Coral Way remains walkable main street for nearby neighborhoods

More from the series The new Miami: a series of villages Not so long ago,

More from the series


The new Miami: a series of villages

Not so long ago, Miami-Dade was a story of east — the sprawling Beach — and a mainland of undifferentiated suburbs, centered by a central business district that shut down at 5 p.m. Today the county increasingly is coalescing around a series of urban villages or centers — compact, pedestrian-friendly places where people can live, shop or dine out, even work or go to school, with few or mercifully short trips by car. Here’s a look at some of the county’s burgeoning neighborhoods.

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Of all six Sergio’s restaurants Blanca Cabrera owns in Miami, the one on Coral Way is her favorite.

Tucked across the street from the Miracle Marketplace and Winn-Dixie, the restaurant patio is full for lunch on weekdays, making it Cabrera’s second-best performing location since it opened in 1992. She credits the foot traffic to its location on east Coral Way, a major Miami thoroughfare connecting Coral Gables to Brickell and Key Biscayne beyond. The banyan tree-filled median provides a shady sidewalk drawing passersby to the restaurant.

“We love this place,” she said. “Those trees are so beautiful.”

Cabrera loves the Coral Way location so much that she’s expanding it this year to include a rooftop patio. Diners will be able to admire banyan tree canopy from above.

It’s a dose of development on a street that has largely been overlooked in concentrated building booms seen elsewhere in Miami. While a few new condos and rentals have gone up along the thoroughfare over the past decade, Coral Way remains more utilitarian than glamorous, serving as a dependable, walkable spine that connects the single-family neighborhoods of The Roads, Shenandoah, Silver Bluff and Coral Gate.

Together, the four surrounding neighborhoods are home to roughly 75,000 residents, according to website Niche.com, which uses data from the American Community Survey released in 2020.

Residents say they’re largely happy with the area the way it is. There are restaurants — Spanish, Peruvian, Portuguese, Japanese and Greek among them; barbershops, dry cleaners, doctors’ offices, grocery stores. Even a dog day care.

Business owners would like more foot traffic, a priority of Miami Commissioner Manolo Reyes.

“We should do a promotional campaign on Coral Way to work together with the restaurants there,” he said. “Coral Way is a beautiful street; it’s one of the prettiest streets in Miami.”

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Blanca Cabrera, owner of Sergio’s Restaurants, talks with customers on May 8, 2021, at Sergio’s location in Coral Way, where she is working on an expansion to include a rooftop patio. Pedro Portal [email protected]

With a location a short jog from Brickell, the ‘20s and ‘30s homes on the wide, shady streets of The Roads have long commanded prices above the county median, with an average of $545,000, according to Niche.com. Data is based on 2015-2019 American Community Survey estimates released in 2020.

In recent years, the nearby neighborhoods have gained steam. Given the area’s relative proximity to downtown plus generally decent schools and relatively low crime, owners have spruced up the area, block by block. Many of the houses date from the ‘50s, with two or three bedrooms. In the southern edges closest to U.S. 1, new modernist houses and low-scale apartments are beginning to spring up.

As a result, while the median home prices in Silver Bluff and Shenandoah well below the Miami-Dade median of $490,000, over the past five years median property values have risen by 23% in Silver Bluff (to $371,739) and 38% in Shenandoah (to $395,511), according to Niche.com. Coral Gate, which is anchored by a walled-in community of 463 upscale homes, is the exception, with a current median property value of $537,000, according to Realtor.com.

Those stats don’t take into account the recent flurry of home buying — and high prices. A May 2021 survey of Zillow found 21 houses for sale in Shenandoah priced from $550,000 to $1 million.

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“The interest from buyers in this area has grown 100% over the past few years,” said Wesley Ulloa, owner of the Lux Properties real estate brokerage firm. “You are seeing a lot of older individuals selling to younger couples, a lot of families and a lot of investors renovating homes and flipping them. People want to live to close to Brickell and Coconut Grove but can’t afford those areas, so they’re looking in Shenandoah and Silver Bluff. This area is a hidden gem, because you get really great bang for your buck.”

In the last few years, Coral Way pedestrians have become noticeably younger, said Maggie Pelleyá, radio station manager of WDNA, located near 29th Street.

WDNA has been beaming jazz tunes to Miami radios from its one-story studio on Coral Way since 2008. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the station’s front room — known as the Jazz Gallery — hosted more than 100 people for concerts on the second Friday of each month. Some were people who lived in the nearby neighborhoods, but others would travel from as far as Pembroke Pines for a night of jazz at the studio. Before or after the show, they’d enjoy a meal or drink at a restaurant on Coral Way.

“There’s more activity in the neighborhood since more housing has come,” she said.

