Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Coral Gables: Proposed Development Mediterranean Village and the Mayoral Election. Guest Blog

Voters Beware! … in Coral Gables where a 1.2 million square foot “Mediterranean Village” is being proposed that makes the Village of Merrick Park look like a single-family residence. The proposers are the well financed, or better said, the self-financed Agave LLC, an affiliate of a humongous business and commercial conglomerate in Mexico. Think Jose Cuervo, think tequila, think agave worm.

The project includes retail (almost the amount of total retail on Miracle Mile), a cinema, gym, office space, and a hotel and residential component. Height restrictions in the Gables are maximum 16 stories, but Agave has requested to build 19 stories. This 6.72 acre project is surrounded mostly by single-family residential homes that are dwarfed by this grossly out of scale project.

With recent staffing cutbacks by the City Commission at the Fire Department, will public safety be compromised? Never mind the shortage of parking of approximately 651 parking spaces, the amount of ever-precious water this project will require or the green space that will truly be in the public realm.

“It gets curiouser and curiouser” and down the rabbit hole we go... when you read Mayor Jim Cason’s campaign report. Items 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10, are ALL from Agave owned companies. Item 7 is from the construction company hired to do the job. And yet another $5000 is from Armando Codina who also has a development project in the pipeline. That’s $14,000 dollars from two developers with a lot to gain from a Cason re-election.

Will money buy this election? It’s up to us the voters on April 14th to say no to this out-of-scale, out-of-character development by sending Jim Cason into retirement.

Maria Anderson - Former Commissioner Coral Gables

Letter to the Editor:

Greed in the Gables

On March 25 the first commissioner’s public hearing was held for the largest and densest mega-block project ever proposed in the history of the city of Coral Gables that is not “as-of-right”. The proposed project, called the Mediterranean Village, covers 7 acres of land flanked by Ponce De Leon on the west, Galiano on the east, Malaga on the south, and Sevilla on the north. At the hearing, The Mediterranean Village developers, Agave Company, rebutted by saying that they were men of honor and that they deserved to be approved because they had spent three years in the approval process.

There is no honor in a company that is worth hundreds-of-millions of dollars and purchased about 70% of the land at 50% discount during the Great Recession, and proposes to build almost double the amount of square feet that is allowed by right. Moreover, The Mediterranean Village is not congruent with the city’s historic character because it’s unreasonable in size, scope, and scale; and its uses are economically and urbanistically questionable.

Additionally, this project has taken three years in the pipeline, and has cost the city hundreds of staff work-hours because of its unreasonable and unprecedented requests. For instance, it proposes that the city vacates alleys to developers and permits higher heights than what the code allows. Alleyways are historic and they belong to the people. It is unheard of that residents will ask the city to build larger and taller homes than they are legally allowed to do; and, it is also inconceivable that residents will be granted requests to vacate public city alleys to be able to build more in their private properties.

There is also zero honor in the commissioners who have led developers to create an unprecedented McProject that sets new standards in height and density just for their own self-interests. Greed and not honor runs our city. On April 2, the Commission will meet to deliberate on the approval of this project. Let's stop this project the way it’s being proposed and let’s take our city back from special interests on Election Day.

Maria Cristina Longo
Coral Gables Resident


Anonymous said...

A Coral Gables resident told me that she's supporting Mayor Cason because Ralph Cabrerra's personality is abrasive and condescending. I watched their debate a few weeks back - it's also been recorded and can be found online. I choose the challenger who is determined and direct. I see our current Mayor as a ribbon cutter. In his opening remark, he states that he has attending 5,100 events in a two year term. Even though the job requires socializing, that's an over-the-top number means this is a man who just seems like he's working...

The debate can be seen on Youtube. He makes this eye opening remark at 5:20 on the video.

Anonymous said...

Merrick Park was enough, I dont want this Village. I know it is nimby of me but imI want to enjoy my home. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Throw the bum out.

Anonymous said...

Pat Salerno and David Brown - remember them? Both were the City Beautiful's Manager. Both were a hot mess. Both did their damage. Both are the responsbility of the Mayors who were at the helm at the time of their employment.

After the David Brown scandal, in which he wanted a lifetime parking and golf pass to leave quietly after an affair with his secretary and more, you'd think citizens would be diligent about getting good government officials.

Anonymous said...

These are our two choices for mayor: a likable dunce, Cason, or a renegade loose canon, Cabrera.

Cabrera voted and supported BOTH David Brown and Pat Salerno. Then they had a falling out. Mr. Cabrera has a long history of falling out with almost everyone in the City Beautiful.

Cason is predictably dull. I'd prefer a more lively mayor who does more than cut ribbons.

I like Merrick Park. I don't understand what all the fuss was about years ago when it was being planned.

Anonymous said...

I know I'll get killed for this in the comments, but isn't this what the South Dade Watershed Study was about? Where to put the increased development needed for the expected doubling of South Miami-Dade's population? Traffic is already bad in the Gables (so you can't make it worse), this is near transit hubs (US1, Metrorail, etc.), a major population center and other amenities. It does make sense to consider this as it is a reasonable alternative to continued outward sprawl. I know that is little comfort to residents of the area and NIMBY will be in full force, but if we are to protect the future of Miami-Dade, proposals like this require serious consideration - as long as it incorporates a good mix of retail, commercial and residential in its one footprint (that's the crucial caveat for all of this).

Anonymous said...

Jim Cason is full of crap. He made all sorts of sustainability promises to get Sierra Club endorsement and followed through with crumbs.

Cason used his former CIA training to scam environmentalists. I would vote for anyone before Cason.

Miami is the most at risk location in the world for total assets at risk from sea level rise (SLR). Coral Gables is one of the wealthiest cities in Miami...and yet the Mayor and Commission do NOTHING significant to combat SLR or at least set an example.

At least the Orchestra on the Titanic continued playing to soothe doomed passengers...our Coral Gables leaders tell us the iceberg is an illusion..LOL.

Anonymous said...

These are the same guys throwing tens of thousands behind Teresa Sarnoff in order to gain the favor of her husband commissioner.

They are pushing a massive build on the tiny waterfront property of Grove Isle.

For more info: http://preservegroveisle.com/

Anonymous said...

Thanks Phil and Victor for your thoughts on the South Dade Watershed Study. South Miami's residents have no interest in your density and intensity, nor do we appreciate you shoving your plan down our throats.

James Gagel said...

Ralph Cabrera devoted many years to Coral Gables as a Commissioner. He grew up in Coral Gables, loves this place, and knows more about it than just about anyone. I say, let the man have his turn as Mayor. Jim Cason has broken his promise to serve only two terms, because, according to him, no one else is capable of doing the job. Let's tell Mr. Ego to go home and enjoy his big federal government pension, and give the much-deserved job to Mr. Cabrera.

Anonymous said...

Jim Cason's performance at tonight's Chamber debate was an exercise in poor form - disparaging his predecessors while touting his own accomplishments as if he were the savior of Coral Gables. He should check his facts and give credit where it's due. A little humility goes a long way.

Anonymous said...

who are Phil and Victor?

Anonymous said...

looks beautiful. I can't wait for this to be built. I live right around the corner. This is infill development that everyone has been clamoring for.

Anonymous said...

Density and intensity - sounds like everyone's business.

Anon - don't be intensely dense.

Anonymous said...

I understand why having an ugly hole in the center of the Gables is compelling many to say let's fix this now. But why fall for this oversized mammoth that breaks all the rules that all others have to live by. There is a real risk that this Mediterranean Village will canabalize Merrick Park and Miracle Mile activity. How confident is the Mayor that all three shopping zones can survive? Does he care?

Anonymous said...

Residents should fight mega developments.

Anonymous said...

"Fight mega developments"? Ok, but the alternative is sprawl past the UDB to the Everglades. Make your choice: You either hold the line and do stuff like this, or you become Broward south. I don't have a dog in this fight, I just see it for what it is. South Florida continues to get an influx of new residents. How would you handle them? We can't freeze time in a bottle you know.

Anonymous said...

I play by the rules, you play by the rules and these developers should play hy the rules. Allowing the exceptions they want isn't going to save the glades.

Anonymous said...

Surely Agave LLCs motivations for super sizing this development are not to save the Everglades? Its about money and super sizing investment on return. This is still fine as a motivation but why allow new 'supersizing' precedents that are not in keeping with rules for the rest of the city?

Anonymous said...

Everyone in favor has an interest or perceived interest in the project. However, history will prove that traffic, safety, and quality life will be negatively impacted.

I will regret to say that " I told you so" 5 to 8 years from now.

Bill O'Shannon said...

I know I may draw arrows for this, but it seems quite simple to me. We live on a narrow strip of land bound by the water and the everglades and people keep moving down here. There are two ways to manage growth: 1) Sprawl and 2) density. Sprawl is horrible for communities, our traffic, our economy and our environment. This site is ideal for density. It is close to public transit. It will bring residents and shoppers closer to a city center that needs more traffic to help struggling businesses. It will support our economic base by bringing workers closer to our companies, encourage walking and reducing traffic. Density is why Coral Gables has been successful where other communities who aspire to be like us fail. Politics aside, let's make this happen!

- Bill O'Shannon

Bill O'Shannon said...

The truth is sometimes unpleasant to hear. But South Florida only survives by increasing density in its city centers. Furthermore, city centers only survive with a combination of retail, commercial and residential density. This is the right place for density.

(1) It is better for the environment. It will bring residents closer to their work and shopping minimizing travel and commute times and reducing traffic. Furthermore, services can be concentrated in the city center more efficiently and effectively. Moreover the location is convenient to public transportation.

(2) It is better for our economy. Shops only do well if there are residents and workers nearby to patronize them. All the pieces have to fit together.

(3) It is better for the tax base to increase the revenue coming into the city rather than have all the high-rise density projects just on the other side of Douglas mooching off of us.

(4) It will protect the residential areas of the Gables and the county to simply add to the urban core of the Gables.

Finally, Agave remains a good corporate citizen. They have built in the Gables in the past and have shown a commitment to our city. Isn't that what we want. I am supporting the project and think that if you live in the Gables, you should too.

Anonymous said...

He has been quite the opposite of a good neighbor in Grove Isle. He has actually been an a** h**e. You can keep him as a neighbor.

Anonymous said...

I agree to some of your points about it possibly being good for the environment but it can still do that without setting new precedents for going super-sized.

I am not sure where these 650 cars going to be parked. Will they be parked on the neighborhood streets?

I also wonder whether there is enough business to carry Merrick Park, Miracle Mile and this development.

Robin Leach said...

Of course theres plenty of Money (Grow Houses, Medicare Fraud, Insurance Fraud etc etc) to buy Gucci, Boss, Bebe, Zegna etc etc etc....plus we need another place to park Bentleys and Ferraris
Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams!