Letizia D’Avenia is a Junior at the FIU Honors College, majoring in psychology with a declared track in the Industrial-Organizational specialization and a certificate in Team Management. She has lived her entire life in the city of Milan, Italy, and after moving to Miami three years ago, she became involved in different organizations on campus, such as Roarthon and Omicron Delta Kappa. Some of her hobbies include spending time with friends and family, drinking boba tea and collecting pins from different locations around the world.
Photo by CLS advisor at Roarthon (CC by 4.0)
I volunteered for a student-run organization at FIU called Roarthon, a yearlong fundraising campaign ending in a 17 hour long event called Dance Marathon (where participants stand for 17 hours). This tradition started in 1991 thanks to a group of Indiana students, who founded “Dance Marathon” to honor Ryan White, a friend and student who passed away from HIV/AIDS. That small initiative became popular among campuses from the east to the west coast of North America. The money generated through this event benefits Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, which is a non-profit organization that raises funds and awareness for more than 170 pediatric hospitals across the nation. Since their creations, all the Dance Marathons combined have raised over $200 million that went towards the kids being treated at the hospital and their families. At FIU, Roarthon gives back to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital (which is the local Children’s Miracle Network). This hospital history is based on children’s care and to ensure that no child would need to leave Florida to receive the best treatment possible for them (Nicklaus Children Hospital, 2022). After Roarthon was founded in 1997 at FIU, it has greatly contributed to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, raising over $1 million in cash donations and inviting a handful of “Miracle Families” every year to experience the marathon with the students.
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia at Roarthon (CC by 4.0)
I have always been someone who enjoys giving back to my community; whether it’d be a beach cleanup, volunteering at a shelter or participating in a philanthropic event. Therefore, when I heard about Roarthon, I decided to embark on this journey. I joined Roarthon in 2020 as a committee member, during the peak of the COVID outbreak, but I still had a phenomenal time and was able to aid in fundraising over $56,000 for the hospital. Seeing the impact that I had made in the past year as a committee member, I decided to apply for one of the director positions, to help plan the 2022 Dance Marathon. As the Co-Morale Director, I was in charge of ensuring that throughout the 17 hours of the marathon, the participants were having fun and were feeling connected to the cause and engage with others. I was also in charge of a committee of about 15-20 people, and I helped them navigate their tasks and duties, while keeping a positive attitude and being a point of contact for all of them.
My freshman year of college I did not know anyone. I had just moved to Miami from Italy and I felt no sense of belonging. That was the time when I decided to join a sorority. In Italy, Greek life does not exist and I had no idea how much it would have changed my college experience. I decided to become a member of “Phi Mu”, and it is thanks to this organization that I found out about Roarthon. In fact, Phi Mu’s philanthropy is Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and members are strongly encouraged to participate, both in the Dance Marathon and as committee members, and that is why I decided to become part of it.
WHERE & WHAT
Photo by CLS advisor at Roarthon (CC by 4.0)
The marathon began April 9th, for me specifically at 8am. In fact, as a Roarthon member I had to arrive at the WRC (the FIU gym) to set up. After a long morning of preparations, the doors opened at 3pm, allowing the first participants to come in. The opening ceremony started at 5pm, and during that time we welcomed the Miracle Families, who walked towards the stage throughout the Miracle Path, and introduced themselves. Once the opening ceremony was done, we counted down “3,2,1…” and we all got up, ready to stand for the following 17 hours. The first hours passed by quickly. Between dancing, playing interactive games and chit chatting with people, I made it all the way to 11pm without feeling too fatigued. There were different theme hours throughout the event, and at 11pm “rave hour” began. The lights went out and we had neon sticks and bracelets, which allowed us to create the atmosphere of a fun party.
Photo by Roarthon Participant (CC by 4.0)
Once that concluded at around 1am, tiredness started hitting. However, as Co-Morale Director, I had to keep pushing, and thanks to the activities happening on stage such as Pitbull lip-sync battles, dance improvisations, and costume changes to match the different theme hours, I stayed awake for the entire night. At 5am we were served breakfast, and that is when I collapsed; I was so tired I started dreaming while half asleep on the table. Once I ate breakfast and took a shower, I realized that there were only a couple more hours to go, and I felt energized once more. Remembering what and who I was doing this for was a huge motivator in keeping me from sitting down. Additionally, being able to see the LifeFlight ambulance boosted my morale, since I had never seen how infants are transported when they are under critical conditions.
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia at Roarthon in front of LifeLight (CC by 4.0)
Finally, closing ceremony approached, and listening to the testimony of a cancer patient made me realize that although I was in pain and exhausted, I was able to go home, rest and feel better, while ill patients are not able to do so, and many times they have to undergo treatments who will cause 10 times worse the pain I was feeling then. It definitely helped me put my experience into perspective. The total we ended up fundraising was $60,000, and once that total was revealed I cried tears of joy, I was so exhausted but satisfied and ecstatic for the outcome of the event. After more than 17 hours, April 10th, I was leaving the gym at 12pm and as soon as I went back home, I fell asleep.
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia at Roarthon in front of LifeLight (CC by 4.0)
Overall, this has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. It definitely tested my endurance and commitment, but I am glad I did not give up and arrived at the finish line. I believe that every aspect of this Dance Marathon worked well, the food provided was exquisite, the activities were fun, and I made friendships that will last a long time, while making an impact on kids and their families. I am part of the future generations who will be able to change kids’ health, and it is my responsibility to partake in initiatives like these ones, because Kids Can’t Wait!
Letizia D’Avenia is a Junior at the FIU Honors College, majoring in psychology with a declared track in the Industrial-Organizational specialization and a certificate in Team Management. Her career goal is to help women in the workplace to feel confident in their abilities of leadership. She has lived her entire life in the city of Milan, Italy, and after moving to Miami three years ago, she became involved in different organizations on campus, such as Roarthon and Omicron Delta Kappa. Some of her hobbies include spending time with friends and family, drinking boba tea, and collecting pins from different locations around the world.
Map retrieved from Google Maps
Coconut Grove is an elongated neighborhood in Miami-Dade County, that faces the Biscayne Bay from Sunrise Point almost all the way to Brickell. The southern area meets with Sunrise Point, Sunrise Harbor and Coconut Grove Manor. Moving southwest, past the South Dixie Highway, and entering Coral Gables, the beautiful campus of University of Miami can be found in all its glory. Moving north, the city of Coral Gables basically occupies the entire area, the only border between the two neighborhoods is the US1, which causes a dramatic cut that basically limits the entirety of Coconut Grove. In the northernmost part, the tall skyscrapers of Brickell take over, giving tourists the stereotypical idea of Miami. Obviously, towards east the deep blue waters of Biscayne Bay are the only separation between the coast of Coconut Grove and the Key Biscayne island.
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia in Coconut Grove (CC by 4.0)
The peculiarity of this neighborhood being bayside gives it a unique atmosphere, and when tourists arrive in this area they have plenty of opportunities to enjoy the ocean breeze while eating at a fancy restaurant. For being one of Miami’s oldest neighborhoods, the Grove is definitely up to times: it is home to the eclectic mix of different dining locations, such as Le Pain Quotidien and Monty’s, shops, hotels, businesses, such as Nikki Beachouse Boutique and Maya Hatcha and green areas, such as the Barnacle and Peacock Park. Due to its diversity, this area is usually frequented by people from all kinds of ages, since there is an activity to do for everyone. From a political standpoint, the neighborhood is run by the Coconut Grove Village Council, who eventually reports to mayor Francis Suarez, and they ensure that all issues and concerns from local residents are addressed, as well as develop initiatives for the community.
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia in Coconut Grove at the Christ Episcopal Church (CC by 4.0)
Coconut Grove is the oldest permanent settlement in Miami-Dade. In fact, its history dates back to the late 1800s, when African-Bahamians migrated to the United States, specifically from the Bahamas and the Keys (The New Tropic, 2017). This is because of the Homestead Act, which attracted many people, both Bahamians and other settlers, since it promised 160 acres of land to anyone who remained in the region for five years, built a home and raised a crop (Roshan Nebhrajani, 2016). For a long time, all the settlers of this area lived in peace, black and white individuals would exist peacefully together, they’d all attend church collectively and have respect for one another. The houses that were being built at the time resemble the houses from the Keys since so many Bahamians inhabited that area, and they built properties with the same colors and architectural inspirations from where they had originally come from. After multiple people started settling in this area, the first post office was opened and it was named Cocoanut Grove. The person who named it was inspired by the few coconut trees that were planted in hopes of using the area as a coconut plantation. Obviously, this attempt failed shortly after but the name stuck to the village and became official during the annexation of the Grove to Miami, when Dr. David Fairchild, a world famous horticulturist, suggested keeping the name and removing the “a”. Following the post office, this area kept growing and developing, and in 1882 a hotel was established to welcome tourists, known as The Bay View Hotel (or Peacock Inn). This new establishment was in desperate need of more staff, and the owners Charles Peacock and his wife Isabelle started looking for workers in the Keys, where some Bahamians were still living and motivated them to come work at the hotel.
Photo retrieved from The New Tropic of the Bay View Hotel (CC by 4.0)
The first ever black employee of the Hotel and resident of the village was Mariah Brown in 1889, who was an important figure in helping populate Coconut Grove and aided in the influx of people in the area. Another influential black Bahamian of that period was Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup, Sr. Originally, he had come as a chauffeur and a farm worker at industrialist James Deering’s magnificent winter estate, Villa Vizcaya. He eventually gained land through his work for Deering (he asked for land in exchange for his work) and started selling it to Bahamians that were migrating to the Grove, becoming a millionaire and a leader of this growing community. He helped in the purchase of the Charlotte Jane Memorial Park Cemetery, which is the above-ground cemetery where many early black Bahamian families were buried (Roshan Nebhrajani, 2016). Coconut Grove was annexed to the City of Miami against the citizens’ will in 1925, and that is when the atmosphere in the neighborhood was changed forever. The relationship between black and white people deteriorated and the division between West and East Coconut Grove became evident, to the point where the west’s development, which was populated for the majority by the Bahamians, drastically slowed down, while the east kept flourishing. This is a division that still exists today, where the eastern side is an affluent, arts-driven community with expensive waterfront real-estate and lavish hotels located where older homes once stood, while the western side is an example of how a disparity formed over the years still scars the people living there, where poverty and high crime rates are ordinary. Although this division still creates conflict, Coconut Grove kept blooming and growing in many aspects, and thanks to its parades, art festival, and Halloween parties, it has remained a celebratory neighborhood (Icoconutgrove, 2022). The way present and past history intertwine in the Grove gives it a unique atmosphere and still attracts thousands of tourists every year.
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia in Coconut Grove (CC by 4.0)
Since Coconut Grove is part of the City of Miami, the official United States census did not include this area’s information. However, after researching for any information regarding the demographics, I was able to find a website that seemed accurate. The website “Niche” states that this neighborhood’s population is composed of approximately 21,493 individuals. About 51% of the residents are male, while 49% are women. The ethnic groups reflect the history of Coconut Grove since the three main groups present are white (42%), Hispanic (39%), and African-American (15%) community, followed by Asian (2%) and two or more races (1%) individuals. There are also many different age groups. Majority of the community falls within the 65+ years old (about 19%), and the 25-34 years old (16%) range. The 24-44, 45-54 and 55-64 years old ranges are all equivalent to about 13% of the residents. Lastly, young kids and teenagers correspond to 23% and those within the 18-24 years old are the smallest percentage, which is about only 4%. The median income for the residents of Coconut Grove is around $106,834, with about 34% of the population making more than 150k, 24% lying between the 75k-149k, 14% in the 45k-74k range and 27% below 44k.
Interview with Tristan
Tristan (Photo by courtesy of Tristan)
Please introduce yourself
Hi, my name is Tristan Trochu, I’ve lived in Coconut Grove for 17 years.
Do you enjoy living in a coconut grove? Why or why not?
I enjoy living in Coconut Grove as I find it to be the prettiest place to live In Miami. There’s a lot of fauna, parks and it’s right on the ocean. There’s also a lot to do, specifically within walking distance from where I live.
What is your favorite aspect of the neighborhood?
My favorite aspect is what I listed above. The area has a lot to do, it has a lot of marinas allowing you to go sailing and boating and also coco walks with a bunch of restaurants and bars.
If you could change anything about Coconut Grove, what would it be and why?
Honestly, I can’t think of anything I would change. Maybe making some of the roads bigger, as they do get really congested when there is heavy traffic, but overall I love living here.
What is your fondest memory that you have of this neighborhood?
My fondest memory would have to be either going sailing when I was younger or going to cocowalk with my family. We would walk to cocowalk for lunch and sometimes catch a movie at the theaters on weekends.
Coconut Grove Playhouse
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia in Coconut Grove (CC by 4.0)
This playhouse is one of the oldest landmarks of the neighborhood and for many residents, it holds a special meaning. Originally, this building was called the Player’s State Theater, it was envisioned by Irving Thomas and Fin Pierce and brought to life by architect Richard Kienhel. The place opened in 1927 and seated around 1,300 people (Save the Coconut Grove Playhouse, 2022). Additionally, the different floors had multiple functions, having storefronts on the ground floor, offices on the second floor and apartments on the third. The theater fits perfectly the environment of the area, thanks to its Rococo style and bright colors of the facade. One peculiar feature was the air conditioning system, making this one of the first buildings in the area with it. The Playhouse had to close during the Depression, but reopened shortly after, on October 3, 1930, with Ginger Rogers in “Queen High” & Harry Gribbon in “A Hollywood Star (Save the Coconut Grove Playhouse, 2022). During World War II, the theater was used as a training school for US Army Air Corps navigators, and after the war ended it was reopened in 1956, as the Coconut Grove Playhouse and it was Miami’s first live theater. In the following years, the Playhouse became one of the most popular theaters of Miami, hosting many famous plays and acts. The downfall happened in 2006, after the Playhouse was officially closed to the public, and due to poor governance, it is now in need of major restructuring work. There is a constant legal battle to tear this building down and to replace it with a retail/office complex and a small 300-seat auditorium (Save the Coconut Grove Playhouse, 2022). That has caused many activists to speak up on this issue and protest against the possible destruction of this antique and full-of-memories theater.
Charlotte Jane Memorial Park
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia in Coconut Grove (CC by 4.0)
This Memorial Park is a cemetery dedicated to the first Bahamian settlers in the area, and because of this, it has a deep historical significance (Icoconutgrove, 2022). It was created in 1906 thanks to five of the most important Bahamians families, including Joseph Mayor, Daniel and Catherine Anderson (who founded the Christ Episcopal Church), and Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup, the first black millionaire of Coconut Grove. They collectively decided to purchase the land for about $140,000, in order to move the previous cemetery, which had become too small for the fast-growing population of the neighborhood. This caused some controversy, and the Coconut Grove Colored Cemetery Association was formed to oversee this process (Icoconutgrove, 2022).
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia in Coconut Grove (CC by 4.0)
This place is extremely unique, since the tombs are above ground and with different kinds of shapes and decorative motifs on them. Walking in between this sacred place and reading the names of the people who are resting in peace there is a raw experience and it definitely connects individuals to the history of the Bahamians. The Memorial Park is now located at 3575 South Douglas Road, Miami, FL 33231. Lastly, it is rumored that this cemetery was used in Michael’s Jackson’s icon “Thriller” music video, thus explaining the above-ground tombs and crypts shown while Jackson is walking around and singing.
