Morris Disregards Commission Desires: Brings Back Ponce Park Residences As “New Project” Without Neighbor Input

Ariel Fernandez

Founder & Editor
[email protected]

The saga involving W. Allen Morris’ Ponce Park Residences continues, as the Board of Architects is set to consider a “new” version of the project this Thursday, September 1st.

At the July 25th City Commission meeting, the Commission voted to defer taking action on the project, buying Morris additional time. However, the message was clear, the project had to feature substantial changes to be brought back to the Commission. The City Attorney also stated that a six month ban on coming to the Commission was in place for projects with substantial changes.

The Commission also made it clear to Morris and his team, the residents who reside in the neighborhood surrounding the proposed project needed to be consulted on the changes to the project and they wanted the project to come back with a consensus between Morris and the neighbors.

Less than a month later, Morris and his team filed plans on a “new project”, which can be compared to taking a hammer and pushing the old one into ground to make it seem as though Morris has made incredible concessions.

Those with knowledge of Morris’ new project, explain that it calls for two stories of underground parking (the had previously stated parking should not be counted towards the building height). This move alone should cause concern, as the most recent two-day rain event caused significant flooding in all underground parking garages in the residential buildings on Biltmore Way.

The project is also 123 feet, an almost 60% increase on the allowed 77 feet if the building is able to secure Mediterranean Bonuses.

Morris has also not met with the neighbors, one of the Commission’s main requests. The project also does not address most of the concerns brought up by neighbors.

The item will be heard at the Thursday, September 1st, Board of Architects Meeting. Those interested in participating can do so via Zoom:


For background on the trajectory followed by this project, here are previous articles Gables Insider has written about this project:


35 thoughts on “Morris Disregards Commission Desires: Brings Back Ponce Park Residences As “New Project” Without Neighbor Input

  1. Timing is essential. Morris should have hustled during the Great Recession as did Agave Developer. Brickell is a nightmare. Please see the Downtown Miami & Brickell skylines in the opening minutes of Miami Vice. I wanted to cry seeing how beautiful our Miami was/ what we lost. A few elegant tall buildings are OK. The Greedy & Corrupt have ruined the Magic City & the City Beautiful. Morris, build on the site a Roman or Florentine Palazzo, with the appropriate scale; you’d be doing the right, noble, aristocratic thing.

  2. I will NOT apologize. You have a poor memory if you believe the Board of Architects has the best interests of the City at heart. Don’t you remember the “mobility hub”, the “mistake” in the Biltmore Way zoning upgrade, Robert Behar’s arrogance to residents, etc.? Please write all of these and all the others down so you will remember history in Coral Gables and not be so quick to join a bunch of puppets on the BOA, enriching themselves at the expense of taxpayers.

  3. Board of Architects gave a great show today.

    They declined the request by Allen Morris for the Mediterranean Bonus that would permit their building an additional 22 feet [2-3 floors] of height.

    Then they advised Allen Morris on how to change the proposal and obtain the Mediterranean Bonus when the building is brought back to the Board at a future date.

    This after the Board chairperson declared that vacating the alley [disregarding the Ordinance that defends public land and effectively limits Allen Morris to 5 floors on both sides of the alley] is acceptable in her opinion [no Board member defended the Ordinance after that although one had done so at length before the chairperson made this incredible declaration].

    Allen Morris then staged a performance in the evening for the illusion of neighborhood involvement and it was outdoors under a big tent [literally].

    The only thing missing all day were popcorn vendors and elephants [there were plenty of acrobats].

  4. I am sorry that some of the people writing comments and criticizing the Board of Architects either did not attend or watch by zoom today’s BOA meeting. There were 2, only two requests they had to decide on: med bonus and design of the building. They denied both unanimously and told the developer to re-design this project! As to the vacation of the alley, it is not the BOA’s purview. Planning and Zoning is the Board that deals with that. Please, give credit were credit is due. The members of the BOA and the City Architect took their time to explain why they couldn’t vote for either one. They should be commended for having the moral fortitude to call a spade, a spade and not bend under pressure. And by the way, the person that suggested to fire the members of the BOA because he thought they had granted the developer’s request, needs to apologize and commend them for a job well done! By the way all the members of theBOA are volunteers. Please get your facts straight!

  5. The board of architects did not and does not vote on the vacation of the alley. That is the domain of the planning and zoning department and eventually the city commission.

  6. The board of architects did not and does not vote on the vacation of the alley. That is the domain of the planning and zoning department and eventually the city commission. When the issue comes up again I hope you will be there to oppose it.

  7. The Board of Architects voted to trash the Ordinance. It was a big gift of the City’s property to Allen Morris.

  8. Zena and Puppet Award you are misinformed. The Board of Architects voted 7-0 not to grant the Mediterranean Bonus. They did the right thing and should be applauded. They did not rubber stamp this request. They were thoughtful and deliberate and determined this this development did not meet the requirements to obtain the bonus.

