Monday, July 31, 2006

Not Just Books And Books

At 265 Aragon, you'll find an historic Gables building with a unique open courtyard, directly across from a modern parking garage. They call it Books And Books, but that's a bit misleading.

Yes, the book lovers are there in droves. Who knew so many people could, or would, read? It's a trend that's not showing signs of abatement. But they are not alone.

It's Books And Events. They offer a dizzying list of meet-the-author events, poetry readings, film screenings, readers' groups, live music, shows for kids, a great open bar in the courtyard and a bakery cafe restaurant that serves a surprisingly good selection of quality food at modest prices.

It's Books And People. You can meet the most famous people in the world there, shake their hand, listen to them speak and interact in close quarters, surrounded by books of every imaginable sort. You can meet up with your pals for a beer at the bar. Sample the catch of the day on a date with someone special without busting your budget. Enjoy a glass of wine with trendy new urban dwellers and listen to breezy live Jazz in the open air.

It's Books and Much More. It's a cultural centerpiece for our city. It's a place to go just about anytime of the day or evening to stimulate your brain, catch up on the news of the world or simply chill out.

It's Beyond Books. It redefines the book store model. It adds greatly to the cultural fabric of Coral Gables more than we might reasonably expect from our favorite little neighborhood bookstore.

It's Books And Books -- and it's one more reason why Coral Gables is one of the greatest little cities in the world.

(New) Old Spanish Village

In keeping with George Merrick's architectural theme villages concept, developer of note Ralph Sanchez and his team are revealing plans for the re-development of properties east and southeast of Fred Hartnett Ponce Circle Park in downtown Coral Gables. The new Old Spanish Village directly across from the park will replace a busy office building with a majestic Mediterranean style condominium and townhomes.

According to our mayor, the amount of vehicle traffic generated by residents will be far less that the amount of traffic from businesses currently located at the site. In addition, increased pedestrian traffic in the circle park and surrounding neighborhood could be advantageous for local art galleries, restaurants and shops located within walking distance.

With his previous developments (Gables Grand, Douglas Grand) and this proposed project, Mr. Sanchez seems to appreciate and honor the intent of George Merrick's grand design for Coral Gables. We can only wish and pray that all developers working in Coral Gables had the insight and resolve to create buildings that are truly works of art.

The city and this neighborhood will benefit greatly from this well conceived and (I predict) well constructed residential enclave.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

First Friday Is Gallery Night

On the Friday Friday evening of each month, Art Galleries in Coral Gables open their doors for special exhibitions and artist receptions. Thousands of pedestrians line the sidewalks to enjoy fine art, food, fun and friends.

Coral Gables Gallery Night is a long running tradition started by Virginia Miller of ArtSpace Galleries and supported by the Coral Gables Fine Art Gallery Association. Starting at 7pm, free limosine busses take art lovers from gallery to gallery throughout the pedestrian district.

Here's a map of the pedestrian district art galleries. As you can see, there are dozens of art galleries to visit, all with two blocks of the free trolley and the Coral Gables Fine Art Association limosine busses.

Each week, the Great Gables Events list offers many suggestions for attending art-related events in Coral Gables. If you'd like to stay informed, subscribing is free.

Do you have favorite art gallery? Have you been to the newest galleries? Do you prefer fine art, pop art, sculpture or other artisan works?

Great Gables Restaurants

Coral Gables is home to more than 130 restaurants, wine bars and gourmet shops, all located within two blocks of the free trolley. At last count 64 venues offer take-out and at least 30 offer delivery in the downtown area.

Here's a link to the Great Gables Dining Guide, and the Food To Go list.

With more than 8,000 seats of dining in Coral Gables, the adventurous diner can experience an incredible range of offerings for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and desserts within easy walking distance.

Do you have a favorite Gables restaurant, wine bar of gourmet shop? What's your favorite place for take out and/or delivery in the Gables? Your favorite bakery? Best brunch? Do you know of a new place that has yet to be discovered?

Senior Housing - A Hot Issue

For years, Gables residents have lamented the lack of senior housing facilities in Coral Gables. After listening to complaints for more than a decade, the city's Development Department made a controversial decision to convert valuable city property in the pedestrian district to a large senior living project. After requesting bids, only one developer offered a proposal. This is a bad sign.

Now that developer wants to change the specifications in order to make the project more profitible. Changing the specs requires putting the project out for re-bidding again.

Ironically, the need for the city to involve itself in senior housing has been abated now that Sunrise Senior Living is coming to town with a spectacular new project offering first class amenities and equity ownership for Gables seniors.

According to the Miami Herald, the new Paladin in Coral Gables on Ponce de Leon Boulevard will offer upscale amenities and a complete range of services for seniors. The company is offering these "Condos For Life" to those age 62 and better.

For more information, visit the Sunrise Senior Living web site for the Paladin or call Director of Sales and Marketing Patricia Jacobs at 305-774-1010.

Pedestrian Improvements

Construction in the pedestrian district continues with visible progress along the main arterial route of Ponce de leon Boulevard. After many months of construction, and seemingly months of no activity, trees have been planted recently and dirt has been filled in the median areas. The road surface has been scraped in preparation for a re-paving. Some estimates predict construction will be finished in August.

The end result is a great improvement for pedestrians. With extended curbs and generous medians at every intersection, Ponce de Leon Boulevard will be a great example of how the city is evolving as an inviting, pedestrian-friendly, easily accessible destination.

Now, community leaders must find a way to improve the sidewalks on Miracle Mile. After many years of discussions, haggling and non-action -- it's about time for action. Where is our leadership?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Great Gables Wine Walk

A taste of wine, some good food and a leisurely stroll around town with friends. In Coral Gables, we call this the Great Gables Wine Walk.

While the evening weather is delightful, a progressive wine tasting event in Coral Gables is a wonderful way to enjoy the depth and breath of fine restaurants, wine bars and gourmet shops in the City Beautiful. These events are quickly becoming the popular thing to do in the city and some say they're the hottest ticket in town.

Wine Walk adventures typically begin in the early evening as up to 40 persons gather at the first stop along the tour. They are presented with a tasting of several wines, along with some food paired especially for the event. After about 45 minutes, the group takes a short walk to the next stop on the tour to repeat the process. Over the course of three hours, wines and food from four different venues are sampled by the wine walkers.

Sound interesting? Here's a link for more information:

If you have your own ideas for a good wine walk itinenary, let us know...

The Coral Gables Trolley

Coral Gables has a bustling, pedestrian-friendly downtown commercial district. Most businesses in the city are located within two blocks of Ponce de Leon Boulevard, the main north-south corridor served by the Coral Gables Trolley.

With more than 100 restaurants, gourmet shops and wine bars within a two block walk, a visit to Coral Gables for fine dining, meeting up with friends or a leisurely wine tasting can be an adventure.

The north-south route on Ponce operates from 6:30am to 8pm Monday through Thursday with extended hours until 10pm on Friday evenings. The east-west route has been suspended due to lack of ridership.

Should trolley hours be extended? How about weekends? Should trolley routes be extended and expanded? Should the trolley remain free for everyone?

Great Gables Discussions

Coral Gables is one of the greatest little cities in the world, known for it's culture-rich amenities and pedestrian-friendly atmosphere.

Let's discuss how life in one of America's premiere suburbs is evolving. Let's talk about our favorite things to do and places to go, special events and great cultural opportunities.

Let's talk about what makes this place so great and how to make it better. Care to share your opinion?