Mariah Brown House
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia in Coconut Grove (CC by 4.0)
The story of Mariah Brown is a fascinating one. Born and raised in Eleuthera, Bahamas, she immigrated to Key Westin 1880, at the age of 29 with her three daughters. There, she worked as a laundress, until around 1889, when she decided to move to Coconut Grove to work at the Peacock Inn. After living at the hotel for some time, she was able to save money and buy her own land from Joseph Frow for only $50. Her house was built in 1890 on that land and it became the first home on Evangelist Street. The house is still standing thanks to the way it was built; in fact, Bahamians who had originally come from the Keys constructed their homes to combat the humidity and hot weather before air conditioning was invented and to also protect against heavy rain and strong winds. The houses built by the Bahamian settlers are now known as “Conch Houses”. These types of structures featured clapboard siding, foundation pears, high ceilings, porches and operable sash windows. Mariah Brown’s impact on her community lasted many years after her death in 1910, and her house is now part of the heart of the history of this neighborhood. It holds such importance that her house is listed in the Florida Black Heritage Trail as part of the Charles Avenue Historic District, and it was designated as a local historic site in 1995 by the City of Miami.
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia in Coconut Grove (CC by 4.0)
“The simple and genuine life”- this was the motto of Ralph Middleton Munroe, the builder and owner of the Barnacle. Munroe was definitely a revolutionist for his time, as a sailor, naturalist and photographer, he cherished nature and adventures. Before permanently establishing himself in Coconut Grove, he visited the area twice. The first time was in 1877 for a pleasant vacation, away from the busy New York, where he and his wife Eva lived. The second time they visited was in 1881, after Eva was diagnosed with Tuberculosis. The doctor actually suggested the trip, hoping that the warm weather and the ocean air might help Eva feel better. Unfortunately, this was not the case and she passed away at their camp on the Miami river; bad news also came from New York, since right after Munroe’s return from the trip, he discovered his infant daughter had also died. He returned to South Miami shortly after, to visit his wife’s grave and aid the Peacocks in opening the first hotel of the area, the Peacock Inn. During that time, Munroe decided to purchase 40 acres of bayfront land in 1886 and one sailboat, named Kingfish. On the land, he originally built a boathouse, but after it was destroyed in 1926 due to a disastrous hurricane, he decided to construct a house with strong foundations and with doors in the front and the back designed to break during a storm, to allow wind and water to pass through and not destroy the entire house. While living in the boathouse, Munroe started designing a new bungalow, which would become his next residence in 1891, and that house would take the name of “Barnacle”, due to its roof which resembles the actual crustacean. A particular aspect of these houses is that Munroe used reclaimed wood, since he had a passion for boats and knew how to work the materials and use them to his own advantage. In 1894, Munroe’s life changed after the encounter with Miss Jessie Wirth, since they fell in love, got married, and had kids. Throughout their happy life, Munroe expanded the Barnacle to make more room for the entire family, which was composed of two kids, Patty and Wirth, Jessie’s sister Josephine, Jessie and himself. He was even able to lift the original structure and completed a whole new floor below it, making the house a two-story building.
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia in Barnacle Park (the original photo was shown by the Tour Guide) (CC by 4.0)
Following the death of Munroe and his wife, Wirth inherited the house and went to live there with his wife Mary and his kids. At last, the Munroe’s family decided to sell the house to the state of Florida, and in 1973 it became a national park and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia in Coconut Grove (CC by 4.0)
This park is one of the most popular green areas of Coconut Grove, due to its open view towards Biscayne Bay and the many recreational activities that are offered. Originally, these 9 acres were occupied by the first hotel ever, Bay View Inn (also known as Peacock inn). The owners, Charles and Isabella Peacock, allowed the hotel to be one of the first catering places of the community, and to honor their memory, the park was named after them. It is also crucial to remember that the hotel was able to exist and thrive thanks to the help of the Bahamian community, since many moved to Coconut Grove to be employed by the Peacock’s. In 2022, this park is extremely well equipped, with outdoor facilities such as a basketball court, softball field, soccer field, a playground and a large open multipurpose field and indoor facilities that include ping-pong and foosball. Additionally, there are five computer stations and free wifi available, making this an optimal place to conduct schoolwork while taking interactive breaks. Peacock Park is popular for its Boardwalk over the Bay, which is a great spot to feel the ocean breeze or participate in a yoga class with a stunning view of the Bay. Lastly, the park hosts musical performances every February, specifically on its open field during the Coconut Grove Arts Festival.
David Kennedy Park
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia in Coconut Grove (CC by 4.0)
This is one of those parks where residents and tourists go to relax and enjoy some quiet time and exercise. It is located off of S. Bayshore Drive and it covers more than 20 acres of Bayfront Greenspace, where the abundant greenery and waterfront vistas create an ecstatic experience. There are many recreational activities that can be enjoyed in the park, such as tossing a frisbee, playing soccer or enjoying a picnic on the grass. Additionally, for those who are more oriented towards fitness, there are low-impact rubber asphalt running paths, various calisthenic exercise stations and a large outdoor resistance-based gym area. The David Kennedy Park is dog and kids friendly, making this one of the main green areas where families come to spend their sunny afternoons. The cherry on top is A.C.’s Icees frozen lemonade truck, a perfect place to buy refreshers while enjoying the warm and sunny weather of Miami.
Coconut Grove has multiple efficient ways to move both within and outside the neighborhood. Within the area, the majority of places are reachable by walking or using the bicycles provided by CitiBike Miami. This service is convenient since bikes can be rented by the hour (around $4,25 for 30 minutes) or by purchasing the membership, which is $15 for 30 days of unlimited 30-minute rides.
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia in Coconut Grove (CC by 4.0)
For those who do not enjoy doing such prolonged physical activities, the trolley serves the purpose of easily transporting people around the Grove.
Photo retrieved from Coconut Grove website (CC by 4.0)
Freebee can also be an alternative, since it is a service that transports people around the city, completely free of charge. Lastly, the bus lines 22, 40 and 42 transport tourists and residents both around and outside of the neighborhood, making it even more accessible to move throughout the area. To move from the Grove to another neighborhood, the Metrorail is an efficient and effective way to visit Brickell and Downtown without having to pay for an Uber or for expensive parking. Both the Green and Orange line stop at the Coconut Grove station (closest to SW 27th Avenue), and although a ticket is required to utilize this service (with a fare of about $2.25), it is worth the price.
Picture retrieved from Google, Wikipedia (CC by 4.0)
Le Pain Quotidien
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia at Le Pain Quotidien in City of Coconut Grove (CC by 4.0)
The creator of this restaurant, Alain Coumont, rooted the concept of his menu in the “keep it simple” mentality. Originally from Belgium and born in a family of cooks, Alain specializes in simple dishes, rich in flavor due to the seasonal and local ingredients utilized as the core of each recipe. He is one of the first to master the concept of organic sourdough, which skyrockets his popularity and allows him to live his international dreams, opening his first American location in New York and in a couple of other locations in the United States, including the one in Coconut Grove (and the only one present in the Miami-Dade County area). This place is optimal if one is craving healthier dishes, or for vegan and vegetarian individuals. The concept of simplicity can be encountered throughout the entire menu, mainly plant-based and rich in greens and fibers. I recommend ordering an item from the salad section since the majority of the dishes contain beans, lentils and chickpeas, all great for general health. Additionally, soups are a specialty of the place as well, and they have conquered the hearts of the customers’ thanks to their creaminess and exquisite flavors.
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia at Le Pain Quotidien in City of Coconut Grove (CC by 4.0)
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia at Konos of Coconut Grove (CC by 4.0)
The slogan of this location is “Gelato is Happiness”, and I have honestly been living by that simple sentence since I could remember. Being from Italy, gelato is one of my favorite treats of all time. I am one of those people who will eat it at any time in any season. Therefore, I had to find a great gelato place, and KONOS is exactly what I was looking for. Stefano Versace had the idea to open this place after talking to Italian friends who owned a gelateria in Urbino, and with hard work and dedication, he was able to duplicate the highlights of the uniqueness and quality that makes gelato so special here in Miami. This product is made fresh every day and they offer different gelato flavors, both fruity and creamy. I personally tried the mango flavor and the pistachio, which both surprised me with the amount of flavor they contained. The texture of the pistachio was heavenly, and it was the first time since I moved to Miami that I encountered such a similar flavor to actual Italian pistachio. They also had many options, such as coconut, chocolate, coffee, and I felt at home with the fact that they included Italian names of each flavor. Other than gelato, they also had many pastries and smoothies options, which I’d recommend trying. Overall, this place is optimal for a warm day right after a beach picnic!
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia at Konos of Coconut Grove (CC by 4.0)
Monty Trainer, the founder for Monty’s, had one dream: “Bringing a taste of the Keys to Coconut Grove”. He opened the restaurant in 1969, and since then it has become one of the most peculiar places in the neighborhood. This location is perfect to immerse yourself in a maritime environment since the patio faces the ocean. Since Monty wanted to embrace the Keys vibes, the restaurant is distributed in an extremely diverse way and it is inclusive for different kinds of atmospheres. The waterfront tiki hut setting allows you to absorb the salty air and enjoy a great meal with friends and family and the indoor space is perfect for both air-conditioned dining & events. Another unique characteristic of this place are the docks, which allow guests to arrive by boat, host a private event, fishing tournament, or waterfront wedding ceremony. The entertainment is also top-tier, with live music and happy hours. The food does not go below the high expectations: obviously, being a place close to the ocean, the main dishes contain all kinds of seafood. A unique feature of the restaurant is the rich raw bar, where a selection of ceviches and oysters is available. One of my favorites to order are the “Baja Shrimp Tacos”, with a side of “Corn on the Cob”. The salmon is also exquisite, with a side of mashed potatoes and broccoli to complement it. I’d suggest going with a group of friends to spend a night eating flavor seafood and dancing to live music.
Coconut Grove is an eccentric place, where all kinds of different shops can succeed and become a gem of the neighborhood. Midori Galleri is a perfect representation of this concept. Established around 1972, this place is renowned for its mesmerizing Asian cultural artifacts and works of art. Walking through the antique two-story building of the emporium has the same effect as walking through a museum, and that is why customers are completely taken aback by the amount of detail and uniqueness in the items that are being sold, and the history that there is behind them. This shop offers all kinds of different art, all from the Asian Culture. For example, many of the Screens sold are antique Japanese panels representing cultural celebrations or Japanese calligraphy. They also sell an extremely peculiar item, called Netsuke. Because the Kimonos do not have any pockets, in order to carry around items, men suspended the objects behind the sash (the one around the waist), and to avoid them falling they would attach a Netsuke, which had the function of a stopper positioned at the top of the sash. The word Natsuke in Japanese is written in two letters, which mean “root” and “attached”. Overall, this is the ideal place for collectors of these kinds of art and for those passionate about Asian culture.
Picture retrieved from Midori Galleri website (CC by 4.0)
The Maya Hatcha
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia in Coconut Grove (CC by 4.0)
According to one customer Anne: “This is my favorite boutique in Miami. It’s the funkiest store. The most comfortably beautiful clothes and the most chilled out proprietor!”. Established in 1968, this exotic little shop in Coconut Grove has pretty much remained true to its nature and mission: allow customers to find the most original pieces of ethnic clothing, handmade jewelry and all things spiritual. The owner of the place, Vivian Jordan, was originally born in Guatemala and because of her passion for ethnic goods and objects, she decided to open this store with her sister Sylvia. Since then, every inch of the store has been used to display the unique items: from masks obtained from Indonesia, Africa and Guatemala, to hats and fedoras, to home furniture, this store has anything that you might be looking for, both fashion and vintage wise. All the objects sold are also environmentally friendly, ensuring that each clothing piece is made of 100% cotton or natural fabrics. An example of this is the Kurta, and an embroidered unisex Indian shirt that comes in a variety of colors and sizes, which is made with cotton and voil. The colorful display definitely attracts many to visit the wonderful building, and almost 55 years later, Vivian still maintains the story with much positivity and enthusiasm, ready to help her customers with their questions.
Nikki Beachouse Boutique
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia in Coconut Grove (CC by 4.0)
This mother-daughter-owned boutique will fulfill everyone’s needs to find the perfect bikini for the upcoming summer season. Their dream of owning their own boutique store started in 2006 and became reality 14 years later, after establishing two physical locations and a successful online store. Born and raised between Los Angeles and South Florida, Nicole (or Nikki) mixes her products style between east and west coast, giving her bikinis a unique look, which attracts customers from both coasts. A heartwarming aspect of this business is the relationship between Nicole and her mom. In fact, according to Nicole, she is the “creative brain”, who is behind choosing different fabrics and designs, and her mom is the “rational brain”, since she is in charge of the logistical aspects of the business. Together with the rest of the team, they created a flexible brand, that is able to adjust to trends and give thorough customer service.
Photo by Letizia D’Avenia in Coconut Grove (CC by 4.0)
Coconut Grove is definitely one of the most interesting neighborhoods to both visit and live in. It is important to cherish and respect the history of this place and show respect to the Bahamian culture, since they were the first established community in this area, and it is thanks to them if this neighborhood is so diverse and unique. An aspect of the Grove that I wish could be improved is the respect towards original buildings, such as the Playhouse and other historic landmarks. I wish that people would put more effort into preserving such historic buildings, instead of focusing on removing them for their own profit. This is a problem all over Miami, and I hope that our generation and the future ones will start understanding the importance of preserving and respecting such monumental testimonies of the past. Another issue of the neighborhood is the social and economical division between east and west and the disparity between these two areas due to racism (Alex Plasencia, 2011). As a neighborhood that preaches diversity and inclusion, I really wish I’d see these values more incorporated into the actions of the residents and legislators regarding this issue. On the other hand, an element that works perfectly is the cheerful and chill environment of the area. Walking down the street and enjoying the colorful buildings and aesthetically pleasing restaurants is definitely one of the signature characteristics of this place and what makes it a destination for many tourists visiting Miami. Another positive aspect is the many unique and eccentric boutiques, which help make the neighborhood so diverse and vibrant. Coconut Grove is beloved and cherished by many, and as John Sabastian said in his song “Coconut Grove ”: “The ocean breeze has cooled my mind, the salty days are hers and mine, just to do what we wanna”. Whenever one gets trapped in the stress and chaos of city life, Coconut Grove’s bayside is the perfect place to relax, recharge and reset.
My name is Oscar Roa, my pronouns are he/him/his, and I’m a third-year mechanical engineering student. I was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia. I am passionate about sports, outdoor activities, music, and food. One of my favorite things to do in life is to take a walk around nature and think about life.
The city of Miami Beach is located at 25° 47′ 26.3544” N and 80° 7′ 48.162” W (Country Coordinate). It started developing soon after the Collins bridge was built. The urban landscape of Miami Beach is comprised of luxury hotels, restaurants, and apartment buildings. It is thanks to its paradisiacal beach and weather that Miami Beach is an international destination for a vacation. People from all around the world seek to experience Miami Beach’s Art Deco District, Luxurious establishments, and nightlife.
Miami Beach was incorporated in 1915. The initial factor that made this possible was that Henry Flagler brought the Railroad in 1896 and built the Royal Palm Hotel in 1897, which gave way to the beginning of the travel market in Miami. However, the most important people for its construction and development were John S. Collins, T.J. Pancoast, the Lummus brothers, J.N. and J.E., and Carl Graham Fisher. It was because of John S. Collins that the first bridge that connected Miami Beach to the mainland was built. What we know today as Miami Beach started as a crop for growing avocadoes owned by Collins. The bridge was built so that the avocadoes could be easily distributed to the market. The importance of this bridge cannot be underestimated. It was because of the bridge that the Lummus brothers and Fisher got involved in the development of Miami Beach. The Lummus brothers were presidents of the two banks that loaned Collins the money for the bridge’s construction. Fisher decided to invest in the bridge and help the Lummus brothers invest in Miami Beach after he saw the bridge halfway built. In return, the Lummus brothers and Collins gave Fisher land that they owned in Miami Beach. From 1913 to 1914 there was a great project to move six million cubic yards of the bay bottom to the bayside of Miami Beach. Giving it its modern-day landscape. After the building of the bridge, the city of Miami Beach began to flourish. It was on March 26, 1915, that the town of Miami Beah was incorporated. (Forty Years of Miami Beach).
