An 11.4 square mile area of Coral Gables that includes the Shops at Merrick Park, the University of Miami and the city’s upscale Riviera neighborhood is poised for a new wave of development that will completely alter the southern landscape of the City Beautiful.

The neighborhood has long been defined by extravagant single-family homes, one-story shopping plazas, mid-rise office buildings and industrial warehouses. But in recent years, the city’s planning and zoning department and the city commission have relaxed zoning requirements that will allow builders to add a slew of condo towers, hotels, office buildings and retail centers to the neighborhood.

Astor Companies President Henry Torres is among the developers expecting to cash in. His company recently broke ground on Merrick Manor, a 10-story Mediterranean-style building at 301 Altara Avenue. The 227-unit tower is the first major condo development in Coral Gables since the last cycle.

Torres said the neighborhood around Merrick Park is a perfect draw for University of Miami professors and employees, parents who want their children attending the college to live in a nice and safe apartment and empty nesters looking to downsize from their palatial homes in Coral Gables.

“There is a need for what we are offering,” Torres said. “That is what prompted me to build in this part of Coral Gables.”

Signs of Change

Despite vehement opposition from wealthy homeowners in the Riviera section of Coral Gables, the city earlier this year hired architecture and design firm Perkins + Will to develop a master plan for the South Dixie Highway corridor that falls within the city’s boundaries. The master plan will provide developers planning major projects along U.S.1 to incorporate an environment that is welcoming to motorists, transit-users, pedestrians and cyclists.


In addition to the Douglas Road and University of Miami Metrorail stations, residents can also catch a ride on one of two free trolleys operated by the city of Coral Gables. Various Miami-Dade County bus routes also service the area. The neighborhood’s main access roads are Ponce de Leon Boulevard, Bird Road and South Dixie Highway.

Commercial Broker’s Take

“The whole retail and dining experience in Merrick Park is wonderfully successful, leading to a new wave of residential development in that area of Coral Gables,” Allen Morris, founder, chairman and CEO of the Allen Morris Companies.


Population: 14,995
Median Age: 23
Median Income: $111,838

Priciest Residential Sale

A two-story, 5,029-square-foot contemporary estate with five bedrooms and five bathrooms at 1415 Robbia Avenue sold for $2.3 million in June.

Most Expensive On The Market

$2.7 million for a two-story, 5,129-square-foot mansion with six bedrooms and six bathrooms at 1200 Blue Road with its backyard facing Riviera Golf Course.

Least Expensive On The Market

$470,000 for a 970-square-foot condo with two bedrooms and two bathrooms at the Villages of Merrick Park, 4100 Salzedo Street.

Price Trends

Median Sales Price Per Square Foot:
$355 or 19 percent higher than the rest of Miami-Dade County

Average Rent Over The Last Year:
1.5 percent decrease to $1,905 a month for a one-bedroom apartment

New Development

Clockwise from top left: renderings of Gables Station, Link at Douglas, Merrick Manor, Paseo de la Riviera

South Dixie Highway has become the focus of several major mixed-use projects that will add close to 2,000 residential units and more than 250,000 square feet of commercial space over the next two to three years in South Coral Gables.

NP International plans to convert the former Holiday Inn site at 1350 South Dixie Highway into Paseo de la Riviera, a $172 million development consisting of a 10-story hotel with 252 rooms, an eight-story residential tower with 224 apartments, 20,000 square feet of commercial space and 838 parking spaces. Located across the street from Metrorail and the proposed Underline linear park, Paseo de la Riviera will also have a pedestrian bridge crossing South Dixie Highway and a half-acre green space incorporating public art installations, restaurants, and retail. It will also connect the project’s buildings with nearby Jaycee Park.

Just a few blocks north, near the Shops of Merrick Park, NP has plans for another massive project on a 4.3 acre site called Gables Station. The developer is proposing three towers with a maximum height of 155 feet with about 168 hotel units, 554 luxury condominium residences and 87,900 square feet of retail space.

On a 7-acre site adjacent to the Douglas Road Metrorail Station, a partnership between the Adler Group and 13th Floor Investments won a 30-year lease from Miami-Dade County to develop Link at Douglas, with 970 residences, a 150-key hotel, 70,000 square feet of retail space and a public plaza. The deal includes setting aside 12.5 percent of the units for workforce housing, $14 million in improvements to the Metrorail station and $600,000 contribution to the Underline.

Across the street from the Shops of Merrick Park, BF Group is planning a 10-story mixed-use office building at 4311 Ponce de Leon Boulevard. The developers paid $ 7 million for the site and plan to spend another $40 million building the tower, which will have 30,000 square feet of ground floor retail space and 50,000 square feet of office space.

Meanwhile, Roger Development Group recently broke ground on Laguna House, a condominium tower at the Shops of Merrick Park. The 10-story boutique project at 4220 Laguna Street features only 12 condo units that range from 3,000 square feet to 6,250 square feet.


Source: The Real Deal

Developers are looking to build big in Coral Gables, this time along South Dixie Highway.

