Despite the rain clouds passing over the Douglas Entrance in North Ponce, nearly 70 people of all ages gathered around the plaza’s fountain to join in the only 2019 Jane’s Walk in Coral Gables. Named after Jane Jacobs, a Canadian-American urbanist and author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities — which still influences city planners today — Jane’s Walks are free annual neighborhood tours across the world during the first weekend in May.
North Ponce was envisioned by Coral Gables founder and developer, George Merrick, to be a garden apartment district. The district was also planned to have a collection of cultural and civic institutions, such as a museum of natural history, a library, and the coliseum. The mix of historic garden apartments and civic buildings creates the perfect environment for walking tours.
Also known as the Douglas Section named after the Douglas family groves that once occupied the area, North Ponce was purchased by George Merrick for $285,000. The opening of the 180-acre development was announced on January 15, 1924, which extended the city’s boundaries to Douglas Road and the Tamiami Trail, where he built the most elaborate entrance, the Douglas Entrance.
Guided by Brett Gillis, participants learned that unlike previous developments in Coral Gables, North Ponce was primarily for apartments and hotels, that catered to the increasing number of tourists pouring into Miami in the 1920’s. The tour also stopped at a few single-family homes that were originally medium-priced homes at construction because Merrick was concerned about people being priced-out of the market.
The tour also included special appearances and presentations by local owners of single-family homes and garden apartments. Maven Real Estate and Venny Torre of Torre Construction and Development - who are currently renovating the famous La Palma - opened the popular courtyard to share their new plans for this historic structure.
“Our intent is to restore the style and glamour of one of Coral Gables’ original landmarks,” says Maven Principle Marc Schwarzberg.
The North Ponce Walking Tour was hosted in partnership with Dade Heritage Trust, Business Improvement District of Coral Gables, Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables, Coral Gables Community Foundation, The Villagers, FreeBee, and the Coral Gables Museum.
Photos from the North Ponce Walking Tour can be found here.