Miami Beach demographics are listed below. (Niche).
Master’s degree or higher: 22%
Bachelor’s degree: 26%
Some college or associate’s degree: 22%
High school diploma or equivalent: 19%
Less than high school diploma: 11%
African American: 3%
Two or more races: 2%
Other race: 1%
Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander: 0%
American Indian or Alaska Native: 0%
<10 years: 9%
10-17 years: 5%
18-24 years: 6%
25-34 years: 17%
35-44 years: 17%
45-54 years: 16%
55-64 years: 12%
65+ years: 17%
Median Household Income: $55,971
Median Individual Income: $31,269
Interview to Charlotte:
I decided to interview a random person that I saw while I was photographing Flamingo Park. My interviewee’s name is Charlotte. She describes herself as an “artist and creator who moved to Miami to try a different lifestyle.” She asked me not to include her photograph in the blog.
Oscar: “Please introduce yourself.”
Charlotte: “My name is Charlotte; I was living in Miami for 6 months last year. I lived in the South Beach Area.”
Oscar: “Why did you decide to live in Miami Beach?”
Charlotte: “I decided to move to Miami during quarantine because it was a lot more peaceful and safer than living in New York at the time. ”
Oscar: “What has changed since you first arrived? What has remained the same?”
Charlotte: “When I came it was very empty because of quarantine. The way it has changed is that there are a lot more people outside. I am very into fashion, and I’ve seen that a lot of fashion has changed in Miami and that’s the one thing that stood out to me the most.”
Oscar: “If you were given the chance to move to a different city within Miami-Dade County, would you? Why/why not?”
Charlotte: “I think I would go around Wynwood or Downtown Miami because I like the fashion and the art there.”
Oscar: “Thank you very much.”
Charlotte: “You’re welcome.”
Photos by Oscar Roa/CC by 4.0
Miami Beach has several well-renowned landmarks. Some of them, like Fisher Island, are basically private. However, most of them are available to the public to explore. The main landmarks in Miami Beach are Collins Avenue, Ocean Drive, Lincoln Road, The Fillmore Theater, the Art Deco Historic District, South Pointe Park, the Holocaust Memorial, and the Espanola way. I will continue to further expand on three of my favorite landmarks:
Art Deco Historic District:
The Art Deco Historic District consists of a series of historical hotels/buildings whose architecture aimed to represent futuristic devices. In the mid-1900s, neon lights were Avant Guard in architecture. Therefore, most of the buildings in the district have neon lights on their facades. Additionally, it was the architect’s aim to make their buildings look like modern home appliances. Other common themes that can be seen around the district’s buildings are the usage of white facades with pastel highlights, ziggurat rooflines, eyebrows, glass bricks, and porthole windows. (Bailly Lectures).
Lincoln Road is known worldwide for being a pedestrian-only boulevard lined with luxury stores and restaurants. Some of these are even part of the Art Deco District. There is street seating for most restaurants and a wide variety of street artists who perform for the tourists. (Afar).
South Pointe Park:
This is one of my personal favorite places to go to the beach in Miami. South Pointe Park offers a unique view of the Port of Miami, it has amazingly clear beaches, and the South Pointe Pier is located inside of it. This Pier offers a unique view of the ocean and is a perfect spot to watch the sunrise/sunset. Sometimes, one can even witness marine wildlife. Additionally, the park has the renowned Smith & Wollensky restaurant. Which I will elaborate on in the food section.
Photos by Oscar Roa/CC by 4.0
There are several parks in the Miami Beach area. Some of the most popular parks are Flamingo Park, Lummus Park, Marjory Stoneman Douglas Ocean Beach Park, Allison Park, North Beach Oceanside Park, and Collins Park. All these parks receive good funding and maintenance, which is why they are in such good condition. My favorite ones are listed below.
Lummus Park offers a variety of activities for its visitors. Including chaise and umbrella rental near the beach, bike and skate rental, and two outdoor gym areas. This park has access to the gym and one can even climb the lifeguard towers for a bird’s-eye view of the beach! (Lummus Park).
This park is a great place for people to come and refresh in the hot summers. The park counts with 17 tennis courts, a baseball stadium, football and soccer fields, a running track, walking trails, and a state-of-the-art aquatic center with two pool areas! One can spend the entire day in Flamingo Park with family and friends while being active. (Flamingo Park).
For those who enjoy a smaller and calmer park setting, especially for parents with young children, Allison Park is a great place. This park is very peaceful, and it counts with a small but cozy playground for children to enjoy. One can come to this park to sit on a bench and read a book, and just enjoy quiet time in nature.
The modes of public transportation in the city of Miami Beach are the Metrobus, taxicabs, and private transportation companies. The modes of private transportation are private vehicles and boats. The city of Miami Beach counts with a good public transportation system that allows people to move around the city with ease. This public transportation is fast and reliable. One can download the app to track buses and find routes.
Miami Beach is known worldwide for its great restaurant variety. From inexpensive and casual restaurants to luxurious experiences, Miami Beach has something for everyone to enjoy. Some of my personal favorites include Orange Blossom, Byblos, Pura Vida, The Villa Casa Casuarina, Bacon Bitch, and Palace. I will highlight three of these restaurants. It is almost impossible to list all the good restaurants that the city of Miami Beach has. There are a lot of restaurants that I have yet to explore.
This fantastic Eastern Mediterranean restaurant has a beautiful atmosphere, and the food ingredients are top quality. I would recommend it for a dinner date. “Byblos represents a marriage of Eastern Mediterranean cuisine with strong influences from both traditional and local ingredients. Using time-honored classic techniques and modern methods, our dishes showcase the regionally-specific spices and flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean seaboard.” (Byblos Miami).
The Villa Casa Causarina:
Located at the former Versace Mansion, The Villa Casa Casuarina is the most luxurious restaurant on my list. It offers a great menu and experience for its visitors. It is certainly a treat to most, but I would recommend visiting it if you have the opportunity. (The Villa Casa Casuarina).
One of the most unique experiences in Miami Beach. A historic restaurant that not only sells amazing food but also has been key to the development of the LGBTQ+ community. “For more than three decades, Palace has been the #1 Drag Bar & Restaurant in Miami Beach. But don’t just read about it! Swing by our iconic Ocean Drive location and see what the buzz is about. Experience craft cocktails, tantalizing bites, and daily live entertainment hosted by our fabulous resident divas.” (Palace).
Photos by Oscar Roa/CC by 4.0
It is no surprise that the biggest businesses in the city of Miami Beach belong to the Hospitality and Tourism industry. With luxurious hotels from the best-known companies and restaurants that have a waitlist of months, Miami Beach thrives on the business industry. The following three businesses are among the top of the city.
Fontainebleau Miami Beach:
“Fontainebleau Miami Beach has been around for a long time. It was founded back in 1954. This established company loves to hire graduates from Florida International University, with 22.1% of its employees having attended Florida International University. Fontainebleau Miami Beach is a great place to work and is featured as number 9 on Zippia’s list of Best Companies to Work for in Miami Beach, FL. The average employee at Fontainebleau Miami Beach makes $35,328 per year.”(Zippia).
“EDITION Hotels is a relatively young company. It was founded only in 2011. This emerging company loves to hire graduates from the University of California – Davis, with 8.7% of its employees having attended the University of California – Davis. Despite its youth, EDITION Hotels has already established itself as a great place to work and is on Zippia’s list of Best Companies to Work for in Miami Beach, FL. Based in Miami Beach, FL, EDITION Hotels is a medium-sized hospitality company with 810 employees and a revenue of $175.0M.” (Zippia).
“Founded in 1986, ESTEFAN ENTERPRISES is an established company that loves to hire graduates from Florida International University, with 34.6% of its employees having attended Florida International University. Want to compare ESTEFAN ENTERPRISES to some other great places to work in Florida? We suggest taking a look at Zippia’s list of Best Companies to Work For in Florida. Based in Florida, ESTEFAN ENTERPRISES is a medium-sized media company with 500 employees and a revenue of $26.6M.” (Zippia)
One of the best-known cities in the world, Miami Beach has a lot more to it than can ever be written on a single blog. From its amazing history and the complete transformation of its natural landscape to its busy beaches, clubs, hotels, and restaurants; there’s no other place in the world like Miami Beach. It is no surprise that people from all around the world come seeking to experience this city every year. Not only does it have paradisiacal beaches and magnificent weather, but it also is a melting pot of cultures. One can find businesses from all around the world, especially restaurants. Miami Beach has it all.
Alexandra Fiedler is a second-year student at Florida International University who is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Spanish. Since moving to Miami from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Alexandra has been fascinated with the cultural, historical, and geographical differences between the place she grew up and the place she now calls home. Alexandra passionately strives to learn and help others, while expanding her knowledge about what makes Miami an especially unique and vibrant cultural setting.
Iconic graffiti and street art decorating its walls has made Wynwood an especially unique and popular neighborhood in Miami. Known for its artistic atmosphere, the neighborhood is filled with art galleries, studios, restaurants and cafes, club and dancing venues, boutiques, and other retailers. Its unique charm has attracted artists and tourists alike, solidifying Wynwood as an essential stop in Miami. Right in the heart of the city, Wynwood is just south of the Design District, north of Downtown Miami and Overtown, and just west of Edgewater. It has roughly been divided by I-95 to the west, the Florida East Coast Railway to the east, I-195 to the north, and North 20th Street to the south. Due to its high artist population, Wynwood has been transformed into a sensational and thrilling hipster dream. For blocks on end, all the walls have been absolutely covered in stirring and impressive artwork. Artists from all around the world come to Wynwood for the opportunity to paint one of the walls. The staggering range of art features everything from silly cartoon figures to meticulously detailed murals featuring ultra-realistic portraits and everything in between. Many artists make statements about political, social, and environmental issues. Bright colors and busy imagery truly bring Wynwood’s energized spirit to life. The atmosphere created in the neighborhood is unparalleled–unlike anything one can find anywhere else. The breathtaking works create the perfect backdrop for a booming scene filled with aesthetic small businesses scattered between the hip nightclubs and classy galleries. Wynwood features two booming sub-districts: Wynwood Art District in the north and Wynwood Fashion District in the south. The Art District hosts Wynwood’s iconic street murals, art galleries, outdoor art installations, and private art collections. NW Second Street is right at the heart of Wynwood, boasting a plethora of iconic murals, restaurants, and galleries. Wynwood Walls is one of the most prominent features of the district, as people travel far and wide to view the world-renowned outdoor murals. The Fashion District is home to many of the majority clothing distributors and retailers in the neighborhood, also featuring boutiques and clothing shoppettes. Travelers venture to Wynwood to experience both the eccentric art scene and the amenities that come with; including the appetizing eateries and quirky retailers. Unfortunately, due to its location in the bustling center of the city, Wynwood does not feature much in terms of natural landscape. Almost every square inch available for development has been transformed into some swanky business striving to find its place in Wynwood’s captivating atmosphere.
Josiah Chaille and Hugh Anderson purchased the land that now makes up Wynwood from a law firm in 1917. Originally naming the area “Wyndwood,” the City of Miami built a park in the northern area of their land, which they named Wynwood Park, and people eventually dropped the “Park” much later (History of Wynwood). When I-95 was built through Wynwood in the 1960s, the neighborhood’s borders unofficially shifted to exclude a small set of residential blocks, isolating residents from their former neighborhood. Wynwood quickly became home to many commercial residents, such as large-scale retailers and manufacturers, mainly for garments, among other commodities. The neighborhood was packed with massive factories and warehouses to keep up with the garment district’s demands. As the retailers became more profitable and numerous, many of the manufacturers began relocating to make room for growing retail demand and to be closer to their workforce–mainly Cubans living in areas such as Hialeah (History of Wynwood).
By the mid-1950s, the area saw a huge influx of Puerto Rican immigrants, as both the elderly and younger generations moved away from the area. Wynwood was referred to as “Little San Juan,” and the neighborhood saw many names of schools, parks, and centers changed to those of Puerto Rican significance (Pasols). However, throughout the beginning of the 1970s, the population had greatly diversified to include Blacks, Cubans, Dominicans, Haitians, and Colombians. By the late 70s, Wynwood was viewed as a springboard neighborhood, where people worked to leave as they increased their economic standings. The neighborhood itself was lower-middle class at this time with a 55% unemployment rate and high levels of drug trafficking (History of Wynwood). Moving into the 1980s, Wynwood fell into a period of extreme violence, crime, and drugs in addition to the staggering poverty rates. It was regarded as one of the most dangerous places to be in Miami during the 1980s. Racial tensions and social unease culminated in riots that damaged Wynwood businesses on multiple occasions, solidifying the notion that Wynwood was an unsafe area (A Brief History). Known as a place where lost tourists would be robbed and killed in broad daylight frequently destroyed any sense of good reputation. As more people and businesses vacated the area, the once booming garment district was reduced to abandoned and rundown warehouses.
Eventually in 1987, a group of artists from the South Florida Art Center purchased a 2.2 acre facility that they converted into an enormous artist space (History of Wynwood). Due to the neighborhood’s dangerous environment, buildings were able to be purchased at an extremely low rate. Soon, other creatives, artists, and visionary minds began purchasing the abandoned buildings scattered around the neighborhood. Famously, in 1993, the Rubells opened their Rubell Family Collection with massive paintings, sculptures, and other art pieces in a 40,000 square foot warehouse (Rubell Museum). Many other gallerists, collectors, and art appreciators moved into the area as it slowly developed into a haven for the arts. With the debut of the Art Basel Art Fair in Miami, Wynwood was officially on the map in the art world, showcasing its monumental contemporary works and highlighting the artistic geniuses that made Wynwood their home (History of Wynwood). The neighborhood itself created a uniquely free-spirited vibe in tune with its imaginative and artistic residents. Artists began painting street art on the walls of the vacant warehouse, creating all sorts of vibrant, unique, and creative works. There was a care-free attitude at the time, one where no one cared who painted what–they saw the art in everything.
In the mid-2000s, Wynwood underwent yet another transformation when it caught the eye of Tony Goldman from Goldman Properties. Goldman and his two children began purchasing large sections of Wynwood’s warehouse district (Pasols). Unfortunately, more and more artists and gallerists were forced to leave Wynwood as they were priced-out to create the new vision of Wynwood. Goldman imagined Wynwood as a swanky, artsy neighborhood covered in street art, although many in the art community could no longer even afford to live in the neighborhood any longer.
The special charm of Wynwood attracted restaurants, nightclubs, retailers, bars, cafes, galleries, and other installations, who now populate every square inch of NW Second Street. Wynwood Walls has become a world renowned contemporary art display that attracts immense amounts of attention and visitors. Large-scale developers hope to construct high rise condominiums and a hotel in the area, with more restaurants and retailers sure to follow (Pasols).
