Monica Schmitz: Coral Gables 2021

STUDENT BIO

Photograph taken by Isabelle Schmitz/CC 4.0

Monica Schmitz is a sophomore at Florida International University, studying Public Relations with Advertising, and Applied Communications. With a love for writing, graphic design, and photography, Monica aspires to be a published author and work at a communication agency. Having lived in Minnesota, Virginia, and California, Monica is passionate about discovering other cultures and traveling. She has challenged herself with many leadership positions and involvements which have allowed her to see the world through new perspectives. She is always eager to learn more and use her voice to make an impact in the world. 

GEOGRAPHY

Image taken from Google Maps

Coral Gables is a city located in Miami-Dade County in southeastern Florida. With winding avenues, embellished plazas, and grand buildings, it brings a sense of charm to this busy city. Located just south of the Miami International airport, its proximity makes it convenient for business executives and frequent travelers to reside in Coral Gables. West of Key Biscayne and north of the Deering Estate, the city is surrounded by a variety of cultures and histories, as well as urban life and nature. As a suburb of Miami, Coral Gables caught the attention of many rich real estate investors in the 1920s. George Merrick, with the assistance of architect Frank Button, Denman Fink, H. George Fink, and Phineas Paist, set out to develop the natural landscape into a planned community. Merrick and his team transformed thousands of acres of native hammock and plantations into streets, parks, buildings, and plazas. Merrick wanted to build both a “City Beautiful” and a “Garden City”(tclf.org). The city achieves that goal with its tree-lined streets, picturesque residential city, and variety of landmarks. Waterways and canals in Coral Gables offer a variance to the flat natural landscape of the area, and they offer an attraction for walking, canoeing, and viewing wildlife (EvoGov.com). The city has several plazas, their Spanish-themed fountains giving a sense of charm and antiquity. Green space is a priority in Coral Gables, with over twenty parks and trees lining the streets. As urban life continues to grow, developers compete to find real estate land in this sought-after city. Many developers are in support of clearing the older buildings to expand the city. However, many are not in support of demolishing the architectural buildings and join groups such as the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables to advocate against the overdevelopment of the city (themiamihurricane.com). 

HISTORY

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC 4.0

Coral Gables, known as The City Beautiful, has a rich history as one of Miami’s luxury neighborhoods. In 1899, George Merrick moved to Miami. In 1921, Merrick acquired 3,000 acres of land that he used to begin his suburb development. Most of the city’s establishment can be attributed to George Merrick, who worked to build his vision for the city. Merrick had an inspiration to create a City Beautiful Movement, wanting to create an aesthetic and stylish city. It was one of the first planned cities in Florida, transforming a patch of wilderness into an internationally-known establishment. The wealth of the Merrick family helped to fund the development of the city, and his network of friends and family helped to execute his vision (thenewtropic.com). At the time of the city’s development, many social movements were occurring across the country and aided in promoting the City Beautiful Movement (coralgablesmuseum.org). Although Merrick’s dream for the City Beautiful Movement did come true, many of his other ideas did not. For example, he had hoped to create multiple villages with the unique architecture around the world. Issues arose, however, such as the Hurricane of 1926 and Merrick falling into debt. In 1928 he was asked to resign as the Coral Gables Commissioner. The city faced many unexpected hardships. During World War II, soldiers took over the city and turned many of the buildings into hospitals for the army. The city saw a rise in development during the 1950s and 1960s with the creation of Miracle Mile and the business district becoming more established. In the 80s, the city embraced a more Mediterranean architecture style, keeping the vision that George Merrick had for the City Beautiful (coralgableschamber.org).

DEMOGRAPHICS

The population of Coral Gables is currently at 49,699 residents. The average median age is 39 years old, but the highest number of residents are 65+ years old, making up 17.51% of the residents. 52.68% of the population are female, while 47.32% are male. When it comes to ethnicity distribution, the three highest percentages are Hispanic, white, and black. 58.78% of the population are Hispanic or Latino, 32.20% are white or caucasian, and 4.65% are black. The average household income is $83,774, and most household sizes are 2 persons (beaconcouncil.com).

