From the completion of major construction and renovation projects, to a traffic calming initiative that has helped decrease the number of cars on the road, to subtle yet valued services such as a bicycle repair station and pickup bags for doggie waste, the University of Miami and city of Coral Gables had plenty of accomplishments—big and small—to tout Tuesday during their annual Development Agreement meeting.
Held at UM’s new 119,000-square-foot Student Activities Center, the meeting was the third since UM and Coral Gables hammered out a 20-year development agreement in October 2010 that guides the school’s growth and extends cultural, athletic, and academic programming to the city’s residents—a partnership UM President Donna E. Shalala said “continues to thrive and benefits” both parties.
During the one-hour session, University and Coral Gables officials exchanged information about projects that have improved the quality of life for UM employees, Coral Gables residents, and merchants. Shalala highlighted a roadway enhancement initiative on the Coral Gables campus that has reduced vehicular traffic in the surrounding residential area by 28 percent, noting that she knows of no other place where “you will find such a successful reduction in traffic.”
A 15-mile-per-hour speed limit on UM internal roads and a campus-wide smoke-free policy also have been implemented, she said. Shalala also briefed trustees, Coral Gables Mayor Jim Cason, and city commissioners on some of UM’s major construction projects:
• The Student Activities Center, Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence, and Neuroscience Annex have all opened, and renovations of the Whitten University Center, patio area, and Hecht Athletic Center have been completed.
• A multimillion-dollar restoration of UM’s original administration building is now complete, preserving an important part of UM’s history.
• Construction is underway on the Patricia Louise Frost Music Studios, which will include 74 music suites for private lessons, chamber music rehearsals, and interactive Experiential Music Curriculum classes.
Fundraising, federal grants, and student activities fees have helped subsidize such projects, Shalala said.
UM is even providing doggie pickup bags for neighbors who walk their dogs on campus, and “we’re the only place in town that offers a bike fixit station,” Shalala said. She also thanked the city for supporting the US 1 pedestrian bridge at Mariposa Court, explaining that the overpass, when completed, will benefit the UM community and Coral Gables residents.
During her update, Shalala informed Coral Gables commissioners that so far the institution’s Momentum2 campaign has raised $1.196 billion dollars from almost 119,000 donors, and that the school will launch the faculty and staff component of the fundraising effort early next year.
Joe Natoli, UM’s senior vice president for business and finance and chief financial officer, reviewed some of the University programming that has enhanced Coral Gables’ offerings. Among them: a concert series in which Frost School of Music faculty and student musicians give performances at different city events; appearances by notable individuals, such as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor, who have spoken at the BankUnited Center; Lowe Art Museum exhibitions; a Meet the Docs lecture series featuring Miller School of Medicine physicians and researchers speaking on timely topics; and a program offering discounted tickets to UM athletic events.
City Manager Pat Salerno updated UM officials on numerous projects or milestones in the city of Coral Gables. Among them, he said, property taxes have been lowered for the third year in a row, seven new police officers have been hired, renovations to City Hall are in the planning stages, streets have been repaved and a new irrigation system installed, several beautification projects will soon get underway throughout the city, existing landmarks like the historic Miracle Theatre are being preserved, and an upgrade of downtown parking facilities is planned.