Paseo de la Riviera, a mixed-use project that would replace the old 155-room Holiday Inn across from the University of Miami, will come before the city’s planning and zoning board on Wednesday, Aug. 12.

Paseo de la Riviera - 2The project application details the plans to revamp the strip-mall-dominated corridor on U.S. 1 that splits Coral Gables. Proposed are a 13-story residential building with 234 units, and a 10-story hotel with 252 rooms.

Built on 2.7 acres, the main building will be 142 feet tall, have 4,380 square feet of restaurants, 14,094 square feet of retail, and 903 parking spaces, as well as three sculptures. The project would feature shops and restaurants on the ground floor and a pedestrian passage, dubbed the “Paseo” (72 feet wide, 325 feet long) connecting to the adjoining neighborhood.

This isn’t the first venture of its kind flowing through the city’s pipeline. A barrage of high-density projects have been approved, some already under construction or currently in the process of being birthed, stirring heated debate among Gables residents and elected officials.

Paseo de la Riviera  - 3In June, commissioners approved the Mediterranean Village project at Ponce Circle — more than one million square feet of condos, hotel and commercial space just three blocks south of Miracle Mile on Ponce de Leon Boulevard. That project sparked deep conflict, creating major division in the community. Some feared the city’s proud tradition of scrupulous planning and highly controlled development would come to an end, bringing in loads of outsiders and traffic.

Paseo de la Riviera - 4Others, however, were firm that the mixed-use enterprise would bring growth and rejuvenation to the city’s downtown area, all while honoring Gables founding father George Merrick and his scenic vision of a Mediterranean promised land.

Although Paseo de la Riviera is smaller in scale, the plans have divided residents of the single-family neighborhood who live directly behind it.

Wayne “Chip” Withers, who served as a city commissioner from 1991 to 2011, has lived off Hardee Road and Maynada Street for more than 60 years.

“If you look at the city of Coral Gables, it is very well planned. You don’t have really tall commercial buildings butting up directly with a residential neighborhood,” Withers said, adding that his major concern is the reasoning behind the Paseo. “At the end of the day the overriding question is: What’s the reason we’re doing this? Does the city need tax dollars? What is the pressing reason? To appease the developer? Or is it something that is really gonna be beneficial to this city and to this neighborhood. Why are we allowing it to be up to three times taller than the Holiday Inn?”

Henry Piñera, 39, said the Paseo could possibly reshape the South Gables and its tight-knit neighborhoods, serving as a lunching pad for other high-rise developers to move in, build and make some money.

“We know that this is going to be the domino effect that sets everything off. From an overall Coral Gables perspective, no other building would be this tall outside of the downtown area,” said Piñera, who lives on Aduana Avenue with his wife and two young daughters.

He said the Riviera neighborhood already experiences intense cut-through traffic because of congestion on U.S. 1. He says the new project wouldn’t be what he “bought in” for.

“I made the decision to purchase and renovate this house because this is where I’m going to raise my kids. This particular building is so massive that it will have a huge impact. You’re taking the density and roughly making it three-and-half-times larger than the Holiday Inn,” he said. “Not only that, but the project overlooks Jaycee Park, one of the reasons why I bought into the neighborhood.”

Developers however, see the location as a benefit to residents, saying the project has strategically been placed in a transportation hub — right across the street from the University of Miami, Metrorail, trolley route stop, bike paths, as well as on the block of a future pedestrian bridge.

“That’s what makes this site special,” said Jorge Hernandez, who is the project’s leading architect, a longtime Gables resident, and a UM architecture professor. He said the transport amenities make for an “animated urban ground floor.” “If you look at the renderings, the Paseo would connect to U.S. 1, giving the notion to being able to walk and bike to a lively open space. It would be a hub for everyone.”

Developer Brent Reynolds says “given the adjacency to the Metrorail, it would develop a place for next-generation families and nonprofessionals.” “It really is an amenity that is not seen anywhere in Coral Gables,” Reynolds said. “It’s a well-designed sophisticated boulevard, focused around public transportation and drawing the community in.”

Developers are asking the city to make a zoning exception on the parcel, allowing their project to be 142 feet tall, instead of 77 feet.

Both Reynolds and Hernandez hope that the building across the street — UM’s Gables One Tower — which also reaches 142 feet in height, will convince city officials to vote in favor of the Paseo.

“People dislike the UM building. It’s a square and flat building; it doesn’t have a profile against the sky,” Hernadez said. “Our building will begin to tame that image. We’re hoping to build a community of buildings of the same scale and amend the city code back to what it was under George Merrick’s vision, using the building next door as a height precedent.”

Until 1979, Coral Gables zoning laws in the area allowed buildings up to 142 feet tall. After Gables One Tower was built, city officials in 1980 reacted to the aesthetics and changed the zoning code, reducing the height cap to 77 feet. “It was a reaction from the aesthetics and the effect of that particular building. It runs parallel to the street. It’s a giant wall. Our building would run perpendicular,” Reynolds said.

Hernandez said he hopes the current Gables commission swiftly approves the project.

The Coral Gables Planning and Zoning board will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12 at Coral Gables City Hall, 405 Biltmore Way.


Source: Miami Herald