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CORAL GABLES CHARRETTE: INTRODUCTION

Buildings that sensitively shape the public realm of the City's streets and gathering places, that provide balconies, terraces and windows that open up and take advantage of the tem- perate South Florida climate, and where people dining, working and living above the ground floors of buildings stay connected to the streetlife below, and contribute to the lively, open-air Mediterranean urbanism that citizens so desire.

Some will ask, how can we afford the types of changes envisioned in this report? We might bet- ter ask, how was it possible for George Merrick and the original residents of Coral Gables to cre- ate the City we know today? Surely their task was much more daunting, beginning from scratch out of the original landscape and groves of South Florida in the 1920s. Today as inheritors of their legacy, we have the benefit of standing on their shoulders as we work to bring their original vision forward with us into the twenty-first century. To do so does not require one grand sweep- ing effort completed in a single stroke. The enhancement of our city will come about through an incremental approach in which individual steps taken by City government and private property owners will accumulate overtime to create the place we dream of: street by street, building by building, each move following a unified vision.

Others may ask, how can we know what is truly consistent with Merrick's original vision or, for that matter, how can new buildings and places embody the Mediterranean precedent that citizens embrace? The models that were so obvious for Merrick in the 1920s may have become muddled for us today, clouded by many decades of trends and innovations. However, the models and precedents are, in fact, more accessible to us today than they were to Merrick in his day, includ- ing the cities and towns of Spain and Italy that provided the original inspiration for the architects and planners of Coral Gables. Other examples are much closer to home, spread throughout our neighboring South Florida communities.

Cities such as Boca Raton and West Palm Beach have redeveloped large areas of their down- towns in recent years that represent contemporary interpretations of Mediterranean architecture and urbanism. Mizner Park, City Place and Clematis Street show that the dream of a walkable, open-air, Mediterranean urban character that many people feel is lacking in downtown Coral Gables is possible.

As the City considers how to act on the recommendations that follow, it is important to empha- size that all citizens have a stake in the future of the downtown, and that this is an initiative that all citizens should monitor and support. While each of the City's neighborhoods and districts are important, the downtown belongs to all citizens; it represents the identity of the entire city, and the reputation of Coral Gables as a whole rises and falls with that of its downtown.

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