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Sunday, May 01, 2016

Tropical Mother's Day show and sale

The Tropical Flowering Tree Society is hosting their annual Mother's Day Show & Sale where hundreds of rare and unusual tropical flowering trees, shrubs, and vines are made available to the public.

The event is Saturday and Sunday, May 7 and 8, at Fairchild Tropical Botanica Garden from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm each day.

Free grafting demonstrations will be on throughout the event, as well as access to information from a variety of horticultural experts and landscape professionals.

The show and sale is free after admission to Fairchild which is located at 10901 Old Cutler Road.

Contact TFTSMiami@yahoo.com for more info.

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BioBlitz is about citizen scientists

Experience wild Vizcaya and discover the site’s biodiversity through an event sponsored by National Geographic. In a BioBlitz, curious “citizen scientists” gather to count as many plants, animals, and other organisms as possible in 24 hours. Learn techniques for exploring, observing, collecting data, and uploading photographs using iNaturalist on your phone or tablet (though it’s not required to participate). 

Join a team of scientists and experts, to help identify the many kinds of life in Vizcaya’s pocket of preserved habitat smack in the middle of bustling Miami.

During this evening program, we'll get a chance to see the nocturnal wildlife at Vizcaya by using techniques like the "light sheet" pictured here to attract insects.

Even in this pocket of preserved habitat, Vizcaya gets busy when visitors are onsite. In the early morning hours, however, Vizcaya is busy with different kinds of activity—birds. Join scientist and birder Dr. John Withey for an opportunity to explore the estate before they open, when our feathered residents are most active.  

Experience Vizcaya’s variety of bird life by wandering along the bay to look for water birds or up on the Garden Mound to find birds perched in the Live Oaks. 

Bring the family to experience wild Vizcaya and discover the site’s biodiversity through this event.

Tickets are $7.32 ea. for children 7 to 17 years; adults: $19.98 and under 5 is free.

Tickets (and info) for the Evening Edition, Friday, May 13, 6 pm, are here.

Tickets (and info) for the Birds Edition, Saturday, May 14, 6 am, is here.

Tkckets (and info) for the Family Edition, Saturday, May 14, 9:30 am are here.

Vizcaya is at 3251 S. Miami Avenue. For info: 305-860-8431

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

When Food Truck Friday was a thing


Here is a story from October 14, 2011, when Food Truck Friday started.

Food Truck Friday hits Coconut Grove Bank lot

food5
food10There was lots of Food Truck Love today when the first Food Truck Friday happened at the Coconut Grove Bank parking lot. The whole bank building came out to enjoy and so did all the workers in the buildings around the general area.

Lynn Cambest, Executive VP of Coconut Grove Bank, was all smiles and thumbs up. He was thrilled at the turn out. 

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Christine Woll, the bank's Marketing Director, in center, was all smiles, too. This was her idea and she plans on expanding it to more trucks and possibly having it later in the day, around happy hour time, so that people from other areas of the city can come and enjoy.

food1
Ms. Cheezious, Mr. Good Stuff, The Health Nut on Wheels and Wrap It Up were out from 11:30 am to 2:00 pm.

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Tables were set up and the bank already has cement tables and umbrellas there usually, so it was a nice cozy way to have lunch on a nice Miami low humidity day.
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The trucks were thrilled and they told me that they enjoy being in the Grove and would love to be here every chance they get.
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For now it seems, many of the food trucks have Food Truck Friday as a regular event date on their calendars.

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Stop by next week if you can. There is something for everyone.
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Our favorite is always Ms. Cheezious, but there were plenty of other choices and it should get better and better as the weeks go on. Originally I thought that the parking lot company, Paradise Parking was throwing the event, but Coconut Grove Bank can take credit for the whole thing. And they did an excellent job of coordinating this.

food12

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Before and after

Look at this. Before and after. 3600 Hibiscus, across from Plymouth Congregational Church. Looks like Father Knows Best or Leave to Beaver, used in many commercials. Even had a vine entrance at the gate. White picket fence. Perfect. Now see it below.


Scalped. Prime for multi-unit dwellings. Sad.

Why was demolition approved? This has to stop.

Proud tree murderers at 4215 Braganza. 

4215 Braganza before here, and after, below.

There is a petition to save the Park Avenue home that I wrote about earlier in the week, you can check that out here.


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Lost Spaces and Stories opening party is May 5

Lost Spaces and Stories of Vizcaya (Phase I) opens Thursday, May 5 with an opening exhibit party. Lost Spaces features site-specific installations by South Florida-based artists Duane Brant, Amanda Keeley, Juraj Kojs, Lucinda Linderman, David Rohn, Magnus Sigurdarson and Frances Trombly. 

