Talk of the Town in May

Wings for Wishes 

Joey Chestnut (Center) and the Winner Geoffrey Esper (Right) at the Annual Wings for Wishes

Some 1,300 people attended the eighth annual Wings for Wishes chow down to benefit Make-A-Wish Southern Florida last month, tearing through some 200,000 wings. The cheerful event with live music took place on San Ignacio Avenue, behind founding sponsor Sports Grill, where 31 vendors handed out beer, liquor, desserts, and – of course – wings. Also featured was a wing-eating contest between more than 40 teams, including three from the City of Coral Gables – firemen, police, and a City Commission team comprising Mayor Vince Lago, Vice Mayor Michael Mena, Commissioner Jorge Fors, and Fors’ brother Daniel. The individual winner, who beat the famous Joey Chestnut (world’s top hot dog eater), was Geoffrey Esper, who inhaled 192 wings in only 10 minutes. The event raised $408,451 to grant the wishes of 81 South Florida children with critical illnesses. 

Dog Park Politics 

dog park - The Talk in the Gables
City Commissioners Anderson Supports a New Dog Park

At the last several City Commission meetings, a top concern expressed by residents has been the use of Catalonia Park by dog owners who let their pets off the leash. In both March and April, a bevy of residents complained that dog owners – many driving from other areas to park on adjacent swales – were letting their dogs defecate in the park. “Our grandkids come out with dog waste smeared all over them,” said one 36-year resident. Commissioner Kirk Menendez called it “Chaotic Park, not Catalonia Park” and said he saw the unleashed dogs “running in packs.” The problem, of course, is that the city has no designated dog parks, though one is planned for the Underline. The solution, proposed by Commissioner Rhonda Anderson, is to immediately create a park for large dogs on the south side of Salvadore Park. There is space there for a 40-foot- wide, 190-foot-long dog run. “I call this a pressure relief valve for the problems at Catalonia Park,” said Anderson. At the first April commission meeting, an initial plan was drawn up, which Mayor Vince Lago pushed to become larger, extending right to a street-side curb. An initial $275,000 cost estimate was considered too high, though it would be paid for by developer impact fees. “Make it as simple as possible with bare bones pricing,” said the Mayor. “We are going to get this done.” In the meantime, the commission asked city staff to issue citations to off-leash dog owners at Catalonia Park. “We have to issue citations as a deterrent,” said Anderson, who also wants a park for small dogs next to Villa Valencia, on Valencia Avenue at Hernando Street. 

At The Town Hall 

A combined audience of about 150 people attended, in person and via Zoom, Mayor Vince Lago’s semi-annual Town Hall meeting in April. Lago has held such town halls for seven years, beginning as a commissioner, to provide summaries of city endeavors and listen to citizen complaints. City Manager Peter Iglesias gave building updates, while Police Chief Ed Hudak reported on the upsurge in domestic violence (a national, post-pandemic trend) and how the department was now fully staffed. Citizens expressed concern over their gym memberships at the Coral Gables Country Club, now that the city is taking over operations there; worried that the city was becoming overdeveloped, with less affordable housing; and requested more police presence. City officials responded, respectively, that all memberships would be honored; that new upscale housing was the province of private property owners, and the city could do little besides building low-cost workforce housing, and that funding for more police officers was not in the current budget – but that crime was at an all-time low and response times by police were averaging three minutes. 

Housing Price Spike 

Anyone who has been trying to buy a house in the Gables – or who has been selling one – has witnessed a dramatic rise in prices. Now the stats are in, confirming the trend. According to the latest Elliman Report, the average sales price for a single-family home in the Gables in the first quarter of this year was $2.8 million, up 48% from last year’s first quarter $1.9 million. The median sales price spiked even more, up 57%, from $1.15 million last year to $1.8 million this year.