She sees more people jogging or walking with strollers and dogs, a shift she attributes to new nearby apartment buildings. The MB Station apartment building, at 3170 Coral Way, opened in 2019 with 190 rental units and a Miami-Dade fire station on its ground floor serving the Shenandoah area. Built in 2015, the 121-unit Gibraltar Apartments tower, located at 2350 SW 27th Ave., offers studios to three-bedroom units, with rents ranging from $1,150 to $2,400. The building is currently at 100% capacity, according to Francisco Acevedo, the building’s manager.

Coral Way has long been a car-packed avenue lined with a mix of small businesses and big box chains including Odd Lots, Office Depot and Miracle Marketplace mall at 33rd Street. The office of United Way sits near the Brickell end, not far from the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora located in former quarters of the Greater Miami Opera. Until recently few buildings reached taller than a few stories high.

One of the larger newcomers is a self-storage facility on the block just west of 27th Avenue. Terra Group completed the project in 2019; it has around 80,000 square feet of storage space and about 7,000 square feet of ground floor retail, and stretches six stories tall. Leases have been finalized with Pilates Zone, La Roche Beauty Salon, AT&T Wireless and dental orthodontics company Arcadlab. Much of the area along Coral Way is zoned for a maximum of eight stories.

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WDNA 88.9 FM Public Radio General Manager Maggie Pelleyá works from the station in Miami’s Coral Way neighborhood on Thursday, May 6, 2021. MATIAS J. OCNER [email protected]

With more people comes more traffic, a problem Coral Gate homeowners association president Maria Doval called “horrendous.”

“When you get out of Coral Gate onto Coral Way, there’s terrible traffic on peak hours,” said Doval. “It used to be that it was only peak hours, now it’s even during the day, at lunchtime. The only time it’s peaceful is Sunday morning, when I go to Mass.”

Commissioner Reyes hopes to alleviate some of the traffic by replacing delivery trucks with e-bikes that first debuted in downtown Miami last year in partnership with DHL. The e-bikes prevent some of the congestion caused by idling delivery trucks and cut down on emissions.

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Shenandoah Park is expected to receive a renovation including a new pool facility, with construction slated to begin in 2021. City of Miami District 4 Office

Another Reyes initiative: a face-lift for Shenandoah Park, including a new pool facility. On any weeknight, the park that sits catty-corner from Shenandoah Middle Magnet School is buzzing with activity. Adolescents play pick-up basketball and soccer. An older crowd practices baseball. Before the pandemic, the park hosted outdoor movie nights for the neighborhood.

It’s one of several outdoor spaces in the neighborhoods connected by Coral Way, a main reason Katie Gant, president of the Miami Roads Neighborhood Civic Association, stayed put at her house in The Roads when all of her friends moved to Pinecrest or South Miami chasing more space and lower prices. She lives with her husband, two kids ages 6 and 4, and two dogs in a 1,500-square-foot house.

“The quality of life in The Roads is fantastic,” she said. “We’re going to stick with our little house on our little lot and enjoy the quality of life.”

Gant is concerned about development slated for the Vizcaya Metrorail station, whose entrance and parking lots are on a side street in The Roads across the street from single-family homes and duplexes that sit between the Metrorail and Coral Way. She hopes the station will remain small, though many of the proposed plans include hundreds of apartment units in buildings extending as high as 25 stories.

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A rendering depicts the Rilea Group’s proposed redevelopment for the Vizcaya Metrorail Station as seen from Miami’s The Roads neighborhood. The Rilea Group

She’s hopeful The Roads will soon see more “pocket parks,” and she’s most looking forward to the completion of The Underline nearby.

“The Underline coming in is the most exciting thing for me, having that access to the city, riding bikes across Rickenbacker,” she said. “I think it’s going to really be good for my family.”

CORAL WAY AT A GLANCE

THE ROADS

Population: 13,300

Demographics: 80% Hispanic

Median household salary: $78,105

Primary work/industry: Professional

Median property value: $544,378

School grades: B

Personal crime: N/A

Property crime: N/A

SILVER BLUFF

Population: 26,947

Demographics: 83% Hispanic

Median household salary: $60,486

Primary work/industry: Professional

Median property value: $371,739

School grades: A

Personal crime: 138

Property crime: 133

SHENANDOAH

Population: 20,134

Demographics: 89% Hispanic

Median household salary: $44,571

Primary work/industry: Professional

Median property value: $395,511

School grades: B

Personal crime: 138

Property crime: 133

CORAL GATE

Population: 13,669

Demographics: 89% Hispanic

Median household salary: $44,079

Primary work/industry: Professional

Median property value: $537,000

School grades: A

Personal crime: N/A

Property crime: N/A

Source: U.S. Census, Data USA, Florida Department of Education, Realtor.com and Esri, which ranks crime using a national base line of 100; Niche.com

Taylor Dolven is a business journalist who has covered the tourism industry at the Miami Herald since 2018. Her reporting has uncovered environmental violations of cruise companies, the impact of vacation rentals on affordable housing supply, safety concerns among pilots at MIA’s largest cargo airline and the hotel industry’s efforts to delay a law meant to protect workers from sexual harassment.