These plans are a disaster for those who care about historical preservation. These plans do nothing to maintain the quiet, residential ambiance of Charles Avenue.
A short history lesson: Charles Avenue, originally called Evangelist Street for its many churches, was the first street in Miami. It was laid out by E.W.F. Stirrup himself, slightly off true east/west because he had no surveying tools. Charles has been designated an Historic Roadway and Stirrup's house has been made an historic site.
Like a bookend, at the far end of Charles Avenue, is the Charlotte Jane Memorial Park Cemetery, named after E.W.F.'s childhood sweetheart. It was once the only place in Miami where Black folk could be buried. To put it simply: The history of Charles Avenue is the beginning of Miami's history, but it also tells a story unique to this country. Because of the almost single-handed efforts of Mr. Stirrup, Coconut Grove once had the highest percentage of Black home ownership than anywhere else in this country.
These architectural plans take a figurative bulldozer to that rich legacy.
Let me state upfront, in case I've not made it abundantly clear in previous posts, that I am totally opposed to turning the E.W.F. Stirrup House into a Bed and Breakfast. A Bed and Breakfast does nothing to honour the legacy of Mr. Stirrup. Furthermore, these plans do nothing to honour the legacy of a Black neighbourhood that's been struggling since the very beginning. However, these plans do everything for Aries Development and the continued gentrification of West Grove. To truly honour Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup, his house needs to relate to its neighbours on the west, not those in the other directions.
Plans for the E.W.F. Stirrup House have been hard to come by.
The last time this reporter spoke to anyone about plans for the E.W.F. Stirrup Property was around the time of The Great Miami Tree Massacre. Talking to the City of Miami, I learned there were no plans whatsoever on file for the E.W.F. Stirrup House. Of greater concern was that there were no plans on file to cut down the trees on the property. Miami takes its canopy seriously; more seriously than it takes its historic buildings, ironically enough. It's illegal to cut down trees without the proper permits, which are only issued after a landscaping site plan has been submitted and approved. Because no landscaping plans had been filed, and no permits issued, the city cited and fined the property owner* $1,000.00 per tree, or $4,000.00 total, and ordered a remediation plan.
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: The landscaping plan that was approved after |
the fact. This square is all we are going to concern ourselves with.
As a result of a Freedom Of Information request, I finally have schematics of what Aries Development intends to do with the E.W.F. Stirrup Property. Gino Falsetto has been saying for years that he intends it to be a Bed and Breakfast. However, "some people say" the original promise was to turn it into a neighbourhood museum. TO BE FAIR: Another neighbourhood faction remembers it always being proposed to be a B&B. Interestingly, neither promise can be found in the City of Miami records. [However, Not Now Silly has recently been given another source of Miami documents to search. There may be more on this aspect of the development coming soon.]
As a novice in studying architectural plans, I took these to an architect who also renovates properties under historic protection. While I thought I had pure gold, I was cautioned not to put too much credence in these plans:
The plans are conceptual at this point and not yet fully compliant with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation of Historic Properties. A process needs to be initiated to designate the property properly if that has not been done yet so that it will be eligible for Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits. There is a note on the plans that the developer is seeking compliance with these Standards so that they can access federal historic tax credits and incentives as a part of the financing but there is no evidence that this process has been initiated. The process includes designation as a property individually listed on the National Register or a contributing building as part of a Historic District, then a 3-part application for the Historic Tax Credits through local, state and federal agencies.
|This is the note referred to above. It's the only thing on the entire plan that gives me any hope |
that, after almost a decade of Demolition by Neglect, the developer MIGHT do the right thing.
What makes the E.W.F. Stirrup House significant? Read: Happy Birthday Coconut Grove!!! Now Honour Your Past
|The E.W.F. Stirrup Property plan|
The E.W.F. Stirrup House is the irregular grey structure at the upper left. Currently, it's the only structure on the property. It's been undergoing nearly a decade of Demolition by Neglect. It has still yet to be sealed from the elements and is never secured. [More about that later.]
On the plan the Stirrup House retains its current footprint. However, there is nothing in these 14 pages of plans that speak to what is intended for the renovations that need to take place inside of the house to turn it into a Bed and Breakfast and bring it up to code, while retaining its historical significance. That will remain a mystery until Aries eventually files those plans. I won't hold my breath.
Bisecting this plan from top to bottom is a paved driveway. I have been told this won't be used as a driveway. I don't believe it for one second. It's as wide as the front gate on Charles Avenue, a gate large enough to allow container trucks through. I do not for one minute accept the proposition that cars won't be parked along this driveway in the fullness of time. However, if it pleases you to call it a footpath, who am I to disabuse you of that silly notion?
The plan indicates a desire to build four additional 'structures' on the property. Five, if you include the new fountain. Let's take them one by one:
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: This drawing shows|
the New Guest Suites Pavilion as it relates
to the E.W.F. Stirrup House. TO BE FAIR:
At least they are making it look as much like
a Bahamian Conch Style House as possible.
