Coral Gables in 2021 – A Year in Review of Our Important Events

We thought it would be the year when Covid ended, when everything would return to normal. Well, sort of. Miami-Dade County was more than 80 percent vaccinated by the end of the year (the leader in the state), and most masks were off in the Gables, indoor and out – except for mass entertainment events, where people sat next to each other in large groups. And the economy was getting back to normal as well, with restaurants again thriving and workers returning to the downtown. While it wasn’t over yet, with pernicious mutations forcing booster shots and continued observations of protocols, by year’s end life was strongly on the rebound. Here is a look at the year’s most important events in Coral Gables.


January

After being shut down for 10 long months, the Venetian Pool reopens. Families rejoice. 

A 9-foot Burmese python is discovered in front of a home in the Gables. No pets are reported missing. 

Coral Gables in 2021


The city gives $15,000 grants to each of 60 small businesses in Coral Gables to help them pay rent. 

Parents of children at historic Carver Elementary sue to stop the construction of a Wawa gas and food station across the street from the school on Grand Avenue. Ultimately, they are unable to stop it. 


February

Christy’s Restaurant on Ponce, the oldest surviving steakhouse in the city, reopens with its original menu from 1978. Prices return to normal days later, but no one complains. 

The city commission approves a new zoning code for the city, which simplifies permitting, adds height restrictions in residential areas, and up-zones the Crafts District near Ponce Circle. 

The city inaugurates its new $68 million Public Safety Building. The five-story, 190,000-square-foot building at Salzedo and Minorca houses police, fire, IT, emergency management and communications. 


March

The University of Miami holds it first outdoor live concert in a year, just for vaccinated students. 

Gables high-tech entrepreneur Manny Medina closes on his Cyxtera deal, creating a new public company worth $3.4 billion. 

Coral Gables in 2021

The Coral Gables Art Cinema reopens at 50 percent capacity, to allow social distancing to safeguard against the pandemic. 

After months of debate, the city commission votes to rezone Miracle Mile, limiting height to four stories with a setback, and allowing smaller buildings to be built without onsite parking. Only Vice Mayor Vince Lago votes no, saying it still allows for too much density and height. 


April

Swensen’s Grill & Ice Cream Parlor on US1 closes after 44 years. The burger and milkshake hangout was one of the last three U.S. locations for the franchise chain, which started in 1948. 

Gables developer Armando Codina does a three-way property swap that saves the historic “brutalist” architecture building on Salzedo, the former police and fire building now to become a Mercedes showroom. 

Coral Gables in 2021 - Vince Lago is elected mayor

Vince Lago is elected mayor with 58 percent of the 10,354 votes cast. Rhonda Anderson and Kirk Menendez are elected as commissioners in runoffs at the end of the month. 

The city votes to spend $3.2 million for software to automate all city systems for permitting and payments.


May

The CG Public Library shuts down for a $3 million renovation. A new temporary branch opens at 308 Miracle Mile. 

The University of Miami decides to remove the name of city founder George Merrick from a campus parking building, due to allegations by students of racist behavior late in Merrick’s career – more than a decade after he funded UM and donated its land. 

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens reopens after shutting down for the pandemic. Only 100 visitors are allowed in at a time, and only with masks. 

As protests erupt nationwide over the death of George Floyd, the Gables gains national attention for its peaceful demonstrations, in which police chiefs from around the county join the CGPD in taking a knee to pray. 


June

Coral Gables in 2021 - Marc Anthony’s sell his mansion in Gables.

The news of Marc Anthony’s late May sale of his mansion in Gables Estates for $22 million becomes the biggest Coral Gables news event in the national media for the month of June. 

The city’s first commission meeting under Mayor Vince Lago, who pledges to let all citizens speak their minds, lasts for 13 hours and goes past 1 am. 

Coral Gables in 2021 - Downed power lines in residential street.

