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Friday, August 30, 2013

Grove Harbor ► No Skin In The Game

When I think of seashore I don't think of chrome and glass superstructures.
A faithful reader has written [privately] to ask that I get involved in the latest Coconut Grove controversy, Grove Harbor * [sic], or Grove Horror as some of the locals have taken to calling it. To that end, I spent about 2 hours reading up on the project, both pro & con, but mostly con because there seems to be more of that 'out there' on the innertubes.

I'm philosophically against any development on any waterfront anywhere in the world: It blocks access to the waterfront, no matter how small the waterfront or the development. I am reminded of Frank Lloyd Wright who loved to build on hills, but said you should never build on top of a hill because you lose the hill. Same thing in my opinion.

I tend to think of all Coconut Grove issues in relation to the E.W.F. Stirrup House. This proposed development is just a mile's walk from the E.W.F. Stirrup House. At one time it might have been a gorgeous walk. Walk it these days and you'll barely catch a glimpse of the majesty of Biscayne Bay, with Miami Beach in the distance, even though you're walking parallel to it. Decades of bad decisions along the waterfront have led to what it is today, for better or worse.

What would Emperor Headly do?


The footprint of the proposed Grove Harbour development is roughly everything
on the right half of this vintage post card, but the historic buildings will remain
Let's face it, that job is already filled by alleged corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff. However, if I were a benevolent Emperor of Coconut Grove, here's what I'd do to correct previous dunderheaded mistakes along that section of South Bayshore Drive, after hanging banners that said "The Waterfront Belongs to Everybody."  
  1. Raze every building on the east side of South Bayshore Drive from McFarlane through David T. Kennedy Park, except those few that have historic designation. 
  2. Declare the resultant green space, once landscaped, a People's Park;  
  3. If the members made enough noise, I might be inclined to grandfather in establishments like the Coral Reef Yacht Club and the Coconut Grove Sailing Club, that serve a 'community' of members. However, I would maintain a public access to the waterfront for all;
  4. I would be disinclined to grandfather in commercial enterprises such as Scotty's, the Chart House, or any of the boat sales/rentals places or the charter boat companies. If any of those businesses wish to remain on prime Coconut Grove real estate, they will have to pay through the nose, on short leases, with all the money going into waterfront improvements;
  5. Decree that from this day forward nothing larger than bike racks and public restrooms could be built on the east side of South Bayshore Drive until the end of time;
  6. Remove every parking space from the east side of South Bayshore Drive, forcing people to walk over from the thousands of parking spaces just a few short blocks away in Coconut Grove Center;
  7. Create level pedestrian crossings at every intersection along South Bayshore Drive, forcing drivers to yield to anyone within the crosswalk; 
  8. Add calming speed bumps and traffic circles to discourage drive-through traffic on South Bayshore Drive;
  9. Set my mind on other ways to encourage pedestrians and make it harder for cars along South Bayshore Drive;
  10. Rip out all the mangroves in Peacock Park, which were only planted in the '80s;
  11. Take back Peacock Park from the private lease given to St. Stephen's Church (What the hell was Sarnoff thinking on that one?);
  12. Turn the former NET office into something that actually serves the community.
An artist renderinging of Grove Harbor at night,
when the chrome and glass will really shine
That's just 12 things I would do off the top of my head and, admittedly, I've done no research on these ideas. However, none of my suggestions would ever include building a chrome and glass thingamajig on the waterfront, give restaurants 80-year leases, and attach a huge parking garage. But, that's just me because, in my opinion, the waterfront belongs to everybody.

Truth be told, this is a long-winded way of saying I really don't care and I am hesitant to get involved in this battle. I have no skin in the game. I don't live in Coconut Grove. I don't own a boat, therefore I don't need that kind of access to the water. Nor am I one of those rich folks on the west side of South Bayshore Drive, hoping a few deluxe restaurants and a glitzy glass and chrome dealie on their doorstep will improve their property values. It's hard not to compare those values to the property values on Charles Avenue, just a mile away, where the E.W.F. Stirrup House is still undergoing Demolition by Neglect.

Despite the wish fulfillment expressed in the One Grove mural, Coconut Grove is one of the most racially and economically divided communities you're ever going to see. This project is only 2.2 miles away from the Trolleygate garage, which is across from the One Grove mural, but it might as well be a million miles. The concerns of the folks on South Bayshore Drive are light years away from what affects the people of West Grove. One community is complaining about a huge development that MIGHT be placed on its doorstep, while the other is complaining of huge diesel bus maintenance facility ALREADY dropped on its doorstep, which a judge recently ruled they are powerless to stop. What's wrong with this picture?

At the unveiling of the One Grove mural earlier this year
Truth be told, I really don't know enough about *THIS* particular project to jump into it. There will apparently be a referendum, so the community will have its say. And, when I say "community" I really mean Miami as a whole, because Coconut Grove is only a fraction of Miami. And, the community will get whatever the community decides, unlike West Grove.

However, there are two big red flags on this project that should give everyone pause:
  • Just like Trolleygate and the Coconut Grove Playhouse, all the serious negotiations and decisions have already happened in the back rooms between the politicians and the developers. 
  • Allegedly corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff is involved in Grove Harbor negotiations up to his hip-waders.
As near as I can tell the referendum will just be the rubber stamp to what Coconut Grove assets allegedly corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff has already sold out to the developers. Unless the Coconut Grove community can muster enough opposition to stop the project, it's a fait accompli. Just like Trolleygate was for his other constituents. Rich or poor, Black or White, Marc Sarnoff doesn't care who he sells out.

I'll leave this windmill for the Coconut Grove Grapevine to tilt at.

* My fingers stutter whenever I am called upon to type a word that should have a "U" in it, like harbour and colour.

UPDATE: It turns out my fingers needn't stutter. Grove Harbour is spelled exactly the way I would spell it.