Latest News in the Gables: Soccer Fever, Miss Florida, and More

From the city’s role in the next World Cup to local businessmen that have fallen from grace, here’s the latest news in the Gables:

More Soccer Fever

With all eyes on Lionel Messi and the overnight transformation and triumph of Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami, it may have gone unnoticed that Coral Gables is now one of the U.S. headquarters for FIFA as it prepares for the 2026 World Cup. The international soccer organization has taken 60,000-square-feet in the 396 Alhambra building, occupying the space vacated by HBO Latin America.

Lionel Messi, with wife Antonela Roccuzzo and son Thiago, after winning the 2022 World Cup.

Miami will be one of 11 U.S. host cities for the 2026 World Cup and should see as many as five games held at Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins. New employees at FIFA Coral Gables are reportedly ecstatic to be in walkable downtown Coral Gables. It was Messi, of course, who led the Argentine team to its 2022 World Cup win.

Amerant Rising

Amerant Bank already has the accolade of being the largest Coral Gables-based bank, with assets of more than $4 billion. Now, it’s in the spotlight for a new series of accolades. As of August 29, Amerant’s common stock began trading on the New York Stock Exchange, commemorated by Amerant’s senior leadership team ringing the opening bell at the NYSE on that day (the stock had previously been listed on NASDAQ). Kudos to American chairman, president, and CEO Jerry Plush, who said that the move would “strengthen our position [and] expand our reach….”

latest news in coral gables september 2023
The Small Business Administration’s Yvonne Boucugnani With Amerant CEO Jerry Plush.

Earlier in the summer, Amerant was once again certified as a “Most Loved Workplace” by the Best Practice Institute. The importance of this, according to the BPI, is that productivity rises as employee sentiment increases. According to a survey of 3,000 executives surveyed, three to four times more work was done for a company they loved.

Also this summer, Amerant announced a partnership with the Overtown Youth Center (OYC) to instruct middle schoolers in financial literacy. The OYC was founded by NBA Hall-of-Famer Alonzo Mourning and developer Marty Margulies. Earlier in the year, Amerant was awarded the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2023 Export Lender of the Year award.

The Palace’s 10th

Adult living facilities are typically located in remote areas, usually in a pastoral setting far from any city. The Palace Coral Gables is a remarkable exception to that rule, built with great opulence (the lobby is a replica of the George V in Paris) on Andalusia Avenue one block south of Miracle Mile. Last month, the Palace’s founders, Helen and Jacob Shaham, were honored by the city on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of their special facility.

latest news in coral gables september 2023
Mayor Vince Lago and Vice Mayor Rhonda Anderson with Helen and Jacob Shaham.

Jacob Shaham told the audience that he had always wanted to create the first urban senior living community in Coral Gables (many, such as Bellmont Village, are soon to follow), allowing residents to enjoy the cultural amenities of the city. To celebrate that connection, the city and The Palace staged a weekend “Walk-the-Mile” event with music, presentations, a street fair, local stores and restaurants displaying photographic banners featuring Palace residents, and a meet & greet with Mayor Vince Lago to thank Palace residents for their contributions to the Gables and discuss city programs for older adults.

RELATED: The Art of Aging Well

UM Grad Grabs Miss Florida Crown

Juliette Valle has been a classically trained opera singer, a broadcast reporter, a Christmas album producer, and a political science major at various points in her career. Now, she’s Miss Florida 2023. The 22-year-old University of Miami alumna won the pageant in July and is now headed to Miss America. She spends her days as Miss Florida promoting sponsors and raising money for the Miss Florida organization. “We broke our record this year by giving $100,000 in scholarships to the contestants,” she says. Valle, herself, won a $20,000 scholarship for winning the pageant.

latest news in coral gables september 2023
Miss Florida Juliette Valle after winning the competition.

In the 87-year history of Miss Florida, Valle is only the second Hispanic woman to take home the crown. There has never been a Hispanic Miss America, but she hopes to change that.

“We need more diversity in our country, so it is imperative for me to promote and get that message out there,” she said. “To me, it is important that young Hispanic women whose parents are immigrants see themselves represented. Whether I walk away with the Miss America crown or not, which I hope I do, my message will be clear: the Hispanic community is prevalent in this state and country, and we deserve to be showcased.”

Who is that Masked Man?

