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Construction in downtown Coral Gables has begun (Leslie Ovalle / South Florida News Service)
Construction in downtown Coral Gables has begun (Leslie Ovalle / South Florida News Service)

Construction in downtown Coral Gables brings mixed feelings

Though city leaders tout the significant downtown development plans in progress for this Mediterranean-style city – a decade in the making – Coral Gables business owners worry about what a protracted construction period will do for their bottom lines.

Officials say the project will transform the Miracle Mile and Giralda Avenue, the city’s most vibrant streets. The project aims to make these streets more pedestrian friendly while also accommodating outdoor dining.

“[It] will result in an economic shot in the arm for our businesses, attracting new customers and visitors with a more welcoming and walkable public realm,” Mayor Jim Cason said in a recent interview.

“It will provide city residents with a main street that matches the beauty of our neighborhoods, providing them with a renewed sense of pride in their city, and an enhanced quality of life.”

By Leslie Ovalle
South Florida News Service
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The project – which has a maximum cost of $21.6 million – was approved by the City Commission on Jan. 26. Preliminary construction began in late spring and closed roads, drilled streets and construction vehicles have filled the downtown area in recent weeks.

Construction was scheduled with businesses and residents in mind, said Cason. In particular, he said, it will take place in half-block increments and access to business will remain open at all times. Other efforts taken to minimize negative impacts on businesses are window cleaners, water trucks and $5 valet parking, a discount from the $8-per-day rate.

Victor Menocal, a senior manager for Ric-Man International, one of the main contractors for the work, said outreach has been extensive.

“We visited every business on The Mile and Giralda to coordinate when we can do the work, the sequencing is based on that,” he said.

Despite the efforts, business owners like Noelia Olmedo, who owns B’Livinn, an urban spa and organic beauty store on Giralda Avenue, said she has seen a reduction in business.

“We opened about two months ago and began growing quickly. Lately, with the construction that has lessened a bit,” said Olmedo.

However, she does give credit to the city, which she believes has been very informative throughout the process, providing weekly updates and meetings.

The construction period for Giralda began in May with the installation of water main pipes, fire hydrants and water meter work. It is expected to be complete in November and better allow for outdoor seating and areas for people to gather, said Menocal.

Miracle Mile’s transformation is more extensive. According to Menocal, it has an 18-month timeline with an anticipated completion date of November 2017. The street’s sidewalks will be wider and greener. In addition, street parking will also change from angled parking to parallel.

The mayor said he is looking forward to the changes.

“The streetscape is a work of art, designed by a world renowned architects and urban design firm, Cooper Robertson, and constructed using high quality materials and finishes. It will look amazing, feel inviting, and attract new customers and high quality retailers to the street, further enhancing the City’s status as a luxury brand,” said Cason.

The design features include hanging lights and stone imported from Spain and South America, which will give the ground an effect similar to rain descending on a pool of water.

“I am excited for what’s coming to Coral Gables; I think it will bring fresh business. But the construction period might be a little difficult to bear,” said Kiki Garcia, owner of Kiki NYC Boutique on Miracle Mile.

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