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There's a whole slew of articles, the Coral Gables quarterly, in the Business Journal this week. http://southflorida.bizjournals.com/southf...2/28/focus.html

This article gives the best idea of what's going on though.


Miracle Mile joins region's urban village renaissance

Kevin Gale

Clothier Carlos Bolado is a witness to Miracle Mile's glory days, its downturn and, now, its resurgence.

His father opened J. Bolado Clothiers in 1968 on Ponce de Leon Boulevard and moved to its current 326 Miracle Mile location in 1975, when Carlos was 11 years old.

Miracle Mile was then considered one of the leading shopping areas in South Florida, but the 1970s was also the era of the enclosed mall. The lure of air conditioning seduced shoppers indoors and a downturn in the South American economy trimmed the flow of visitors to the once-trendy shopping strip in downtown Coral Gables.

Bolado says he's fortunate that a lot of the clothing store's male clientele doesn't exactly love malls, which helped it survive the street's downturn.

But Miracle Mile has joined the urban village renaissance flourishing throughout South Florida, which also has helped Lincoln Road on Miami Beach, Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach and Clematis Street in West Palm Beach.

"The whole cityscape of Miami has become way more urban than it used to be," Bolado says.

His comments echoed those of half a dozen merchants The Business Journal spoke with during a tour of the street.

Work, walk and play

South Floridians are getting fed up with traffic and increasingly seek to live, work and play in areas that don't require getting in and out of a car all the time. Coral Gables, with a master-planned design dating back to the 1920s and its collection of buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, is getting a fresh dose of interest.

"Almost anything you need, you can do here in the Gables - and by walking," Bolado said.

The City Beautiful has long been a popular bedroom community for business people, but in recent years has also done well at attracting relocations. Its 40,000 population of daytime workers is close to its 42,357- resident population.

A free trolley system connects the downtown area with Metrorail's Douglas station, which makes it easier to commute and navigate the city without using a car.

The Village of Merrick Park, anchored by Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, is seen as enhancing the city's retail image, rather than detracting from business on Miracle Mile.

"A lot of the merchants, when they announced it, were very skeptical and suspicious of it," Bolado said. "But business turned out to be strong in the first quarter after it opened."

The shopping center is close enough to draw people to the area, but far enough not to hamper parking, he said.

Residents of Broward and Palm Beach counties can make an afternoon and evening jaunt to the Gables, experiencing a variety of exclusive national stores, one-of-a kind shops and more than 100 restaurants.

A block down from J. Bolado, Rene La Villa said he waited six months to open his third Guayaberas Etc. last year.

"Coral Gables is coming back, we know the city since 1960 and it's coming back very strong," said La Villa, who already had locations in southwest Miami and Hialeah.

A retail balance

He pointed to the national retailers who have given their seal of approval to the street. A vacant lot on the street is being transformed into a Benihana restaurant. Houston's, Starbucks, Jamba Juice and Baja Fresh are among those that have already opened.

One concern is that the chains don't take away from a unique shopping experience, but landlords and the Coral Gables Business Improvement District have been working hard to keep the right mix, said Mari Molina, the district's executive director. "It's no longer about filling up the space, but bringing in the right kind of business."

The Mile doesn't want to become a typical shopping mall, she said.

Instead, she points to the contrast of Books & Books, where former President Bill Clinton signed his new book, only a few blocks from Barnes & Noble.

Similarly, while national restaurants like the area - Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar is the latest - a bevy of local restaurateurs has also made the Gables home, including Norman Van Aken, Dennis Max and Allen Susser.

Most of the restaurants are open on Sundays, but a lot of the shops are not, said La Villa, who has decided to remain open seven days. His guayaberas range from $25 to $150, although the store also offers custom-made clothing starting at $300 and plans to offer $395 private-label linen suits this spring.

"For Coral Gables, we are buying better suits and fabrics," he said.

Fashion is a mainstay on the Mile, including about two dozen bridal stores, Molina said. "We used to be termed 'bridal row' because of all the bridal shops, but they no longer outnumber the other shops."

Interior design is also a strong suit.

"You see more famous stores here than in the Design District," said Donna Mazzilli, general manager for the new 6,000-square-foot Vivai furniture store. The store was opened by a family that already has two furniture stores in Uruguay.

