Show Them the Money!

The Rouse Company's proposed high-end megamall for Coral Gables has city officials tallying up everything but the opposition

Despite these efforts, downtown merchants in February 1996 voted not to create a Business Improvement District (BID) that would call for a special tax on affected shopkeepers to pay for further marketing and physical improvements of the core shopping area.

"It's hard to reach a consensus with independent store operators," Swanson notes. "Many of these business people specifically go to a street to avoid the hassles of uniformity [in a mall]."

One Gables official, who asked not to be named, feels the city may have hurt the BID vote unintentionally. "The city's position was neutral," the official explains. "The city felt that if the people wanted to tax themselves, then they should, but the city shouldn't promote a special tax. But people thought if the city was neutral on it, then it must not be a good idea, and they voted against it. That neutrality hurt the BID."

That neutrality wasn't at all evident in the basement of the police department during Swanson's slide show. Midway through her presentation, a man raised his hand and asked a question that mustered a cheer from his fellow audience members. "Why don't we just get it out in the open?" he queried the development director. "It is obvious that this project is going to happen whether we like it or not."

Seated in the dark beside her slide projector, Swanson did not correct him.

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