United Way gets city approval to build child-care facility, parking garage
By Susan Stabley
After flip-flopping sites and shortening a planned structure to appease neighbors, United Way of Miami-Dade took a leap forward toward building a two-story child-care facility and seven-story garage on Coral Way.
The two structures will be built on parking lots owned by United Way at 3250 and 3150 SW Third Ave., also called Coral Way. The 279-space garage will have offices on its top level and will fill the block from Southwest 32nd Road to Southwest 31st Road.
The Center for Excellence, which will accommodate up to 140 children from 6 weeks old to kindergarten age, will be located behind the United Way's current offices, the six-story Ansin Building. The child-care center, with playgrounds, will fit on a triangular parcel where Southwest 12th Avenue and Southwest 32nd Road meet.
Miami city commissioners gave the go-ahead for the project at last Thursday's planning and zoning hearing. Commissioner TomĚs Regalado, who was not satisfied with the explanation that the center would accommodate children from all parts of Miami, was the lone dissenting vote. The property needed approval for a modification of a zoning covenant.
The project had received an amendment change on March 7, 2002, for a larger child-care center on Coral Way. As then planned, the multistory parking garage abutted a neighborhood, raising residents' concerns.
As permits were finalized for the child-care center, United Way officials altered the design, flip-flopping the two sites, said Adrienne Pardo of Greenberg Traurig, who represented the project.
"The United Way wanted to be a good neighbor and work with the neighbors," she said Tuesday.
The old plans were scrapped and both buildings were redesigned for their new locations. The parking garage was modified to fit with similarly sized structures along Coral Way. The child-care center was reduced from four stories to two, keeping its height at 35 feet, the height of a two-story single-family house, she told commissioners.
A bevy of heavy hitters representing United Way spoke before the commission - including Greenberg Traurig CEO Cesar Alvarez, Royal Caribbean Cruises CEO Richard Fain and Union Planters Bank regional CEO Adolfo Henriques, United Way's board chairman.
"This is the United Way. We care about being good neighbors and other issues," he told commissioners, adding that children from the surrounding neighborhood would get first preference for spots at the center.
Still, many residents came with complaints about the proposed parking, expressing fears of more traffic.
"We cannot afford one more car," said a resident.
Mr. Henriques said all children would be dropped off inside the parking garage, mitigating backups along Coral Way. Offsite parking has been arranged for workers and staff during construction of the facilities.
United Way officials have not set a date for groundbreaking, according to a spokeswoman. Several fundraisers have been held to raise money for the Center of Excellence.