A wave of large-scale mixed-use development is bringing a denser urban feel to Coral Gables’ downtown and commercial corridors, but some residents fear the City Beautiful will become a concrete canyon.
By Andres Viglucci
Just five years short of a century ago, developer George Merrick conjured up a Mediterranean fantasyland on his family’s holdings of scrub pine and avocado groves just outside the backwater city of Miami. He called it Coral Gables, and it was good.
The city beautiful that Merrick romantically baptized “Miami Riviera” would have it all: Charming Spanish-style homes and gracious Italian villas masterfully laid out amid gardens, lush boulevards and golf courses; imposing formal entrances; a university and a thriving business district. In promotional brochures, its crown jewel, the Biltmore Hotel and its 300-foot tower, rose out of the humid mist like a mirage in Washington Irving’s “Tales of the Alhambra”.
Merrick’s vision, and the master plan and strict controls he drew up to realize it, have endured through boom and bust, firmly establishing Coral Gables as one of the most desirable, stable and envied communities in Florida.
Now it’s gone on steroids.
Enthusiastic backers of a new wave of high-rise, mixed-use development, including city leaders, say it’s re-invigorating the city, enhancing Merrick’s vision and turning its once-stodgy downtown into a lively urban neighborhood. But some residents fear that what’s made the Gables special could be obliterated in a rush to build big.
No visitor to the Gables can miss its redrawn face. The city’s downtown and commercial corridors of South Dixie Highway and LeJeune Road bristle with construction cranes erecting Mediterranean-inspired buildings of a scale and density Merrick could not have foreseen.
The building, where Codina moved his headquarters, is clearly a labor of love. So is the masonry front of the rotunda, which also bears the Codina name discreetly etched in the concrete. He commissioned well-known Miami artist Naomi Fisher to design elegant black terrazzo floors in the lobby and elevator landings of the building. Each features a different design with native palm fronds and plants. Fisher also designed metal gates that open to the courtyard. The office building balconies, meanwhile, have Cuban-tile floors.
His architects at Nichols Brosch Wurst Wolfe (NBWW) took special care to get details and proportions right, so that the building echoes the skillful and evocative Mediterranean design that Merrick’s architects were so good at.
“I care,” Codina said. “We view this as our second home.”
Read the full story HERE >>> Source: The Miami Herald A high-rise building boom put Coral Gables on steroids. Will it remain the City Beautiful?