The Coral Gables City Commission approved plans on Tuesday for a mixed-use project that aims to transform a corner of South Dixie Highway.
NP International, the developer behind the planned Paseo de la Riviera project, received approval for Gables Station, which includes residential units, a hotel, retail, parking and open space. The 4.3-acre development would replace a surface parking lot and small commercial building at 251 South Dixie Highway, which currently houses cars from the Collection.
The project was previously approved for big box retail development by developer Jeffrey L. Berkowitz,, which would have generated up to 2.5 times the traffic, according to a traffic impact study cited during the commission meeting.
Among the points that NP International addressed from a previous meeting: public benefits that include funding a portion of the Underline linear park, ground level landscaping, funding the purchase of a trolley and operating costs, and incorporating Bahamian building design.
The Coral Gables commission voted in favor of NP International’s requested height increases, which call for up to 16 stories instead of the 10 allowed under current zoning. Commissioners Jeannett Slesnick and Vince Lago voted against the project. The developer said the taller heights would compensate for the noise generated by the Metrorail noise, as well as be higher than a series of power lines that will be installed.
“If people want to build 16 stories up and down U.S. 1, and it’s coming, we’re going to have a canyon like Brickell along U.S. 1,” Slesnick said.
While the majority of residents at the meeting supported Gables Station, less than a handful spoke against it. “I really question whether or not we’re kidding ourselves that people who live there are going to use public transportation,” Marlin Ebbert, a Coral Gables resident, said.
As planned, the transit-oriented development will be divided into three towers with a total of 526 luxury apartments, 66 hotel/extended-stay units, 75,294 square feet of retail space, and a paseo with green space. It’s also seeking LEED certification.
The property is on the border of Coral Gables, across from Gables Ponce and running parallel to both the Metrorail (and planned Underline) and South Dixie Highway. Architect Jorge Hernandez said the southernmost building would activate public space with a plaza, arcades, colonnades and fountains. He called the space a “common living room.”
Friends of the Underline founder Meg Daly publicly supported the development, as did residents from the nearby MacFarlane Homestead District.
“Since the beginning of time, we have had to walk out to U.S. 1 and look at the ugliness or parking lots with trucks and cars,” community activist and historian Leona Cooper said. “It’s about time that our neighborhood experiences something new and beautiful.”