  9. What did Allen Morris give the members of the Board of Architects who voted in favor of his project, a project the majority of residents don’t want? You probably guessed right.

    Really, the members who voted for Allen Morris should be fired by the Commissioners for their disloyalty to the City. They did not follow the Ordinance. They took the law into their own hands. They can no longer work for the City.

    If it was up to me, I’d lock them up.

  10. This week’s Puppet Award goes to the Board of Architects, Coral Gables, Fl.

    They get the Puppet Award, because Allen Morris and his henchmen pull the strings, connected to the Board of Architects and control what they do.

  11. That letter to the Board of Architects found below is well written but it is from someone else.

    Ordinance #2018-13 was basically ignored by the Board of Architects in their meeting this morning, except for one male member of the Board.

    The developer’s entire team offered nothing but evasive answers to that board member, but he was clear.

    Ordinance #2018-13 protects the alley from being vacated to aggregate the two parcels of land around it. If the alley were vacated as a grant to the developer, the height allowed for the resulting parcel would increase from five floors to fifteen floors.

    Miami Beach residents held a referendum weeks ago, and now vacating public lands in favor of development projects will require approval from residents there, case by case.

    Coral Gables residents do not need a referendum because Ordinance #2018-13 is in place, every centimeter of public land here is protected, and residents are right to demand it.

  12. Breaking News: BOA smashes wedding cake on floor just before Allen Morris and Commission say ‘I Do’.

    To be fair and honest, I liked the previous design but this new version with the archs squished lower to compensate for lower height took away the beauty and ruined the proportions and elegance of original design. The result in the end might just be an uglier building as originally designed and proposed. Either way something will be built there. Just a matter of time

  13. Following the publication of this Gables Insider article above the developer actually issued an invitation to meet with residents.

    The invitation issued today by Spencer Morris (son of Allen Morris) offers to meet with residents AFTER presenting yet another version of this embattled project to the Board of Architects tomorrow morning.

    How will neighborhood concerns be considered if meetings with residents take place AFTER the board?

    If you are a concerned resident submit a letter to the Board of Architects today by emailing [email protected].

    If you are concerned prepare a statement and read it at each of the following meetings.

    9:00 am September 1, 2022
    Board of Architects
    City Hall in person or online by

    6:00 pm September 1, 2022
    Spencer Morris and Company
    3000 Ponce de Leon Boulevard

    6:00 pm September 7, 2022
    Spencer Morris and Company
    3000 Ponce de Leon Boulevard

    The critical arguments to prevent a concrete canyon that will destroy neighborhoods along the length of Ponce de Leon Boulevard are presented below by outraged residents.

    Ordinance #2018-13 prohibits granting developers the alleys along both sides of Ponce de Leon down to Bird Road, any segment of street, or any public land and residents are right to demand its enforcement.

    What entitles developers to expect to be granted a public land for private profit? What resident would be granted even a centimeter?

  14. This letter serves to oppose the Ponce Park Residences project being brought forth yet again by Allen Morris and Spencer Morris for the area of 224 Catalonia Avenue.

    The residents of our neighborhood demand compliance with the Board of Architects Best Practices and denial of the Mediterranean Bonus being sought by the applicants. The project at hand does not adhere to the clear standards delineated for Coral Gables and you are bound to enforce said standards during your tenure on this Board.

    The residents also demand denial of the alley being sought to increase the footprint of this project. This public land is to be preserved intact as per the Historic City Plan, adopted by the City Commission in 2018 through a unanimous vote, resulting in Resolution #2217-240 and Ordinance #2018-13.

    The function of this Ordinance is to prohibit granting the alley to this or any developer. It ensures that the integrity of Ponce de Leon Boulevard, the entirety of George Merrick’s meticulously planned city — with its “right-of-ways, parkways, roadways, ALLEYS, open space, parks, swales, reservations, sidewalks, waterways…” and our quality of life — are protected legally.

    Please honor your duty on the Board of Architects; adhere to standards, enforce ordinances, and represent the residents of our neighborhood.

  15. It is unfortunate that the developer did not act in good faith because the neighbors were ready to meet. Submitting the application to the BOA a day after sending renderings to the Neighbors looks as if the developer’s team was not interested in their input, and it looks like they were moving forward regardless of their feedback.

    If the developer was serious he would have postponed the BOA and sat with the neighbors to come up with solutions.

    There is a real impact of this project on the lifestyle of the residents who reside in the single family neighborhood south of it. Additionally, these citizens are professionals and sophisticated people who are well traveled; and They understand the type of design that will add value to their lifestyle with minimal impact on their well-being. Moreover, They are the demographic group that represents the Coral Gables buyer.

    Listening to these People is in the best interest of all stakeholders!!!

  16. Morris (like every other developer) is no dummy – playing theatre with the Commission for the audience residents. Bravo.