In accordance with many of Miami’s unique neighborhoods, Wynwood is a diverse location, home to people of all races, ages, socioeconomic statuses, and backgrounds. As of 2019, the reported population of Wynwood was 14,886, although that number fluctuates over time–especially in these unprecedented circumstances with the pandemic. Wynwood is becoming an increasingly popular residential area, as in 2010, the population was numbered at 7,277 people; meaning the population has doubled in the past ten years (Wynwood Demographics). It is no secret that Florida has seen a huge influx of residents throughout the pandemic, which may not be accurately reflected in data collected before March 2020. 67.6% of Wynwood’s population is Hispanic or Latino, making up the majority of the residents. 15.9% are Black, 10.7% are White, and 2.6% of people are Asian. The remaining population (3.1%) identifies as multiracial or another race (Wynwood Art District). 56.1% of residents are citizens born in the United States, while 23.7% are citizens that were not born in this country (Wynwood Demographics).The neighborhood’s population features 52.8% females and 47.2% males, with the median age being 37 years. In 2019, the median income was determined to be $37,470, while the median rent was valued at $1,205. Meanwhile, the median estimated house value in the neighborhood was $298,273. 1,356 homes have been built in Wynwood in 2014 or later, compared to the 548 homes built from 2010 to 2013. Returning to the pandemic’s possible effect on demographics, as of April 2022, Zumper values the average rent for a 1-bedroom condo in Wynwood to be $2,935–a starting 30% increase from the previous year (Wynwood, Rent Prices). Compared to the national 13% increase in rent from the previous year, Wynwood far exceeds the majority of the nation in rising rent prices. Other sources assert that Miami, in addition to West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, has seen median rents rise an alarming 36%, well over double the national average (Walter-Warner). Based on the income levels of many current residents and the rent’s steep incline, it is not entirely unfounded to assume that many residents will be forced to leave Wynwood if they cannot find supplemental income to afford the high rent demands. These demographics are bound to change, as they do in many places, but it seems clear that Wynwood may see a rapid transition, as soon only those who can afford the more demanding rent prices will be able to populate the neighborhood.
I was able to speak to Harold Golen of the Harold Golen Gallery. He has been living and working in Wynwood for 14 years, first opening his gallery in 2007.
Q: What has been the biggest change you’ve seen in Wynwood since first moving here 14 years ago?
A: The biggest one would definitely be seeing Wynwood turning into such a residential area. When I first got here, almost no one lived here, but one day I realized I saw someone walking their dog and it occurred to me that people must be moving to the area. Now we have all these huge condos being built for all the people that want to live here now.
Q; How has the crowd of customers changed since you started business here?
A: Well when I first opened, this was just a gallery, and I would have monthly art exhibitions. The people visiting were those who seriously appreciated and understood art. Now the majority of people are tourists, or people just poking around. The quality of people has changed, they definitely used to be more serious and now people almost don’t care about the art. They come to take photos in front of some cool walls and then go home.
Q: How have you had to change your business structure with the new crowd?
A: I went from monthly art shows to relying more heavily on selling merchandise. The casual visitors have actually been very good for business.
Q: Could you have ever predicted Wynwood looking the way it does today when you first moved here?
A: Absolutely not. It has changed so dramatically and quickly. It went from being much more art focused to the latest neighborhood the developers are set on turning into expensive condos since it got so popular.
Q: Going into the future, do you think Wynwood can keep the same energy and atmosphere if it continues to be developed like now?
A: Unfortunately no. Some residential developers are trying to eliminate the nightlife in Wynwood because they’re trying to turn it into this nice fancy neighborhood. For example, there’s a Footlocker here in Wynwood now. That simply would not be the case 10 years ago. If more generic retailers come in, the commercialization will get rid of what initially made Wynwood such a cool place. But don’t get me wrong, people come in here with Footlocker bags–these big retailers also bring me more business. Since being here is so sought after, the rent increases like crazy these days. If people can’t afford to keep up, they won’t be able to stay in Wynwood any longer.
Harold also shared lots of the neighborhood’s turbulent and violent history with me, really emphasizing that the very street we were at was the most dangerous place in Miami at one point. When I asked how the crime changed after the initial gallerists and artists moved into Wynwood, he shared that gradually the rates lowered as gallerists grouped together to report crime, communicate with police, and they eventually established a law enforcement’s presence in the area. However, even the first five or so years he was in Wynwood, Harold informed me that Wynwood was still a generally rough area of town; someplace you knew to never leave anything in your car, know where you’re going, and get there quickly. After an enlightening and enthralling conversation, Harold wished me the best of luck in my studies. He declined to take a photograph, but Harold gave me his business card and I even purchased a reusable sticker for myself from the gallery.
Wynwood is home to a vast array of museums, collections, and galleries that make the neighborhood a particularly fascinating place to explore. Traversing through the various institutions throughout Wynwood allows one to learn about a vast amount of history, art, and culture spanning history and cultures.
Don and Mera Rubell turned their passion for art into something more in 1993 when they first opened the Rubell Family Collection/Contemporary Art Foundation (Rubell Museum) in a 53,000 square foot warehouse. Considered a true pioneer of establishing a strong art presence in the neighborhood, the Rubells were among the first to open a private collection in Wynwood to share their love for art with the public. The museum features an impressive collection of contemporary art from many different world renowned artists from across the globe. The museum also hosts events and exhibitions where more art can be presented in exciting ways, in addition to internships, trainings, and artist residencies, providing exceptional opportunities for all kinds of people to develop their interests and passions. The family’s collection has greatly expanded in the 26 years since their first opening, and the former warehouse that started their journey is now just one piece of their expansive art collection.
Located in a 50,000 square foot, retro-fitted warehouse, The Margulies Contemporary Art Collection has a wide array of visual art exhibits, video and photograph installations, sculptures, and special immersive exhibitions for the public to enjoy. Similar to Rubell Museum, the collection boasts art from world-class contemporary artists such as Anslem Kiefer and Amar Kanwar. First opened in 1999, the Margulies Collection is another trailblazer for developing Wynwood into the beloved art district that is known today (Margulies Collection). The collection closes from May through September during which the staff completely transforms which pieces will be featured in the next season’s opening, creating a completely new experience for visitors each year–making it an excellent place to visit time and time again.
Museum of Graffiti
Known as the first museum to be exclusively dedicated to the evolution and celebration of graffiti as an art form. Featuring everything from a detailed history of perceptions and legislations to descriptions of styles and signifiers, the museum explores graffiti’s rise in design, advertising, and fashion (Museum of Graffiti). Having immersive experiences such as an indoor art showcase, eleven outdoor murals, a fine art gallery and a special gift shop featuring limited edition world renowned graffiti artists’ special items and merchandise. It highlights a position on graffiti and street art that is not typically presented in society. The museum delves into the true art form of graffiti, shifting perspectives by showcasing how graffiti can be manifested in society in positive and meaningful ways.
Being one of the trendiest, most popular neighborhoods in Miami means that Wynwood hardly has any naturalistic areas left untouched from its rapid development. There are only two parks within Wynwood’s boundaries. The neighborhood’s focus has clearly been on developing it into an urban dream, leaving the parks appearing less than spectacular. Contrarily, many parts of Wynwood filled with outdoor bars, shoppettes, cafes, and seating areas are decorated with vibrant plants, trees, flowerbeds, and even turf–all of which enhance the freshly appealing atmosphere.
Roberto Clemente Park
The park’s main feature is a baseball diamond, but has a large grassy area beyond the outfield and even bleachers for spectators to enjoy baseball games. The park also has basketball courts, a small playground, and in typical Wynwood fashion–a mural of the namesake Roberto Clemente the baseball player. The park was renamed to honor the Puerto Rican player after he was killed in a plane crash. Fittingly, people can enjoy baseball for years to come.
Rainbow Village Park
The park features a grassy green area, great for enjoying a picnic or playing a game of soccer or football with friends. Having trees and shaded areas with seating areas and outdoor barbecues, the park makes a great space to simply enjoy the time outdoors.
The Wynwood Walls
Perhaps one of the most iconic businesses to come to fruition from that artist-centered neighborhood, the Wynwood Walls is a collection of outdoor murals completed by some of the world’s most acclaimed artists throughout the years. The works have been marveled at by artists, art enthusiasts, travelers and tourists, and of course, locals since its launch in 2009. The Wynwood Walls are so popular that a recorded 2.9 million people visited in 2018 (Wynwood Business Improvement District). In addition to the sensational outdoor art, the Walls have also introduced an indoor gallery, a cafe, and a gift shop. They host tours, art exhibitions, and public events, such as Art Week. Although it used to be free, admission to the Walls is $12.
Harold Golen Gallery
This Pop Surrealism gallery opened in 2007, focusing on the depiction of ‘disposable art’ on a ‘Fine Art’ level, using technical skills such as oil painting. Although originally a dedicated gallery, it now operates with far more merchandising accompanying the art, all of which are made by in-resident artists. They occasionally have art exhibitions, but they welcome anyone to stop in to enjoy items such as posters, interior decor, stickers, prints of paintings, shirts, and more still designed and handmade by real artists in Wynwood.
Panther Coffee establishes the absolutely perfect vibe in the heart of the neighborhood, offering reprieve from the powerful sun under the cool shade of its vibrant trees. There is ample space to lounge with an iced coffee, get school or work done with a snack, or to relax with friends amidst the bustling streets around the cafe. The fresh ambiance truly pulls one in to enjoy quality time with an equally quality coffee.
Cars are the main mode of transportation for residents, with 57.2% of people taking a car alone to work (Wynwood Art District). There is no metro rail line that goes directly through Wynwood, although the Orange Line runs through Downtown Miami, which borders Wynwood. People can take the metro to get close to Wynwood, but it does not provide access directly into the neighborhood. Buses are another method of transportation that people frequently use in the neighborhood, although its usage pales in comparison to that of cars and other private vehicles. Wynwood hosts multiple CitiBike stations, meaning it is possible for people to ride bikes throughout the neighborhood which is certainly a more environmentally and economically feasible method of transportation. Traffic is the main result of cars being the obvious most popular transportation method in and around Wynwood. As the neighborhood’s party scene becomes even more established, traffic is only doomed to get worse, especially in the later hours of the night. Not only are people driving themselves and parking to get food, drinks, or go dancing; multitudes of people also take ride services such as Lyft, Uber, and taxis to get a ride into the neighborhood’s night scene.
Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop
Started by Derek Kaplan, a former fireman who loves desserts, this bakery specializes in pies, cakes, cheesecakes, cookies, and unique desserts. All the deserts are freshly homemade, with high quality ingredients. Stopping in for dessert is the perfect way to take a sweet break from the Miami sun.
This pizza place is the perfect place to stop for some thrilling entertainment. While enjoying great pizza with some cold beer or cocktails, one can enjoy shows from DJs, drag queens, and other live entertainment.
Compared to the older, more well established restaurants discussed, Coyo Taco is an exciting restaurant that exemplifies the latest changes Wynwood has been seeing. Serving delicious street tacos, along with quesadillas, burritos, and other Mexican street foods, the restaurant blends Mexican cuisine with Miami’s multi-cultural influences. What makes Coyo Taco so special and fitting in the trendy Wynwood is its secret bar and lounge hidden behind the back wall. People line outside the door to get into both the eating space and bar areas of the restaurant. Coyo Taco freshly creates an experience that anyone can enjoy, both those simply looking to eat and the newer night crowd that wants to keep the Wynwood experience going all night long.
Wynwood is such an enchanting neighborhood. The energy on those streets is almost tangible. I think the atmosphere is just so exciting, in addition to being extremely aesthetically pleasing everywhere you look. The wide variety of places to eat, museums to explore, galleries to stop in, bars to try, and clubs to enjoy create the perfect location for an exciting day or night. Wynwood brings creative minds together in a place where they flourish and their talents can shine. Everything is so colorful and bright, it truly is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
Unfortunately, as with many things that people enjoy, powerful corporations have targeted Wynwood as the latest destination that needs a modern and gentrified makeover. Miami seems to be set on constantly building new things then knocking them down to build newer things. The fact that the collectors, artists, and gallerists who made Wynwood into something worth talking about, worth celebrating even, had to relocate because of the sudden rise in commercial value. If everyone creating the Wynwood magic leaves Wynwood, we will be left with another sleek city neighborhood–devoid of charm and originality. It seems like people are in such a rush to move into the trendiest zone right now, they haven’t stopped to think about what happens when those nightclubs cannot operate any longer once they receive too many noise disturbance warnings, as they already have started to (Pasols). Wynwood needs its space to continue thriving and growing in a meaningful way. It is not destined to be just another scattering of high rises.
Currently, Wynwood is progressing into this high-end, expensive residential zone. Because its eccentric nightlife and beautiful decorum attract such high volumes of people, it is natural that people want to move closer to the action. Regrettably, this means that Wynwood has started to lose the beautiful spirit that it is founded upon. Of the 70 art galleries, museums, and collections that were once located within the neighborhood, only 15 remain open, shocking considering those were the very places responsible for Wynwood’s eventual flourishing (Pasols). These days, people are coming to Wynwood to shop at boutiques, eat and drink out at restaurants, and party at nightclubs rather than to appreciate or even purchase art.
It is sad to see the walls that once attracted tour buses full of art devotees, eager to take in and learn about the murals and street art now merely serve as a colorful backdrop for social media posts. People are more invested in the quality of photo than quality of experience, and nothing suggests that the current mindset is bound to change soon. As the rise of digital art continues, it feels like physical art has lost meaning in the minds of many. The absurd amount of construction alone damages the energy as music and conversations are hard to hear over the never ending industrial clanging that comes with assembling over a dozen high rise buildings at the same time. It makes driving and navigating the streets much more difficult, as pedestrians are rerouted along the edges of multiple massive construction sites.
Hopefully enough people will advocate for the preservation of Wynwood and the special quirks that make it so necessary to save from development. The fun part of Wynwood’s culture is its high sociability; it is certainly not destined to become yet another sleek city neighborhood. Wynwood’s true beauty comes from its designation as a safe space for art, innovation, and creativity from all walks of life and forms of expression.
I love how nothing is off limits in Wynwood. Anything can be turned into art. I remember from talking to Harold that “no one cares if you paint on that.” Beyond the walls, graffiti covers the sidewalks throughout the neighborhood. Stickers have been slapped on just about every inch of every telephone pole and utility box. Even the cop cars I saw had blue spray painted camouflage designs on them. I really enjoyed walking down side streets and finding smaller pieces of art that were incredibly impressive, just a bit out of the way. It’s just as if everywhere you turn, there is something worth discovering. It inspires you to keep exploring, keep searching out more art, and finding something special.
Michelle Puentes is a sophomore student pursing a double degree in Art and Psychology with a Certification in Italian Language at Florida International University. She loves to explore and travel, learn new languages, draw and paint, play guitar and serve in her church. She aspires to become an art therapist for children with emotional or physical struggles, and wants to travel around the world to immerse in different lifestyles and appreciate the art and cuisine.
Miami Lakes is located in the northern part of Miami Dade County, neighboring Palm Spring North and Hialeah. It has a total square area of 6.4 square miles and is located at 25°54′42″N 80°19′30″W. Located 16 miles North of Downtown Miami and 10 miles from Miami International Airport, it crosses the streets NW 170th St and Palmetto Expressway to the North and NW 138TH to the South and extends latitudinally from NW 57TH Avenue (Red Road) (East) to Interstate 75 (West). The climate around this area is mostly wet tropical and humid, even in the land parts of Miami Lakes.
The urban landscape is compromised of 53% of Miami Lake’s land area, compromised of residential housing, office parks, and industrial areas. Modeled after New Urbanism, it contains shopping centers and services located within walking distances in narrow, walking streets. The streets are designed in the form of a small town, with many cul-de-sac streets in residential neighborhoods and curved streets. It contains apartment buildings, neighborhood shopping centers and a town center known as Main Street.
On the other side, the natural landscape is full of tree canopies, lakes and greenery.Lakes and canals only constitute 13% of the land area, and 6% is undeveloped land. It contains a total of 4,363 acres and is around 3 feet in altitude.
