What Can Revitalize Miracle Mile?

Miracle Mile, the heart of downtown Coral Gables, has suffered setbacks in recent years. The Streetscape project took longer than expected, chasing many customers away, and the pandemic has since brought businesses to a standstill. The latest crisis could also present an opportunity for Miracle Mile to reinvent itself. We asked retailers, restaurateurs and businesspeople on the Mile what should be done to bring people back to this unique shopping and dining destination.

Jeffrey Wolfe, Wolfe’s Wine Shoppe
Owner and Operator Since 2001

“I think the mix [of businesses] is definitely wrong for the Mile and I think it’s been wrong for a long time,” he says. “There are too many restaurants. We need exciting retail here to draw people in,” Wolfe says. “Small, independent stores is what makes Miracle Mile special and they are lacking.” He also believes upscale events, like a Vintage Car Show or a White Dinner Party on the Mile, could entice visitors back. “We could close down the Mile one night and set up a five-course dinner for 300 to 400 people,” he suggested. “We need to do an event that’s in keeping with the flavor of Coral Gables.”

Steven Gonzalez, Spy World
General Manager and Owner Since 1993

Gonzalez believes the solution to attracting shoppers to Miracle Mile is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). “When people Google something, we’re not coming out on Google as we should,” says Gonzalez. While some argue that improving businesses’ SEO should be left up to the individual businesses, Gonzalez believes organizations like the Business Improvement District (BID), should assist less tech-savvy operators. 

Gonzalez also believes that art installations like Umbrella Sky on Giralda Plaza (2018) need to happen every six months to attract more foot traffic. He says that installation did wonders for his business. “That was the most traffic my store has ever had,” Gonzalez says. “It made Coral Gables the place to be.”

What Can Revitalize Miracle Mile?

Rick Alberty, Well Groomed Gentleman Gentleman (Since 2014)
Director of Business Development

“A lot of people are working from home now,” says Alberty, a bad sign since “a lot of people who work in the Gables don’t actually live here.” He says business is down 30 percent due to Covid. The Well Groomed Gentleman has survived, Alberty says, with greater remote connectivity. In the past, most customers were walk-ins. 

These days, 75 percent of customers set up appointments first. It will take a “lack of fear” to bring back walk-ins, he says. Alberty also advocates a different retail mix. “Most of what you see opening on the Mile now is restaurants. What we need more of is tech stores.” Alberty believes an Apple Store would do great and generate desperately needed foot traffic.

Eddie Snow, Snow’s Jewelers
Owner Since 1974

Snow, an outspoken critic of the Streetscape (“It killed us”) believes the solution is more parking. “The Streetscape eliminated 35 percent of the parking,” he says. “They took out the angled parking and put in the parallel parking. If people can’t find parking, they won’t come.”

Snow concedes that public parking lots, valet parking, and ride-sharing options have improved the parking situation, but says that the Miracle Mile shopper “is a strange bird… While shoppers at Dadeland Mall have to park and walk probably a mile to reach their destination, shoppers here want to park right in front of the store they’re shopping at… changing the parking with the Streetscape really hurt us.”

Josie Esquijarosa, Rose Tree Cottage
Owner Since 1995

Josie Esquijarosa believes more advertising is key. “The BID and the City of Coral Gables should do much more,” Esquijarosa says. “Where do they advertise for us? They do a cute set-up for Halloween, but they need to advertise Miracle Mile as the place for people to come.” Esquijarosa also believes that rising rents are causing people to leave Miracle Mile. “The landlords need to take a drive down Miracle Mile and see what’s happening here. So many stores have closed,” she says. Similar to the monthly Friday Gallery Nights, Esquijarosa also believes there should be a weekly event. “One night a week, all the shops on Miracle Mile should stay open late for shopping.”

Wayne Eldred, Tarpon Bend Restaurant
Operator 2005 to 2019, Owner 2013 to 2019

Eldred closed Tarpon Bend in 2019 because the rent increases (up 45 percent from opening) made it impossible to survive. “You can only charge customers so much for a chicken sandwich,” he explains. 

While he admits some landlords have lowered rents in the harsh light of the pandemic, he doesn’t believe they’ve been lowered enough. He says that at current rent prices, it would take 10 years for a new restaurant to make a return on investment when it should be five years. His solution to lowering rent on restaurants is to slightly raise rents on office spaces and parking. Without quality restaurants, he doesn’t anticipate Miracle Mile coming back. “Restaurants and retail are like peas and carrots – they go together.”

William “Bill” Kerdyk Jr., Kerdyk Real Estate
CEO and Miracle Mile Landlord

Kerdyk, a former City of Coral Gables commissioner for 20 years, admits the market on Miracle Mile has softened due to the Streetscape, the pandemic and the shift to more online shopping. But, he explains, “The real estate taxes in the Gables have gotten cost-prohibitive and insurance has been rising; it puts a burden on owners just to break even.”

Nonetheless, he says, “It’s my philosophy that I would rather take a little less rent and have the space occupied than to have a space sit empty.” 

Between the favorable demographics, foot traffic, and cars traveling by, Kerdyk believes prospects are strong for Miracle Mile. “The biggest thing … for long-term success is the work, live, play concept of mixed-use buildings,” he says.