In a city famous for its architectural splendors, the fabled 1950s-era streetscape is getting a necessary $20 million renovation that may well pave the way for its establishments to register a greater future. Heading into the holiday retail season, however, local retailers acknowledge it has to date been a painful process.
“It has been a long and difficult pregnancy,” says Elena Linares, owner of RazzleDazzle Barbershop, located on the shopping stretch. “That's what I call the redevelopment project on Miracle Mile.”
In the same way that South Florida restaurant and retail hotspots such as Ocean Drive and Lincoln Road Mall in Miami Beach, South Miami’s Sunset Drive and Worth Avenue in Palm Beach have already been there and done that, Coral Gable planners and businesses are hoping to bring some miracle back to their beloved-but-somewhat-bedraggled business district.
Originally slated for an October or November completion, the Miracle Mile project is running late. Personnel changes, drainage and utility issues were among the unforeseen challenges partly responsible for delaying the work, according to Donald Clinton of Cooper Robertson, the New York City–based design firm spearheading the makeover.
Of the eight one-block segments that make up the project — four on the thoroughfare’s north side and four on the south — six are finished or nearly so, with a seventh projected for completion by Christmas, Clinton says.
Despite the setbacks, “The goal [is to complete] it by the end of the year, though we might have some punch list items that go into January,” Clinton says. When finished, Clinton says, the work will have "a transforming effect.”
With much of the south side of the street complete, Miracle Mile visitors are getting a glimpse of the new look and feel of the project. The now-spacious pedestrian walkways boast Brazilian quartzite pavers in blue, white and gray that are arranged to suggest “the cloud-and-blue-sky pattern you get over Miami,” Clinton says.
Still, there’s no denying the construction itself is giving some local shops a different kind of blues. Wider sidewalks for greater foot traffic and outdoor seating are an attractive outcome of the work, but it’s a mess to contend with in the meantime.
“Business has suffered,” says Abraham Abadi of Alegria’s Brides. The already limited parking has disappeared. Trucks and dirt are everywhere. It’s a hassle for customers to get in and out of the stores, Abadi says, noting many have shuttered their doors.
And though he’s hopeful that things will turn around, saying, “The future looks good, ” Abadi is blunt in his assessment of business since June last year when the work started and of the prospects for the 2017 holiday season: “The past? Terrible. The present? No good.”
Linares agrees. “It's been long overdue but very hard for small businesses. So sad that many did not survive. My sales have dropped 50 to 60 percent.”
With her shop already festively decked out with boughs of holly and much, much more, Linares is offering special gold and silver VIP packages, as well as gift cards and gift baskets in hopes of pulling in more business between now and year-end.
Some retailers, waiting for the dust to settle, have already put out “coming soon” signs. Clinton says he’s hearing that leasing inquiries are up.
“I take that as a positive sign,” he says.
And Linares is resolute. “I am so looking forward to the new birth of Miracle Mile,” she says.
For his part, Abadi says that through it all, the Miracle Mile has been good to him, and he feels optimistic about the new year ahead.
“We have been in business for 36 years, so if we have one bad year, it’s OK,” he says. “We just hope to have 36 more good years after this.”