A series of pop-up galleries and events in the Miracle Mile area of Coral Gables, designed to bring back shoppers who avoided the area during a lengthy construction project is having little to no impact, say business owners.
The Streetscape project — which blocked off roads and sidewalks along Miracle Mile and Giralda Avenue — began in July 2016 and was projected to finish in the summer of 2017, according to the project’s website. However, it was completed just last month.
Since the project’s completion, the city has planned numerous events in April and May including the Back to Beautiful Celebration and Carnaval on the Mile. Officials also reactivated the monthly Coral Gables Gallery Night, and are featuring temporary art exhibits like “Venice in the Gables.”
Most of the events are designed to encourage visitors to walk around and shop, with exhibits dispersed throughout downtown.
Artwork by Marco Marin inside the Ninoska Huerta Gallery (Photo by: Marlene Fisher)
Coral Gables Commissioner Michael Mena said the city is supporting the events and public art installations to help attract more visitors.
“It’s a major priority for us,” he said. “I participated in a workshop with owners and tenants that was hosted by the Business Improvement District to brainstorm on what else we can all be doing as a community to maximize the impact of our newly completed infrastructure.”
According to the project’s website, the goal was to “enhance the economic vitality of the Downtown Coral Gables district.” Some stores along Miracle Mile say they are still waiting.
Kelly Rivers, the manager at Alegria’s Brides, said the project caused a sharp drop in revenue. She said the store hasn’t seen a significant increase since the completion.
“We struggled, and lost almost 60 percent of our sales,” she said. “It’s a little better now, but it’s not like before. There used to be a lot of tourists walking around. We hope it gets better.”
Several other store owners and workers, who declined to be quoted, cited similar issues and loss in revenue.
But Rebecca Deville, the marketing manager at Terranova Corporation, said there has been an increase in leasing activity since the completion of the project. The company is a commercial real estate advisory firm operating predominantly in south Florida.
“From last year, people are really hesitant to see how the project was going to affect things,” she said. “Now the amount of inquiries has really increased dramatically, we have people fighting over spaces.”
She disputed reports that many businesses are still struggling, saying most have a loyal customer base that kept them afloat.
This would include Christophe Maury, the owner of French Riviera Jewelers. He said he did not lose business during the construction, but is not seeing the changes he expected.
“Nothing has changed, but it [the project] hasn’t brought in any new customers,” he said. “For me, it would be key to bring in more well-known retail stores and restaurants.”
Steven Wolgin, the managing director for US Real Estate Advisors, Inc., said Coral Gables has become a hotspot for new business. Still, he said it may not be the best environment for small businesses who survived the renovation.
“There’s a pushing out of mom-and-pop stores because they don’t generate enough profit to pay the increasing rent,” he said.