Coral Gables

The construction work’s not done but there’s a party at Giralda Plaza in the Gables

Work on the Miracle Mile streetscape project is progressing and will still take several months to finish, but enough work has been completed on Giralda Avenue that the city has introduced a new weekly outdoor dining event called Giralda Al Fresco to signal the progress on the street.

The event kicked off earlier this month and will run every Saturday until the streetscape work is done on Giralda. The event will feature different entertainment and run all day on the 100 block of Giralda. Multiple restaurants are participating including La Dorada, Talavera, Bangkok Bangkok II and others.

City commissioners approved outdoor alcohol sales for the Giralda Al Fresco event last month.

Some merchants have already seen the benefits of the event and are hopeful that the new-look portion of the road will bring customers back to the “restaurant row” and recover profit that was lost during streetscape construction.

“It’s bittersweet because it does bring in more people but we’ve also had to hire a bunch more staff,” said Leslie Fernandez, a hostess at Talavera. “For the most part though it’s bringing in a lot of revenue and people are crazy about it.”

Some business owners said they had more than half a million dollars in lost business, and some shops have relocated or shut down due to the construction.

The event “is kind of a relief but it’s been so long. It’s been really hard because it’s been almost a year of the street being under construction,” said Lilly Gandara, events director for La Dorada.

Beyond the Giralda Al Fresco event, the City Commission also approved a pilot program to close the street to vehicular traffic for the next two years. The majority of the merchants and some property owners along Giralda were supportive of closing the street in a survey conducted by the city earlier this year.

Giralda will be blocked off to vehicle traffic with removable blockades.

“The plaza’s flexible design will allow us to change course or reverse course in the future should the decision not work well,” said Javier Betancourt, the city’s economic development director.

City staff identified some potential drawbacks in the plan, including making deliveries more difficult as trucks and cars won’t be able to park directly in front of stores. They also anticipate an impact on how traffic moves around the street.

Substantial completion of the Giralda Avenue work is expected next month. Meanwhile, streetscape work on the north side of Miracle Mile began this week. Substantial completion of the streetscape work on the Mile is now set for January 2018. The initial estimate was August of this year.

Assistant City Manager Peter Iglesias said that as work shifts, the northern eastbound lane of Miracle Mile will close so work can be done on the median. The southern eastbound lane will open but the new parallel parking will be blocked off for about three weeks to keep traffic flowing.

When the work is completed on the two roads the city hopes to see a fully realized modernized look for both streets with pedestrian-friendly design, new lights and trees and other amenities.

Giralda Al Fresco is one of a group of initiatives created by the city and the Business Improvement District to draw shoppers to the two construction-heavy areas. Late last year the city installed more signs to direct customers to stores and nearby parking. There have also been events like Wellness Wednesdays and Movies on the Mile.

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3