Interview with Resident: Oscar Vinces

Photograph taken by Nani Penagos/CC by 4.0

Monica: “What do you like about living in Coral Gables? How would you describe the city?”

Oscar: “What I really liked about living here is the remote living while being in the center of Miami. To me, location means a lot as well as the neighborhood I reside in. Downtown Miami is 15 minutes away, Sweetwater is 20 minutes away, Pinecrest is 10 minutes away. I saw it as an opportunity to be able to be in a comfortable home while living in a very nice area. Many businesses which I visit often are also located in Coral Gables”

Monica: “Is there anything you dislike about Coral Gables?”

Oscar: “There really isn’t anything I dislike about Coral Gables. Due to the location and high demand for the area, the prices for lots of things I use are relatively higher than in other areas. Besides that, it is an amazing area to live in.”

Monica: “Are there any differences you’ve noticed about Coral Gables compared to other cities?”

Oscar: “One main difference that I’ve noticed living here was the lifestyle that its population holds is a lot more expensive than most cities I’ve seen. The average income is higher as well as Real Estate value is much higher too. This area is also a lot safer to live in compared to other cities in the state of Florida.” 

LANDMARKS

The city of Coral Gables is home to many landmarks, rich in history, nature, and culture. With its charm and architectural beauty, Coral Gables draws visitors to its many attractions, stores, plazas, and landmarks. Among some of the most significant include the City Hall, Venetian Pool, Merrick House, and the Coral Gables Museum. Below, three landmarks are highlighted due to their influence on the history and culture of Coral Gables. 

Actors’ Playhouse at Miracle Theatre – 280 Miracle Mile

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC 4.0
Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC 4.0

The Actors’ Playhouse is an award-winning theatre company, performing musicals and plays year-round. In the 1990s, they joined with Coral Gables to restore the Miracle Theater. Located on Miracle Mile in the heart of Coral Gables, Miracle Theater has been entertaining Coral Gables since 1948 when it opened as a movie house. The Miracle Theater is still home to the Actors’ Playhouse to this day, allowing space for performing arts to be highlighted in the community while preserving a theater with historical significance. The theater has offered a platform for Coral Gables to grow, bringing together education, culture, and art (https://www.actorsplayhouse.org/about-us/). 

Coral Gables Congressional Church – 3010 De Soto Blvd

The Coral Gables Congressional Church was built on land donated by George Merrick, whose father was a Congregational minister. Founded in 1923, It is one of the oldest buildings established in Coral Gables and is a significant landmark in the city. Designed by the architects Kiehnel and Elliot, it takes inspiration from a cathedral in Mexico and contains original Spanish decor. The interior of the church has preserved much of the 1920s decor, a wonderful reference to the style and design of the 1900s. Almost 100 years after its establishment, the church is still an affluent aspect of the Coral Gables community, with a diverse culture and continued community engagement (https://gablesucc.org/about-us/our-history/). 

Biltmore Hotel – 1200 Anastasia Ave

As one of the most iconic buildings in Coral Gables, the Biltmore Hotel stands as a beacon in the city. With Mediterranean-inspired style, the hotel’s copper-clad tower is modeled after the Giralda Tower in Spain. In 1924, George Merrick united with John McEntee Bowman to build the grand hotel. In a project that would cost $10 million, Bowman set out to create a 400-room hotel that would not only be lodging but also be a center for entertainment. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Biltmore Hotel hosted galas and dances, drawing spectators from around the world. However, with the approach of World War II, the hotel was converted into a hospital and housed patients from the Army Air Forces. In 1973, the rights of possession for the hotel were given to the Historic Monuments Act and Legacy of Parks program. It was not until 1987 that the Biltmore opened again as a resort. In 1996 the National Register of Historic Places gave the Biltmore the National Historic Landmark title. Today, the hotel operates as a 273 room hotel as well as a landmark for visitors to view its beauties. It resides elegantly over golf courses, boulevards, and tree-lined avenues, representing the style and magnificence of Coral Gables (www.biltmorehotel.com).

