A Coral Gables board flat-out rejected all seven items related to the approval of a mixed-use apartment tower near The Plaza megaproject. That means the developer, The Allen Morris Company, will have to go back to the drawing board.
The city’s planning and zoning board rejected the proposed ordinances and resolutions at its meeting late last week, following mounting opposition to the project and high-density projects in the city. Prior to the meeting, Coral Gables staff recommended denial of most of the seven items.
Allen Morris, president and CEO of the firm, nevertheless plans to go before the Coral Gables City Commission next month.
Ponce Park Residences would have 161 apartments, as well as about 18,100 square feet of retail space, with a public park. The 179-foot, 16-story tower is proposed for 3000 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, 216 and 224 Catalonia Avenue, 203 University Drive and 225 Malaga Avenue.
A number of city residents spoke out against the proposed vacation of the alley and right of way, which would have given the developer an additional 13,145 square feet, for a total of 16,147 square feet of floor area ratio. They also opposed a transfer of development rights and a land-use change to high-intensity commercial from low-intensity commercial.
Morris said the process has become “politicized” and that there is a lot of misinformation regarding the vacation. He said the existing intersection at University Drive and Ponce de Leon Boulevard is “severely dysfunctional and dangerous.”
Residents said there has been a huge outcry regarding overdevelopment, predicting there would be a “mass exodus” if it continues. They called The Plaza, which is under construction on the west side of Ponce Circle, a “monstrosity.”
“We saw what happened to the people who live behind The Plaza,” said Coral Gables resident Tom O’Malley. “That neighborhood is destroyed.”
Attorney David Winker, who represents a group of residents south of the project, raised questions as to why the developer was seeking those changes. Winker, like others who spoke in opposition to the development, said “no one wants a concrete park.”
Jennifer Davis, a nearby resident, said the excessive overdevelopment “so close to our homes” is impacting the quality of life for residents.
Morris said he and his team have been meeting with individual neighbors and neighborhood groups to listen to their concerns. He said he plans to bring a project to the commission that answers any concerns of the neighborhood.
“Some [residents] are probably upset about other projects, and they can’t do anything about other projects they don’t like,” Morris said. “And this is the one they can speak up about.”