With the demise of “Gables Insider” as the under-the-carpet look at goings on in City Hall, we have a newcomer: Aesop’s Gables (a play on Aesop’s Fables), a newsletter with various jibes at the newest additions to the City Commission. The only question is: who is the author? Yes, it is a tradition of American political letters to write under a pseudonym. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, authors of the Federalist papers, used the pseudonym Publius. Ben Franklin used the pseudonyms Silence Dogood and Poor Richard. Whoever it is has an intimate knowledge of City Hall and is an accomplished writer. Go to if you want to try to solve the mystery. (And no, it’s not us.)

Fallen From Grace

It is with some sadness that we note the demise of two of Coral Gables’ leading businessmen.

Rishi Kapoor of Location Ventures

Real estate developer Rishi Kapoor, the now former head of Gables-based Location Ventures, had made a name for himself in the Gables with the construction of its most technologically advanced — and pricey — luxury condominium, Villa Valencia, and the proposed construction of another luxury condo at 1505 Ponce de Leon Blvd. That was before the Miami Herald broke a story about $10,000-a-month “consulting” fees he had been making to Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, allegedly to help push through zoning variances for Location Ventures’ “Urbin” co-living facility in Coconut Grove.

Since then, Kapoor has come under investigation by the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission, and is being sued for $25 million by two of his biggest investors. Kapoor allegedly diverted investor dollars to support a lavish personal lifestyle. Location Ventures has appointed former Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Alan Fine to oversee liquidation of company assets, including the Forum building on Alhambra Circle.

John Ruiz of Lifewallet

John Ruiz has fallen even further. The powerhouse Gables attorney and entrepreneur became a billionaire last year after launching LifeWallet — then known as MSP Recovery — a firm that seeks to recover money incorrectly paid by Medicare-affiliated insurance companies. Ruiz and LifeWallet are now the target of investigations by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. LifeWallet, once valued at more than $32 billion, has plummeted in value (shares of more than $10 each are now trading for less than a quarter).

LifeWallet is also being sued for nearly $67 million by Miami health care provider Cano for promulgating a “Ponzi scheme.” Ruiz is also a major financial booster of UM athletics who lived large, with a private Boeing passenger jet and seven waterfront mansions.

What They Think of Us

The panel of judges at the Miami New Times vote on their city-wide Best of Miami places each year, and it’s interesting to see what the rest of Miami thinks is the best in Coral Gables. See our picks here.

This year’s New Times winners included:
Best Ramen: Ichimi Ramen Bar (2330 Salzedo St.)
Best Greek Restaurant: Calista Taverna (150 Giralda Ave.)
Best Vegan Restaurant: L’Artisane Creative Bakery (2526 Ponce de Leon Blvd.)
Best Restaurant in Coral Gables: Lion & the Rambler (804 Ponce de Leon Blvd.)

Ichimi Ramen Bar won the vote for Best Ramen in Miami.

Surprisingly, we did not win for Best Thai Restaurant (should have been Khaosan Road), Best Breakfast (should have been Bachour), or Best Chicken Wings (should have been Sports Grill), to name just a few. They did, however, hit the mark with Best Theater Company (GableStage), Best Bride Shop (Coral Gables Bridals), and Best Tennis Courts (Biltmore Tennis Center). And, from Reader’s Choices, the Best Place for Kids (Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden), Best Bakery (L’Artisane Creative Bakery), Best Mediterranean Restaurant (TUR) and yes, Best Chicken Wings (Sports Grill!!!)

L’Artisane Creative Bakery

Briefly Noted

latest news in coral gables september 2023
Coral Gables Police Chief Ed Hudak

Congratulations to CG Police Chief Ed Hudak, who recently received the Chief Executive of the Year Award from the Florida Police Chiefs Association for his exceptional performance during last year’s Hurricane Ian, when he helped develop a county-wide strike force of area law enforcement officials.

Coral Gables Is now the 8th most expensive city in the U.S. for renters, according to a new study. The Gables saw a 43.34 percent increase in the last year to an average of $4,310. By comparison, Santa Monica, CA, comes in at $4,357, and Palo Alto, CA, at $4,672.

Kudos to Fiola Miami and Zucca Miami, which both won awards from Wine Spectator magazine for restaurants where wine is truly superb. Both earned a 2023 “Best Award of Excellence.”

Want to stay up-to-date on the latest news in the Gables? Check out our Streetwise section.