Gables finally getting downtown remake
Written by Susan Danseyar on September 3, 2014
After nearly a decade of trying, streetscaping of the heart of downtown Coral Gables could begin by next June, with property owners and the city splitting the $18.8 million cost. At times Giralda Avenue will ban auto traffic.
The city commission on Aug. 26 passed the project, said Acting Assistant City Manager Cynthia Birdsill, 5-0 for Miracle Mile and 4-1 for Giralda.
“This was a 50/50 split of the financing costs, with the city additionally paying the first two years of interest and paying the full cost of the improvements on Biltmore Way,” she wrote in an email. “This is equivalent of the city paying all infrastructure costs, paying its pro rata share of the remainder of the project cost, plus 10%.”
The city is preparing to request quotes within months, she said.
Members of the Business Improvement District of Coral Gables say they’re thrilled improvements are on the way and they look toward working with the city to minimize financial burdens and business interruptions.
“This is a historic moment,” said Marina S. Foglia, district executive director. She told Miami Today the streetscaping has been the district’s top priority for seven years.
“It’s an ongoing process and we are committed to our partnership with the city,” Ms. Foglia said. “It could be a heavy financial burden on the property owners, as only a small footprint is being discussed for assessment of the cost” – properties fronting Miracle Mile, fronting Giralda and behind.
The cost for Miracle Mile improvements is estimated at $15.3 million, $3.5 million for Giralda. The change will bring wider sidewalks, public art displays and open plazas along Miracle Mile to create a pedestrian-friendly area and build foot traffic. At certain times, bollards along Giralda will be raised to make it a pedestrian-only zone.
The streets will feature improved lighting, tree grates, benches, kiosks, better signage for businesses and parking garages, more welcoming connections to garages and alleyways and permanent valet stations.
To help offset the cost to merchants, Ms. Foglia said the district is asking the city to raise parking fees 25 cents an hour and reinvest whatever the area generates into the streetscaping. She said a study last year by city consultant Tim Haahs found that a 25-cent parking hike would generate an added $1.7 million a year.
In addition, Ms. Foglia said, the district is requesting the city to base its tax assessments on 2014, as new properties, including several parking garages, will be built.
During construction, Ms. Foglia said, the district is asking that parking be free.
The district is also asking the city to look into such alternative funding as state and local grants.
Commissioner Frank Quesada, who is a liaison to the district’s board, said the commission will discuss such sources this month.
To finance the project, the city is to issue general obligation bonds. District property owners are being assessed 50% of the cost spread over 20 years.
Several more steps precede groundbreaking, Mr. Quesada said. “We’ll need a final design, and then we will go out to request for proposals for the construction.”