There are many ways to gauge the success of cities: The quality of their schools and health care, the efficiency of their transportation systems, the availability of adequate green space, and the livability of their neighborhoods and downtown core, to name a few. What ties any combination of these categories together and makes success possible for any city is a vibrant business district that provides a robust tax base. In most cases, the tax base is what makes up the majority of a city’s budget and keeps homeowners’ taxes down.
For example, in Coral Gables, less than five-percent of the downtown land area contributes to more than half of the tax base. That land area is in the vicinity of Miracle Mile. That’s why the city has spent around $22 million on the Streetscape that modernized Miracle Mile and Giralda Plaza. The result invites much more retail and restaurant space. What the City of Coral Gables needs now is enough foot traffic on those newly widened sidewalks to sustain continued prosperity for business owners and property landlords. The trick is accommodating needed foot traffic along with easing the traffic on the streets. Responsible developers strive for this balance by creating live, work, play, learn environments through multi-use complexes where people can enjoy these amenities while needing their cars less. Another valuable tool growing in popularity is “Smart Parking” systems that help drivers find vacant spaces in parking garages without having to drive around the block a few times, adding to unnecessary traffic on city streets.
I am excited to be a part of my hometown’s success in developing Coral Gables City Centre; a stunning project that will replace two outdated garages on Andalusia right alongside Miracle Mile. The new garages will employ Smart Parking technology and will be topped with luxury apartments on one garage and Class “A” office space on the other. I worked side-by-side with the architects to ensure that not only will the Centre provide the vibrancy the city needs and desires, it will also be iconic and inspiring because art and beauty are often left out of the development equation, which is a huge mistake. This component not only makes for a more compelling lifestyle for those who live nearby, but also draws more people into the area, which is paramount for continued, sustained success.
I am also proud to be a part of the new urban renaissance of St. Petersburg, Florida, where there is a flood of young professionals, artists and art lovers, who have contributed to an upbeat city vibe around our Hermitage Apartment Homes, a one-block development surrounded by funky retail shops and galleries along Central Avenue. My development team consulted with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman to ensure that what we created was what the city really wanted. I believe it is that spirit of enthusiasm and cooperation with city leaders and stakeholders that drives the ultimate success of any project. The Hermitage is nearly 100% occupied and the city is so enamored with it that we are already in talks for future developments that will further enrich the city and guarantee its success.
Another example where we are helping cities succeed is in a picturesque community just north of Orlando called Maitland where the Allen Morris Company has just now opened the doors to the new Maitland City Centre. It is gratifying to see the positive response of the community to this attractive environment that will soon be filled with retail shops, restaurants, and cafes across from Maitland City Hall and its city park with Festival Street as the place for weekend farmer’s markets, art shows, and community events. This month we break ground on our 83rd project, the mixed-use, walkable Star Metals Atlanta development in West Midtown, Atlanta.
In each one of these ambitious developments, there was apprehension at the beginning by those who worried that the project would be too big or was too ambitious. Each time, as the projects reach completion there is jubilation and gratitude for an expanded tax base with new amenities that have made lives easier and provided more opportunities for walkable synergism.
The secret of successful cities is ultimately the responsibility of its leaders. Developers with foresight and courage, and with the right plan, can help elected officials realize what they all got elected for – to ensure the success of their municipality.
Our entire team at the Allen Morris Company is proud to be playing such a role in these wonderful and diverse communities throughout the State of Florida and Georgia. We want to help make cities more livable and more prosperous. Success can be achieved and we will all be the beneficiaries of our smarter, and more walkable and sustainable city streets.
Please see my one-minute video that describes The Allen Morris Company’s thought process in designing live, work, play environments.