In the fall of 2008, it seemed like the reconstruction of the University Center was imminent. Originally stalled by the downturn in the economy, this and other University of Miami projects are now facing another roadblock from the city of Coral Gables.
According to Coral Gables city ordinance number 2007-16, before proceeding with any new construction projects, the university will first have to comply with the building of an internal road meant to alleviate traffic on San Amaro Drive.
“As the university grows, citizens [of Coral Gables] living around the university are concerned with traffic,” said City of Coral Gables Mayor Don Slesnick II. “This has been a demand of local neighbors for years.”
The road is planned to take up part of the Intramural sports fields and connect the law school, music school, art department, communication school and Pan-Hellenic parking lots and the road in front of Storer Auditorium. The road is also set to go through the Gifford Arboretum.
“I’ve visited [a lot] of college campuses,” Slesnick said. “UM is the only one I’ve seen that doesn’t have an internal road.”
The internal road project is part of the University of Miami Campus Area Development (UMCAD) plan, which also oversees all other university projects. According to Slesnick, it would function as an internal circulator road that would alleviate university traffic in San Amaro Dr. and Campo Sano Ave.
According to Slesnick, the road was agreed to by the city, the citizens and the university as a prerequisite before proceeding with the rest of the University of Miami Master Plan. The university will also be responsible for all costs incurred by this project
“UM agreed to it,” Slesnick said. “They [UM administrators] probably didn’t care to be obligated to do this.”
In order to continue with projects such as the new University Center, the demolition of the Learning Center and additions to the Frost School of Music among others, the university will have to build the internal road before December 31, 2010. According to plans submitted to the city of Coral Gables, phase one of construction is scheduled to begin in June after students have gone home for the summer. Phase two would then take place during the fall.
According to Slesnick, the university has not formally petitioned the city for a delay or a suspension of the project.
“I have asked both the mayor and the manager for a delay in phase one of the internal road,” senior vice president of business and finance Joseph Natoli said in a statement to Media Relations. “The city is well aware of that request and we are hopeful that they will grant a delay.”
According to the city ordinance, after construction is completed, the university will have to revise the routes for the Hurry Cane shuttles and delivery trucks.
The course of the road has caused concern among students, faculty and administrators due to the proposed route of the road, which according to the current plan, would take out a part of the Gifford Arboretum.
“We didn’t dictate the course of the road,” Slesnick said. “The route and the use of the road are up to them [UM].”
The Miami Hurricane has been trying to schedule a briefing on this project since the beginning of the school year but has not been granted a meeting by UM administrators in charge of the project. Faculty, administrators and student leaders have been briefed on the project several times.
“The University has been in daily contact with the city of Coral Gables in an effort to resolve the timing and scope of constructing the internal road. We are hopeful that an agreement can be reached that would delay Phase I of the road, which is required by the 2006 UMCAD ordinance. Meanwhile, we have contracted arborists, who are helping us deal with the task of identifying alternative locations on campus, where impacted trees/plants can be transplanted and properly cared for in the event that Phase I of the Road must proceed this summer,” read a statement from UM Media Relations to The Miami Hurricane.
Lila Albizu may be contacted at email@example.com.