Sofia De La Torre: Coral Gables 2021

Image from tripadvisor.com

STUDENT BIO

My name is Sofia De La Torre. I am a junior in the Honors College studying Biological Sciences on a pre-med track hoping to one day achieve my goal of being a surgeon.

GEOGRAPHY

Map of Coral Gables, Screenshot from Google maps

Coral Gables is located at coordinates 25°43′42″N 80°16′16″W and occupies a 37.31 mi² radius of land. It is right next to the Pinecrest and Coconut Grove neighborhoods. The city, which was built in the 1920s, is extremely close to the water, with most of the east side of Coral Gables being located on the Biscayne Bay having either direct water access or canals running through many of the residential streets. It sits at around 10 feet above sea level, making it a very desirable area for property owners and/or investors. Coral Gables is known for its flourishing greenery and tree-lined streets.

Images from Coral Gables Overview Pamphlet

HISTORY

Image from hotelcolonnade.com

Coral Gables is regarded as one of Miami’s high-class, luxury neighborhoods. It is one of the first planned communities to be built in the United States. The founder of the neighborhood, George E. Merrick, envisioned what he termed a “Garden City” containing lush greenery throughout both residential and urban areas. The city is known for its Mediterranean Revival architectural style, similar to other areas in Miami. The city has many historic sites, such as the Venetian Pool, the Biltmore Hotel, City Hall, and many more. Incorporated in 1925, the 5th oldest incorporated city in Miami, it has grown into a hub for businesses in the downtown area and a retreat for the retired in the residential community.

When Miami was first being discovered and “colonized”, rich white men from the north came down south to build and buy properties which would later make them profit. George Merrick isn’t much different from the Deering brothers, who came to Miami, Florida from Maine to build their lavish homes. George E. Merrick was a real estate developer and governor of Florida. He was born in Pennsylvania but moved to Miami when he was 12. He grew up in a small house in what is now known as the Gables area and named the neighborhood after that house due to its coral/limestone walls and gabled roof.

Image from Coral Gables Overview Pamphlet

The City Beautiful Movement was a philosophy of North American architecture and urban city planning that flourished during the 1890s and 1900s. It promoted the idea that beautification and monumental grandeur in cities was beneficial to the community. Merrick incorporated a lot of these ideals when creating Coral Gables. “In a 1925 interview with the New York Times, Merrick commented: ‘Just how I came to utilize the Spanish type of architecture in Coral Gables, I can hardly say, except that it always seemed to me to be the only way houses should be built down there in those tropical surroundings.’” He brought Spanish and Mediterranean style architecture to Miami because he thought the “vibe” suited the tropical weather we experience here. This artistic style of architecture and landscaping in which Merrick envisioned turned into the beautiful city of Coral Gables as we know it today.

DEMOGRAPHICS

The population of Coral Gables is currently at 51,673 residents. Women make up 52.39% of the population, while men make up the other 47.61%. The median age of residents is 39, however, the 65+ community takes the highest spot when it comes to age distribution, with the 20-29 age group coming in a close second. 70.4% of the population of Coral Gables have an Associate’s degree or higher and 33.25% have a Graduate level education or higher. Coral Gables population has a labor force of 26,688 people and an unemployment rate of 4.2%. The median income level of a household is $95,264, however 59.34% of the households earn more than average each year. This median household income is 82% higher than the median of Miami-Dade County. The majority of residents are owners of their homes (60.38%), while the remaining 39.62% rent their homes. (Miami-Dade Beacon Council)

Image from https://www.beaconcouncil.com/why-miami-dade/cities/coral-gables/

This neighborhood is known to be one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Miami, coming in second right after Miami Beach (Fisher Island). The median price of a house is more than $3.5 million. This is one of the reasons that Coral Gables is considered to be very exclusive, only a select few in Miami can afford a home in this price range.

University of Miami, which George Merrick is credited for its establishment, is also located in Coral Gables. This brings a lot of out-of-state students to the school. UM is the perfect location, being in Miami, for college students who love to party. 

Interview with Robert Taraboulos:

Photo by Robert Taraboulos

Robert Taraboulos is a CPA and co-founder of the accounting firm KSDT & Company.

How long have you lived in Coral Gables (Cocoplum)?

I have lived in Cocoplum for about five years now.

What is your favorite thing about the property or neighborhood?

