, build retail space it will rent out, it would also mean that their new high rise tower would benefit from 70,000 additional square feet of floor area ratio.
In addition, the City must move quickly on their project. They explain that “the approval of the Lessee’s Project is necessary for entering into an agreement.”
Research into Location Ventures also yielded an interesting connection to Asset Manager Sardinas. The company lists its Vice President of Development as Sardinas’ predecessor, former Coral Gables Assistant Director for Economic Development and Asset Manager for the City from July 2011 to March 2019. He was the staff liaison to the Property Advisory Board.
Location Ventures’ website explains that, “Leonard Roberts, Vice President of Development, is responsible for ensuring Location Ventures’ projects obtain the municipal entitlements necessary to achieve the highest and best use.”
Questions About The Bid
Perhaps one of the most concerning parts of this bid is fact that if there is a default or breach of any kind, the City would not be able to recover the FAR or TDR’s gifted to Location Ventures. As has been discussed at recent Commission meetings and the Budget Advisory Board, the concerns over lack of payment by lessors to some City properties have left some wondering whether long-term leases are beneficial to the City in the long-run or not.
Location Ventures intends to seek financing for the construction and will have a mortgage on the property until such time as the construction is complete and they seek a refinance of the debt.
Following the sale of the Greco lot and the sale of the Doctors Hospital lot, the Commission has stated they have no interest in selling any additional assets, however, it seems to continue to happen. The reason, financial issues.
On the heels of Gables Insider exposing high raises and Executive Benefits Packages given to City administrative staff in October, City Manager Peter Iglesias stated at the Wednesday, October 19th Historic Preservation Board Meeting, that the City has “a number of issues, financial issues, to really deal with.”
The comments came as the volunteer resident board discussed the City’s proposal to sell transfer development rights (TDRs) in the equivalent of 48,235 square feet from Miracle Theatre, in order to create revenue for preservation of historic buildings.
According to staff’s memo to the board, “the funds obtained from the sale of the TDRs will be placed in the new Historic Building Fund. This fund will be used to undertake repairs to City-owned historic sites including, but not limited to, the Miracle Theater.” No financial figure was provided for the expected sale amount.
Companies owned by the developer (Location Ventures and Location Development) have donated $19,000 to Coral Gables First, Lago’s unofficial Political Committee, since February of last year. $10,000 came in May of 2022, following the discussion on the Commission’s lack of interest in selling another parking lot. No other member of the Commission has taken contributions from these entities.