Change is coming to Coral Gables, which has long been defined by a strict zoning code that has maintained founding father George Merrick’s vision of the City Beautiful.
From the type of vehicles homeowners can park in their driveways to the type of terracotta roof tiles developers can use, Coral Gables meticulously governs the city’s aesthetics so that nearly every building is done in grand Mediterranean Revival architectural style, every residential block is lushly landscaped and swales are kept free and clear of clutter.
The city’s refined sense of control has made Coral Gables one of the most affluent communities in Florida that is home to some of the region’s wealthiest corporate citizens and foreign investors. Coral Gables has also attracted its fair share of global companies that have based Latin American operations in the City Beautiful such as American Airlines, Kraft Foods, Bacardi U.S.A. and HBO Latin America, to name a few.
Signs of change
Coral Gables recently began work on a $21 million streetscape project in Miracle Mile that city leaders boast will create a pedestrian-friendly experience with garden areas, outdoor dining, improved lighting, wayfinding and public art. It’s the most ambitious public works project on the city in years. By the time the project is completed in late 2017, Miracle Mile will have wider sidewalks, new trees and streetlights, and parallel parking spaces instead of the existing angled parking spaces along the main drag.
The streetscape project will work in conjunction with a new downtown overlay district being considered by the city commission. The proposal would allow developers to utilize more space and encourage more residential development, all part of an effort to get more people to live in downtown Coral Gables.
Among the features of the proposal, owners of small parcels of land wouldn’t be required to have minimum parking if they are allowed to build residential. Restaurant properties would be allowed to have extended business hours and get fast-track approval for outdoor dining on Miracle Mile and the 100 block of Giralda Avenue. The proposal is supported by the city’s Business Improvement District, as well as business owners, merchants and residents who live near the downtown area.
The city commission also paved the way for several dense mixed-use projects along South Dixie Highway that will transform a once-thriving corridor of shopping centers into bustling neighborhood developments that include luxury hotels and condominium buildings.
Coral Gables offers a free trolley service with two routes. The city’s first route runs along Ponce de Leon Boulevard from the Douglas Road Metrorail Station to Flagler Street. Last year, the city began a second route that goes to Coconut Grove. The trolley departs from the same Metrorail station. Both routes run every 10 to 15 minutes from Monday through Friday, beginning at 6:30 a.m. and ending at 8 p.m.
In addition to connecting riders to Metrorail, the trolley also provides connections to Miami-Dade County public bus routes.
Most expensive residential sale
9 Tahiti Beach Island Road, 12,303-square-foot residence with seven bedrooms, six bathrooms, and two half-bathrooms sold for $23.4 million in July
“Right now the commercial market is doing pretty good, especially with the new streetscape project underway. In the last two years, a lot of developers and investors have acquired retail properties in areas close to Miracle Mile and Giralda Avenue after getting wind of the improvements,” said Jose Canero of the Canero Group of Coral Gables.
Demographic changes from 2000 to 2016
Population: 51,117, 9.3 percent increase from 2010
Median age: 40
Median income: $93,590, 25 percent increase from 2010 and 19 percent increase from 2000
Average household net worth: $662,810
Median sales price per square foot: $363, 51 percent higher than the average for the rest of Miami-Dade County
Decrease in average rent over the last year: 2.8 percent for a one-bedroom to $1,956; 10.5 percent for a two-bedroom to $2,522
Most expensive home on the market: 1 Casuarina Concourse, 20,862-square-foot residence with nine bedrooms and 10 bathrooms for $39 million
Least expensive home on the market: 126 Mendoza Avenue, Apartment 3, studio apartment with one bathroom for $65,000
Coral Gables is booming. The current development wave is adding at least 40 commercial and residential projects, 2,700 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of office space and 740 new hotel rooms. Most of it will be housed in massive mixed-use developments that were typically out of scale in the City Beautiful. That attitude changed in the past year as the city commission signed off on several projects that will make Coral Gables more densely populated in the coming years.
A team led by Heidi Eckes-Chantre, Kim Tabet and Christopher Brown is building Giralda Place, a 33-residential unit building at 2222 Ponce de Leon Boulevard that will also include 58,000 square feet of office space, 13,900 square feet of street-level retail and a 419-space parking garage. Units, which includes condos and townhomes, will range between $915,000 to $1.7 million, excluding penthouses. Features include 11-foot ceilings, finished balconies and custom Italian cabinetry.
On South Dixie Highway, NP International has gotten most of the necessary approvals to build Paseo de la Riviera and Gables Station. Paseo is a 2.66-acre transit-oriented development that is across the street from the University of Miami and the planned Underline linear park, which runs underneath the Metrorail. The current structure, a shuttered 155-room Holiday Inn, will be replaced with a 10-story, 252-key hotel and an eight-story, 224-unit residential building with 838 parking spaces and a paseo, or walkway, spanning 352 feet in length and 72 feet in width.
At a 4.3 acre site near the Shops at Merrick Park luxury retail mall, NP is planning to build Gables Station. The $160 million complex will include three 155-foot towers to accommodate 168 hotel rooms and 554 luxury condominium residences. The project also calls for 87,900 square feet of retail space.
On Ponce de Leon Boulevard at the site of the Old Spanish Village, Agave Ponce is planning the Mediterranean Village at Ponce Circle. The $500 million project will span three full blocks to accommodate a five-star, 184-key hotel; a 300,000-square-foot Class A office building; 300,000 square feet of retail; two condo towers; 15 townhomes; a rooftop restaurant; and parks.