City gives unanimous approval to UM master plan

The Coral Gables City Commission unanimously passed (for a second time) 22 amendments to the University of Miami’s master plan.

The first approval came after some tension grew among the City of Coral Gables and UM officials.

UM dropped three of the original 25 amendments, for instance removing plans for two parking garages. One was planned to be located across the street from Doctor’s Hospital on Pisano Avenue and the other by the School of Music. All 25 changes were rejected at the Jan. 10 meeting of the Coral Gables Planning and Zoning Board.

City Planner Eric Reil addressed the commission, presenting a brief overview of the UM campus area development (UMCAD) plan changes.

The amendments include plans to expand the Wellness Center, Richter library and other facilities, as well as demolishing the Rathskeller to make way for the new Student Activity Center. The plan also provides for the construction of new residential colleges and a new alumni building.

Representatives from the university, such as President Donna E. Shalala and Student Government Senate Speaker John Constantinide, attended the meeting.

Shalala said she is happy to know that the new construction projects will soon be started.

“I think it is a very good first step,” she said. “In think we will able to get the Student [Activity] Center, among other projects, done in a very quick time frame.”

Vice Mayor Maria Anderson said that, in amendments like this one, it is always crucial to consider those who could be affected by the changes.

“I think the university is a great place,” she said. “However, we also have to draw a line and look at our neighbors.”

During the closing statements, Commissioner Rafael Cabrera and Mayor Don Slesnick thanked the university and praised the institution.

Cabrera said approving the master plan has taught him two things:

“It taught me the need for placidity and accountability,” he said. “We now know who will be accountable for this project and any changes that occur.”

Slesnick told the audience he has always had a good relationship with Shalala ever since her election as president of UM.

“For those who imply that the relationship between the city and the university is not good, I must say that is a misunderstanding,” he said. “I consider [the university] to be a world class university in a world class city.”

The process, however, is far from over. The university will have to return to the board for building permits for every single one of the twenty two amendments, starting with the Alumni Center six months from now.

Fanny Olmo may be contacted at