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:
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.