Paseo de la Riviera, a proposed mixed-use project in Coral Gables, drew heated controversy at a packed planning and zoning meeting Wednesday evening, before board members voted to send it to the city commission without a recommendation.
If anything typifies Coral Gables’ “City Beautiful” status, it’s an infamous court battle against a pickup truck owner and a ban on parking such vehicles in front of neighborhood houses.
And at the passionate zoning hearing, the original circuit court judge who issued that initial decision defending the city invoked those principles again to speak out against the proposed Paseo de la Riviera development along South Dixie Highway.
“Look at this in the clear light of day and ask: Is this is going to be right thing for the residents of Coral Gables?” Judge Michael Genden said at the zoning board meeting about the development. Genden lives a few blocks away from the proposed $172 million development that would include a hotel, residential tower, restaurants and retail to replace the existing Holiday Inn at 1350 South Dixie Highway.
That argument, buttressed by more than two dozen other residents, many who also live within a few blocks of the Paseo de la Riviera planned development, at least partially swayed members of the planning and zoning board.
After a four-hour meeting and multiple rounds of votes, including one in which board members voted 3-3 on whether or not to approve the entire project, the planning and zoning board sent the proposed development to the city commission without recommendation. Board members also suggested the developers should consider further lowering the height of the project, including removing one level of the proposed parking garage.
Paseo de la Riviera is designed by Coral Gables architect Jorge L. Hernandez, who had several supporters who spoke in favor of the project at the meeting, including his son, who said having a facility near a mass transit stop was important for younger residents of the neighborhood.
The development, across the street from Jaycee Park, would include a 10-story hotel and an eight-story, 224 unit apartment building with 838 parking spaces. The project would replace the existing 155-room Holiday Inn, and, if approved, also would have 14,853 square feet of ground floor retail and 4,364 square feet of residential space.
After the meeting, developer Brent Reynolds of NP International told The Real Deal he felt the project was “fundamentally sound in vision.”
While there were twice as many detractors for the project than supporters who spoke at the meeting, Reynolds said he felt the project had significant and strong support for that vision.
“This is an issue of city-wide importance,” the project’s attorney, Jeffrey Bass, added.
Judge Genden, along with many members of the Riviera Neighborhood Association who filled the room of the zoning board meeting, disagreed. He told TRD that the reason he invoked the pickup truck case of Kuvin vs. The City of Coral Gables was because he saw a parallel.
“I was asked to determine whether someone should use the property the way they wanted versus the city’s right to maintain a certain image in the city,” he said. Like many residents, he said he was worried about the traffic the project could cause and how it would affect people’s use of the park. “I understand the need for density. The question is: where do you draw the line?”
Bass countered during the meeting that the Paseo project was “very gentle when it comes to traffic” compared to alternatives that could be in that space, including large retailers.
NP International is in plans to complete its purchase of the property, and closing is imminent, project representatives said during the meeting.
The project will now go before the Coral Gables City Commission later this fall.