The city commission instructs staff to begin a long-term plan to put the city’s powerlines underground. The cost estimate is at $350 to $390 million. 

The city is recognized by Keep Florida Beautiful for its unique program to recycle household toxic wastes at City Hall. 


July

Coral Gables in 2021 - rally to save Burger Bob’s

Community groups rally to save Burger Bob’s when the city threatens to not renew the lease of the beloved institution on the Granada Golf Course. 

The city votes to begin the process of installing sidewalks where they are missing, on streets like Riviera Drive, Granada, and Hardee south of US 1, drawing on $2 million in federal funding. 

Coral Gables in 2021

The city passes an ordinance permitting outdoor live music performances on private property in the Central Business District. Must be 80 decibels or less, like Miracle Mile. 

Under the insistence of Commissioner Rhonda Anderson, the city begins a moratorium against any developer requesting larger sized buildings using the “Mediterranean” bonus. 


August

Coral Gables in 2021

University of Miami students return to live classes with masks. UM still requires all students, staff, and faculty to get the Covid vaccine; unvaccinated students must get tested twice a week on campus. 

Twilight Fridays is launched at the Coral Gables Museum, with live music and open bar for patrons to attend the museum on the first Friday night of each month. 

Coral Gables in 2021 - Life Time Coral Gables building

The ribbon is cut for the $500 million Life Time Coral Gables building. The massive 14-story building on US1 with 80,000 square feet for athletic facilities, 25,000 square feet of workspace, and 495 rental units will combine work, living, retail, and wellness in the same building.


September

Five hundred residents rally at the Coral Gables Country Club to protest city plans to change the management, fearing that it will change the neighborhood feel of the club and turn it into a high-priced country club. 

The city commission decides to fight the county’s attempt to take control of the “transportation corridor” along the Metrorail and US 1 that will allow them to open it up to high-rise development, similar to the 38-story building it permitted next to the Douglas Road metro station. 

The Billboard Latin American Music Awards are held at the Watsco Center on the UM campus. 

The $600+ million Plaza Coral Gables tops off with a copper dome. 


October 

The Coral Gables Community Foundation resumes its annual tradition of holding a themed fundraising ball with a Gables Odyssey. 

The city re-opens Salvadore Park with sensory play equipment for children of all abilities. 

The city extends trolley service to Saturdays and weeknights. 

Coral Gables in 2021 - Gables native Jonathan Fisher wins a quarter million dollars on TV show Jeopardy.

Gables native Jonathan Fisher wins a quarter million dollars in an 11-game winning streak on TV brain bowl show Jeopardy! As Grand Marshall, he will later ride the city’s float during the Junior Orange Bowl Parade. 


November 

Despite pushback from community organizations that want a more traditional building, the city commission votes to move forward with its $42 million, futuristic looking mobility hub. 

The 95-year-old gondola building on the Biltmore Hotel golf course col- lapses. The building was once used to house gondolas that took visitors from the Biltmore to Tahiti Beach on the edge of the bay. 

NightGarden, the award-winning nightime holiday light display, returns to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. 

Coral Gables in 2021 - GableStage at the Biltmore re-opens under its new director Bari Newport.

Live theater returns, as GableStage at the Biltmore re-opens under its new director Bari Newport (above), and Actors’ Playhouse at The Miracle Theatre launches its first live season since the pandemic began. 


December

Coral Gables in 2021

The Junior Orange Bowl Parade returns as thousands of viewers line the streets of Miracle Mile and Ponce de Leon Boulevard. 

The city approves a $2 million giant mouse to be installed in the Plaza Coral Gables courtyard. 

Coral Gables in 2021 - UM hires University of Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal.

UM hires University of Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal as the new head coach for the Hurricanes football team, firing coach Manny Diaz after his 21-15 record for three seasons. Cristobal is a former UM player. 

The city briefly panics as unfounded rumors spread that billionaire John Ruiz will seek to level Coral Gables High School in order to build a football stadium for the University of Miami.