In 1962, Miami Lakes began developing under Graham Companies, and was previously owned by Florida Senator Ernest Graham. The land was previously the Graham’s dairy farm, and was decided to be created into an adaptable city plan that would take decades of growth and construction based on changing market conditions. Developed by Lester Collins, a Harvard graduated landscape architecture and former dead of the Harvard School of Architecture, the original master plan contained many curved features, such as curving lakes and tree shaded roadways, which was uncommon compared to the usual square and rectangle features. He set forth the foundations of the town to from an integrated community that would contain residential, industrial and commercial areas.
Finally being incorporated into Miami Dade County in December 2000, it became the 31st Municipality in Miami Dade. It is currently one of the youngest cities in the county and is home to 30,000 residents and 1,100 businesses. Operated under a council-manager form of government, it is managed by several elected officials appointed by the town manager.
Today, it is known to be one of the most charming suburban areas in South Florida, with low crime rate, plenty of green space, tree shaded streets and large estate lots.
Miami Lakes currently has over 30,000 residents, claiming around 11,194 households. According the 2019 United States Census, its estimated population is 30,864, with a median age of 41.3 years. 66.1% are between the age of 15-65, 16.3% being 65 and older, and 17.6 % under 15. The demographics of sex is roughly split equally, females accounting for 53% of the population and males 47%. The race and ethnicity is prominently white and hispanic, accounting for 78.9% altogether. 88.3% identify as Hispanic or Latino, 9% as white, 1.5% as black, 1.3% as Asian and 12.1% as two races or more. Around 50.9% of the population are foreign born, most likely from Latin American countries such as Cuba and Colombia. The median household income is $77,535, with a poverty level at 6.4%. The median property value is almost half a million, at $410,300. The education levels are average , having 89.7% of people over the age of 25 having completed high school and 37.2% having completed a bachelors degree.
How long have you lived in Miami Lakes and what do you think of this town?
I’ve lived here my whole life and I think it’s a great place to live because it has a small town feel.
What do you like about Miami Lakes?
I like going to Main Street because there are a lot of restaurants and it’s a nice place to walk around. My parents used to take me there when I was a kid so that spot means a lot to me growing up. Main Street also has a movie theater that is full of memories as a child and middle school years, so I enjoy it a lot.
What is your favorite aspect about this neighborhood?
I like how the town emphasizes greenery and tree canopies through shading, making it a more pleasurable experience to walk when it’s sunny. Miami Lakes has a lot of neighborhood parks to sit around the grass and enjoy the scenic view. There is also a very cool Fourth of July firework show.
What would you change about this neighborhood if you were the mayor?
I would try to decrease traffic flow and prioritize public transportation around the town. I would also add more attractions such as movie theaters, stores, or plazas.
Main Street Miami Lakes
The main social hub of Miami Lakes, Main Street is a delightful plaza full of local restaurants, retail shops, offices, civic facilities and movie theaters that gather the community. It was developed by the Graham Companies in 1983, and ever since has been a mark of the development of Miami Lakes. It has been recognized by many national publications for the control of mix-use development. Overall, it has a very live ambience and is a nice place to take a stroll in the afternoon.
Shula’s Golf Course
Miami Lake’s official golf club, it is known as one of Miami’s best Championship golf courses with a variety of holes for all skill levels. It was originally designed by Bill Watts in 1962 and then remodeled in 1998 by Kipp Schulties, a golf course architect. Owning 500 acres, this golf club offers 18 challenging holes and has tree shading over the course for the most pleasant experience.
On September 17, 2014, Miami Lakes unveiled a Veteran’s memorial in front of Miami Lakes Government center. On that day, more than 200 people attended to honor the veterans who fought for our country. First Class Petty Officer USCG and chair of Veterans Committee Angel Luis Vazquez stated ” This monument recognizes all the brave men and women who signed a blank check payable to the United States of America up to the amount of their life. I want to commend the members of the Veterans Committee who are dedicated and worked tirelessly to bring this Veterans Memorial project to the Town of Miami Lakes.” The artwork contains a large scale V for “veterans” with an American flag , created by Stephanie Werner and has commemorative bricks around to honor the soldiers.
Royal Oaks Park
A green space of Miami Lakes built with 4 athletic fields for soccer and flag football, a playground area, picnic pavilions, a 3/4 exercise trail, a butterfly garden and concession stand. It also has a recreation center and offers a community center to play dominoes and reserve large rooms for events and parties.
Miami Lakes Optimist Park
A public park that is at walking distance for Miami Lake’s residents, this park features 4 baseball fields, one softball field, three picnic pavilions, three batting cages, 4 outdoor tennis courts, 2 soccer fields, 2 flag football fields, a 1/4 mile lighted walking path and even a marina for fishing! It is set up for residents to enjoy the lush greenery and beautiful climate of Florida.
The Veterans Park is another of Miami Lake’s 99 parks, with renovated pavilions, half court basketball court, lighted walking path, playground, and fitness equipment. It offers a wonderful view for guests with a water fountain and lake for the view. This park also has the Mary Collins Community center for event venues and recreational activities.
A Brazilian family owned sweets shop, this location offers beautifully decorated Brazilian bakery and sweets available for catering, online orders and in store pickup. Their specialty is Brigadiero cake, which is a Brazilian chocolate cake filled with fudge candy. They also offer many types of cakes, such as cheesecake, carrot cake and passion fruit chocolate. If not in the mood for any sweets, they also offer empanadas, Brazilian bolinha de queijo and croissants.
This is an authentic Colombian restaurant that has two locations, one in Miami Lakes and another in Kendall. Having massive success, this restaurant was founded by Orlando Mosquera, and made the restaurant famous through its original recipe of Colombian Raspaos and Cholados. Offering a variety of meals, it has different types of ice creams, smoothies, arepas, fruit salads, Colombian plates and burgers. Overall, I love to order the arepa mixeta, full of shredded meat and cheese!
Ciboney Cuban Restaurant
A local Cuban restaurant offering many types of meals, this place contains a nice atmosphere that allows you to experience the Cuban ambience. Offering Daiquiris and Cuban Mojitos, it has live music and karaoke for anyone to enjoy. They have many plates to serve, such as seafood, pasta, fajitas, cuban sandwiches and salads.
A La Mode Hair and Boutique
One of the many local shops in Main Street, Ala Mode is a hair salon that offers pampering services to make the customer feel beautiful. Their services include haircuts, color treatments, makeup,perms and relaxers and hair styles at convenient prices. They are a bilingual establishments and operate from Tuesday to Saturday.
Miami Lake’s Farmers Market
This Farmer’s Market is done weekly on Saturdays and offers a variety of fresh produce, assorted flowers, cultural foods, hand-crafted accessories and natural smoothies for anyone to enjoy. It is from 9am to 2pm and done at Miami Lakes Picnic Park West. It offers some of the best fruit juices that you can ever taste and has an overall enjoyable environment.
SQIN Med Spa
This luxury med spa is a special spa that offers treatments and services to achieve overall aesthetic and wellness goals. It uses advanced technology in order to offer services such as body sculpting, hydra facial, micro needling, body detox therapy, fibroblast plasma, and chemical peels. They also have membership services where you can maintain a healthy skin care routine and body with monthly treatments.
Miami Lakes has several modes of transportation, including Freebee, Miami Dade Transit and South Florida Commuter Services. Installed in July 2021, Freebee was introduced by the Town of Miami Lakes, and attained through funding from Florida’s Department of Transportation. It contains free on-demand connections from the Town Hall or Picnic Park West to the Palmetto Metrorail station from Monday to Friday, 6am to 9am or 4pm to 7pm. It’s convenient transportation for those who do not own a vehicle and must reach Southern Miami Dade County, having access to the Palmetto Metrorail station immediately.Or alternatively, for those who have a vehicle and would like to avoid Miami’s high traffic hours, its a great way by taking the Miami Metro.
Miami Dade Transit is also another form of transportation, being the 15th largest public transit system in the U.S. Through the Metrobus, Metromover or Moover Bus, Miami Lakes is included in six different routes, all operating on weekdays. South FL Commuter Services is another form, having programs for carpooling and vanpooling around Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
But from observations, since Miami Lakes has a high population of senior residents, walking is one of the most popular forms of transportation. Since Miami Lakes has New Urbanism model planning, most shopping centers and businesses are within walking distances, and many do so in order to save on gas and maintain their health.
Miami Lakes is a city full of life and greenery with it’s unique land development, classic Main Street and amazing transportation layout. It’s innovating city plan and incredible development have led to Miami Lake’s master plan being praised by nationwide Urban planners, with open streets, many green spaces, peaceful cul-de-sacs, and managed mix of exclusive business parks. There are many convenient chain stores within walking distance, such as Publix, CVS, Navarro and Walmart. The sidewalks are pedestrian friendly and there is always a live crowd in Main Street. The only main issue with this city is the traffic and road layout. Because the streets are so narrow and have excessive amount of traffic lights, it builds heavy annoying traffic during peak hours. My best advice is to go off road to reach your destination- usually you will make it faster than waiting in traffic. If they added more lanes to the road and less traffic lights, it would be a much more pleasant experience to live and visit Miami Lakes.
Ciboney, 7 June 2021, ciboneyrestaurantmiami.com/.
Herrera, Alexandra. “Veteran’s Memorial Unveiled at Front of Miami Lakes Government Center.” The Miami Laker, 17 Sept. 2014, miamilaker.com/veterans-memorial-unveiled-at-front-of-miami-lakes-government-center.
Imani Woodin is a sophomore at Florida International University majoring in international relations with a minor in Portuguese. Starting her life in Kenya, moving around the state of Florida, and living as an exchange student in Brazil fueled her intrigue in learning about people and places. As someone who is fascinated by art, nature, language, and life, she is more than ready to explore Miami through this course.
Surfside is a town in Northern Miami Beach, Miami-Dade county. It is bordered on the south by the touristic North Beach neighborhood; north by an upscale neighborhood, Bal Harbor; and west by the small town of Bay Harbor Islands. As detailed in the map on the left, Surfside extends from 87th St to 96th st and is marked by signs that welcome you in.
The natural landscape in Surfside and the rest of Miami Beach was removed in its development. Contrary to popular belief, Miami Beach is not supposed to have sand (it’s imported from the Bahamas!), what originally occupied this space were mangroves. Now, the most nature to be seen are palm trees that line the streets. The closest natural area is the beautiful Beach Oceanside Park in North Beach.
The first to call the area that is now called Surfside home was the Native American Tequesta tribe. The first evidence of their village and burial mound was found during the 1923 clearing of the land by the Tatum Brothers who platted Surfside to build a large subdivision. They were attracted to the beautiful beach and the prominent social life in the area, as it was home to the illustrious Surf Club. Where, in addition to the parties, the club offered an assortment of entertainment options including extravagant musicals and balls, games such as bingo and bridge, elaborate luncheons with poolside fashion shows and an assortment of other high-profile soirees hosted by the club (George).
The residential area built by the Tatum Brothers served as home for 50 residents when in 1935 the town of Surfside was incorporated. The population boomed following World War II and single family homes, apartment buildings and condominiums started popping up. Collins Ave was the most desirable area, as it was once filled with small apartment complexes and beachside motels before today’s skyscrapers were built. A victim of this change is the Surf Club which was bought by the Four Seasons.
According to the census, Surfside had a population of 5,725 in 2019. 86.4% of the population is white and of that white population, 53.6% is white alone while 44.9% is hispanic or latino. 4.3% have two or more races and 0.7% is asian. The median household income in 2020 was $57,775 while the median value of owner-occupied housing units was $619,300 and median gross rent was $1,631. 55% of the population is female.
When walking through the neighborhood, it is obvious that you are in a majority jewish area. Cultural differences come through in subtle ways, you might catch someone reading a book in Hebrew, or notice how the population is dressed more conservatively than in the rest of Miami-Dade County.
Paulo Sufrediné is a retired engineer who has had a beach apartment in Surfside since 2002 and started living there permanently in 2015. I spoke to him at the Surfside Tennis Center, across the street from where the condominium collapsed almost a year ago.
Imani: “What’s your favorite restaurant in Surfside?”
Paulo: “My favorite is Café Ragazzi on 95th and Harding. It’s the best one here. An Italian restaurant.”
Imani: “Has Surfside changed since you started living here?”
Paulo: “Quite a bit. It’s much more crowded. The traffic is chaotic.”
Imani: “Were you here the day the building collapsed?”
Paulo: “Yes I was. I was sleeping so I did not hear [it], but lots of people in my building did, one of them was my son. He went to my bedroom to tell me what happened.”
Imani: “Do you remember that day?”
Paulo: “Clearly. I remember at 5:00 in the morning that day because it was chaotic and very traumatizing.”
Imani: “How long did it take for them to clear it”
Paulo: “Somewhere between 2 and 3 months”
Imani: “Do you think the incident poses a threat to the other residents here?”
Imani: “You think it was just that building?”
Paulo: “Absolutely. Buildings don’t fall like that. It was very strange.”
Surfside is home to the natural landmark of the beach, the economic landmark of Harding Avenue, and the tragic landmark of the Chaplain towers.
Surfside is home to a one-mile long stretch of sand and Atlantic. The beach is much more mellow than other areas in south Miami Beach and is one of the few natural areas of Surfside. It’s fit for any type of activity, whether you want to chill out or work out, Surfside Beach is the place to be.
You haven’t been to Surfside until you’ve walked through Harding Avenue. Some would say that it’s heart of the neighborhood- most of the markets, restaurants, and businesses call this street home. If you ever want to visit the places I mention below, you can park on 94th and Harding across from Publix for less than $2 an hour. Walking the street here cultural experience I’d never had before. I highly suggest taking a trip.
I can’t talk about Surfside without mentioning the partial-collapse of the 12- story condominium on June 24, 2021. After standing for nearly four decades, one wing of the building simply caved in.
The skeleton of the towers is at the entrance of Surfside and is covered by a fence. There’s an odd calm in the area. There’s no way you can visit without thinking of all the lives lost and families impacted.
Surfside Tennis Center
Located on 88th st and Harding in south Surfside, the Tennis Center is a quaint place to sit under some trees or walk your dog, but the bustle of Collins Ave takes away from the ease of the nature. True to its name, there’s also a tennis court in the park that you can use by reservation.
Notably, there is a memorial on the wall as an ode to the condominium collapse which happened across the street.
96th Street park
Located in north Surfside, 96th street park is the perfect place for locals to clear their head or to let their kids run their energy off. Amenities include an athletic field, 2 playground areas, basketball courts, a handball/tennis wall, and a restroom facility.
Paws Up Dog Park
If you are ever in Surfside with your furry friend, Paws Up is the perfect place for them to run free. Located at the corner of Byron Avenue and 93rd Street, the park opens daily at Sunrise and closes at 8 p.m
The main mode of transportation is the car, of course, however commutes have become trickier in the last few years along with the population increase. According to a number of locals, parking has gotten harder but the amount of parking spaces remains the same.
Other than that, I took note of more mopeds and bicycles than I usually see in the rest of Dade County. This is probably because locals live by most places that they need to go, and it’s also cheaper.
In terms of public transit, the 120 and S bus runs through the area. You can get anywhere by bus here, it may just require a few transfers.
Something I learned at Surfside was that in Kosher eating (a Jewish diet), dairy and meat are consumed separately. If you ask someone for a restaurant suggestion, the first question they ask is “meat or dairy?”
kosh sushi grill
One example of a meat restaurant is Kosh. They have a calm dining environment with outdoor and indoor seating. On my visit, I had a delicious, well prepared sushi. Everything that is in a typical sushi roll that might disrupt a kosher diet, such as shrimp or cream cheese, is imitation. I would definitely recommend this restaurant, just be ready to spend (if you’re on a college budget)!
For dairy, Failkoff’s is the place to go. Compared to the other food joints in the area, this is the most casual (and affordable) option. Their limited menu was refreshing, as they only serve pizza with regular sauce, pizza with spicy(ish) sauce, and french fries.