"This is like the Main Street for business and decoration and they thought this was the best places," store manager Maria Gonz

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This sounds promising. They were previously talking of a move to Texas.


Burger King eyes Coral Gables

Burger King's new home could be in one of two new office towers developer Armando Codina plans for Coral Gables.


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Developer Armando Codina plans to build two multistory office buildings in Coral Gables on the site of the current City National Bank of Florida building and adjacent parking lots.

The larger of the two buildings could become the new world headquarters for Burger King.

Codina said he currently has no deal with the fast-food chain, but ``this is one of the places they are considering.''

''I would eat hamburgers for a month to get them as a tenant,'' Codina said.

Burger King has been mulling leaving Miami and moving to Texas, but Chief Executive Greg Brenneman said earlier this month he hoped to stay if Codina found a suitable site and the company received the financial incentives it was seeking from the Governor's Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development. Miami-Dade County Commissioners have already awarded the company a $5.38 million incentive package.

Even without Burger King, Codina Development has already submitted plans for the office project at 2701 S. LeJeune Rd. to the city of Coral Gables for preliminary review.

The plans call for knocking down the existing bank building and rebuilding an office tower at least 210 feet tall with 269,000-square-feet of space, including retail and parking on the lower floors.

But first Codina plans to build a smaller 45-foot-tall office building across Sevilla Ave., which would become the new City National Bank location. Codina said he expects to begin construction on this 48,000-square-foot building this summer for completion in about a year.

Codina has a contract to buy the entire property, which is approximately two acres, from current owner City National.


''We've been after this site for three years,'' said Codina, who has been seeking other opportunities in Coral Gables since finishing another office building at 355 Alhambra.

Codina doesn't expect to begin construction on the larger building until sometime in 2006 and it would take about 16 months to complete. Those dates could be moved up if Burger King agreed to become a tenant, Codina said.


The fast-food chain needs to relocate by September 2007, when its lease at the Waterford office complex in Blue Lagoon expires.

If Burger King decides to go elsewhere, Codina said he would build the building and then lease it to multiple users.

''I don't need Burger King as a tenant to do that building,'' Codina said.

Burger King has said the problem with staying in Miami, which has always been the company's home, is the economic viability due to the high cost of real estate. That makes it tough for a company aiming to cut costs, clean up its balance sheet and ultimately go public.

Burger King spokeswoman Edna Johnson declined to provide any updates on the search for a new headquarters.

Brenneman has said if the company stays in South Florida, Codina will be the one to build the new headquarters.

''There a lot of issues on their end about what to do,'' Codina said. ``If Burger King is going to stay, this would certainly be an attractive option.''


Coral Gables city officials are anxious to see Codina and Burger King finalize a deal on the City National site.

''I heard they were very close, but I haven't heard it's a done deal,'' Coral Gables City Manager David Brown said. ``I would certainly love to have Burger King here.''

But Coral Gables has been spurned before by Burger King. Before finalizing a last minute deal in 2000 for its Blue Lagoon office, Burger King scuttled plans to move to Coral Gables.

Local real estate brokers say even if Codina doesn't land Burger King as a tenant, he shouldn't have any problem filling the space.

''As a long-term play, it's still going to be a successful building,'' said Edgar Jones, senior director of Florida operations for the Rockefeller Group. ``There are very few sites in Coral Gables where you can build a substantial building.''

Rents are going to need to be in the neighborhood of $40 per square foot, said Pete Harrison, senior vice president of Transwestern Commercial Services.

''There's definitely demand for new office product in Coral Gables,'' Harrison said. ``People are going to have to realize that's what they're going to have to pay to be in quality office space.''

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New housing could bring 4,000 new residents to Gables

By Yeleny Suarez

Miami Today

Developments in the pipeline in Coral Gables could add 2,133 housing units and boost the city's population of 43,216 about 10%.

The 67 developments in process - part of a countywide boom of more than 100,000 new housing units - include 40 commercial projects, some of which include housing.

Burgeoning development has helped increase total property values in Coral Gables 10% to 11% a year over the past three years, and City Manager David Brown says there is no reason values should not grow another 10% this year. Present values are $9.2 billion, up from $8.2 billion a year ago.

