Gables walking tour shows what Trowbridge knows

Gables walking tour shows what Trowbridge knows

The Coral Gables Museum serves as the starting point for the Downtown Walking Tour, recently hosted by special guest tour guide Mark Trowbridge, Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce president.

Who knew! There’s a totally logical reason for calling it “Miracle Mile.”

And who knew there’s a really cool car collection located on the top level of a parking garage in the heart of Coral Gables. Well, the “Trow” knows — and he knows a whole lot more.

Mark Trowbridge, president of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, is like a human search engine for local history and interesting insights into the world of Gables business. Knowing this, the Coral Gables Museum invited him to serve as a special guest tour guide for their popular Downtown Walking Tour.

One recent sunny Saturday morning, armed with hundreds of fun facts, figures, and boundless energy, Trowbridge stepped up to meet the challenge with an animated and thoroughly entertaining walking tour of the beloved business area he represents.

So, put on your walking shoes — or in this case, a comfortable pair of reading glasses — for a sampling of the tour Trowbridge led. It may be lacking some of the humor, wit and charm that only Trowbridge can deliver in person, but let’s go:

This historic building from which we start the tour is the original Coral Gables Fire and Police Station. Completed in 1939 as a Work Projects Administration (WPA) project, it features a number of distinctive examples of Depression Modern sculpture, and is now home to the Coral Gables Museum.

Right across the street is the Consulate of Colombia. There are 22 consular and trade offices in Coral Gables alone — one of the largest footprints outside the City of Miami in terms of the international community. This has created an epicenter for international businesses because they want to be close to the consulates.

Around the corner, is Giralda Place, a boutique condominium tower under construction at 2222 Ponce De Leon, with a spectacular $2.5 million penthouse in-the-round on the sixth floor.

Standing at Alhambra Circle and Salzedo Street is Café Demitrio, a beautiful circa 1924 building. It now is home to a second generation family-run business.

Further west, at 396 Giralda, is the highrise U.S. headquarters of Jose Cuervo of Mexico. With so many architectural elements, some say it looks a little like a wedding cake. But it is best known for is its beautiful golden doors designed by the architect’s brother.

Being just five miles from the airport, Coral Gables is the closest downtown municipality to the airport. Everybody loves this feature — location, location, location!

At 303 Alhambra Circle is the American Legion Post. Right now it would be considered one of the most prime, available pieces of real estate — if and when they ever decided to sell.

The building at 290 Alhambra Circle is now home to Oroa, an exclusive retailer of high-end furniture. With a second showroom at 299 Miracle Mile, this new business occupies two significant corners in downtown — a big investment in Coral Gables.

The big law firm of Becker & Poliakoff has the entire 10th floor of 121 Alhambra Plaza. Looking all the way at the top you will see Lady of Faith. This 12-foot tall weathervane was blown over by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Another interesting fact: There is an automobile collection on the top level of the garage. As a private individual, you can pay a fee to park your classic car here and they will take care of it for you.

Now we approach Ponce De Leon Boulevard north of Alhambra. We call it the “what’s-next” zone. The city is working on a master plan to consider exactly what’s going to be next for this busy corridor.

At the corner of Alcazar and Ponce is the historic Hotel St. Michel, the only bed and breakfast in Coral Gables. It’s a lovely French-style hotel with just 19 rooms.

Right in front is the national flag of France, one of 56 flags of countries displayed throughout downtown. It is the chamber’s way of announcing to the world that there are 155 multi-national companies and 22 trade and consular offices here.

“Restaurant Row,” along Giralda Avenue lost a lot of its restaurants during the recession. But today, there are about 150 restaurants all across the Gables. Interesting fact: The biggest land owner on this one-block stretch of Giralda is the Church of Scientology — and this building is always for sale, always!

By Oct. 1, the Westin Colonnade at 180 Aragon will have undergone an exciting multi-million-dollar renovation, and will be flying the flag of a new hotel brand in the Starwood portfolio. Stay tuned.

Did you know that Miracle Mile is called “The Mile” because it is a half-mile down and a half-mile back. And it’s a very busy route. So in an effort to slow commuters down, sidewalks will be widened, angled parking will become parallel, and there will be two staggered rows of trees.

Better than that, the existing five different styles of sidewalk will soon be one beautiful Brazilian stone meant to reflect the sky. And those pavers will extend out onto the street, creating a little unevenness — and hopefully a passive response by drivers to slow down.

Nearing the conclusion of the tour, in front of Einstein Bros. Bagels on Miracle Mile, is the sample installation of the actual blue, gray, and white pavers they will be using. This is a primary component of the $22 million re-imagination project that also features installation of a completely curbless street. This 18- to 22- month project includes upgrades to a one-block stretch of Giralda Avenue, as well, along Restaurant Row.

The Downtown Walking Tour launches from the Coral Gables Museum at 285 Aragon Ave. again on June 11 and 28 (11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.).

The fee is $5 for museum members and $10 for general public. The program is generously supported by the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables. For future dates and information, visit http://coralgablesmuseum.org/events/category/walking-tour/.


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About the Author

Bill Kress
Bill Kress is an editorial consultant with the Community Newspapers, covering business news, non-profits, and municipal government. He is a seasoned public relations practitioner, news reporter, photographer, and social media expert. Bill may be reached at bill@kresscom.com or call 305-763-2429.

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