Serendipity is another great Kosher dairy place to try! The rocky road is delicious and their pastel theme is super cute.
If there is one place I love in Surfside, it’s the Grove. If you or another friend have never been out of the country, this is a great place to experience what a supermarket outside of America looks like. As you can see on the middle right picture, all the brands that are sold at the Grove aren’t the typical ones that you’d see at Walmart- everything is Kosher. The magazines, as you can see on the middle left picture, are in completely different languages and are about topics that are completely foreign to me. The best part was the pastry area. Everything was baked in house, is affordably priced and DELICIOUS. Even the corn muffin (bottom of the bottom picture) was mouthwatering. 10/10 experience.
Miami beach chocolates
A great local business that deserves more love is Miami Beach Chocolates. You can go in and have a bite of your favorite kind of chocolates, buy a premade box of chocolates for that special someone, or order a large order for an office party. They even sell wine that can be paired with any type of chocolate you can imagine.
Tsniout Runway is the place to go if you’re looking for the latest fashion. The boutique is one of its kind and sells modest clothes.
Visiting and getting to know more about Surfside was a treasure. There are many cool events that are thrown there by the town (check out Townofsurfsidefl.gov for more info)- just like the Third Thursday event pictured above. The area, however, does feel overdeveloped as there’s so little nature, and the skyscrapers on Collins Ave really took away the old-towny feel. Overall it was such a unique place to learn about and see. I really hope you get a pastry at the Grove next time you’re in the area.
Al-Jamea, Albright, Blaskey, Conarck, Handley, Leibowitz, Newcomb. House of Cards: How decades of problems converged the night Chamlain Towers fell. Dec 30, 2021. Miami Herald.
George, Paul. History of the Town of Surfside. March 30, 2020. Miami-History.com
Town of Surfside. Home. Parks and Recreation. Parks Information. Townofsurfsidefl.gov.
My name is Joheily Rodriguez, and I am pursuing a B.S. in Biological Sciences at Florida International University through its Honors College. Through this class, I learned more about myself; I discovered my interest in the arts. After graduation, I am pursuing medicine and becoming a physician. I love to explore Miami and its mixed culture and dishes. Living on campus and exploring Miami has been an inspiring experience filled with spontaneity and vibrancy. This semester, I choose to focus on the Urban neighborhood of Brickell, Fl, it’s past, present, and future, hoping to highlight its authenticity so that others can see it as more than the financial center of the city of Miami.
Brickell, Florida is an urban neighborhood packed with diversity and innovation in downtown Miami, Florida. The community obtained its name from one of the first few families that settled in the area and drove the improvement and development of the site. The Urban area coordinates are 25.7602° N, 80.1959° W, and it expands on an area of 0.98 square miles. This community is 10 miles from Miami Beach and 13.2 miles away from Biscayne Bay. Brickell is known as the financial center of Miami, full of luxury and style. This area is full of condominiums and places to shop. Green spaces such as a bayfront park, The Miami circle park, and the Mary Brickell Park catered to parents, pets, and children for leisure.
The story of Brickell started about 150 years ago, in the 1800s. The first inhabitants of this neighborhood were the Tequesta Indians, who were believed to have lived in South Florida for nearly 2,500 years. In 1871 the large Brickell family made their way down to South Florida. The Brickell’s are one of the earliest families to have ever been recorded to acquire a home and a trading post. Soon the family started to obtain thousands of acres of land through the state laws, which they sold to new families moving down South. However, the family’s vast real estate did not boom till Henry M. Flagler’s brought the Florida East Coast Railway to Miami in April 1896. After the arrival of the Railway, the Brickell’s started selling and leasing properties along what is now Brickell’s Avenue and Points East. Most families that bought land were of wealth, and soon the avenue became the “Millionaire’s Row,” full of houses with the Mediterranean and Beaux architecture styles. In 1930, the Depression struck and caused a lot of homeowners to subdivide their homes, and soon rooming houses were famous. In late 1970 the old Millionaires Row was given away to tall condominiums and skyscrapers; Brickell was changing. This paved the way for where Brickell is today, a place full of condominiums, hotels, financial services, and expensive restaurants.
According to City-Data, the population in Brickell in 2019 was 17,991. The ethnic group comprises primarily Hispanic individuals, whose population accounts for 60.0%. The rest accounts for 20.4% white, while Asian is 2.8%, while black alone is 2.6%. The neighborhood age range is unevenly distributed. In Brickell; (11.0% )of the population was found to be over the age of sixty-five, (77%) of the population falls between the ages of eighteen and sixty-five, while (4%) of the population is between the ages of ten and eighteen years of age; lastly, (9.0%) of the population was under the age of ten.
Interview with Solange
Joheily: How long have you lived in Brickell?
Solange: “I have lived in this area for about two years.”
Joheily: What do you think of the area?
Solange: “Personally, it’s a lifestyle here. People are very innovative and calm at the same time. Moving here helped me have an open mind about the things I ask and then receive because people are so giving here. I also believe they have more access than other neighborhoods.”
Joheily: What is your Favorite thing about Brickell?
Solange: “My favorite thing about Brickell is the amenities that each building has. I enjoy how each building can look very similar on the outside but very different once inside. The architecture here is competitive and stunning.”
Joheily: What is your least favorite thing about Brickell?
Solange: “My least favorite thing is the constant construction on each street; it makes it hard to navigate on foot or with transportation.”
The Freedom Tower
The Freedom Tower is a historic landmark that has been standing since 1925. This tower holds a special place in the Cuban American community, as it became a symbol of the ideals of America at the time. This tower served as a passage to those that sought freedom and liberty. From the 1960s to 1975, it served as an assistance center for Cubans and Refugees fleeing from Castro’s Communist Regime. This act caused an increase in Cubans in Miami, which led to the transformation we see today, especially in the introduction of Spanish Culture and language.
Address: 600 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33132
The Torch of Friendship
The torch of friendship is a monument in Brickell, Miami, made in 1960. The city of Miami dedicated the Monument to “the everlasting friendship of our neighboring countries” this served as a friendly welcome to immigrants migrating from neighboring countries. This Monument contains another significance: the remembrance of the most beloved U.S president, John F. Kennedy, who had passed away from an unsolved attempt. An interesting thing about this site is that various peaceful and anti-war protests are held here.
Address: 301 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33132
Section of the Berlin Wall
From 1961 to 1989, The Berlin Wall was a symbol of separation and oppression; The wall divided many families, friends, and communities that hoped to one day reunite. On November 9, 1989, Hopes became a reality when the wall was breached, and that day, democracy claimed victory over communism. Miami is a unique place with a quilt of culture and history. In 2004 Germany donated a piece of the Berlin wall to Miami-Dade College to serve as a remembrance of those who fought for freedom and unification.
Address: 135-199 NE 3rd St, Miami, FL 33132
Bayfront Park is located at 301 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33132. Bayfront Park, or its former name Royal Palm Park, was one of Miami’s first public gathering places. The park was built in 1896 and served the surrounding urban community. It is a park with a few hills and lots of greenery where you and your family can enjoy a relaxed day looking at the water or exercising.
Miami Circle Park
The Miami Circle Park is located in Miami, Fl, at 33133 Brickell Point. It is an archaeological site that served great importance for the first settlers, the Tequesta. It is believed to have been built between 500 BC and AD 900, where sacred ceremonies and burials were conducted in this 38-ft- 11 m circle. Now, this Historic landmark serves as a dog park. Here pets and owners can enjoy their time and interact with other pets and their owners.
Mary Brickell Park
Mary Brickell Park is located at 501 Brickell Avenue, Miami, Florida 33131. The Mary Brickell Park is classified as an archeological site and a historic site. Brickell Park is significant as it once had a pre-Columbian cemetery and village that dates back to 500 BC. There is a lot of open space and green areas surrounded by places to eat and, more importantly, a playground for the children. The Brickell family donated this small amount of land to Miami to serve as a public park.
The average car ownership is 1.7 cars. Brickell’s population is considered a commuter community, with 18% of its workforce traveling out of the community for about 30-35 Minutes to work. The area of Brickell’s most common commute in 2019 was Driving alone, which accounted for (64.8%), followed by Walking(16.1%), those that worked at home (9.6%), taking the subway (5.9%), carpooling (3.5%) and lastly those that use bicycles were (2.9%).
Brickell is full of luxurious restaurants full of authenticity and fusion of cultures. During this project, I tried to focus on small local restaurants.
Holy Moly Mac
Holy Mac is one of the few restaurants in Brickell that is local and black-owned. This restaurant is located at 100 S Biscayne Blvd Miami, Fl,33133. Due to the Pandemic, this restaurant unfortunately only takes pick up orders through telephone, Doordash, and Ubereats. Even though I could not enter the space, I enjoyed viewing the menu, and there were a variety of choices and amusing combinations. The staff was very kind, it has no reviews as of now, but it seems like a place worth giving a chance.
Bonding: Thai, Noodle, and Sushi Bar
Bonding is a Taiwanese Restaurant located at 638 S Miami Ave, Miami, Fl 33130. This is a small but modern family business. Their most popular dishes include gyoza, pad sees ew, rec curry, and Bonding Fried Rice. They had been at their original location since 12/12/12, and they are loved by the local community, with 303 reviews on google of happy customers sharing their wonderful experience.
Brickell Soul by First Miami
Brickell Soul is located at 609 Brickell Ave, Miami, Fl 33131. Brickell Soul is right next to Mary Brickell Park, and it is organized by a presbyterian church that pushes for community outreach. The area is full of food trucks open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I enjoyed the Italian street food; the menu seemed very interesting and affordable. I enjoyed seeing all the varieties and options that they provided. I would recommend checking this place out!
Brickell Psychic is a business that helps adults and children heal through alternative practices. Various services are offered; some are physical palm, tarot cards, astrological charts, past life regression, handwriting analysis, and more. Individuals of all walks of life are welcome to understand themselves better and hopefully reach a positive outcome. Brickell Psychic is located at 640 South Miami Ave Miami, FL, 33130.
The Grand Lion Real Estate Group.
The Grand Lion Real Estate Group is located at 630 South Miami Ave #630 Miami Fl, 33130. Its mission is to provide a different experience in real estate through close contracts and personalization of services. They say that when you buy or rent a home, you have to imagine yourself investing and living in the neighborhood. They take pride in the multicultural team that can input a variety of perspectives.
PureRoast Coffee is a business located at 632 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL, 33130. The Coffee shop is rated 4.5 stars with 291 reviews describing their excellent coffees and pastries. Aside from having their coffee shop, PureRoast also sells their own coffee roasted beans to enjoy in the comfort of your own home. Their story started in Venezuela with a cup of coffee by their host, the coffee grower; in 1986, long before Starbucks and baristas were a thing. These Growers do not focus on quantity but rather on the quality of their coffee.
Brickell is a vast Urban neighborhood filled with history, entrepreneurship, culture, and drive. This beautiful neighborhood is often compared to Manhattan, an area in New York City, but in my opinion, the atmosphere cannot be compared. One thing that Manhattan does not have is the care that goes into this city and the kind of residents Brickell has. Brickell was destined to be a city full of wealth, culture, and history from the very start. Many historical events happened in this neighborhood that helped shape Miami into what it is today. While walking through the streets of Brickell, I felt like the people were very welcoming and helped me whenever I could not find a specific location. While on this trip, I used electric scooters, which made exploring Brickell a sensational experience.
Brickell has a strong community where people here treasure family moments. For the most part, Brickell is an excellent and friendly place to live in and visit. Something concerning to me was all the construction. I feel like the area is constantly under development. More development could weaken the community in Brickell, especially when green regions are removed. The people of Brickell should push for more Parks to increase connections. Overall, I will recommend classmates and viewers visit Brickell, Miami, FL, to experience these iconic businesses and restaurants.
Natalia Sanchez is a senior pursuing her B.S. in criminal justice at Florida International University (FIU). She hopes to become a crime scene investigator with the Miami Dade police department. Natalia is passionate about helping others, therefore she is a volunteer for the bubble city community project and student support services. During her free time, she goes to local concerts, museums, and Miami Heat basketball games.
Sweetwater is located in the county of Miami-Dade in the state of Florida in the United States of America. This neighborhood is located at 27°24’34″N 81°42’9″W (27.4094900, -81.7025800)(mapsofnet). Sweetwater has a total area of 6.22 km2 (mapsofnet). Sweetwater is mostly buildings and housing but it does have a few green areas and small bodies of water. Sweetwater also borders the Ronald Reagan Turnpike. Sweetwater is the host of the famous Dolphin Mall and is 15 minutes away from Downtown Miami.
The neighborhood of Sweetwater was originally called “Sweetwater Groves” and the land was acquired in 1920. The original owners of the Sweetwater Groves were the Miami-Pittsburgh Land Company. The company started to develop the land but a hurricane hit south Florida in 1926. This forced the company to abandon the development projects of Sweetwater Groves.
Around 1938, a man called Clyde Andrews was able to acquire most of the Sweetwater Groves. Soon enough he started to sell multiple lots of land to various buyers. One of his famous buyers was a group of Russian dwarfs. This group was looking for an area in which they could come to after retiring from the circus. They were able to construct various mini homes for the group and for the next few years, sweetwater was known as the “dwarf” community (cityofsweetwater).
In 1941, Sweetwater had its first successful election for leadership. The first elected mayor was Joe Sanderlin and he was known to be the guardian and manager of the dwarf community. By 1959, Sweetwater had a population of 500 residents and 183 homes. The neighborhood had finally established a town hall, church, grocery store, service station, two-man police force, and a volunteer fire department. By 1970, Sweetwater had about 3,000 residents, showing that it was still a small community.
However, later in the 1970s, many events occurred that dramatically changed Sweetwater. The construction of Florida International University and two major expressways started. There was also a boom in the Hispanic community moving to the neighborhood. Because of these factors, the population of sweetwater grew drastically (cityofsweetwater).
Sweetwater is known to be a small but mighty neighborhood within Miami. As of 2021, this neighborhood has a population of 21,125. Of the total population, 48.24% are male and 51.76% are female (beaconcouncil). As of 2021. the median age is 43. As of 2021, Sweetwater has a labor force of 10,096 people. There were also about 1,757 businesses around the neighborhood. The median household income is $47,283 (beaconcouncil).
Sweetwater is a predominantly Hispanic community with 95.5% of the population being from this background. According to Data USA, the three largest ethnic groups in sweetwater are white Hispanics, white non-Hispanics, and black or African-American Hispanics. The top four countries in which the sweetwater community is mostly from are Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Colombia.
For my student interview, I decided to highlight my friend Adriana Santos. She is currently a 21-year-old student studying crime science at Florida International University. She has been living in Sweetwater her whole life along with her family. Here is how our interview went:
NS: Hey Adriana! Thank you so much for meeting with me today!
AS: Hey and no thank you for choosing me for this interview!
NS: Tell me about your experience growing up in the neighborhood of Sweetwater?
AS: This has always been a peaceful and safe neighborhood. I feel safe walking from my house to my local park with my grandma. I have also been able to meet a lot of my neighbors since everyone here is pretty friendly. I think it is convenient that I have always had everything I need at a pretty close distance.
NS: Elaborate on what you mean by “everything I need”
AS: Well my favorite park and the elementary school I went to are within walking distance from my house. I am also about 5 minutes away from FIU and about 10 minutes from dolphin mall. I am able to easily do grocery shopping because there are so many shopping centers and restaurants around.
NS: Any last recommendations or tips for those who have never been to Sweetwater before?
AS: I’d say definitely come check out the neighborhood if you love to try foods from various cultures. We have restaurants from a lot of countries such as Spain, Nicaragua, China, and India.
While exploring the neighborhood of Sweetwater, I was curious to see if they had any landmarks. To my surprise, I was able to find three! I will be focusing on the women’s history gallery, J C Montiel monument, and dolphin mall.