"Development is doing very well. I don't have reason to believe planned developments will not be materialized," Mr. Brown said. "The city has grown into a corporation-tenant business mix with a good pedestrian flow."

The city's Planning and Zoning Department lists 40 commercial projects in the works as of March 1 that include 1,323 residences at a projected cost of $89.6 million.

Of these, 20 are in preliminary phases, eight in permitting and 12 under permit. The largest project, at $46 million, is at City National Bank, 2701 S LeJeune Rd. Plans call for demolition of a bank building and parking lot and construction of two office buildings.

Meanwhile, 27 residential projects are expected to add 810 units. Two projects in permitting are to include 244 units, 14 with permits are to include 355 and 11 in preliminary phases are to include 211.

Few of the projects require city commission action, said Vice Mayor Ralph Cabrera, because most of them adhere to existing code. "If you build something as of right, you do not have to go to the commission," he said. "This means the buyer checks out the zoning and builds accordingly and then goes before the preliminary review board and then the board of architects."

The city, he said, has very little vacant land, most of which has been held for many years by the McBride family. Mr. Cabrera said the McBrides own a lot behind David William Hotel, 700 Biltmore Dr.; a triangular spot in a residential area; and a lot at Ponce de Leon parallel to South Dixie Highway and Riviera Drive.

Most of the city's commercial development is actually redevelopment, said Dennis S. Smith, assistant director of building and zoning.

"All the people involved in projects are moving very expeditiously forward," Mr. Smith said. "They are moving right into construction drawing, which is a good indication they are going to go forward with the project."

Mr. Brown said the city is working on rewriting the zoning code and comprehensive land-use plan to make sure residents are protected from growth.

"By rewriting the zoning code to be completed by the end of the year," he said, "we are making sure the future growth structure supports parking, traffic flow and fire protection."

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It's about time something is being done to that building.

I lived directly across the street from it for 2+ years.

My wife and I used to say (about all the vacant buildings & projects that got started but, never seem to get completed by local developers):


That about sums that building up.

I used to hang out there as a junior highschool student, and looking back now, I can see why it failed as a viable retail space: the develpoer targeted youth oriented business (and the fatal flaws: it had a movie theater & gaming place). More recently we are seeing the same business model fail in Sunset Place.

I think for any establishment, of that scale, to work it needs to focus on a more advanced (in age) target market. The spenders are a few years older than I was when I used to spend my weekends there.

Anyway, glad to see something of value take up residence in my old stomping grounds.

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An interesting twist in the Home Depot debate.

Designer shows ideas for Coconut Grove Home Depot

... "As a resident and working professional in Coconut Grove, I am personally committed to helping Home Depot deliver a unique building that preserves the neighborhood's character and does not impose upon the village," said Max Strang, founder and principal of Max Strang Architecture. "Ultimately, I believe that an appropriate, custom-designed store will be a positive addition and convenient resource for the community."...


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Posted on Sun, May. 15, 2005


City to restore historic Bahamian district

A long-awaited restoration project in the 'Black Gables' neighborhood -- on the National Register of Historic Places -- got under way last week.


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Sick of her creaky floors, soggy carpets and the drop ceiling she installed in the 1970s, Antoinette Price has waited several years for her Coral Gables home to be restored to its original, historic glory.

But she's just as excited about the new dishwasher and central air that are promised.

That dream got closer last week as Coral Gables and Miami-Dade County officials celebrated the kick-off of an ambitious preservation project that will eventually restore 13 homes in the City Beautiful's only nationally-recognized historic district...

Read more: Miami Herald

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Groups differ on saving landmark playhouse

To directors of the iconic but financially struggling Coconut Grove Playhouse, a plan to build condos and a new theater on the property is a matter of survival -- even though it could mean razing all or part of its stately old home.

To preservationists and combative Grove activists, it's a call to battle.

The mission, as they see it: first, to save one of Coconut Grove's oldest, most distinctive and beloved buildings, the theater where the U.S. premiere of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot took place in 1956. And then to make sure no condo tower ever looms over the theater and the low-scale village around it.

Already, it's turning into the kind of knock-down, drag-out fight that is a Grove hallmark....


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