MIAMI (CBS4) – The main drag in Coral Gables, Miracle Mile, is poised to undergo a major makeover.

City Commissioners have unanimously approved a sweeping plan designed to modernize and re-energize the downtown to boost business and tourism.

“We are going to put the “miracle” back in Miracle Mile with this opportunity,” an enthusiastic Brad Rosenblatt, President of the city’s Business Improvement District said Friday.  “I think this is really going to help make our city a premiere destination for people to come dine, shop and live.”

Business and city leaders say a facelift of the downtown is needed because sidewalks are cracked and patched and too narrow, parking is a pain, and facades are outdated.

“It’s been neglected for well over thirty years, and a great city like Coral Gables deserves a beautiful downtown,” City Commissioner Maria Anderson said Friday.  “If we don’t put money into our downtown, we’re actually going to lose money because businesses are going to go away.”

The new Miracle Mile, and nearby Restaurant Row on Giralda Avenue are slated to be renovated with widened sidewalks, street-side cafes, gardens, fountains, an outdoor concert venue, colorful awnings, and streets constructed of pavers instead of asphalt.  It will come at an estimated cost of more than $16 million.

Some see the project as an extravagance at a time when the Gables and other cities are struggling to make ends meet.

“I’m in total shock,” said Don Ingraham, owner of Le Provencal restaurant on Miracle Mile.  “This is ‘the city beautiful,’ but pretty soon it’s going to be ‘the city empty’ because there are a lot of us that are going to decide it’s just too expensive to live here.”

The cost of the Miracle Mile project would be split 50/50 between business owners in the district – who will pay a special assessment – and taxpayers in general.  Ingraham is both a business owner and homeowner and says he will be hit with a double whammy.

Maria Elena Cruz, owner of Creative Weddings on Miracle Mile also criticized the project.

“It’s really bad,” said Cruz.  “It’s bad for everyone and I’m totally against it at this point”

Some taxpayers, though, have bought in to the remodel.

“I’ve been paying taxes for forty years here, and if it’s going to improve people coming here I’m all for it,” said Barbara Lapsley a homeowner and civic activist.

Supporters say the facelift will bring more people and businesses to the city, create jobs and expand the property tax base.

“I believe that this investment in our community will pay for itself,” said Commissioner Anderson, adding that the city manager has assured the commission a tax increase won’t be necessary to bankroll the makeover.

While the project has been green-lighted by the city commission, much remains to be decided, including whether to expand the effort beyond Miracle Mile and Giralda or – as some have argued – scale it back.

“I still have a lot of questions,” said Commissioner Ralph Cabrera Friday.  “I voted for the initial approval, but I have not completely drunk the Kool-Aid.”

Details of design, cost and financing for the downtown makeover are expected to be hammered out in a series of meetings over the next 12 months.


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