GREEN

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

The Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is a unique aspect of Coral Gables. With 83 acres of coastal habitat and tropical gardens, the park shares a variety of gardening beauties with the city. The garden contains more than 3,400 species. There is an array of ecosystems, including native and exotic plants (miamiandbeaches.com). The Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden gets its name from David Fairchild, a famous plant explorer. As a well-known scientist, Dr. Fairchild traveled the world educating, exploring, and searching for plants. After visiting almost every continent in the world, Dr. Fairchild brought back many important plants including dates, nectarines, and mangos. In 1935 when Dr. Fairchild retired, he joined together with William Lyman Phillips, Robert H. Montgomery, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and Charles Crandon. In 1938, the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden opened its gates to the public. To this day, it hosts many festivals, art exhibitions, and a venue for events such as weddings. The garden offers an oasis into the natural world within a city (fairchildgarden.org).

Biltmore Golf Course

The Biltmore Golf Course is an 18-hole, 71-par championship course. The course was designed in 1925 by Donald Ross, a golf course architect. However, in 2018 the course was updated for modern games with features such as laser leveled tee boxes. Located outside of the Biltmore Hotel, it offers a picturesque background, and the course is open to guests of the hotel as well as Coral Gable’s residents and visitors. Many famous athletes have played on the Bitmore course, raising the prices of the golf course overall. The elegance of the golf course matches the luxurious feeling of Coral Gables. The golf course offers a way for visitors to experience modern entertainment while interacting with a historic and iconic area of the city. With 18 holes, the Biltmore Golf Course offers a natural environment within the busy city of Coral Gables (biltmorehotel.com). 

Matheson Hammock Park

The Matheson Hammock Park is a Miami-Dade County park located on a peninsula extending into Biscayne Bay. Opened in 1930, the park surrounds areas of the Fairchild Tropical Botanic garden and runs along acres of the Maimi coast. The park is home to swamps, hardwood forests, and mangroves. The park was carefully planned by William Lyman Phillips, an architect. The park provides a home for hundreds of plant and animal species. In addition to the green spaces, the park offers an atoll pool, a marina, and a waterfront restaurant (​​miamiandbeaches.com). 

TRANSPORTATION

The most popular form of transportation in Coral Gables is driving. When it comes to transportation to work, 75.1% of people drive alone, 8.18% work at home and are in no need of transportation to work, and 6.52% carpool to their job according to Data USA. Only 4.07% of residents use public transportation (datausa.io). However, Coral Gables offers many public transportation options, including a Metromover, a Metrorail, the Metrobus, and the Coral Gables Trolley. Operating since 2003, the Coral Gables Trolley provides service to 4,000 people a day. It runs along two routes, one on Ponce de Leon and one along Grand Ave. The Coral Gables Trolley is an excellent way to travel around the city and visit the business district, shops, galleries, or restaurants. It operates Monday through Saturday from 6:30 am until 8 pm, which makes it convenient for any resident who needs to ride it to or from work. On the first Friday of every month, the trolley stays operating until 10 pm (coralgables.com). The Metromover is a free public transportation system that connects to the Miami Metrorail and the Metrobus. The Metromover provides transportation to many destinations around Miami, including the American Airlines Arena and Bayside Market Place. The Metromover operates every day from 5 am until midnight. The Metrorail covers a 25-mile range, from the Miami International Airport, through South Miami, Kendall, Coral Gables, and more. Although it is not free, it is easy to purchase a Transit Pass to ride. The Miami Metrobus can also be ridden with a Transit Pass, and it provides access to many areas such as Miami Beach, Key Biscayne, and Coral Gables (miamidade.gov). Although many residents of Coral Gables do not use the public transportation systems provided, it is important to know they are available and can be extremely helpful for those that need them for transportation to work, home, and other areas. 

