March City Hall: Rooftop Pickleball, Traffic Safety, and More

At its meeting in March, the Coral Gables City Commission discussed:

THE NAME GAME

Voted 5-0 to rename several parks to honor community leaders. William A. Cooper Park (4920 Washington Dr.) was renamed “William and Leona Cooper Park” to include Leona, who helped save the black MacFarlane historic neighborhood in the Gables in the early 1990s and for her contributions to Roman Catholicism (she received an award from the Pope in 1992).

A recently acquired property located at Toledo St. and Alava Ave. was named “Mayor Dorothy H. Thomson Park” after the city’s first and only female mayor, whose involvement in the sale of the property was “integral” to making it a park and who is credited with saving the Biltmore Hotel during her tenure as mayor. She called the park naming “the pinnacle of my success.”

Sunrise Harbor Park (25 E Sunrise Ave.) was renamed “The James and Sallye Jude Park” to honor the longtime community activist and medical pioneer. Dr. James Jude was instrumental in the invention of CPR, while Sallye was a well-known community and environmental activist and strong supporter of historic preservation.

Tiziano Park (7700 Old Cutler Rd.) was renamed “Staff Sergeant Carl Enis Veterans Memorial Park” to honor the fallen pararescueman of the 308th Rescue Squadron. In 2018, the Gables native died in a helicopter incident on the Syrian-Iraq border along with six other airmen serving their country.

July City Hall: Pickleball Courts

IN A PICKLE

Listened to an update on the rooftop pickleball court project in Parking Garage 4. The idea is to include eight courts for a tournament-sized facility, with fences, lighting, and a waiting area that could be constructed indoors or outdoors, depending on budget. The total project cost is estimated at $600,530. Cost-saving measures like reducing gates and fencing and changing the court surfacing were suggested. The next step is to provide a funding request for consid- eration during the present budget cycle; private parties have already expressed interest in helping pay for the facility.

The Commission talked over several options in the hour of discussion, including making the courts free, having a discounted resident rate, or having a company operate the courts – though under the Commission’s discretion for pricing. Mayor Lago advocated for free resident use, charging only for non-residents. He also suggested looking at alternative sites.

TRAFFIC SAFETY

Voted 5-0 to fund and deploy traffic safety personnel, including crossing guards and police officers, at Coral Gables Senior High School, and to conduct a review of current traffic patterns near the school. The issue turned into a larger discussion on public safety encompassing recent vehicular accidents, including one that had happened just that morning when a CGPD employee was hit by a car outside the police station.

Police Chief Ed Hudak said there has been an uptick in accidents involving pedestrians, bicyclists, and people using electric scooters. In the vicinity of Coral Gables High alone, 1,864 citations were issued to drivers in 2023. Hudak also recommended using school security personnel to dole out punishments to students who violate traffic laws by jaywalking, for example. County Commissioner Raquel Regalado is working to allow cities like Coral Gables additional oversight of micro-mobility devices on county roads to help address the problem.

PUBLIX PROJECT

Voted 5-0 on second reading to approve an amended plan for the proposed Publix that will replace the current grocery store on Le Jeune Rd. Between first and second reading, changes were made to reflect the Commission’s requests, including increasing the size of the property’s future public park, moving overhead electrical lines underground, and adding more landscaping to the rooftop parking lot to make it more aesthetically pleasing.

SHUTTERING SHUTTERS

Voted 5-0 on second reading to amend the zoning code to provide penalties for homeowners who leave hurricane shutters up after hurricane season. Fines will be issued for those who do not comply after a 30-day warning period, and the city may step in to remove shutters in special cases where the homeowners are physically unable to do so. Mayor Lago emphasized the latter issue, expressing concerns over elderly residents who cannot remove shutters themselves and suggesting the city have a plan in place to address these cases. The ordinance will not take effect until the conclusion of this year’s hurricane season on December 1.

October City Hal: Le Parc Update

BONJOUR, LE PARC!

Listened to an update on Le Parc Café at the Coral Gables Country Club. The operator, Bonjour LLC, will be permitted to run the restaurant until May 27, after which the city will decide whether to extend their contract. Since taking over on November 27, Bonjour has expanded the café’s operating hours to seven days a week and provided a greater variety of menu items, including beer and wine as of Feb. 14. It also took responsibility for some of the city’s expenses and operating costs.

Overall, the café has received mostly positive reviews online and sales are up dramatically – 51 percent more in February compared with the year before under a different operator. Bonjour has agreed to increase staff to deal with the increasing popularity of the restaurant and expects to begin new revenue-generating initiatives, including Sunday brunch and corporate or event catering.

MORALE BOOST

Discussed the creation of the city’s Employee Ambassador Committee, which will bring back the yearly employee picnic and create an anonymous suggestions system online for employees. The committee will meet every month for lunch to hear from employees, with the city manager available afterwards for private meetings. 


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