The Year in Review 2022

The year 2022 was a tumultuous one, with a major mid-term election, snarling inflation, and dramatic increases in the cost to rent or buy a home. But it was also the first full year post-pandemic, with a roaring return to normal life. Restaurants were hopping, workers were returning to the downtown, and schools were in full swing. Here, then, are some of the major events in the Gables that defined the post-pandemic year of 2022. 

January 


Free Rides Abide

The year 2022 in Review

The City Commission votes to extend the Freebee service for another year, at a cost of $483,000. Freebee provides free electric vehicle rides within downtown, on request from a mobile app. The service is designed to reduce car traffic.

Yes to the Street-side Café

Even with COVID in recession, the City decides to allow restaurants to continue with outdoor seating on adjacent street spaces.

Let There Be Mangroves

The Coral Gables Garden Club, with help from the city’s Keep Coral Gables Beautiful team, launches the Red Mangrove Propagation Project, planting 1,300 mangroves in 20 “pools” of dirt behind Boy Scout Troop 7’s clubhouse on the Granada Golf Course.

Parents Stop the Wawa

A judge rules that the zoning granted by the city to a Wawa gas station/convenience store to be built across the street from Carver Elementary School was ‘blatantly illegal,’ and puts a halt to the development that parents opposed. 

Burger Bob’s Shuts Down

The year 2022 in Review

The iconic neighborhood eatery on the first hole of the Granada Golf Course closes after nearly 30 years of serving simple diner food. No more $5 hamburgers in the Gables, as Bob Maguire, 85, retires. 

February


The Burger Bash is Back

Burgerlicious, the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce’s annual fundraiser that pits burger flippers against each other in a competition for Best in Bun, returns post-COVID. First place goes to PINCHO, the Gables-based minichain. 

The Slap Heard Round the World

Coral Gables makes the national news when a disgruntled lobbyist slaps Miami City Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla on the back of the head as he exits Morton’s The Steakhouse on Ponce at Miracle Mile.

Keeping it Green

The city’s new Public Safety and Trolley Maintenance buildings both win LEED Silver designation by the U.S. Green Building Council. This means the buildings use energy and water more efficiently, along with other benchmarks of sustainability.

Just in Case

In its ongoing effort to make sure that police interactions with civilians never get out of control, the city votes to spend $400,000 in matching funds for police body cameras. 

March


The Kitchen Tour

The year 2022 in Review

For the first time since 2019, ticket holders were once again allowed inside the homes of local residents as the Coral Gables Community Foundation resumed its annual Tour of Kitchens (2020 was canceled, 2021 was held outdoors). The 13th annual tour raises money for student scholarships.

The Trash Tour

Mayor Vince Lago continues his campaign to clean up the city’s commercial areas by organizing a trolley tour of public sites for city officials, private sector leaders, and members of the media to show them what needs to be done. 

The Museum Reborn

The Coral Gables Museum hires a new director, Elvis Fuentes, and moves decisively in the direction of exhibiting more fine art, launching the first major retrospective of Cuban artist Julio Larraz.

And the Survey Says

In a rare survey of public opinion in the Gables, national polling company POLCO concludes that most citizens are happy with safety, the natural environment, and the economic well-being of the city, while also unhappy with traffic, over-development, and infrastructure. 

April 


Back to Basics

The year 2022 in Review

The city takes control of the Coral Gables Country Club from Canadian company Liberty Entertainment, which it accused of mismanagement and allowing the historic property to deteriorate. The city announces plans to refurbish the buildings and open the club to affordable memberships for 2,000 residents.

No to New Youth Center

After rejecting a comprehensive $160 million plan to upgrade the city’s entire park system, the City Commission then refused to authorize a public referendum for a new $60 million Youth Center and adjacent Phillips Park. The plan would have required additional taxes. 

A New Home for the Arts

The city’s newest cultural platform, The Sanctuary of the Arts, officially opens in its home in the First Church of Christ Scientist campus across from City Hall. The venue features music, dance, and other performing arts.

Housing Prices Spike

New figures reveal that housing prices in Coral Gables have soared. The average sale price for a single-family home jumps from $1.9 million in early 2021 to $2.8 million. The median price rose from $1.15 million to $1.8 million. 

May


The Passing of an Icon

Nino Pernetti, the beloved owner of the city’s de-facto power lunch and dinner restaurant Caffe Abbracci, passes away after an 18-month battle with COVID and cancer. Pernetti had run Abbracci for 30 years. The city later decides to name the street in front of Abbracci for Pernetti. 

In Search of Running Room

After numerous citizen complaints that the city has no parks where dogs can run off-leash, funds are approved to construct a new enclosure for large dogs to run off-leash at Salvadore Park.

Leave It in My Backyard

After intense resistance from the residents of Kings Bay, the city rejects a $3 million grant toward converting backyard septic tanks to sewer connections. Residents felt that it would be too disruptive and could cost them money, despite rising groundwater levels that could pollute Biscayne Bay. 

June


Money From Tallahassee

The Florida legislature approves a record $3.5 million for projects in Coral Gables, of which $2.525 million survives Gov. Ron DeSantis’ veto (he kills $975,000 for the proposed Mobility Hub). Among the approved allocations were $750,000 for the restoration of the historic Gondola Building and $500,000 for the city’s stormwater system. 

The Peacock Pushback

The year 2022 in Review
Peacock with spread wings in profile.