FOOD

Crema

Crema Gourmet is a modern-style coffee shop. They have a cozy atmosphere with practical study space for working, but they also offer a wide variety of menu items for dining. From well-crafted coffee to wine and bottomless mimosas, they have a menu option for every taste. Open since 2012, they have become a local favorite and are dedicated to creating a unique customer experience. Some popular menu items include their feta cheese and tomato scrambled eggs, fresh-pressed juices, and buttery croissants.

Graziano’s Restaurant Coral Gables

A traditional Argentinean steakhouse, Graziano’s offers an elegant experience to its restaurant guests. Open for over 20 years, the restaurant is the perfect spot for events or intimate dinners. With firepits and floor-to-ceiling glass, the aesthetic of the interior matches the fire and grill cooking of the steakhouse. Know for their quality wine and meat, it is a meal well worth the price. For those who don’t eat meat, they offer many vegetarian and vegan options such as unique salads and homemade pasta. The dining experience is as good as the food, capturing the charm of Coral Gables while cooking the Argentine way.

CRAFT Coral Gables

CRAFT in Coral Gables is a newly-established restaurant, just opening in 2021. With a menu full of comfort food, it offers American-style food in a stylish dining experience. With breakfast and brunch options as well as wood-fired pizza and craft beers, CRAFT takes a simplistic approach to quality. Located close to Miracle Mile, it is a wonderful restaurant spot for Coral Gables and residents alike. A menu favorite is the Pintoresca Pizza, with mozzarella, asparagus, beetroot, burrata, and a balsamic glaze. The restaurant has been thriving in Coral Gables despite being established only recently, and it has a bright future as an American-style favorite. 

BUSINESSES

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC 4.0

Books & Books

Books & Books is a small business located in the heart of Coral Gables. Built during 1982, the small bookstore has transformed into a great collection of books on subjects such as architecture, art, philosophy, and psychology. Located on Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, the business promotes a literary movement in the city, creating an environment for education and discussion. Hosting many author events, it brings together book lovers from all around Miami with its charm and extensive collection (booksandbooks.com).

Violetas

Violetas is a home, furniture, and decor boutique located on Miracle Mile. From luxury lines to homemade collections, Violeta offers a unique variety of pieces for customers to choose from. They offer elegant as well as edgy styles, bringing modern Miami style together with Coral Gable’s historic charm. Founded by a mother-daughter duo, Patricia Anton Himmel and Patricia Kronfle use their travel experience to influence the style and gather quality pieces that elevate every home. Although the prices of Violetas are high, the luxurious shopping experience makes browsing the store a recommendable occurrence for anyone (violetashomedesign.com). 

Essence Boutique

Established in 2005, Essence Boutique is a women’s apparel store located on Miracle Mile. Carrying clothes, shoes, bags, and jewelry, they have a variety of choices and styles. Many of their clothes come from Brazil and Latin America, making the boutique a shopping spot for locals as well as tourists due to the unique pieces. After being open for over fifteen years, they have now expanded to having an online store as well (essencemiami.com).

SUMMARY

Photographs taken by Monica Schmitz/CC 4.0

Coral Gables is a luxurious suburb of Miami, filled with culture and history. From over 100 restaurants choices to countless shops along Miracle Mile, Coral Gables offers a charming escape within Miami. Wandering down the tree-lined avenues, you are surrounded by beautiful and historic landmarks such as the Venetian Pool and Biltmore Hotel. The charming residences of the city are close to shops, restaurants, and green spaces. Coral Gables is known as one of the best places to live in Florida, according to Niche (​​niche.com).

