Tarpon Bend’s Exit is Another Sign That we Need More Residents Downtown
By Mark Trowbridge
It is hard to believe that nearly a year has passed since we celebrated the grand re-opening of Miracle Mile following a nearly $20 million facelift. And yet, it has not been an easy journey to rebuild the consumer base along the Mile and Giralda Plaza and get the crowds to return to our downtown to dine, shop and experience Coral Gables at its finest.
This also translates into a greater need for residents to live in the downtown core year-round in both existing developments and future ones. Our Chamber has recently endorsed two magnificent opportunities to grow our consumer base – 100 Miracle Mile and Coral Gables City Center. Our leadership does not take these endorsements lightly and sure, some have elicited controversy from the local neighbors. But, we always seek to strike a balance as arbiters of these future projects. All must have a consumer base that will add to our downtown economy, as well as be thoughtful and integrated architecturally into the look and feel of the surrounding neighborhood.
Most importantly, these projects must bring customers – whether they be residents, office dwellers or visitors. Both these latest projects offer special opportunities to grow our consumer base and support our restaurants and retailers. Never has this been more critical than with the loss of Tarpon Bend Raw Bar & Grill just a few weeks ago. A staple in our community and a shining star along the Mile for more than 15 years, its shuttering sent a shiver down the spine of every other business – and restaurant – along Miracle Mile.
I was lucky enough to be there for the last hurrah and to celebrate Wayne Eldred, owner/operator of Tarpon Bend, on his final night. The mood was upbeat and full of positivity and warm embraces. Yet, the long and arduous Streetscape project continues to impact local businesses and Tarpon Bend is just the latest to succumb to the loss of revenues and inflexible landlords and leases. There is a great hope that Wayne will find a new location and take his (and our) beloved Tarpon elsewhere, most hopefully in The City Beautiful.
Some have accused me – and our organization – of being too personally invested in the realities of the ebb and flow of businesses. I would suggest it is part of our authentic leadership. We are a champion for our members and proud of our relentless work.
I have had the opportunity to lead this organization through the worst recession anyone can remember. We helped our businesses recover and thrive then, as we do now. And, we were omnipresent during the Streetscape project, never losing sight of the bigger picture and our core mission of service and advocacy. The loss of Tarpon Bend is not only painful – it is indeed personal. This is what makes us the best in our business.
And like our friend Wayne extolled on his final night, “Save your chips – we’ll be back!” to thunderous applause of hope and approval, I promise we will be right here waiting for the next chapter.
Mark Trowbridge is the President and CEO of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce