Last home standing: Family determined to stay put in the middle of massive Coral Gables construction project

(WSVN) - It’s the biggest development in Coral Gables history. Block after block of construction. But, in the middle of it all is one family, refusing to sell. 7’s Brian Entin investigates.

This was a first.

Going to interview someone but not being able to figure out how to get to their house.

The road? Closed.

Fences, cranes and construction all around.

We finally found this small alley and this house.

Brian Entin: “Nice to meet you. Very difficult to find your house!”

In the middle of the biggest development in Coral Gables history, there is one little house.

It belongs to Orlando Capote.

Brian Entin: “It’s hard for us to even talk out here. Can you enjoy being outside at all?”

Orlando Capote: “No.”

It is loud.

A backhoe is digging just feet from Orlando’s home.

The construction crews have fenced in the house on all sides, and the city closed the street.

Coconut Grove Drive is now part of the construction zone for The Plaza Coral Gables.

These are renderings of the more than two-million square foot complex of condos, offices, shops and a hotel.

Brian Entin: “What is it like living here now?”

Orlando Capote: “Like we are in a prison. Our property rights have been taken away. We have no right of access to the front of our house.”

Over the last several decades, developers slowly bought every house in the neighborhood.

Every single owner sold except Orlando.

Brian Entin: “Did you ever think about selling?”

Orlando Capote: “No.”

To understand why, we go inside.

Orlando’s elderly mother Lucy knows the ins and outs of the house and is comfortable here.

She and her late husband bought the house after moving from Cuba.

Orlando Capote, refuses to sell home: “My mom. My house. My memories. I can still see my father mowing the lawn. He loved to work on the lawn.”

This was the family’s little piece of paradise, but now, they are surrounded. It’s not easy living here anymore, and Orlando blames the city for rezoning the area and allowing such a massive complex.

Orlando is especially upset the walls that once protected his home were torn down, and that his street was closed.

The city of Coral Gables refused an on-camera interview, but said:

“Mr. Capote’s concerns have been addressed since the project’s inception. He presently has access to his property, and safe access will be preserved throughout the entire construction period. The removal of the adjoining walls next to his property was conducted through a proper building permit.”

Orlando Capote: “It was our American dream.”

So far, Orlando says he has gotten 35 offers to buy his house.

One developer even offered to build him a new one.

His answer has never changed.

Brian Entin: “Will you ever sell?”

Orlando Capote: “What good is it to have all the money in the world if you lose your soul? This is our soul.”

Tall buildings and parking garages will soon surround the Capotes, but Orlando and his mom are determined to stay.

Coral Gables full statement to 7News:

“The Plaza Coral Gables project has gone through an exhaustive approval process which has been publicly vetted in multiple public hearings conducted over a decade at numerous City Commission meetings, planning and zoning board meetings, Board of Architects reviews, among others. The development and construction of this project complies with all of the city’s strict regulations.

Mr. Capote’s concerns have been addressed since the project’s inception by city staff as well as the previous and current developer. He presently has access to his property and safe access will be preserved throughout the entire construction period. The removal of the adjoining walls next to his property was conducted through a proper building permit. The walls were not on Mr. Capote’s property and their removal was required to allow for necessary foundation work. The construction work currently being performed is in accordance with all the requirements of the Florida Building Code.

The City of Coral Gables will continue to work with all affected residents in order to mediate any issues caused by this development currently under construction.”

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