Not all of Coral Gables is magnificent, however. Growing up in Minnesota and moving to Miami, I had a very basic understanding of Miami’s history. The more time I spend here and the more I learn, however, the more I understand the complexities of the city’s culture and history. Visiting Coral Gables for the first time, I was swept away by the picturesque look of the city. However, as I researched the city, I learned more about the difficult and saddening aspects of the city, such as the economic disparity and racism. The city, founded by George Merrick, was developed in a time when classes and races were divided. Aspects of Coral Gables make the classism mindset of the time apparent. Merrick built the city to be a prosperous and spectacular city, hoping to attract those with wealth and class. Because of the attitude of the era during which Coral Gables was founded, black people were segregated by Jim Crowe laws and prevented the opportunity to gain wealth and affluence. This created a divide, hindering black people from residing in the city. The residents of Coral Gables were mainly white and Hispanic, and that composition remains the same to this day. Although it feels as if society has moved away from our classism and racist mindset of the 1900s, the composition of Coral Gable’s population is evidence that it remains. 

Another downside of the city is the high amounts of traffic in and outside of Coral Gables. As many of the residents commute to work, there is a vast amount of traffic during the peak hours in the morning and afternoon. Although the city has tried to combat this situation with public transportation, many of the residents refuse to use it or it is impractical for them to use, so the traffic issue remains. 

Overall, Coral Gables is a very successful city. The many restaurants and shops thrive from the residents who live there. Many tourists are drawn to the city, impressed by the historical landmarks, the lush green avenues, the Mediterranean-style architecture, and countless events. Known as “The City Beautiful”, Coral Gables lives up to its name. 

CITATIONS

“Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre.” Actors Playhouse at The Miracle Theatre, https://www.actorsplayhouse.org/about-us/. 

“Biltmore Miami History.” The Biltmore Hotel Coral Gables Miami, 8 July 2021, https://www.biltmorehotel.com/hotel/biltmore-miami-history/. 

“Books & Books in Coral Gables.” Books & Books, 12 Mar. 2021, https://www.booksandbooks.com/stores-and-cafes/coral-gables/. 

“Coral Gables, FL.” Data USA, https://datausa.io/profile/geo/coral-gables-fl/#housing. 

“Coral Gables.” The Cultural Landscape Foundation, https://www.tclf.org/landscapes/coral-gables. 

“Essence.” Essence Miami, https://www.essencemiami.com/pages/about-us. 

EvoGov.com. City of Coral Gables – about Coral Gables, https://www.coralgables.com/about-coral-gables. 

“Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, FL.” MiamiandBeaches.com, https://www.miamiandbeaches.com/thing-to-do/parks-recreation/fairchild-tropical-botanic-garden/2149. 

“Golf.” The Biltmore Hotel Coral Gables Miami, 6 Dec. 2021, https://www.biltmorehotel.com/golf/. 

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

Kay-Ann Henry, et al. “Landscape of Coral Gables.” The Miami Hurricane, 17 Oct. 2019, https://www.themiamihurricane.com/2019/10/14/landscape-of-coral-gables-um-rapidly-changing-in-face-of-urbanization/. 

“The City Beautiful Movement.” Coral Gables Museum, 1 Mar. 2019, https://coralgablesmuseum.org/portfolio-item/the-city-beautiful-movement/. 

Transportation & Public Works, https://www.miamidade.gov/global/transportation/home.page. 

“Matheson Hammock Park in Coral Gables, FL.” MiamiandBeaches.com, https://www.miamiandbeaches.com/thing-to-do/parks-recreation/matheson-hammock-park/4704. 

“Miami Today: A Vibrant Community and Bastion of Business.” The Beacon Council, 18 May 2018, https://www.beaconcouncil.com/data/demographic-overview/todays-miami/.

“Mission & History.” Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, 15 Sept. 2020, https://fairchildgarden.org/mission-history/.  

“Our History.” Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ, 31 July 2020, https://gablesucc.org/about-us/our-history/. 

“Violetas Home Design.” Casa Violetas LLC, https://violetashomedesign.com/. 

Zirulnick, Ariel. “Meet George Merrick, the Man Who Made Coral Gables.” The New Tropic, 28 Apr. 2016, https://thenewtropic.com/george-merrick/. 

“2021 Best Suburbs to Live in Florida.” Niche, https://www.niche.com/places-to-live/search/best-suburbs/s/florida/. 

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