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Neighborhood History: Coral Gables

Hello everybody! This is a new series we want to run on the Title Answers Blog where we will be talking about the history and development of different Miami neighborhoods and then follow it up with a market report on the area a few days later to keep you filled in on the history & status of neighborhoods you may be looking to buy or sell in! In addition we will also be spotlighting restaurants, bars, and entertainment around our office to keep you plugged in with what’s going on around here.

Coral Gables was founded in the 1920’s by George Merrick, a city planner and part time poet. Merrick carved “The City Beautiful” from a 3,000 acre citrus grove his father had left behind for him. Pulling inspiration from the Mediterranean Revival style, Merrick created one of the most sought after areas in the entire country. The strict zoning he had implemented created one of America’s first planned communities, crowned by the world renowned Biltmore Hotel. In 1925 Merrick donated 600 acres of land and $5 million to establish the University of Miami.

Looking to expand the city’s appeal Merrick planned one of the most ambitious development projects in the United States. He planned on creating 14 separate villages within Coral Gables that would depart from his typical Mediterranean style and incorporate French, Chinese, Italian, Mexican, and African architecture. Over 1,000 new residences where planned in this new project.

The Biltmore Hotel in the late 1920's

The good times would not last for Merrick though, just a few weeks before UM’s inaugural school year, Florida was struck with a devastating hurricane. A few years later the Great Depression would hit the United States and ruin Merrick financially. His days as Coral Gables planner where over, and his daring project to expand the Gables was never realized. Merrick passed away in 1942 in his beloved city at the age of 55.

The Second World War would give Coral Gables a second chance. Thousands of soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines would occupy vacant buildings and the Biltmore would find a new purpose as a military hospital. This revitalized the area as businesses now had an enormous influx of customers and many war heroes would retire in South Florida when the war finally came to a close.

The coming decades would bring many changes for the Gables. Miracle Mile rose to prominence in the 50’s, in the 60’s restrictions were lifted on building height and style. Several high-rise buildings would go up after the restrictions were lifted, making Coral Gables very lucrative for large companies and banks. Though these building projects would bring much needed commerce to the area, they clashed with the traditional Mediterranean architecture. In the 1986 new building restrictions where implemented to bring Coral Gables back to its Mediterranean roots.

A view of downtown Coral Gables, 2010

Today Coral Gables continues to thrive as a pedestrian friendly area with upscale shops and some of the states finest dining. Thanks to the 86’ restrictions the Gables retains its unique Mediterranean look. University of Miami has become one of the 100 best universities in the nation, the Biltmore has reprised its role as a luxury hotel. In 2025 Coral Gables 50,000 residents will celebrate their cities centennial. The city has come far since its incorporation, and in the coming years new projects and developments will surely continue to alter it, but the cities timeless charm will surely remain.