Home to the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Fla., is one of the greenest headquarters cities in the nation, with a rich canopy of banyans, oaks, and other lush trees. “More than 30 percent of the city's land area is actually open space, ranging from competitive golf courses to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden to beautiful parks,” notes Cathy Swanson Rivenbark, Coral Gables' director of development.
And if city leaders have their way, it might become one of the greenest cities in terms of sustainable building. “We are now working on facilitating and expediting the approval processes—including permitting—for LEED buildings,” says Mayor Don Slesnick. “This doesn't make it a requirement, but it provides a clear incentive.”
The city has always taken development seriously. Founded in 1925 by developer George Merrick, who also assisted in the creation of the University of Miami through the donation of land and money, Coral Gables is one of the nation's first fully planned communities.
It continues to focus on livability today. “We specifically chose to relocate our practice to Coral Gables because of its history and its focus on design and planning, which says a lot about the city as a draw for designers,” says Joseph Andriola, vice president and principal of SB Architects, whose 55-person office was previously headquartered in nearby Miami.
“The mixture of uses makes it wonderful for our employees,” Andriola continues, “while the address is attractive from a business standpoint. It is a true live-work environment, a rarity in Florida.”
The city of nearly 43,000 has grown by only a few hundred souls since 2000. Regional job growth: 3.5 percent per year.
In 2007, Class A space rented for $40/s.f., full-service gross, on 6.5 percent vacancy.
Average home sales price in 2007: $850,000.
- Strong sense of place
- Diverse economy: local businesses, corporate HQs, and the University of Miami
- City-led emphasis on LEED
- Preservation vs. growth
- Tough zoning requirements
- Housing affordability
“In 10 years we'll see an even more pedestrian-friendly, community-oriented city,” predicts Fullerton Diaz Architects partner John Fullerton. “Achievement of these visions goes back to growing responsibly, with specific attention to the history and architectural style that permeate the city.”