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Coral Gables/Coral Way/Coconut Grove


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General area covering the US 1 corridor between SW 25th Road (unofficial southern boundary of Brickell district) and SW 42nd Avenue (Le Jeune Road, western boundary of Coral Gables):

Communities covered:

Coral Gables

Coral Way (city of Miami)

Coconut Grove (city of Miami)

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Posted on Sun, Jan. 09, 2005


Mural restored to brilliance

The mural in the cupola of Coral Gables' historic City Hall, painted in 1927 by the uncle of city founder George Merrick, has been restored to its former glory.


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Look up, and stare past the winding staircase at the Coral Gables City Hall ceiling. There, painted in baby blue, coral and golden hues are the faces of each season.

On one wall is winter, depicted as an old, bearded man. On the other three walls are autumn, spring and summer -- shown as young women sporting laurel wreaths.

Known as the ''Four Seasons'' cupola, the work has hovered over City Hall visitors since Denman Fink, the uncle of Coral Gables founder George Merrick, splashed the final dab of paint on the walls in 1927.

But time and, in part, roof leaks stripped the piece of its original look.

Now, $102,000 later, the work of art has been put back into shape by Evergreene Painting Studios, the artists famed for restoring parts of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

''The end result is the central stair tower and part of the history of Coral Gables, restored to its 1927 glory,'' said Dona Lubin, the city's Historical Resources Director.

With the last bit of scaffolding torn off this week, the age-old mural was unveiled.

Just like old times -- each face shone through, straight from the tip of the cupola.

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I think we'll have to include the Coral Way corridor into the Coral Gables section.


Miracle growth

A new owner wants to transform the former Miracle Center into a vertical, 250,000-square-foot retail mall


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After standing almost completely vacant for years, the former Miracle Center on Coral Way is about to come back to life with large retail stores.

Developer Jim Schlesinger's Talisman Co. bought the property last summer for $15 million from developer Michael Swerdlow and plans to turn it into a multistory retail center similar to Dadeland Station.

Schlesinger says he already has recruited Bed, Bath & Beyond, DSW and PETsMART as new tenants for the project, which will be renamed Miracle Plaza. Bally Total Fitness, currently the center's only tenant, also will remain. Negotiations are underway with additional tenants including Comp USA and Michael's Craft Store.

The 250,000-square-foot project is yet another example of how retailers are increasingly willing to consider nontraditional -- even vertical -- locations in order to find space in a tight urban market like Miami-Dade County. The former Miracle Center is located in the city of Miami, just east of Coral Gables. Residents of Brickell Avenue, Key Biscayne, Coconut Grove, Little Havana and Coral Gables now must drive to Dadeland for this type of shopping.


''This is clearly an underserved market,'' said Schlesinger, who is also a partner in redeveloping the former Cutler Ridge Mall now known as Southland Mall. ``It's a wonderful location. There's nothing else in the area that has a big-box format and parking.''

This won't be the first attempt to renovate the former Miracle Center, which made a splash when it opened in 1989 with its Arquitectonica design but failed to attract a critical mass of shoppers. Moves in the late 1990s to reposition it as a Spanish marketplace called Paseos were unsuccessful.

Swerdlow originally considered a similar plan for big-box retailers, but instead decided in 2000 to market the site as a telecom hotel. When the market busted, the site sat vacant except for the health club.

Schlesinger expects to begin construction in May, with plans to open by Fall 2006.


The current building will be gutted and redeveloped with three floors of retail and four floors of parking above. On the first floor will be small, boutique-oriented retailers and restaurants. The big-box retailers will be spread over the other two floors.

Plans also call for a major renovation of the parking garage, in order to eliminate the steep entrance ramp long considered a major deterrent to shoppers.

''It's going to be a challenging undertaking,'' said Stephen Bittel, chairman of Terranova. ``But it's doable.''

Michael Finkle, managing director of retail brokerage firm Koniver Stern, believes Miracle Plaza will benefit from South Florida's increasing traffic that makes it more desirable for consumers to be able to shop closer to home.

Schlesinger may face competition from developers Jeff Berkowitz and Ralph Sanchez, who are also working on plans for a similar multistory retail project on the site of the overflow parking lot now used by Ford of Coral Gables. Berkowitz and Sanchez have the property under contract, but they still need government approvals and construction would be about two years away.

Neither group seems worried about the competition.

''It's a very attractive market and there is no absence of retailers looking to penetrate that market,'' Berkowitz said. ``I wish him well.''

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More than 400,000 rode trolley in inaugural year

By Maria Rosa Higgins Fallon

More than 400,000 riders have boarded the Coral Gables Trolley, a new mode of transportation introduced to the city a year ago that is now being heralded as a model solution to local traffic congestion.

The vintage-style, hybrid-electric trolley is the first successful story of the implementation of the half-penny transportation tax approved by voters in Miami-Dade County in 2002 and has since been the subject of imitation by other municipalities looking for similar transportation solutions.

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Future office complex booked

A block of empty shops along Red Road across from the Shops of Sunset Place is slated to become an office building with a Whole Foods Market and sidewalk cafe on the ground floor.


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Developers broke ground Thursday on the $48 million, 165,000-square-foot Plaza San Remo -- a mixed-use project that will house Florida's largest Whole Foods Market plus office space in the Coral Gables business zone off U.S. 1 adjacent to South Miami.

Demolition on the existing buildings at the location -- known as the Medical Arts Village -- is expected to begin as early as next week, said Julio Diaz, the project's architect.

But all of the office condo space -- more than 105,000 square-feet -- has already been sold at Plaza San Remo, said Ford Gibson, president of Plaza San Remo Condominium Association and the project's developer.

About 60 percent of the space will be for medical offices, Gibson told The Herald. The project was created to serve the needs of the medical market, he added.

Two of the dentists who worked in offices there now will return to the new Plaza development, Gibson said. But there's also a law firm, an accounting firm and a title insurance firm, he added.

Sergio Alteaga, owner of Union Mortgage Investment Group, currently on Sunset Drive and 102nd Avenue, is excited about the prospect of moving in. The plaza is expected to open in 2006. ''The main thing that brought us was the prestige of the address,'' Alteaga said. ``It's Coral Gables but at the same time it's near South Miami, Pinecrest, the Grove, Kendall.''

Some banks have expressed an interest in leasing the remaining 15,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor at 1554 Venera Ave., Gibson said.

``We have not actively marketed the retail space but have been approached.''

What many nearby residents anticipate most, however, is the building's retail anchor: Whole Foods Market, an upscale grocery store.

Juan Nu

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