New housing could bring 4,000 new residents to Gables
By Yeleny Suarez
Developments in the pipeline in Coral Gables could add 2,133 housing units and boost the city's population of 43,216 about 10%.
The 67 developments in process - part of a countywide boom of more than 100,000 new housing units - include 40 commercial projects, some of which include housing.
Burgeoning development has helped increase total property values in Coral Gables 10% to 11% a year over the past three years, and City Manager David Brown says there is no reason values should not grow another 10% this year. Present values are $9.2 billion, up from $8.2 billion a year ago.
"Development is doing very well. I don't have reason to believe planned developments will not be materialized," Mr. Brown said. "The city has grown into a corporation-tenant business mix with a good pedestrian flow."
The city's Planning and Zoning Department lists 40 commercial projects in the works as of March 1 that include 1,323 residences at a projected cost of $89.6 million.
Of these, 20 are in preliminary phases, eight in permitting and 12 under permit. The largest project, at $46 million, is at City National Bank, 2701 S LeJeune Rd. Plans call for demolition of a bank building and parking lot and construction of two office buildings.
Meanwhile, 27 residential projects are expected to add 810 units. Two projects in permitting are to include 244 units, 14 with permits are to include 355 and 11 in preliminary phases are to include 211.
Few of the projects require city commission action, said Vice Mayor Ralph Cabrera, because most of them adhere to existing code. "If you build something as of right, you do not have to go to the commission," he said. "This means the buyer checks out the zoning and builds accordingly and then goes before the preliminary review board and then the board of architects."
The city, he said, has very little vacant land, most of which has been held for many years by the McBride family. Mr. Cabrera said the McBrides own a lot behind David William Hotel, 700 Biltmore Dr.; a triangular spot in a residential area; and a lot at Ponce de Leon parallel to South Dixie Highway and Riviera Drive.
Most of the city's commercial development is actually redevelopment, said Dennis S. Smith, assistant director of building and zoning.
"All the people involved in projects are moving very expeditiously forward," Mr. Smith said. "They are moving right into construction drawing, which is a good indication they are going to go forward with the project."
Mr. Brown said the city is working on rewriting the zoning code and comprehensive land-use plan to make sure residents are protected from growth.
"By rewriting the zoning code to be completed by the end of the year," he said, "we are making sure the future growth structure supports parking, traffic flow and fire protection."