Opinion: Our City Should Lead By Example

Gordon D. Sokoloff, DDS

Dr. Sokoloff is the Vice Chair of the Parking Advisory Board and the former Chair of the Transportation Advisory Board

I had the opportunity to listen to the Mobility Hub presentation twice.  Most recently, Gensler’s slide show presentation was held in front of a joint meeting of the Transportation and Parking Advisory Boards on October 27th, 2021.  Furthermore, the mobility-hub will replace what is now called “Garage No. 1”, a parking garage that my dental staff and I personally utilized over a 23-year period so I’m quite familiar with the entire area.  Here’s my take:

  1. In Coral Gables, a Mediterranean bonus is awarded to architects and developers who incorporate Spanish-style Mediterranean architecture into their projects.  Our city’s Mediterranean character was introduced by George Merrick et al. to mimic the old-world charm of Europe. There is nothing Mediterranean at all about this mobility hub.  This new building looks like a futuristic, huge monolith, completely out-of-place and wholly incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood.  The proposed hub will reside immediately adjacent to the historic landmark, Actor’s Playhouse (Miracle Theatre).  Our city should lead by example and incorporate Mediterranean architecture into this project. 
  2. The commission seems hell-bent to include one or two floors of commercial space that “could bring significant money and attraction to the community…”.  The city recently spent millions of dollars on the Miracle Mile redo, yet Miracle Mile continues to be on life-support with an abundance of empty storefronts.  The mobility hub is designed to include retail, a catering kitchen, fitness area, and event space.  This parking garage should serve Miracle Mile, not compete with it.  How will the Mile ever stage a come-back when the city is contributing to its competition by adding retail to the bottom one or two floors?
  3. Gensler professes that this ‘new-age’ mobility hub is a place for people to congregate, not just our vehicles.  Really? – let’s all meet at “the hub” and hang out?  This parking garage should serve those people patronizing Miracle Mile and surrounding businesses.  What about the Coral Gables Country Club which is also in deep financial trouble?  The city is trying to reactivate this place, – so again, why do we need a project that beckons people to congregate on the roof-top of a parking garage?  I don’t have children, but if I did, the roof-top of a parking garage is the last place I’d want them to be hanging out. 
  4. This new parking garage should include indicators that show drivers where the available parking spaces are located.  The garage should possess easy ingress and egress, safety features (video surveillance), excellent lighting, bathroom facilities, and easily accessible and dependable elevators.  We require a new, state of the art parking garage with charging stations and areas that accommodate all sorts of vehicles, including bicycles and scooters.  The sustainable features i.e., rooftop solar panels are a great idea also.  However, the other bells and whistles like the rooftop fitness area, the city just doesn’t need and should not pay for!  The new mobility hub will generate plenty of income for the city on its own, as a parking facility, without adding retail. 
  5. According to the City Manager, the construction design includes taller floors so that whenever cars are no longer being used, the building can be reconfigured and retooled for some other purpose.  So, is the intention here to save future developers money because they won’t have to demolish this new structure when they want to build something new?

I understand how the City Manager and our City Commission want Coral Gables to be regarded by the rest of the country as a “city of the future”.  Gensler proudly asserts that this mobility hub will be the first of its kind in the State, if not the country.  Psychologically, this is an attractive concept for those who want to leave their legacies behind.  However, the real legacy should be one where Coral Gables remains recognizable to those of us who have grown up here and love this place.  I fear that if I leave and return someday, what made Coral Gables so special will be gone.  The city should NOT be the ones leading the charge by building something so incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood and against the city’s own ideals.  Rather, our city should lead by example.  As a dear friend of mine said, the City Manager has confused George Merrick with George Jetson.  I cast my vote for George Merrick.  Please go back to the drawing board. 


8 thoughts on “Opinion: Our City Should Lead By Example

  1. Look to the Aragon Garage and Merrick Way Garage for inspiration and successful integration with the neighborhoods. I encourage the idea of a mobility hub, greater transit, micro mobility, bicycling and a safe pedestrian environment downtown. This idea is not new across the country. Cities all over are creating mobility hubs to organize their mass transit options conveniently for users. Orlando, Tampa, MIC, Phoenix… Create the future pushing the limits of electric car charging, new mobility options, etc without throwing out the goose that laid the golden egg of “The City Beautiful” garden city planning and architecture movement.

  2. Very wise words and in plain English Dr. Sokoloff! I can not believe our Mayor and the Commission are behind this project, I can see the City Manager behind this project but not Lago, Anderson and the rest of the Commissioners. What happen to “respect for the past”? Again, the present design does not belong in Coral Gables but maybe Brickell or Singapore. I go with George Merrick and NO to George Jetson!

  3. It’s worse than it looks. Lago is forcing this through without board of architects or P&Z support (probably because he won’t get it). Lago loves transparency, open space and setbacks when it comes to other people, just not for himself. His project should go through the same public process and standards that everyone else has to go through. It takes more meetings and public process to get a swimming pool approved for your home in Coral Gables than Lago wants to get this thing approved. Can you believe this guy?

  4. The ground floor retail is GOOD, in my opinion. My goal for the past 22 years has been to bring a department store to a redeveloped parking garage at 345 Andalusia, requiring and made possible by ground floor retail on this 245 Andalusia site. Ala shopping malls which Miracle Mile is in competition with, the department store pays low or no rent, made up for by the income from the 245 Andalusia retail stores.

  5. The Mobility Hub will be incompatible with a low rise neighborhood, inconsistent with Coral Gables architectural principles and a financial disaster for the citizens of CG.
    The existing structure serves its purpose.
    If it is not broken, don’t fix it.

  6. TUESDAY NOVEMBER 9th Time Certain 12:30pm (Agenda Item F-7)
    F.-7. 21-3306 A Resolution of the City Commission pursuant to Zoning Code Article 1, “General Provisions,” Section 1-104 “Jurisdiction and applicability,” granting Site Plan approval of a mobility hub, located at the site of Parking Garage 1, legally described as Lots 29 to 42, Block 2, Crafts Section, Coral Gables, Florida; providing for a repealer provision, severability clause, and providing for an effective date.City

    ASK THE COMMISSIONERS TO DENY THE “HUB” AS PROPOSED. Send letters to Commissioners & copy City Clerk. [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]

    The proposed mobility hub site plan to replace parking garage #1 will cost upwards of $40 million but the real cost will be the loss of the historic architectural harmony of the downtown area.

    1. The site plan for the parking hub is in an MF3 zone and goes against zoning code section 10-105 which states that “screening” of structured parking is required. Parking garages should be hidden and in harmony with surrounding area.

    2. It is not in harmony with the aesthetic character of the community.

    3. It is an issue of safety due to its wide open ramp design with only wires as barrier.

    4. It detracts from the compatibility and harmony of the area.

    The proposed mobility hub site plan is contrary to the zoning code which requires a parking garage to be screened [hidden]. As the plans show, it is a glass and metal structure that imposes on the “aesthetic character of the community,” contrary to the BOA mission.

  7. Forgot to mention that it costs $42,000,000 according to the City, which really means $60 million when all is said and done. We really have nothing better to spend this on?

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