My name is Kathleen Gomez and I am a senior in the Honors College at Florida International University pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature. My goal is to one day have a career that combines my passions for baking and literature.
In Downtown Coral Gables, you’ll find a 0.503-mile-long stretch of Coral Way between LeJeune Road and Douglas Road known as Miracle Mile. A one mile long walk up and down a street lined with unique stores and restaurants, Miracle Mile has come to be regarded as “one of South Florida’s most sought-after shopping destinations.”
Miracle Mile was designed by George Merrick, whose namesake mall can be found right around the corner. Merrick boasted that “every business in Coral Gables was less than a two-block walk,” accomplishing his vision of an area that had everything a resident could need right at their fingertips. The placard on Merrick’s statue, standing proudly in front on City Hall looking out onto the Mile, has a quote that reads: “I have given my life to the development of our city and to the working out of an ideal.” Driving down the sunny stretch, almost people-less amidst quarantine, thinking about how I’ve missed walking down the sidewalk after a nice dinner out and eagerly awaiting the opportunity to visit the area again, it certainly feels like Merrick accomplished that ideal.
The 1940’s saw a trend for making outdoor shopping malls and so “after declines during the Great Depression and World War II,” efforts were made to rebrand the area in order to market it as a “high-end shopping destination.”
A placard towards the start of the walk down the Mile reads that “immediately after World War II, the ‘Father of Miracle Mile’ George K. Zain and his wife City Commissioner Rebyl Zain conceived, developed and implemented the concept of a Miracle Mile” for this section of Coral Way, and that the section was officially named Miracle Mile in 1955.
Albert H. Friedman, the owner of a high-end women’s clothing business, moved to South Florida and opened one of eight stores on Coral Way when Miracle Mile was “just a big, wide curbless street.” In 1954, Friedman met with J. Baldi of J. Baldi’s Salon, Sam Weissel of Sam’s Taxi Co. and Carroll Seghers, proprietor of Carroll’s Jewelers, in an attempt to acquire new business and they ended up forming the Miracle Mile Merchants Association. For his part in building up the area, Friedman was declared Mr. Miracle Mile in 1980.
Miracle Mile is a boulevard dedicated to restaurants, boutiques, and galleries with more than 150 property owners and over 350 merchants including restaurants. Although no one lives on the Mile itself, it is known as “an elegant and sophisticated destination,” and is “Miami’s charming gem that locals like to keep secret and visitors fall in love with when they find it.”
Stefani Subil was born May 31, 1996, in Miami, FL and has lived in Village Green for pretty much her whole life but one place she likes to frequent and do some photography work is the Colonnade on Miracle Mile.
Stefani’s thoughts on Miracle Mile:
Kathleen: Why do you like Miracle Mile so much?
Stefani: I like Miracle Mile because it’s a nice place to walk around with family or friends. They host a lot of fun events like “Carnival on the Mile” and it’s a good place to make new connections with other people in Miami. I like to walk my dog there a lot because it is pet friendly and when we eat at restaurants, they always welcome Whisky. Most of the places on Miracle Mile are pet friendly.
Kathleen: Why do you like taking pictures at The Colonnade?
Stefani: I decided to take pictures there because the architecture inside is very pretty and very typical of the Coral Gables ambience. I also chose the Colonnade in Coral Gables because it is in the heart of the city and it’s iconic.
Kathleen: In your opinion, how does Miracle Mile represent Miami?
Stefani: Miracle Mile represents Miami because they display a very close community and they tie together many cultures whether it’s at an event or if you are dining at a restaurant. It’s a very family friendly community and hosts events for all walks of life. Miami has very diverse cultures and to be able to see the Coral Gables community come together with different cultures is truly a beautiful thing.