TO BE FAIR: The New Guest Suites Pavilion have been designed to imitate the Bahamian-style Conch house architecture of some other homes in Coconut Grove.
However, these questions needs to be asked: A). Why does Aries Development need two additional guest suites to add to its Bed & Breakfast? B). Isn't there enough room in the 2-story, historically designated, E.W.F. Stirrup House that Aries already promised to restore?
TO BE [SARCASTIC AND] FAIR: At least they are tucking it out of the way, next to the air conditioners that cool the restaurants in The Monstrosity, which were dumped on the Stirrup Property years ago. In point of fact: The Stirrup Property has always been where Aries dumped whatever it didn't want to spoil the perfect ambiance of The Monstrosity.
4). The Grill. On the drawing it is called a Parillada [sic] Grill. Not only is it misspelled, but it's a redundancy since "parrillada" translates to "grill."
It's this last feature I find the most offensive, but it's the clue that everything about this plan has been designed to line the developer's pockets. Nothing about this plan speaks to the rich history of the original Bahamian community. To my thinking, this plan screams Rich White Hipster, while it doesn't even whisper Black Historic Preservation.
|The Parrillada Grill, as it relates to the E.W.F. Stirrup House (far |
left). The floor plan is counterclockwise to actual orientation.
Surrounding three sides of the Parrillada Grill is a waist-high counter, over which food can be served, with bar stools surrounding it.
How does a Parrillada Grill fit into the overall Charles Avenue Historic Roadway? How does adding all of these amenities to the Stirrup Property benefit the neighbours to the west? It's clear how it benefits the bad neighbour to the south.
Not Now Silly is filled with five years worth of stories about Aries Development and Gino Falsetto. Each one demonstrates how Aries has been a bad neighbour, failing to maintain the grass on the property and demolishing the interior of the E.W.F. Stirrup House without benefit of a historic preservation plan or demolition permit. Then there's the removal of the wall and the clear-cutting of the old trees, both also done without permits. Not just a bad neighbour, but a scofflaw besides.
If I were making the decisions, and clearly I'm not, I would refuse to allow Aries Development to expand its little empire before Gino Falsetto has made good on his original promise to RESTORE the E.W.F. Stirrup House.
|Lookie: Newly sodded!!! The E.W.F. Stirrup House still ignored.|
However, when Aries needs to pretend there has been some progress, it does something superficial. A few years back, in anticipation of a Charles Avenue Historic Preservation Committee meeting, it removed all of the vines growing up the back of the house and across the roof. However, in the process it destroyed parts of the house. Now that people have started sniffing around about its plans for the property, Aries laid down sod. Once again, Aries will be able to point at something and say, "See? It's getting better."
But, "better" would also mean that Aries is PROTECTING the house. All available evidence points to the opposite. The house has been empty and undergoing Demolition by Neglect for the entire time Aries has held the lease. Aries has yet to even seal the Stirrup House from the elements, which are extremely hard on wooden structures. Water, mold and mildew are its worst enemies and it rains here almost daily.
|Front gate left open at 7:15 AM|
However, even if that front gate were left locked, the fence behind it is only waist-high and provides no deterrent to those with nefarious intent. [Original renderings show the waist-high fence was to be as tall as the 6' gate.]
As I walked through the gate, I stopped several times to take pictures. I did not hide or act furtive. Nor did I rush. No one stopped me. No one challenged me. In fact, I did not see another person the entire half hour I wandered around.
|Access to La Bottega's patio seating. |
The E.W.F. Stirrup House is to the right.
And, not just patrons. Absolutely anyone. Later in the day, at around noon, I strolled in and walked past the hostess saying, "I need to use the washroom." But I didn't. While still within her sight lines I walked past the washrooms, through to La Bottega's outdoor patio, to the very back of the Stirrup House. There I met a guy who worked for the Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums. We had a 15 minute conversation about the house and his boss, Gino Falsetto. I think I told him that his boss is the devil incarnate, but I may have just called him evil. At no time did he ever challenge me for being there and happily engaged in conversation until I excused myself.
|7:15 AM: The back door is open. At noon it was open wider.|
It's almost as if Aries Development doesn't REALLY care about the E.W.F. Stirrup House. For all it knows people have been sneaking inside to sleep or smoke crack.
A developer who cares about his investment will make sure it is kept safe. A developer who doesn't care turns a blind eye to what's going on, with the hopes that somehow the house, an impediment to his larger plans, might just disappear when no one is looking, either by Demolition by Neglect or fire. Aries Development seems to think that proposing a white picket fence at the front of the property will make people forget nearly a decade of Demolition by Neglect.
I'm here to see that doesn't happen.
Join the Facebook group Save the
E.W.F. Stirrup House. Let's pressure the
city and developer to do the right thing.
[Pictured above are details of the architectural drawings. See the full documents below.]
* The property owner of record is not the rapacious developer who got his grubby mitts on a 50-year lease on the E.W.F. Stirrup House. However, whenever the lessee is delinquent in its commitment to provide upkeep on the property, it's the owner of record which is cited and fined.
Full architectural drawings: