May Talk of the Town: The Water Below Us, Apple’s New Office, and More

The Water Below Us Educates from Above 

BLUE Missions, the nonprofit organization renowned for its water-related initiatives, has collaborated with the City of Coral Gables to unveil “The Water Below Us” on Giralda Plaza. The piece was installed in honor of World Water Day on March 22. However, in typical South Florida fashion, the inclement weather on World Water Day postponed the official ribbon cutting to April 3. 

The Water Below Us

The augmented reality art installation, brought to life by Vaco Studio and Sunken Blimp, was approved by the City Commission as part of the Gables’ Art in Public Places program. It features a hanging cylindrical “well” adorned with illustrations by Miami artist (and Vaco Studio cofounder) Nic Vasquez.

“When creating the wetlands artwork it was important for me to showcase the journey of water through our ecosystem in a way that was seamless,” Vasquez said. “The composition of the piece is designed to showcase the flow of water from the sky to wetlands to underground, highlighting transitions in a colorful easy to understand way.”

The Water Below Us

Following the journey of water, the artwork highlights the importance of protecting the region’s resources. “The idea was to draw attention to the water that flows through the aquifers below our feet by displaying it over our heads,” said Leslie Ramos, chief experience officer at BLUE Missions Group. “This valuable resource is often overlooked or taken for granted and we all have a role to play in protecting it.” 

The immersive experience, with a QR code to activate the augmented reality portion, turns your phone into a portal for Everglades-inspired wetlands. Users are also directed to explore ways they can add their “own drop” into protecting our water by conservation at home. “The Water Below Us” is on view for free at Giralda Plaza through May 21. Visit thewaterbelowus.com for more information. — Natalia Clement

The Apple Has Landed

It seems tech giant Apple has caught the Coral Gables bug. One of several new kids on the block, the massive tech company is planning to take up residence at The Plaza Coral Gables, adding to other recent relocations by Ryder System and FIFA in downtown Gables. 

With almost 42,000-square-feet of office space, Apple’s is the largest office lease in the Miami-Dade market this year, according to commercial brokerage Avison Young. It’s more than twice the size of the second-largest recent lease, which belongs to Venture X in Downtown Miami.

But Apple has always had a presence in the Gables, even if minute. It had a small office on Alhambra Plaza for years, focused on its Latin American division. But The Plaza’s relatively low cost per square foot (at least compared to Brickell or Downtown Miami) made it an attractive spot for an expansion. Of course, The Plaza’s other amenities — the Loews Hotel, walkability to restaurants and retail, proximity to the airport and other Miami neighborhoods — made it an easier decision. Pairing the nation’s most profitable firm in the U.S. with a trophy-class building in a city recently named the country’s “ritziest”? Simply a no-brainer. — Kylie Wang

A Show of Support

April was Autism Acceptance month, and the Gables came out in support, beginning with the raising of the Autism Acceptance Flag at City Hall on April 1. Those present included students from Crystal Academy and Project Victory, UMCARD, County Commissioner Raquel Regalado, parents, business owners, and Gables officials Vice Mayor Anderson, Commissioner Kirk Menendez, and City Manager Amos Rojas, Jr. 

The next day, the Autism Awareness Caravan arrived, the annual showcase of wrapped vehicles and motorcycles from more than 15 police and fire agencies in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. 

Later in the month, the Coral Gables Museum hosted an Area Stage Inclusive Theater production, the City Commission had a Principles of Inclusion reading, the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce held a breakfast performance, and teams from the city’s police and fire departments competed in a Battle of the Badges kickball game to promote acceptance and inclusion. 

“The dedication and effort put forth by the officers for this community event are truly appreciated,” said Maria “Mary” Palacio, founder and president of the Crystal Academy therapy center and school for children with autism. “The impact of such an event in promoting acceptance cannot be underestimated.” —  J.P. Faber 

Strengthening the Grid

Florida Power & Light (FPL) is fortifying the energy grid in Coral Gables with planned upgrades throughout 2024. Improvements include strengthening 10 main power lines, trimming vegetation along 110 miles of power lines, and inspecting 1,626 power poles. The company will also install automated underground switches that help detect and isolate outages. 

Once completed, FPL will have strengthened 16 main power lines, inspected over 16,000 power poles, maintained vegetation near 1,512 miles of power lines, and installed 1,041 automated switches in our community since 2006. 

The Water Below Us

“We are so pleased to be able to offer these system upgrades to our customers in Coral Gables,” says local area manager Javier Palma. “These upgrades, including the very latest grid technology, will help get the lights back on faster after storms.”

FPL’s push to reinforce the city’s energy grid is part of their heightened efforts to improve service reliability following extensive power outages during Hurricane Irma in 2017, after which the city threatened to sue the energy company. Last year, FPL began undergrounding city power lines as part of its Storm Secure Underground Program. The program aims to strengthen the power grid of vulnerable neighborhoods that are prone to outages from storms and hurricanes.

Mayor Vince Lago negotiated the deal that will underground about 40 percent of the city’s lines, a $240 million project paid for by FPL. According to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, FPL’s service reliability was nearly three times better than the national average. — Natalia Clement

Philanthropic Recognition: Gables Residents Shine

Last month, the online publication SocialMiami hosted an evening honoring 10 of the leading philanthropists in Greater Miami for their commitment to giving back. These 10 individuals or couples were spotlighted for their love of humanity. Of them, we note that half are Gables residents.

Among them were Trish and Dan Bell, whose accolades include their support of the Coral Gables Community Foundation, among so many other worthy causes, including the Frost Museum of Science, Branches, the Chapman Partnership, the FIU Foundation, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and Florida United Methodist Children’s Home.

Swanee Di Mare, one of 10 Gables philanthropists honored at an event hosted by SocialMiami.

Also honored were Gableites Jeff and Yolonda Berkowitz, who have supported the Voices for Children Foundation, the Guardian ad Litem Program, the Miami Children’s Museum, the United Way, and more. Another philanthropic couple honored was Ana ViegaMilton and Ceciel Milton, for their work with the Jackson Health Foundation, the Red Cross Miami, Zoo Miami, United Way and numerous healthcare, environmental, and educational causes. 

Among individuals, few can compare to Swanee Di Mare, who supports a vast array of organizations, including Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, Miami City Ballet, Red Cross, the Archdiocese of Miami, the Chapman Partnership, American Cancer Society, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Miami Children’s Hospital, the Junior League, and much more. Named a Living Legend by Miami.

Today in 2013, Di Mare continues to honor the legacy of her late husband Paul Di Mare with her philanthropy. — Amy Poliakoff


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