Fearing an invasion of the lovely but raucous wild peacock, droves of which have filled the streets of Coconut Grove, the city votes to al- low residents to hire trappers to remove the birds from their property.

Fairchild Voted the Best

The USA Today “10 Best” travel guide, a reader’s choice awards list, votes Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden as the best botanic garden in the nation. Something about “the warm climate of Coral Gables” that allows tropical plants to grow all year outdoors. Plus, those exotic conservatory butterflies.

A Win for Autistic Kids

After years of lobbying by parents and health care activists, the Miami-Dade County school system adds a self-contained autism program at Ponce de Leon Middle School for the 2022-2023 school year. Previously, parents of middle school-aged children with autism had to enroll in private academies or leave the Gables. 

July


Even a Park Nearby

The city commission votes to allow developers to build taller buildings so long as they give the city a park of no less than 5,000 square feet within 1,000 feet of the proposed building. 

The Shifting Skyline

The city votes to approve a 16-story luxury high-rise at 1505 Ponce, after the developer agrees to save one historic building on-site and create a substantial park for dogs to run off-leash. The Commission earlier approved a building of similar height and density at Salzedo Street and Almeria Avenue in exchange for a park across the street, but turned down a luxury condo on Ponce Circle since it was twice the approved zoning height. 

Return of the Natives

The restoration of the native flora in Camp Mahachee gets fully underway. One and a half acres of the 11-acre camp (close to Matheson Hammock) will be cleared of alien species in order to replace them with 2,000 native hardwood trees. 

Eyes in the Sky

The city’s police department begins implementation of its new drone force, to operate from the Public Safety Building roof during emergencies. Police Chief Ed Hudak says it will be like having a helicopter without the hefty price tag. 

August


Le Parc Café Reopens

After being closed since April, the former Liberty Café reopens at the Coral Gables Country Club as a pricey French café. Not every- one is happy – but they do still have gelato.

Little Gables on the Block

After failing three years ago, the city votes to re-open efforts to annex Little Gables, a pocket of county land surrounded on three sides by Coral Gables.

Time to Go Underground

The city accepts a proposal from Florida Power & Light to take powerlines underground over the next decade, beginning with residential wires to poles. The proposal will save the city an estimated $240 million to help avoid hurricane-induced power outages. 

Bye-Bye Streetside Dining

With the pandemic rapidly waning, the city ends its policy of allowing restaurants to extend outdoor seating into streets and public right-of-ways. 

September


City Shuts Down the Bid

After 25 years of promoting merchants in the downtown, the Business Improvement District is shut down after city commissioners decide that not enough votes were collected from property owners to continue.

Metal Roofs Up, Food Truck Down

So long as the property is not historic, or in a historic district, residents can now install metal rather than tile roofs. They may no longer, however, allow food trucks anywhere in the city for more than 15 minutes unless it’s at a school or church. 

A New Website

The city unveils a new website that uses the same technology as Tesla and NASA, including AI feedback that allows the system to evolve with user input. Unlike the previous city website, the new one is clear, clean, and easy to use. Finally, a smart website for a smart city. 

October

A Park is Dedicated

The Lamar Louise Curry Park, on De Soto Boulevard across the street from the Venetian Pool, is officially opened. The park was a project of the Coral Gables Garden Club using a donation of $200,000 from the will of long-time club member and local teacher Ms. Curry.

Poles be Gone

The City Commission votes to remove the artistically painted gondola poles on downtown city streets to make the sidewalks easier to navigate for pedestrians. The poles, which are the property of various individuals and businesses, will be moved to city storage on 72nd Avenue for retrieval by their owners. 

Going to the Dogs

The year 2022 in Review

October becomes canine month in the city, starting with Paws in the Pool at the Venetian Pool, and finishing with the Halloween dog costume contest at the Coral Gables Museum. Other events include “Dog Dates Strolls” at Fairchild, a dog day at Bay 13’s Maker’s Market, and a dog adoption event at Infiniti of Coral Gables.

Recycling Day Breaks Records

The city’s bi-annual recycling day at City Hall collects 10,074 pounds of discarded electronics, 2,400 pounds of gently used clothing for Camillus House, and several tons of hazardous waste. 

November


Caroling Returns

The year 2022 in Review

Starting on the last day of November, 30 high school choruses from across Miami-Dade return to the 550 Building on Biltmore Way to sing their hearts out for cash prizes for their school’s music departments.

Lighting Up the Night

The annual tree lighting ceremony takes place at Merrick Park, in which the 50-foot tree is lit up by Santa Claus with a little help from Mayor Vince Lago and TV anchor Belkys Nerey of 7 News. 

Loews Opens

The first new major hotel in Coral Gables opens at The Plaza Coral Gables. The new hotel, with 242 rooms, anchors the acre-sized open space of The Plaza on Ponce Circle.

Goodbye Commissioner Fors

Jorge Fors Jr., who was elected to his first term as a city commissioner in 2020, resigns from his seat to run for a position on the Board of County Commissioners. He loses to Kevin Cabrera in a runoff and leaves the Coral Gables commission, as required by law. 

December


Junior Orange Bowl Parade

The iconic Junior Orange Bowl parade returns for its second live appearance since the pandemic shut it down, drawing thousands of cheering residents along Miracle Mile and Ponce de Leon Blvd.

Mayor’s Ball

The first annual Mayor’s Ball takes place at the Loews Hotel. The event will donate all proceeds to the fight against cancer. 

——