The first landmark I visited was the women’s history gallery. This gallery is located within the women’s park which I will tackle later on in the paper. The gallery highlights the women of the united states. But most importantly, it highlights the women that played a role in improving the lives of those living in Miami-dade county. I think having this gallery is crucial because women played a role in the establishment of Miami. Credit should be given where credit is due. The gallery was rather small but it does have plenty of historical information. I am not sure if the gallery is open to the public. The door did say that the gallery is open from 9:am-5:00pm but when I tried opening the door it was locked. However, I was able to meet with a young man called Ivan. He is a Miami-dade parks and recreational employee and he was able to unlock the gallery for me to explore. Special thanks to him!
When I visited Carlow Park, I stumbled upon the monument of commissioner Jose C. Montiel. According to the sign, he is being highlighted in the community because he was committed to sweetwater and had many accomplishments. I tried conducting further research about who he was but I could find no information. A critique I have for the neighborhood of sweetwater is to provide historical details about Montiel since he seems to be an important figure within this community.
The last landmark I visited was Dolphin mall. I consider Dolphin Mall a landmark because it attracts so much tourism and if you grew up in Miami, then shopping at this mall was a staple. According to statistics, tourists spend an average of 4.1 times more money than the locals. I, unfortunately, was not able to find any more data as of 2022.
I was able to successfully find three green areas within Sweetwater. They are all parks. The parks I visited are the women’s park, Carlow park, and dominoes park.
The first park I visited was the women’s park. Located at 10251 W Flagler St, the women’s park is a 15-acre park. The park is open from 7:00 am to sunset. It offers a path that is amazing for walking, running, biking, and skateboarding. It also has a large playground for children. Scattered around the park, you have a plethora of benches and tables where one can relax or eat. This is the same historical park that I mentioned in the landmarks portion of this report. Personally, this is one of my favorite parks in sweetwater because it has so much space for you to do any outdoor activity you desire.
The second park I visited was Carlow Park. Located at 10601 SW 5th St, this park also provides visitors with tons of options for outdoor activity. It has a trail for those that enjoy running or biking. It also has a large playground area for children. If you enjoy playing basketball or tennis, you are in luck! This park also has a basketball and tennis court, both open and free for the public. This park has a few tables and benches, all under the shade. The park is open every Monday through Saturday from 8:00AM to 9:00PM. Sundays it opens from 7:00 AM to 8:00PM.
The last park I visited was the domino park. To my surprise, this park has been closed until further notice. Located at 10620 SW 7th Terrace, it has a mini playground for children and a table for the public to play dominoes. When I arrived at the park, the gates were heavily locked. There was no sign explaining why the park was shut down and when it would re-open. I also researched online and looked through the Sweetwater website but they provided no information as to what happened with this park. The park looks spacious and clean so I hope the neighborhood reopens it to the public.
Sweetwater offers its residents and visitors three methods of transportation. These are the Miami-Dade MetroBus, the Sweetwater trolley, and freebee transportation.
The Miami-Dade MetroBus has three different routes that pass through sweetwater. These routes are 36, 71, and 51. Bus hours vary by route. The bus schedule also varies.
The Sweetwater trolley is able to provide its services for free. The trolleys take about an hour and a half to complete their route. Their route starts in the Sweetwater Maintenance and Transit Department located at 1701 NW 110TH Avenue. It takes the public to major destinations such as dolphin mall, international mall, Florida International University, and any other destination within the borders of sweetwater. Every Monday through Friday, the Sweetwater trolley runs from 8:00 am to 7:00 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, it runs from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. It does not run on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s. But during other legal holidays, the trolley runs from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm.
The last method of public transportation that is provided to the public of Sweetwater is the Freebee. Freebee is a transportation method that provides the public free rides with fully electric vehicles. In order to request a ride, you have to download their Freebee app. Their routes are local and they usually have a certain number of electric cars per community. Their hours are as follows: Mon-Fri 6:30am-7:00pm, Saturday 12pm-10pm, Sunday-Closed.
Sweetwater had a plethora of restaurants from different backgrounds to choose from. I decided to highlight Good Chef Restaurant, Carne Asada Tortilleria Nica, and El Buen pan.
Located at 113 SW 107th Ave, the good chef restaurant is a 4.9-star Asian restaurant. Their menu consists of a variety of dumplings, ramen, dry noodles, main courses, rice dishes, soups, and desserts. Their beverages consist of the popular drink called bubble tea. This drink is a type of iced tea that brings chewable tapioca balls. They also sell normal fruit teas.
The next restaurant I visited was Carne Asada Tortilleria Nica. Located at 10404 W Flagler St, this fritanga is a 4.4 star Nicaraguan restaurant. Nicaraguans refer to their restaurants as “fritangas” so I will refer to the restaurant as such for the rest of my highlight of it. This restaurant has a plethora of meats, rice, soups, bakery goods, Nicaraguan drinks, and desserts. This is personally one of my favorite fritangas within sweetwater. My to-go order is a plate of gallo pinto, which is the Nicaraguan take on rice and beans, carne asada which is steak, platanos aka plantains, and queso frito aka fried cheese.
The third food destination I decided to visit was El Buen Pan. Located at 10354 W Flagler St, El Buen Pan is a 4.5-star Colombian bakery and restaurant. They sell Colombian breakfast and lunch combos. They also sell empanadas, pan the bono, and other pastries. My personal favorite is the pan de Bono. This is a cheese pastry that is very rich in flavor.
Sweetwater is a neighborhood with a plethora of businesses. However, these are my top three choices that I will recommend. These three options show the diversity of this neighborhood. Conveniently enough, these three businesses are also within the same shopping center. The three businesses I decided to check out were Hanna & Tiger Asian mart, Spice n Curry, and Pauline Books and Media.
The first business I checked out was Hanna & Tiger Asian mart. Located at 115 SW 107th Ave, this mart has all of your favorite snacks and products from various Asian countries. From Ramune (Japanese carbonated soft drink), to shrimp flavored chips, this mart has a treat for anyone. They also import vegetables and kitchen tools from Asian countries that you may not find at your local American food store. I personally enjoyed visiting this store because I love Asian treats. My favorite snacks were the hello kitty-themed cookies and marshmallows. Their store hours are Monday-Sunday from 10:00am to 10:00 pm.
The second business I decided to check out was Spice N curry. Located at 123 SW 107th Ave, this business is an Indian grocery store. They import their products from India and also make their traditional food in the store so the public can buy. Their products range from spices, vegetables, snacks, drinks, incense, and baked goods. They provide a menu online of their specialties. I definitely recommend trying their samosas, dal of the day, and basmati rice. Their store hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 12:00pm to 8:00pm. Sundays they are open from 12:00pm to 5:00pm and they are closed on Mondays.
The third business that I decided to check out was Pauline Books and Media. Located at 145 SW 107th Ave, this establishment focuses on the distribution of Catholic books and media. This bookstore does not have a website so if you would like to shop you would have to go in person. The store has a variety of religious and motivational books. This establishment was rather interesting for me because I had never seen or visited a bookstore that is strictly for a religion. The store hours are Monday-Saturday from 10:00am to 5:00pm. They are closed on Sundays.
Exploring the neighborhood of Sweetwater was fun! I was able to learn so much about the history, local restaurants, businesses, and parks. I truly enjoyed visiting these various destinations and trying new foods or meeting new people. Visiting this neighborhood allowed me to step out of my comfort zone.
Samantha Johnson is a Junior at Florida International University working towards a B.A. in Sustainability and the Environment with a minor in Marine Biology. She hopes to achieve not only one day a PHD but also a JD in Environmental Law and use these to make policies that will help the environment or to be involved in research that would promote this. In her free time, she loves to read and hang out with friends, but also loves to go to the beach and is extremely passionate about the environment.
Key Biscayne spans 1.40 mi2 (3.63 km2) between Crandon Park and Bill Baggs State Park. It is located at 25.691145, -80.164840 (Apple Maps). It has a countless number of stores and restaurants, good for both the community who lives there and those who come to visit. Most of the area is homes, townhouses, and communities, but there are hotels by the beach along with nature areas and other necessities to live there.
The urban area is essentially the entire neighborhood. It is made up of townhouses, homes, and gated communities. There are countless shops and businesses in Key Biscayne as well. The majority of the businesses and restaurants were along the strip in the middle along Crandon Blvd, which allows for both sides of the Blvd to be used for houses and developments.
The natural landscape is obviously an important part to the nature of Key Biscayne. Not only is it in between two major parks (Bill Baggs State Park and Crandon Park), but it also has several smaller green areas within its borders (Village Green Park, Lake Park, East Enid Linear Park, and the Civic Center Park). You can see more green parts on the map, smaller parks, and places to walk around as well. My favorite part was how well they incorporated even more green while just driving and walking around. Throughout the neighborhoods there were large trees covering the streets and the yards were lined with so much green. Even driving down Crandon Blvd there were palm trees in the median along with other plants, and on the sidewalks where the shopping plazas were there was so much green as well.
Key Biscayne was first occupied by the Tequesta people until Ponce de Leon claimed it for the King of Spain in 1513. Florida became a territory of the United States in 1821, and shortly after Mary Ann Davis purchased the island and sold three acres to the U.S. Government to be used as a military reservation, where the Cape Florida Lighthouse would later be built and lit for the first time in 1825. (History of Key Biscayne, Florida)
The Davis family laid out the first town on Key Biscayne in 1839. As Key Biscayne began to prosper farmers began arriving from the north to set up plantations. A popular one that most people know is the coconut plantation by William John Matheson. Matheson died in 1930, but his three children each owned a part of the plantation. They donated the northern half to the public and the county in return built a causeway from the key to the mainland. In 1950, the middle half was purchased to build 289 homes for veterans. They also built the Key Biscayne Villas on the Beach, along with a shopping center and a school. The lower half of the island was purchased to make a state park (Bill Baggs) in 1966. (History of the Island of Key Biscayne)
The Village of Key Biscayne was incorporated in 1991.
Key Biscayne is a suburb located in Miami-Dade County. It gives residents an urban feel with many restaurants, coffee shops, and parks. Most of the residents are the owners of their homes, not many people rent here. It is home to 12,915 people, with many of them being retirees (Niche).
Whites make up the majority of the population in the area (96.63%), with the remainder being made up by “two or more races” (1.46%), other race (1.39%), Asian (0.29%), Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (0.18%), and Black or African American (0.05%) (World Population Review). Gender is split almost evenly with 52% of residents being female and 48% being male (Niche).
The average household income in Key Biscayne is $226,086. Rentals average at about $2,548 per month, and houses average at about $1.21 million (World Population Review). 70% of residents own their homes and 30% of residents rent. Most of the residents in Key Biscayne have either a master’s degree or higher (36%) or a bachelor’s degree (37%). There are few who have some college or an associate degree (17%) and 8% have a high school diploma (Niche).
Interview with Grace Mahuron: A resident of Key Biscayne
Q: Where are you from?
A: I have been living in South Florida my whole life, and just came to Key Biscayne with my parents a few years ago.
Q: What is your favorite part about living in Key Biscayne?
A: My favorite part about Key Biscayne is how close we are to the beaches. I love being outside and in nature, so being so close to the beaches is just wonderful. I also love being close to Village Green Park and the Dog Park and being able to take my dogs there to run around.
Q: Do you think you will stay here for a while, and would you recommend living here to someone else?
A: I don’t know if I will continue living here when I finish school and move out, even though I really enjoy living here. I personally don’t think I will be able to afford living here on my own, but if you can afford it and want to be close to these places, I would definitely recommend it.
The Key Biscayne Community Center opened on October 30, 2004. It is located adjacent to Village Green Park and is a vital part of the community. It provides a wide variety of amenities including: basketball, indoor playground, dance/aerobic studios, a computer lab, a fitness center, and much more. It is open from 6AM to 10PM Monday through Friday, and 7AM to 3PM on Saturdays.
Address: 10 Village Green Way, Key Biscayne, FL 33149
The Key Biscayne Fire Department is led by Chief Eric Lang and is recognized as an all-hazards response agency. This means that personnel are required to respond to and handle responses to fire and medical emergencies, collapsed structures, hazardous materials, car accidents, and floods.
On September 10, 1998, the Key Biscayne Fire Department was awarded the “International Accredited Agency Status” by the Board of Directors for the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. It became the 10th department in the world and the 1st in Florida to receive this recognition.
Address: 560 Crandon Blvd, Key Biscayne, FL 33149
3 – Cape Florida Lighthouse
The Cape Florida Lighthouse is located at the tip of Key Biscayne in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. It is the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade and was first built in 1825. It has survived almost 200 years of erosion, hurricanes, wars with Seminole native Americans, and an explosion within it. It was damaged during the Second Seminole War and had to be rebuilt and refurbished. This was finished in 1846 and had another 30 feet added to it. (Florida State Parks)
Bill Baggs State Park hosts tours of the lighthouse five days a week with 2 tours a day, one at 10AM and the other at 1PM. they do not host tours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The lighthouse has 109 stairs that guests must be able to climb if they want to reach the top. (Cape Florida Light)
Bill Baggs State Park is located at the tip of Key Biscayne and is just 15 minutes from the hustle and bustle that is Downtown Miami. It is home to the Cape Florida Lighthouse which was built in 1825, and has an immense amount of history surrounding it. It is the oldest structure in Miami-Dade County, and has almost 200 years of history within its walls.
Bill Baggs State Park has many activities other than visiting the lighthouse. They have several walking and biking trails that wind through the native vegetation. It has several picnic tables and food concessions as well. Fishermen are often found along the seawall alongside Biscayne Bay. There are also two onsite restaurants, the Lighthouse Café, and the Boaters Grill. They both serve Cuban food, sandwiches, and drinks. The park is open 365 days a year from 8:00AM until sundown. (Key Biscayne Chamber)
Crandon Park was a donation made to Miami-Dade County in 1940 by the heirs of Commodore William John Matheson, who originally used the land as a coconut plantation. Their only condition was that the land would be used as a public park. In exchange for the land, Charles Crandon of the County Commission offered to have the County build a causeway that would connect Key Biscayne to the mainland. (Heritage)
Crandon Park offers visitors the chance to explore various ecosystems located on the Key including the dunes, mangroves, coastal hammocks, and seagrass beds, and to also observe wildlife including herons, ospreys, and butterflies along with plants that are not often found anywhere else. Crandon Park also contains the Bear Cut Preserve, which is a designated Environment Study Area, and shows what South Florida looked like in the past. Crandon Park also has a two-mile beach that is one of the most popular recreation destinations in all of Miami-Dade. (Facility Description)
Village Green Park encompasses 9.5 acres of land and is located in the heart of Key Biscayne. It contains several multi-use fields, a half-mile jogging course, a community bandstand, splash fountain, and a small pavilion. There is also a dog park on the north side.
Village Green has multiple multipurpose fields at the north and south sides of the parl. They have portable baseball and softball backstops, soccer goals, and football goals which are set up for different teams during the sports seasons. When they are not in use, there are often people out there playing and flying kites.
Village Green Park also has a playground which has areas for both toddlers and older children, a splash fountain, and a shade pavilion with benches. The toddler play area has a shade canopy above it, and the knee wall alongside Fernwood Road also provides protection to the children in the park as well.
Address: 450 Crandon Blvd, Key Biscayne, FL 33149
To get to Key Biscayne, you must drive, unless you live closer and are able to find another mode of transportation. Coming from FIU, you must drive, but depending on where you are going (Bill Baggs, Crandon Park, or just visiting the restaurants in the area) there is decent parking everywhere.