My house is located on a canal and has access to the bay, which was a deal breaker for me when looking for homes. The neighborhood is very safe and quiet, which my family and I love. However, there was a python spotted by the front gate once.

Would you live in a different neighborhood? Why?

I used to live in the Kendall/Dadeland area but wouldn’t want to live anywhere else now. Cocoplum is a great neighborhood with amazing schools nearby and I have a waterfront property, which is what I always wanted in a home.

LANDMARKS

1948: Miracle Theater. Image from flashbackmiami.com

Actors’ Playhouse at Miracle Theatre

The Actors’ Playhouse is a theatre company that features plays, musicals, and children’s programs all year-round. In 1995, Coral Gables and Actors’ Playhouse partnered together to begin restoration of the Miracle Theatre. The Miracle Theatre was established in 1947, designed by architect William H. Lee. It served as the community movie house for over 50 years. After its restoration which began in 1990, the theatre’s Art Deco opulence returned to the community. This theater now serves as the home of the Actors’ Playhouse company and is the center of performing arts for the community of Coral Gables.

Biltmore Hotel

The Biltmore Hotel is one of the most historic and well-known hotels in Miami. It was built by George Merrick, founder of Coral gables, in 1926. It became a hot spot for golf tournaments, fashion shows, and many more glamorous events. During World War II, it served as a military hospital and continued to serve as a veteran hospital after the war ended. Now, it is known for its elegant architecture style, huge golf course, and gorgeous wedding venues.

When The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables opened in January of 1926, the “horseless carriage” had become America’s most popular extravagance. In this scene, shot from the front of the hotel, model T’s, Lincolns and other fancy autos line the parking area, while their celebrity passengers enjoy the finer things in life. Image from flashbackmiami.com

Coral Gables Museum

Coral Gables Museum is the historic site of the old Police and Fire Station built in 1938. The building keeps on with the theme of Mediterranean Revival style architecture seen throughout the Gables. Located in the heart of downtown, the museum now houses exhibits focusing on civic arts and host educational events for the community.

GREEN

Matheson Hammock Park

Matheson Hammock Park is a 630-acre urban park in metropolitan Miami, located just south of downtown Coral Gables. It is one of Miami-Dade’s 7 parks that are designated as heritage parks. It is the oldest park in South Florida. The park shares its borders with another green space in the community, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens. Opened in 1930, the park contains a marina and now a restaurant, Redfish by Chef Adrianne. It remains practically unchanged since its opening in 1930 but is a popular spot for boaters and bikers to enjoy.

Photo by Jason Lopez / CC by 4.0

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Established in 1936 by Robert H. Montgomery, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is home to over 15,000 species of plants and trees. The park was founded by an accountant who had a passion for plant collecting. He named it after his friend, David Fairchild, who was also a plant explorer and admirer. The park is open to the public for a small entrance fee. Fairchild conducts many botanic research projects and has partnered with FIU, UM, and other schools to help train students. They also partnered with the Million Orchids Project to restore the native orchid species to Miami. Miami has a big problem with invasive species of plant and animals and Fairchild is doing its best to lessen the effects of these species on the native Floridian species. The gardens are a peaceful place to walk around and enjoy nature and is a popular picture spot among the younger crowd!

Image from Miami Herald / CC by 4.0

Venetian Pool

The Venetian Pool is a historic public swimming pool created from an old coral rock quarry in 1923. Created by George Merrick, it also follows the theme of Mediterranean Revival style that the rest of the Gables does. It is a popular tourist attraction as it is the only pool added to the list of National Register of Historic Places. It isn’t necessarily considered a “green space”; however, it is one of the coolest natural freshwater pools.

TRANSPORTATION

All modes of transportation are used throughout the Gables from bikes to trolleys and even boats. On the residential east side, cars, bikers and people walking are very common. In downtown, you’ll see more trolleys and cars. However, since the neighborhood is practically on the water, many people take their boats out directly from their houses. Since the Gables is in between many popular surrounding neighborhoods, this creates a lot of traffic at certain times of the day. The city is perfectly located where South Beach, Coconut Grove, and other popular cities are just a short drive away. Residents spend an average 22 minutes commuting to and from work every day.

FOOD

Coral Gables is home to some of the fanciest and most popular restaurants in Miami. There is way too many to name, but here are three that have made their impact on the city and visited by people from all over the world.