In 1995, the “Actors’ Playhouse entered into a partnership with the City of Coral Gables in order to renovate the historic Miracle Theatre, transforming the Art Deco movie house into the company’s new home.” This addition to the Mile ended up being “the catalyst for revitalizing downtown Coral Gables.” The Actor’s Playhouse’s presence on Miracle Mile worked to enhance “the quality of life for the community and added to its economic prosperity with over 150,000 patrons attending events each year.” Not only does the theatre have productions playing all year, but they also offer theatre classes and educational programs.
Even amidst everything going on with the Coronavirus, the Actor’s Playhouse is still catering to the community by offering online master classes so anyone can learn to act, sing or dance from the safety of their own home.
Coral Gables City Hall offers the perfect view down Miracle Mile as it’s situated right at the mouth of the boulevard. Designed in the Mediterranean Revival style, City Hall was completed in 1928 by Phineas Paist and Harold Steward and features a stuccoed exterior, tile roof, clock tower, and a Corinthian colonnade. With all of these features reflecting George Merrick’s vision of a Spanish-Mediterranean city, City Hall still manages to have a touch of pure Florida to it as it was built of local limestone; no matter all the influences that congregate together in one place, City Hall, much like the people of the city itself, still manage to be uniquely Miami.
Construction of the Colonnade began in 1926 and was designed by Phineas Paist in collaboration with Walter De Garmo and Paul Chalfin, the interior designer of Vizcaya, in a mixture of Spanish Colonial and Baroque styles. Merrick’s original intention for the building was for it to be a host to the largest sales center for the Coral Gables Corporation. Over the years, the Colonnade has been the home to various tenants from the Colonnade Movie Studios to a World War II parachute factory to a pilot training facility.
In the 1980s, the Colonnade building was showing signs of deterioration but to keep in line with the historic preservation movement that kept modern high rises from changing the character of the area, a 1987 high-rise addition was designed for the backside of the building facing Aragon Avenue, adding an office, hotel, and parking space while keeping the historic low-rise building section fronting Miracle Mile intact. This piece of Colonnade history shows the dedication that the residents of Coral Gables have to the preservation of Miracle Mile’s aesthetic.
Today, the Colonnade is a hotel that “celebrates the history of travel and the luxury of exploring a new destination in style.” Throughout the inside of the hotel is an original curated collection of art and statues. Keeping with the European feel of the boulevard, the Colonnade is a work of art itself, featuring vaulted ceilings, grand staircases, a rosary style stained glass window, Murano glass chandeliers, and ornate cathedral style wrought iron gates.
Miracle Mile prides itself on being a pedestrian-heavy area with wide sidewalks, stores lining the streets, and cars cruising down the center. While there is not a particular area dedicated to green on the Mile, there are certainly enough trees – specifically palm trees – dotting the median and either side of the boulevard to remind you you’re in Miami. Because the idea of Miracle Mile itself was an outdoor shopping mall, the main appeal of the Mile is walking down the sidewalks and dining outside under the beautiful Miami sky.
However, if you want to spend some time sitting in the grass, people watching, admiring the cars going by, and laughing at some Miami driving skills, there is a small patch of green in front of City Hall with a great view straight down Miracle Mile.
To get to Miracle Mile, it’s easy to take the Miami Metrorail and stop at Douglas Road and then hop on the Coral Gables Trolley which travels up Ponce De Leon Boulevard from Miracle Mile to the Metro. The Coral Gables Trolley is free and runs every 12-15 minutes during the week.
In 1950, landowners entered into an agreement with the City to create public parking garages and on lots on the streets behind Miracle Mile and in 1970, when a proposal was made to close Coral Way to vehicular traffic, property owners on Miracle Mile opposed the idea making Miracle Mile continually accessible to cars.
Ortanique on the Mile! is a family-owned fine dining restaurant that opened in 1999. Their food is described as being a “cuisine of the sun” and is a fusion of American, Caribbean, Latin and Asian cuisines.