There are a few bus stops around the area as well, so if you can take the bus instead, that would be easier than trying to find parking in the area. While I was driving through the townhouses and the neighborhood, it was clear that most of the residents use golf carts to get around, which I thought was quite interesting.
Once you are there however, the easiest way to see everything is to just walk around. Although everything seems pretty spread out, I was able to see everything during my trip by just parking at my first destination and walking to find the rest. It is also pedestrian friendly and has crosswalks everywhere and signs to remind cars to watch for pedestrians and big flashy lights for when you are crossing the street.
It was quite daunting to drive through here at first and to figure out where I was going. I usually just drive through this little town to get to the beaches and to Bill Baggs, and never really thought about the dynamics of it before this project. I was also surprised because it reminded me a lot of a town back home where I live, with the number of townhouses that were around seeing lots of residents driving golf carts instead of regular cars. There was even golf cart specific parking! I suppose that if you were living here, it would make sense to just drive a golf cart around because everything you need is close together, unless you have to leave the village.
Artisan Kitchen strives to bring “honest, simple and healthy food” made from scratch every day to serve their guests using the “best ingredients available”. They serve Venezuelan Cuisine, and serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desserts.
For breakfast they are known for: many different types of arepas or cachapas and also serve tequenos, croissants, and omelettes.
For lunch they are known for: different types of sandwiches, empanadas, croquettes, and salads.
For dinner they are known for: signature dinners such as grilled octopus, and huevos estrellados, and also have Venezuelan bites, Spanish bites, and bruschettas.
Milanezza is an Argentinian restaurant in Key Biscayne. They are known for private dining and to host private parties. Their outdoor terrace and indoor dining area are ideal for hosting private events. They accept large party reservations and buyouts in advance. For parties they transform the main dining area into a dance floor with disco lights and a DJ. They offer small bites menus and Open Bar packages.
They are known for their fresh market items which include a variety of Argentina products, breads, chicken, cold cuts, cheeses, empanadas, seafood, fruits and vegetables, meats and sauces, and homemade pastas and sauces.
For their regular menu they are known for: tapas, empanadas, different appetizers, different types of homemade pastas, salads, burgers and sandwiches, and of course Milanezza.
El Gran Inka is a Peruvian restaurant located in Key Biscayne. They have another location in Dolphin Mall as well. They have 12 restaurants open and operating throughout the U.S., Guatemala, El Salvador, and Costa Rica. They bring the “most typical Peruvian dishes through unique creation of dishes with a touch of gourmet”. They provide a “gastronomic and cultural experience” which helps to maintain its unique atmosphere.
On their menu they are well-known for their ceviche bar with many different types of ceviche, but also serve tiraditos, sushi rolls, and other options from the oven and gill, and from the sea.
The Island Shop in Key Biscayne has been open for more than 30 years. They have a wide range product selection with everything from home décor, table and bed linens, candles, baby clothes, jewelry, and much more. It is very popular for tourists and locals alike.
They believe that their product lines are made so that no customer that comes in will leave empty-handed. They say that there is something unique for everyone that you need to buy for. They are also known to personalize stationary, stickers, create wedding invitations, and much more. (The Island Shop)
They are open Monday-Saturday from 10AM to 6PM and are closed on Sundays.
Address: 654 Crandon Blvd, Key Biscayne, FL 33149
2 – Tinky’s Gift Shop
Tinky’s Gift Shop isn’t your typical tourist trap gift shop. It has gifts for everyone that you may need to buy for, and it is a great small business to buy from. The prices may be a bit more than what you would spend at a local store, but they have items that you won’t find otherwise outside of the Key.
Tinky’s Gift Shop is open from 10AM-6PM Monday-Saturday and are closed on Sundays.
Velisa Salon is a Beauty Salon in Key Biscayne. They provide beauty, cosmetic, and personal care. It is in the same plaza as Tinky’s Gifts, El Gran Inka, The Island Shop, and Artisan Kitchen and Bar. They provide many services including haircuts, dyes, highlights, styling, and manicures.
Velisa Salon is open from 9AM-7PM Tuesday through Saturday.
Overall, I think that Key Biscayne is a beautiful community. I love how everything goes together so well, and how close everything is to the beach as well as Bill Baggs and Crandon Park. I enjoyed walking through the neighborhood and finding out where everything was. It is a neighborhood that I had never really thought about since I normally only see it in passing as I am driving to Bill Baggs and back. I never had a reason to stop here before, and I was pleasantly surprised. They have a wide variety of restaurants and stores, and it was probably comical to see me walking around in awe at how much they had to offer. I also loved how they incorporated their green areas into the neighborhood. The placement of the trees and shrubs along Crandon Blvd and all the side streets just brings everything all together. Also, by having Village Green Park is right on Crandon Blvd so you see it as you are driving, it shows just how lively the neighborhood is, and I think that it was well done.
My only complaint is how close the houses are to each other on the East side as you are driving south on the island. I drove through here to see the neighborhood and to see how everything was laid out, and found it surprisingly hard, and my car isn’t even that large. However, I think part of the problem was because it was very busy by Key Biscayne Community Church, and it looked like they were holding a fundraiser of some sort. This made it challenging to drive through as there were cars parked everywhere, and I was surprised that they had houses right across the street from the church. I understand why most of the residents drive golfcarts on the island, it seems like it would make navigating through these areas much easier.
Monica Perez is a sophomore pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Minor in Religious Studies at Florida International University. With that and future schooling she hopes to become a professor and administer therapy. With a secondary interest in ecopsychology, she hopes to also use elements of nature and the environment to treat certain psychological disorders. Her current motto is “seek radical empathy” as she strives to understand and share in others’ thoughts and life experiences. In exploring the community of Coral Gables, she hopes to do just that.
The city of Coral Gables is located at 25°43′42″N 80°16′16″W. It is now approximately 9,620 hectares built from the original 65 hectares (160 acres) of citrus farms owned by the Merrick family. It is found on the southeast part of Florida, and the southern part of Coral Gables is bordered by the Biscayne Bay Aquatic reserve, the main contributor to Miami’s water supply. It is also bordered by the communities of Coconut Grove, South Miami, and West Flagler. It is relatively flat (much like the rest of Miami), and is known for its frequent incorporation of greenery and Mediterranean Revival design aesthetic.
The incredibly George E. Merrick moved to Miami in 1899 from Duxbury, Massachusetts. In 1921, he began construction of Coral Gables, keeping a very strict Mediterranean Revival architectural aesthetic. He did this because it was the only aesthetic he saw most fitting to Miami’s landscape. He was inspired by his trips to Mexico and Cuba, where the Spanish architectural style was adapted to fit a tropical location. The city was finally incorporated in 1925, but Merrick fell into debt and was removed from the Commission in 1928. He passed away in 1942 and did not see many of his projects completed.
Nicknamed the “City Beautiful”, Coral Gables was always meant to symbolize wealth and exclusivity. Merrick wanted his guests to feel like royalty, hence buildings that resemble castles, the strict architectural limits, and intense segregation. The very Bahamians that built the majority of the town were not allowed to live there.
DEMOGRAPHICS & INTERVIEW
From a population of approximately 49,248 people, approximately 81.6% identify as white, 3.5% identify as black, and 58.4% identify as Hispanic or Latino (it is clear that not much has changed from the town’s original establishment). The median value of owner-occupied home units is $856,6000, and the average household income is $103,999. An interview with Coral Gables native, Lucas Picciano, provides an inside perspective on what this data suggests.
Me: How old are you, and how long have you lived in Coral Gables?
Lucas: I am 20 years old, and I have lived in Coral Gables all my life.
What part of Coral Gables do you live in?
I live in the south side, so the side with more moderate income.
What is your favorite part about living in Coral Gables?
It’s a very pretty place to live. There is lots of greenery, and the architectural style is nice to look at. There’s also some really great parks and a rich history behind the city.
What is your least favorite part?
The harsh regulations for homeowners are very difficult to navigate. For example, you need to ask the county for permission to own a truck, paint your house, or change it very much at all. They give you very little personal freedom.
What would you change about Coral Gables?
It is very hard to drive in coral Gables because the streets are not numbered. I would put numbers on all the streets.
Would you recommend Coral Gables as a place to live?
Not really. It’s very expensive, there are a lot of regulations, the infrastructure is very old. Older people would like it, though, because of the rich history and great healthcare (we have really good doctors).
What is your favorite thing to do in Coral Gables?
I like going kayaking in the canals with my friends.Sometimes, you’ll see manatees.
What is your favorite place to hang out?
Any local park. The bigger, the better.
Coral Gables City Hall
Coral Gables City Hall is the embodiment of George Merrick’s vision for Coral Gables. Designed by Phineas Paist and Denman Fink, it is Miami’s rendition of William Strickland’s Merchant exchange in Philadelphia. In keeping with the Mediterranean revival fantasy, it exists in harmony with the aesthetics of the city. It was constructed from 1927 to 1928, as South Florida was recovering from a terrible hurricane in 1926.
Coral Gables Museum
The Old Coral Gables Police and Fire Station was built in 1939, during the Great Depression. Also designed by Paist with the help of Harold Steward, the building is an example of Depression architecture and contains symbolism of protection and sacrifice. The outside walls contain carvings of typical families in need of protection, pelicans which were said to sacrifice their own blood for their offspring, and firemen ready to protect the citizens of Coral Gables.
Coral Gables Congregational Church
The Coral Gables Congregational Church was built in 1923 and dedicated in 1925. It was the first to be built in the city on land donated by George Merrick. In keeping with tradition, the firm Kiehnel & Elliot used Spanish-style architecture for the outside and inside layout of the building. Facing the Biltmore Hotel, the Church is listed on the National Register for Historic Places.
Matheson Hammock Park
Matheson Hammock Park is located at 9610 Old Cutler Road Miami, FL. One of Coral Gables’ larger parks, it also contains a beach and marina. Guests can enjoy birdwatching, fishing, kiteboarding, and take classes at their boating school. Guests can also rent a picnic shelter for private events. It is also home to Coral Gables’ only water front restaurant: Red Fish Grill Restaurant.
Fairchild Tropical Museum and Gardens
Fairchild Tropical Museum and Gardens was names after David Fairchild (1869-1954), an educator, scientist, and plant explorer. He worked together with big names in Miami’s history like Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Charles Crandon, and Robert Montgomery to create a botanic garden that would be one of the tourist hotspots of Florida. They host all kinds of events for members and guests t enjoy food, music, educational programs, and fundraising events.
Coral Gables Wayside Park
Coral Gables Wayside Park is one of the many beautiful green spaces and a favorite of both tourists and locals. The park contains eight (8!!!) Mediterranean Revival style towers that are reminiscent of Disney castles. Guests will see the Coral Gables Waterway flowing through the park, and they will see local ducks and wading birds enjoying the water. Featured on the National Register of Historic Places, this park is a must-see when visiting Coral Gables.
Coral Gables does not lack in methods of transportation. There is one metro stop in Coral Gables, called “University Station”, located within the University of Miami. Students tend to take this route to reach neighboring hotspots like Brickell or Coconut Grove. There are also 2 metro stations in Coral Way that can help visitors navigate to and from the Miami International Airport: Coconut Grove and Douglas Road. Many residents also ride car to get to their destinations. Cars are easily the preferred mode of transportation in Miami. The City of Coral Gables website also includes information for bicycle rentals, safety regulations, and recommendations. Aside from walking, the most charming and enjoyable method of transportation is the free Coral Gables Trolley, which has been around since 2003. It is available Monday-Saturday, and has stops at the Miracle Mile and Downtown Coral Gables Shopping District, Shops at Merrick Mark, Coral Gables Museum, and hotels like the Hyatt Regency and Hotel Colonnade.
Redfish Grill Restaurant
The Red Fish Grill Restaurant is located within Matheson Hammocks Park. It was originally open since 1996 and was a forgettable, but popular place to eat. After being closed and renovated in 2019, the Barreto Group partnered with Adrienne Calvo to deliver “Maximum Flavor” food. They have since celebrated their re-opening in 2020 (in the midst of a pandemic) offering a new look, new flavors, and extended outside seating. They have dine-in, takeout, and delivery options on their website.
Mamey Miami is very representative of Coral Gables dining. It is formal, extensive, and aesthetically pleasing. Located in THesis Hotel, guests and non-guests can enjoy everything they have to offer. With a full bar and live music, this restaurant is well-known for its enjoyable atmosphere. Chef Niven Patel was named one of the Food & Wine Magazine’s “Best New Chefs” in 2020. The truly special part of this restaurant is that the fruits and vegetables are sourced locally from Patel’s farm in homestead. Their rooftop options give the impression of utmost exclusivity, in keeping with the Coral Gables style.
The Biltmore Brunch
If you want to go full-Miami royalty on a visit to Coral Gables, it is impossible not to mention the Biltmore Hotel’s famous brunch. The Biltmore has been offering Sunday Champagne brunch for many years. Families would attend yearly to experience the full buffet. After the COVID-19 virus, the brunch is now a la carte. However, reviews are still glowing for the Biltmore’s five-star brunch. The luxurious hotel offers courtyard and poolside seating for this international success.
George Merrick suggested the Biltmore Hotel be built in 1926 to put a cherry on top of his luxurious, exclusive city. When it opened, The Biltmore Hotel and Country Club contained 350 rooms, a golf course, and the largest hotel pool in the United States. Like other parts of Coral Gables, the design aesthetic for the Biltmore was inspired by Spanish design, specifically the Giralda Tower in Sevilla. In November of 1942, the hotel was turned into an Army General hospital adopted by the Veterans Administration in July of 1947. After the hospital was closed in 1968, ownership was given back to the city, and restoration of the hotel began. It was not until 1987 that the hotel was reopened. It was closed and reopened again in 1992, and earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.
Books & Books
Mitchell Kaplan opened the first Books & Books in 1982 in Coral Gables, Florida. The original shop was one of many independent bookstores of the time, but Books & Books was one of the only that persisted. The original location since moved across the street to a 1927 building listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Coral Gables Medical Center. Books & Books has since opened other locations across Miami, and they remain a bookstore of choice for readers of all ages. The original location also houses a café where guests can enjoy live music. With bookings for entertainment have become quite competitive, Books & Books likes to showcase young artists from University of Miami, the founder’s alma mater.
The Miracle Theatre
Miracle Theatre was built between 1947 and 1948 as a full-time cinema. In 1990, the City of Coral Gables purchased the building and renovated it to become the home of Actors’ Playhouse. In 1995, it closed as a movie theatre and became a performing arts center. Today, many schools take field trips to see the Children’s Matinee shoes, and adults enjoy performances as well. They also offer workshops, a summer camp, and facility rentals. The building itself is significant because it showcases the Art Moderne Design Style of the industrial age.
Coral Gables is an area that has always (and likely will always) represent all that is glamorous, wealthy, and high-end. However, it is much more than that. Being such a historically significant city, it is an interestingly reflective of the rest of Miami. Through the Spanish design aesthetics adapted for the tropical landscape, the Mediterranean Revival aesthetic makes many Latin Americans feel at home.
Coral Gables always has something to do. Visitors can enjoy the parks, restaurants, food, and shopping; or they can visit historic places that will teach them a bit about Miami’s complicated history. Like any other city, Coral Gables has its positives and negatives. There is a lot of de-constructing Coral Gables has to do in acknowledging the troubling parts of their founder, George Merrick. More and more conversations are being had about what exactly went on at the time, making sure to acknowledge all perspectives.
When examining the history of any city in the United States, it is important to note that our country was built on stealing land from Indigenous peoples and eradicating their existence. Coral Gables, like other cities in Miami, was built upon Seminole, Miccosukee, and Tequesta land. The land was also home to Bahamian people before Coral Gables was “developed”. They were the ones who actually built most of the city, and their descendants only make up 3.5% of the population. They deserve to be acknowledged.