Grove residents, Miami commissioner peeved with transit project plans
By Charlotte Libov
A high-density mixed-use project planned for a Coconut Grove transit station has residents and a Miami city commissioner protesting that the development would be too big for the community.
Residents say they were alarmed by reports that two of three residential towers in the project would be 35 stories and the other 25.
Linda Haskins, appointed to the commission earlier this summer to replace the suspended Johnny Winton, said she is puzzled why the project has become so large.
"I really don't understand how it got to this point, and I have posed this to the Miami-Dade transit folks," said Ms. Haskins, whose district includes Coconut Grove. "It was at significantly lower density, and now the developer is talking maybe 35 stories. How did that happen?"
Ms. Haskins said she sympathizes with county transit officials' desire to create high-density developments that stimulate mass-transit ridership. "Everybody knows that the new urbanism approach is to encourage higher density near transit, but 35 stories in that area is just ridiculous."
She said she has been urged to oppose the project by area residents worried about its magnitude.
Felice Dubin, chairwoman of the 27th Avenue Metrorail Project, a neighborhood group fighting it, said the project has grown substantially. "Originally, in 1999, it was for a 10-story building, a 14-story building and a one-story building. I have the resolution. Then, the lease ended up being for two 19-story buildings and a supermarket. Now it's for two 35-story buildings and a 25-story building," she said.
Rua Enterprises of Miami is planning the project. Although no site plan is required at this point, an application filed with the Miami-Dade County Department of Planning and Zoning proposes 1,554 housing units. Plans reportedly also include office, commercial and hotel space and parking facilities that would be built on a 5.2-acre parcel owned by the county next to the Southwest 27th Avenue Metrorail station.
Frank Talleda, chief of joint development and leasing for Miami-Dade Transit, said developer Carlos Rua responded to a request for proposals in 1999 with a smaller project. "The biggest change is the density. They are now asking for a much higher density," Mr. Talleda said.
Mr. Rua signed a lease with Miami-Dade Transit in 2001 to build the smaller project. Mr. Rua's son, Charlie, who works with his father, said Tuesday that he nor his father could answer questions about the project at the advice of their lawyer, Gilberto Pastoriza.
Mr. Pastoriza wrote in an e-mail that Mr. Rua is working with several county departments to establish development parameters that would serve as a master development plan. When it is approved, "the specific project will then undergo review by the Rapid Transit (Development Impact Committee) and the Board of County Commissioners," Mr. Pastoriza wrote.
Mr. Talleda said the Rapid Transit Development Impact Committee, or DIC, must review the developer's application because the parcel is in a Rapid Transit Zone, created without zoning to foster high-density developments near mass-transit stations.
The proposal is reviewed by the DIC's lower committee, which includes representatives of the county planning and zoning department, the school board, the police department, the county public works department and others.
It then moves to the DIC's executive committee, which would send it with a recommendation to the Miami City Commission. If the commission approves, the application would go to the county commission for site-plan review and approval.
A site plan, showing the specific design of the project, does not need to be submitted until then, Mr. Talleda said.
The DIC's lower committee has reviewed the proposal and a meeting of the executive committee was scheduled for this month. But Mr. Rua's attorney has asked for it to be delayed until September.