With dishes on the menu like West Indian Style Bouillabaisse and Jerk Rubbed Foie Gras, Ortanique puts their own flare on classic dishes, cooking with ingredients that are “not necessarily indigenous to Miami but indigenous to the people of Miami” all while providing a very multicultural experience as soon as you step into the colorful and tropical restaurant.
Under an article entitled “Classic and Historic Coral Gables,” the final entry is none other than John Martin’s Irish Pub and Restaurant which has been open for 30 years. Much like Bellmont, you can go to John Martin’s for more than just a meal because Friday through Sunday they offer a variety of live entertainment. Dedicated to authenticity, you can go to this restaurant for a classic Irish pub experience and sit on the mahogany bar that was imported from a church in Ireland. John Martin’s is also the place to thank for being able to drink liquor served over a bar in Coral Gables, changing the city law that said liquor could only be served at a table.
Bellmont is a family-owned restaurant that has been open since 2013 that offers authentic Spanish cuisine; you can even go to Bellmont and order a suckling pig. One of the best parts about eating out on the Mile is that you can really eat out on the mile, sitting outside on the wide sidewalks enjoying the Miami night and one thing Bellmont does to make the experience even more fun is that every Saturday night they have a local band come and play and invite their patrons to “Dine and Dance.” Something about ordering a whole pig and dancing to Spanish music just feels very Miami.
The Rose Tree Cottage is a little shop right at the start of the Mile that has an extensive collection of specialty gifts and furniture and also offers interior design services. The store started out the owner’s home and as it grew, her husband found this empty space on the Mile and suggested trying to open a real store. The Red Tree Cottage has been in business for 24 years and has loyal clients who come in from out of state or who call in and describe the person they are buying for, trusting the owner’s judgment to help them find the perfect gift. It’s personal touches like that that make the small businesses on the Mile so appealing.
Walking into RazzleDazzle, you’ll feel like you’re stepping inside a New York barbershop from the 1940s with ornate decor lining the walls and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Voted the best barbershop in Miami, you can go to RazzleDazzle and get a haircut, shave, and shoeshine all in one place all with a very old-timey, Moulin Rouge vibe.
Both sides of Miracle Mile have an excess of bridal boutiques ranging from chain stores like David’s Bridal and Rosa Clara to small businesses like Jaquelina’s Bridal and Merlili Bridal. If you’re a bride-to-be in Miami, chances are Miracle Mile is your go-to place to go wedding dress shopping because if one store doesn’t have your dream dress, chances are the boutique next door will.
There is definitely not a shortage of men’s fine clothing stores on the Mile either and one stand out shop is Pepi Bertini. Established in 1985, Pepi Bertini is the go-to place in South Florida for custom-tailored European style men’s clothing. Growing up in Cuba, Pepi Gonzalez’s father, a clothing designer, made him custom clothes and passed on that love for fashion to his son. Ever since the age of 13, Gonzalez has been making and selling clothes and his passion for his design comes through in his work, claiming that “At the end of the day, it’s all about the fit. Our customers demand a well-fitting suit and we deliver.” Gonzalez is also known for making little art installations in his window displays, keeping up with the stylish and current scene of Miracle Mile.
Miracle Mile seems to be an encapsulation of Miami in a one mile walk with its multicultural influences congregating on one street and its wide granite sidewalks designed to resemble the clouds of the South Florida sky. Miami is a city unlike any other and has come to be defined by the cultural influences that residents have brought with them from all over the world. The Mile’s Mediterranean architecture and restaurants that serve a wide variety of cuisines, from Thai to Irish to Caribbean to Italian, show that you can find a little of everything on your walk down the boulevard. Miracle Mile is the place to go for fine clothes, fine dining, and a more than fine time. With art and music events from Carnaval on the Mile to catching a performance at the Miracle Theatre, the Mile offers a little culture in between eating and shopping in an eclectic, South Florida way. Just like every new person you run into in Miami, every shop front down the street has its own unique story to tell.
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