Caffe Abbracci

Caffe Abbracci is an Italian restaurant that caters to many different audiences. During the day, it is a popular lunch spot for businessmen to conduct meetings or for the housewives to mingle. By night, the restaurant becomes a romantic date-night worthy place to dine. They serve many upscale pasta, seafood, and meat dishes, but doesn’t lose the homemade authentic side of Italian food. Located in the heart of downtown Coral Gables on Aragon Avenue, the prices aren’t too low. The restaurant features a gorgeous tiffany style, stained glass ceiling and crystal chandeliers.

Image from christysrestaurant.com

Christy’s Restaurant

Christy’s Restaurant is a classic steakhouse and fine dining experience that has been open since 1978. The restaurant attracts many couples due to the elegant ambiance created by the wood-paneled walls and piano bar. Also located in the heart of downtown Coral Gables on Ponce de Leon Blvd., the prices aren’t too low. They are known for their table side flambéed iconic Baked Alaska and delicious cuts of meat and seafood. 

Redfish by Chef Adrianne

Redfish by Chef Adrianne, which was previously known as Redfish Grill, is located in Matheson Hammock Park and was founded in 1996. Charles Hauser, who is the founder of the famous Redfish Grill, also founded Christy’s Restaurant. Redfish has a seaside venue which features 360 ocean views, making it one of Miami’s most unique restaurants. They serve seafood dishes featuring Chef Adrianne’s “Maximum Flavor” style.

BUSINESSES

Image from mapquest.com

Wayside Market

Pinecrest Wayside Market is an outdoor fruit and vegetable market with some of the best milkshakes and smoothies in Miami. Although it is not exactly located in Coral Gables, I had to include it because it is a staple for Miami natives in this area. Located on Red Road, it is less than a 5-minute drive from the Gables but is a popular spot to stop and relax when on a walk or bike ride.

Bacardi

Bacardi Limited, the liquor company, has their main USA headquarters in downtown Coral Gables. The company was founded in 1862 in Santiago de Cuba. The Bacardi family began making rum in Cuba and dominated the industry. During the Cuban revolution, the family maintained a strong opposition to Fidel Castro’s rule over Cuba. Eventually, the family escaped Cuba, but the government kept all their assets and monies in the bank and gave the Bacardi’s no compensation. Luckily the company survived and is now one of the largest family-owned spirits companies in the world. The Bacardi family story is one that many Cuban immigrants had to face when leaving their country and moving to the United States, however many immigrants were not as well off as the Bacardi’s were.

Image from Coral Gables Overview Pamphlet

Books & Books

Books & Books is a local bookstore founded by Miami Beach native Mitchell Kaplan in 1982. It features a courtyard and café along with the hundreds of books in the store. They show and sell local artists work at their 5 locations in Miami. They also hold events, such as book clubs and even opening parties (pre-covid). It is a cute hangout for the community to come relax and read a book.

SUMMARY

The city of Coral Gables is a delightful place to spend time and is very safe, however it doesn’t come at a low price. With the average price of a house in the Gables is around $3.5 million, it is a bit of a ways away for most regular Miami residents to be able to move there. The location and activities make the city accessible to many, but the price point may be a problem. Parking and traffic are a huge problem that residents have to endure during certain time of the day. Parking can be expensive, but the city has a free public trolley system and there are a few Metrorail station stops. Due to the desirable location of the city, there is many buildings under construction and new construction popping up in every corner. The nightlife makes it a well-liked location for the younger crowds. The city of Coral Gables is constantly hosting cultural and performing arts events and feature sculptures and art throughout the city. The Mediterranean architecture and landscape make the city a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike.

Word Count: 2339

Works Cited

“Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theater.” Cinema Treasures, cinematreasures.org/theaters/293.

“A History of Coral Gables.” Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, 16 Oct. 2020, coralgableschamber.org/a-history-of-coral-gables/.

“Coral Gables.” The Beacon Council, 26 Apr. 2018, www.beaconcouncil.com/why-miami-dade/cities/coral-gables/.

EvoGov.com. “Economic Overview.” City of Coral Gables – Economic Overviewwww.coralgables.com/business#evo_interior_title

FM, WLRN 91.3. “A History Of The Biltmore, Miami’s Best Known Creepy Hotel.” WLRN, 31 Oct. 2014, www.wlrn.org/culture/2014-10-30/a-history-of-the-biltmore-miamis-best-known-creepy-hotel.

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