  17. We are absolutely sick and tired of the audacity of a one Allen Morris. Who does this man think he is, or should I say who does Coral Gables think he is. All the attention he gets, the concessions he is given, the fuss over a book he writes, putting him on a pedestal by the Chamber and many businesses within Coral Gables. He is arrogant and has no respect for policies or procedures and less respect for the residents of Coral Gables. He needs to be removed from the agenda, asked to produce minutes from a meeting with the residents and follow protocol. I guess our crooked City Manager, Attorney, Commissioners and weak Mayor are his doormat and refuse to ensure he follows everything by the rule of thumb.

  18. Morris was fully aware of the zoning when he bought the property, seemingly unconcerned with complying with the law, under the belief that throwing enough money at the problem would solve the zoning restrictions. But it is the residents who will have to live with the finished product. Is the developer going to compensate the residents for the noise, congestion and pollution during a few years of construction? Are the residents going to be compensated for the congestion, pollution and drain on our city services after the project is occupied? What do we get out of the deal?

    The Coral Gables city plan is a local historic landmark, officially recognized in 2018 by a unanimous vote of the City Commission [Resolution #2217-240 and Ordinance #2018-13].

    And with that designation, George Merrick’s planned city — with its “right-of-ways, parkways, roadways, ALLEYS, open space, parks, swales, reservations, sidewalks, waterways…” — is legally protected by Ordinance.

    An ORDINANCE is a law or decree by a municipality. An ordinance is a local law. Usually ordinances forbid or restrict some type of activity.

    The City Commission has the duty to abide by its Ordinance and “forbid or restrict” any activity that veers from the decree.

    Residents must continue to hold elected City Commission accountable to keep its duty and abide by its Ordinance #2018-13 to “forbid or restrict” any activity that veers from the decree.

    Oppose any public land GIVEAWAY — specifically historically protected areas such as ALLEYS– by using the power of local law and ordinance legislation.

    Coral Gables voters do not need a referendum to protect their public spaces because they should be able to depend on the city’s Historic City Plan–a historically designated local landmark–to guard its public assets.The city plan is the blueprint that protects Merrick’s city.

  20. Morris clearly subscribes to the philosophy of wearing down whatever is in one’s way in order to achieve ones goals. Water on a stone… squeaky wheel…
    When and where do citizens/neighbors fall into this equation? Those most closely and adversely affected MUST BE HEARD. This isn’t a mono-anything society… our governance is based on democracy and all voices being equal.

  21. Morris bought land that was zoned low rise commercial and knew the restrictions when he bought it. He now wants the city and residents to guarantee him profits by requesting this rezoning and the gift of additional land by asking the city to vacate an alley which the city commission previously designated as historic. The commission needs to stop the giveaways and maintain the integrity of zoning code. By a 78% vote in favor, the residents of the City of Miami Beach just passed a referendum requiring a citywide vote before the city can “vacate” streets or other public property to allow developers to increase the density of their projects. The Coral Gables City Commission needs to pay attention that vote. Residents are sick and tired of giveaways and want more say in what happens with city property.

  22. The cancer on the commission allowing this non sense to continue must be eradicated. More+ris new long ago the zoning law allowed max 77’ height if new building secured a Mediterranean bonus, no alley or roads & paid accordingly for the land assembly. Comply or withdraw.

  23. We neighbors need to keep the pressure on our commissioners letting them know they need to defend the codes. The days of egregious giveaways to developers are over.

  24. Morris cannot mentally accept defeat so easily. In the past he has had so much clout on the commission, staff and Historic Board of Architects wherein he has been showered with concessions beyond comprehension and without much public input. He cannot take no for an answer because he feels that there is no hurdle he cannot cross. The commissioners have set precedents that the developers’ sense of entitlement has overcome his common sensibilities.
    The moral of the story for residents is to stay involved vociferously.

  25. This weeks Puppet Award goes to Allen Morris, because he is arrogant and thinks he is above the rest of us.

  26. Mr Morris seems to have misunderstood the Commission. Both parties, the neighbors and the developer were asked to meet, and in the Gables way, work out the issues before coming back to the Commission. The neighbors and the developer understood and seemed to agree. The neighbors were ready, willing, and able to meet and the only request was to be given the necessary information to be able to intelligently discuss their concerns with the developers’ team. The developers chose to lead them on, keep them waiting and then provide the requested documents less than 24 hours before submitting them to the Board of Architects! Obviously there was never an intent to get together with the neighbors as directed by the City. Another example of the developers’ arrogance the residents of the City have seen in the last years. Let’s hope the elected officials are listening and don’t allow and put and end to this behavior!

  27. Morris hasn’t learned his lesson. He does not own the City’s property or make the rules. The resident’s own it and make the rules. Morris will be taught the lesson, again. A strong slap with a ruler might help him learn.

  28. We shouldn’t allow Morris to do anything in this city if he continues to show his disdain for the clear voice of its citizens while playing a dirty game of back door politics.

  29. This is a beautiful building to replace an old convenience store with a little plaza and park to complement the new Ponce Plaza. Let’s get it done!

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