Gables Team Hints First Option Is Downscale Biltmore Way Project
By Sherri C. Ranta
A panel weighing the fate of a $16 million Coral Gables administration building and parking garage early in the going have voiced strong opinions about downsizing the project, which was halted in early phases of construction in mid-April.
Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman George Corrigan said seven members of a citizens task force "came in with pretty strong opinions" and found "common ground" during their initial weekend meeting.
Appointed by the city commission to review the project and make recommendations to commissioners May 29, the committee seems to be backing a smaller version of the project, Mr. Corrigan said.
Members said they favor scaling back the administration building from 60,000 to 42,000 square feet and the garage from six to four floors. They also discussed moving the administration building more to the north or behind city hall, Mr. Corrigan said.
The city’s purchase of 427, 475 and 495 Coral Way is also being considered as alternative locations for city administrative offices, he said.
Mr. Corrigan said the committee is still trying to match the objective of the former mayor and city commission "to get everybody under one roof." City offices are now housed in multiple buildings.
Work stopped on the administration building and garage complex in early April after 11th Circuit Court Judge Steve Levine ruled illegal the city’s contract with Turner Construction Co., citing the city manager’s and commission’s authority to negotiate and execute a contract for the project.
Three residents – Shirley Maroon, Deborah Lang and Roxie Bolton – challenged the city and Turner.
About $1.4 million in work had been done before work stopped, Turner officials said. Rebar and concrete blocks have been left at the fenced site next to city hall.
City Attorney Elizabeth M. Hernandez said the judge has ordered those involved to "schedule a hearing and brief on what is an appropriate relief." That hasn’t yet happened, as the city commission contemplates the fate of the project under review by the blue ribbon committee, she said.
The committee is to listen to residents during three hearings at City Hall at 6 p.m. May 8 & 9 and 9 a.m. May 14. The committee is to meet again at 5 p.m. May 7 and 6 p.m. May 16.
Meanwhile, Turner is also awaiting answers. Vice President Scott M. Skidelsky said the company is "absolutely not in litigation with the city now nor do we ever intend to be.
"We will work with the blue ribbon committee and the city commission and city managers office and do whatever they need us to do to help expedite this evaluation and come up with the optimum solution," he said.
Turner officials have said the one-month delay could cost subcontractors about $500,000, a figure that includes fees for security, fencing, crane rentals and material storage.