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It can sometimes be a bittersweet thing to witness the ebbs and flows of a city. The longer you are connected to a place the more it becomes a part of who you are, and even when it is experiencing new growth it can be difficult to say goodbye to aspects of it that get left behind in the process. Change is an inevitable fact of life, and yet it isn’t easy to face. All one can do when observing changes to an area is hope that the original spirit is kept alive through them.
That has been the goal of Stephen Bittel’s Terranova Corporation and the others who own properties on Coral Gables’ historic Miracle Mile. The coastal city itself has traditionally placed a high priority on historic preservation, and as the central artery for its downtown area Miracle Mile plays an essential role in the city’s culture and heritage. Owning a number of buildings on the stretch, Terranova has not taken its responsibilities to the original character and charm of Miracle Mile lightly, working to bring in businesses that simultaneously stimulate growth for the city while also remaining true to its history.
Case in point, the recently celebrated reopening of John Martin’s at 253 Miracle Mile, a property owned by Terranova. Originally one of South Florida’s longest-running restaurants, the Irish-themed pub was forced to shutter in April of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and was never able to open its doors again even after restrictions had been lifted. Emi Guerra and Alex Mantecon are the new leaders of Breakwater Hospitality Group, under their leadership, the bar has been given some rejuvenating updates while maintaining the original spirit of the pub.
About Miracle Mile
Like the entirety of Coral Gables’ commercial district, Miracle Mile was designed by real estate developer George Merrick in the early 1920s. The whole downtown area was meticulously planned out, and Merrick boasted that every business in the city was less than a two-block walk away from each other. Although the Great Depression and World War II inevitably caused declines for the area, by the mid-1950’s commercial investments were made to rebrand the half-mile stretch along Coral Way as a high-end shopping destination, and in 1955 it was officially given the name Miracle Mile.
From the 1960’s onward Miracle Mile continued to evolve as a premiere retail center, and in 2016 the city embarked on a $21 million streetscape renovation for the stretch. Undergoing extensive changes such as widened sidewalks, new colorful pavement, and blocking off of some roads to vehicle traffic, all of these updates were made with the intention to improve walkability, add space for outdoor dining, and generally improve the pedestrian experience within the area.
Over two decades before the Miracle Mile rejuvenation project began in 1989, John Clarke and Martin Lynch founded John Martin’s on the road. The Irishmen constructed the bar using wood sourced from old buildings in Ireland itself, and over the next 30 years John Martin’s became a staple watering hole and gathering place for the community. After remaining closed for three years, Breakwater Hospitality Group received a blessing from John and Martin to give the bar a new lease on life, bringing in the interior design firm Bigtime Design Studios for renovations.
The building has retained its architectural elements and original millwork, the bar has been updated with a modern color scheme as well as moss-covered greenery wall. John and Martin’s portraits have been installed as an homage to the original owners, and the original coffered ceilings were painted a stark white and red for a fresh take on the classic element. For live performances a small stage has been added next to the massive 43-foot-long bar, creating a new reason for members of the community and visitors to gather at the institution.
The bar’s upstairs restaurant has also retained much of the color from its previous days, serving Irish traditional staples such as pie, fish, and chips from shepherd’s while also offering new menu items such as duck flatbread and glazed meatballs. Drinks include some special cocktails such asthe Miracle Mile Margarita and the Shamrock Shake in addition to a menu including over 300 types of whiskey. John Martin’s Whiskey Society provides an exclusive invitation perk such as personal whiskey lockers which is only experienced by members and prioritized dining services in addition to the wide array of spirits available.
Terranova’s Scope on Miracle Mile
Terranova Corporation’s founder and chairman Stephen Bittel said that JohnMartin’s has always been an integral part of their greater vision for Miracle Mile. Miracle Mile always aimed to offer specific urban spaces that fit right into, where people can enjoy all the area has to offer. It is our pleasure to see new life breathed into this iconic venue and we expect for decades to come it will enjoy great success.
Bittel and his company first purchased an eight-property portfolio on Miracle Mile in the mid-2000s, and has continued to invest in the retail stretch ever since. In addition to 253 Miracle Mile where JohnMartin’s is located, Terranova also owns 220, 300, 232, and 330 Miracle Mile amongst others. The company paid a huge amount for the retail buildings, restaurant Kaia and Gabriella Arango Couture are leased recently to the Greek, and they also paid for the corner building remodeling at 300 Miracle Mile. At the end of 2021, Terranova was able to take advantage of the historically low interest rates at the time and secure a $55 million refinance of its Miracle Mile properties, consolidating and replacing loans from three lenders on 14 properties.
In addition to the properties on Miracle Mile, Terranova also owns a number of properties on the pedestrian-only Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. These investments have been part of a larger strategy on the part of Stephen Bittel to build a portfolio of properties in urban retail centers with walkable downtown cores. After building Terranova Corporation through the purchase and leasing of suburban strip centers, Bittel transitioned the company to focus on areas such as Miracle Mile that provide residents with the ability to live, work and play all within their neighborhood.
A historic street with a storied past, Miracle Mile has proven to be unlike any other urban retail location in the United States. The stretch has grown to seamlessly integrate national brands that have broad appeal with local touchstones of the community such as JohnMartin’s, creating a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. As it and the city itself continues to grow, Bittel and others developing Miracle Mile will continue to look for opportunities like this that keep heritage alive while adapting for the future.