The exhibition commemorates Vizcaya’s centennial by exploring its history, original design intent, and daily life at the estate in its early years. Over the past century, nature, man and time have transformed Vizcaya, and many of its spaces and stories have been lost or forgotten. Following a competitive selection process, eleven local artists were commissioned to create works that claim and inhabit these spaces and stories.

Phase II of Lost Spaces and Stories of Vizcaya opens on November 17, 2016 and features installations by Brookhart Jonquil, Mira Lehr and Yara Travieso, Kerry Phillips and Leyden Rodriguez Casanova. 

Lost Spaces and Stories of Vizcaya marks the tenth anniversary of the Contemporary Arts Program (CAP), a Vizcaya-based commission program that invites artists to develop work inspired by the estate for onsite exhibitions. CAP draws on the spirit of creative dialogue that characterized Vizcaya’s founding, continuing Vizcaya owner James Deering’s patronage of the arts by engaging contemporary artists to create site-specific works that explore the estate in new and intriguing ways. From painters John Singer Sargent and Gari Melchers, both houseguests, to sculptor A. Stirling Calder, responsible for the figures on the Barge, Vizcaya consistently has been a source of inspiration to artists.

The opening event on May 5 is from 7:30 to 9:30 pm.

Tickets are $7 for members; $15 for non-members, purchase here.

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens is located at3251 S Miami Avenue.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Art Box celebrating 2nd birthday with a party

Art Box is having a Mother's Day anniversary celebration. They are about to turn two years old.

Whether you have signed up with them during their first days as an art school or in the past couple of weeks, they would like to invite you to their celebration on Saturday, May 7 from 10:30 am to noon. The workshop starts at 11 am.

They will be offering a mommy and me workshop, refreshments and birthday cake, raffle prizes and more.

Dads are welcome, too.

Admission is $5 per person.

Please rsvp to info@artboxmiami.com

Art Box is located at 2911 Grand Avenue, suite 400E.

On Saturday, May 14, Art Box is teaming up with Shake-a-Leg with an Art Excursion. They will be kayaking to a nearby island where there will be lunch and a nature inspried lesson. You will bring your own lunch for the picnic.

This is from 10 am to 1:30 pm at Shake-A-Leg, 2620 S. Bayshore Drive.

Admission is $50 for adults, $20 for kids. 50% of the proceeds will got to Shake-A-Leg.

Please rsvp to info@artbox.com

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Woofstock is back at The Barnacle on Sunday

Woofstock, the crazy doggie day is back at The Barnacle on Sunday, May 1. 

Bring your dog for pet tricks, a dog/owner look-alike contest, K-9 officers, adoptions, an animal blessing, hot food, and live music are all part of the fun. As always during regular business hours, well-behaved pets are welcome. 

All dogs must be on a hand-held leash that does not exceed six feet in length. The event is included with the regular $2 per person park admission. Kids 5 and under are free.

Woofstock is from 11 am to 4 pm.

The Barnacle Historic State Park is located at 3485 Main Highway. 

For additional information, please call 305-442-6866 or visit TheBarnacle.org

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Mad as hell and not going to take it anymore

Francisco Garcia, Director of Planning & Zoning, City of Miami
The Grove Neighborhood Meeting Wednesday night at Plymouth Church was about angry neighbors confronting a few city workers from the Planning and Zoning Department. People are tired of the abuse the Grove is receiving from developers who are not only destroying the tree canopy, but also overbuilding out-of-character homes on single house lots.

The major concerns were demolition, lot splitting, tree abuse, construction and historic preservation. The bottom line is that neighbors need to be vigilant and it works in many cases. Call the police, call the city, wear down the developers so that they know that the Grove is mad as hell and won't take it anymore.

One problem seems to be that most of the city commissioners don't care about the Grove. They don't care about trees and they feel that the fines are too high as it is, while Grovites feel that the fines are too low ($500 per tree for residential, $1000 for commercial), but along with the fines are high fees for mitigation, which are based on the tree's diameter, so the mitigation fee could be as high as $50,000 per tree, but the scofflaws have to be caught and that's where it's almost a case of Crime Watch, but it will be Tree Watch and Over-development Watch.

The one person who made sense the whole evening was Francisco Garcia, Director of the City of Miami's Planning and Zoning Department. Francisco admits the department is understaffed and that's why residents need to speak up. If you see something, say something. He spoke about the white box houses and said that they are legal, that while houses are supposed to match the neighborhood, for some reason these houses are permitted. It's a question of taste and what the developers can sell.

But there is talk of making changes - changing the rules to prevent specific style houses. But Francisco did make the point that it could affect everyone, including those against the new style housing, who may want to sell their own property one day,  so it's a good idea to think this out first.

Francisco told the crowd, "We are mindful of what you are saying, we are taking notes."


For Zoning questions and inquiries, please contact the Zoning Division, 305-416-1499. Call 100 times if you need to. If you see the City chopping down trees, you have a legal right to have them stop on the spot and come back later, just tell them you are researching what they are doing.  A list of emails and phone numbers for the various people in the Planning and Zoning Department is here. Print it. Save it. Use it.

Laws were enforced in 2010 and today they are not being enforced. A stop work order should be issued if trees are destroyed and multi-dwelling are planned out for a single plat lot.

Properties that were singled out for the mess they have become are:
3600 Hibiscus ( a beautiful house used in many commercials)
4384 Ingraham Highway
4200 Grove Street
3737 Justison Road (trees just "mysteriously" died)

But of course the list goes on and on.

Proper notification is needed for a warrant, that is when a single lot is being split up, or a waiver, that is when a house is going to be demolished - neighbors within 500 feet of the property should be notified, but many are missing the notifications. There are only 15 days to appeal and if someone is out of town, they may not have the 15 days. The best solution is to have neighborhood groups receive notifications, too, and also, once a year, you can sign up at the NET office, and have the notices go directly to the Village Council, who will monitor the situation for you.


One solution talked about was to have an Overlay for Coconut Grove as part of Miami21 that will protect our trees and raise fines.

Someone asked if the City Zoning Department ever turned down a warrant, the answer was "no."

The bottom line is that the city uses Coconut Grove as a cash cow. A small house on a property that brings in $6000 per year in taxes, will possibly bring in $60,000 per year by having new residents and by having four properties on one plat of land. Greed. Always greed.

The best line of the night came from our County Commissioner Xavier Suarez who said, "The Grove has been waiting a long time for some down zoning. 5000 square foot lots don't belong in the Grove." He said that a clue to over-development is street widening. He was opposed to the SW 27th Avenue job. Too many trees were removed and the street was widened and straightened out, which caused the removal of so many trees. The answer he says is mass transit. And down zoning.

Commissioner Ken Russell was present at the meeting too, and he, along with Commissioner Suarez seems to want to put the developers on the run. People are taking a stand to save the tree canopy and stop the over-development. The Grove will not be sold out anymore.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Fit Kids Day at Peacock Park

District 2 Commissioner Ken Russell invites you to attend Fit Kids Day on Saturday, April 30 at Peacock Park from 10 am to 1 pm. The purpose of this event is to educate children on the benefits of living healthily and give them the opportunity to discover what this entails.  

Since 2012, thousands of families have attended this event that allows children to try a variety of outdoor activities and healthy food, free of charge. Stations are set up with professional trainers that allow children to explore physical activities they might have never experienced, such as soccer, lacrosse, tennis, martial arts, and rock climbing.  

Kids are also encouraged to try a host of nutritious foods.  The hope is that this exposure will incentivize them to become permanently involved in sports and healthy eating to combat childhood obesity. Commissioner Russell and the District 2 Office fully support this local initiative that brings awareness to a nationwide issue.

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Wearing the 'tree hugger' label loud and proud

The Water Restoration Group (WRG) Biscayne Bay Clean-Up wants help in spreading awareness of our pollution problem. The WRG is hosting the WRG Biscayne Bay Clean-up and everyone is welcome. The recent Baynanza shore clean-up left Kennedy Park out of the mix, but WRG will take up the slack on Saturday, April 30 with a clean up of the park.

Join in from 8:30 to 11 am. A lite lunch will be available for volunteers and refreshments will be provided by Neuro Water. This event is free. 

Please register here at eventbrite.

A waiver must be signed prior to participation. 

As a water damage restoration company, they are all too familiar with the chaos caused by natural disasters. With climate change becoming an ever increasing problem, the WRG hopes to spread awareness of the environmental crisis threatening our waters and marine life by getting the whole community involved.

“I don’t mind if we’re called tree huggers. As a company we had two options: we could throw money at the problem, or roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. We are not above saving the planet.” says Henry Dow, president of The Water Restoration Group.

The WRG has dedicated the last 11 years to mitigating damages caused by flood and storm damage all over South Florida. They service residential and commercial properties all over Miami-Dade and Broward county. 

Learn more at thewaterrestorationgroup.com or call at 305.661.2533

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The Park Avenue saga goes on

Some of you were upset that I brought up the subject of the house on Park Avenue, claiming that I allowed the owners to be attacked before they had a chance to respond. But they did respond, I have a whole story on Ray Castellanos' response.

I did not mention names in the first story and only talked about the issue because this is a big issue in Coconut Grove, and if it doesn't seem to pertain to you, it is very important to these neighbors who have been trying to figure out the fate of the house for the past six months. Plus, this house is just one example of what has been going on in the Grove for years.

To clarify some other things, I asked more questions of Authentic Construction and Ray's partner Manny Fernandez answered them. Here they are below, in blue, but it seems more confusing than ever. Ray tells me they are trying to save the house, Manny says here that they aren't. Ray says the floors are soft, the traffic light and that intersection are not good quality of living in that house and termites are a problem. He says he is in no rush to do anything, he is living in the house. "I don't have a plan yet," says Ray.

I heard from someone involved with the sale of the house, and was told that Ray had someone else purchase the house with the promise that he would develop the land and flip it and they would share the profits. The previous owner pulled the demolition permit, they felt that it would help the sale of the house and that the permit would never be approved because of the significance of the house, but for some reason, the permit was approved.  Ray and his benefactor waited until the permit was approved and then they struck. Ray and his family moved into the house and we're at this point now. There was a feeding frenzy of developers who wanted the property. This is the case with every property that goes up for sale now where there is a lot of land.

Here is Manny, Ray's partners's response from Authentic Construction:


In response to your inquiries below:

Ownership: Ray has an ownership stake in the home via his ownership in the limited liability company under which the home was purchased.   
Demo permit: The demolition permit was applied for in June 2015 by the previous homeowner, two months before we purchased the home. We chose to continue pursuing the demolition permit as the process was already underway. Nothing was "snuck under the radar." Quite the contrary...we conducted numerous meetings with zoning and historical staff members at the City of Miami, and furthermore consulted with an archaeologist, the Director of HistoryMiami, and Bob Brennan who is currently the highly respected arborist for Fairchild Tropical Garden and a native of Coconut Grove.  Letters were also issued to neighbors notifying them that this process was underway.
Lot orientation: Ray stated that he was clear on the fact that the two lots are facing Douglas however the intent is to reorient the lots towards Park Ave due to the restricted and unsafe access from 37th Avenue.   
Unidentified trees: As stated above, Bob Brennan has been consulted throughout the process and was retained in September 2015 to provide a detailed report that included a list of all trees on the property.  He spent several weeks tagging and photographing the trees on the property.  His initial report was missing one tree that he was unable to initially identity, however he eventually identified the tree and completed the arborist certification report.  I suspect that your source is referring to an outdated report and/or survey.  We continue to consult with Mr. Brennan and met with him on site as recently as last week.
Columns: We committed, in writing, to salvage the existing porch columns via donation to the History Miami Collection, or by incorporating them into the design of the home.  The columns are still pending authentication, however they will be salvaged nonetheless.

This is not the end of this. Neighbors are steamed and banding together to stop the house from being destroyed.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Coffee With A Cop

Our local police have a great concept for meeting the public. It's Coffee With A Cop, on Wednesday, April 27 at the McDonald's on US1 and 32nd Avenue (McDonald Avenue). 

Stop by from 9 to 11 am and join neighbors and local police officers for complimentary coffee and conversation.

There are no speeches or agenda, just a chance to meet the officers and ask questions and discuss issue.

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Poetry in Vizcaya's gardens

Actor James Franco with
poet Frank Bidart
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The gardens of Vizcaya are an inspiration for poetry during April’s National Poetry Month. To that end, Vizcaya is hosting O, Miami readings wtih Frank Bidart and Peg Boyers on Wednesday, April 27 from 7 to 8:30 pm.

Frank Bidart is a National Book Critics Circle Award-winning poet and will be reading from his well-known works including Metaphysical Dog (FSG, 2013). Poet Peg Boyers, adjunct professor at Columbia University and executive editor of Salmagundi, will also read from To Forget Venice. Informal readings from FIU Honors College students sharing their original works inspired by Vizcaya will be featured as part of the “Vizcaya as Text” academic project.

April also features a poetry garden walk inspiration experience where visitors encounter prompts to create their own poems throughout Vizcaya’s gardens and grounds. Created by poet Nick Vagnoni, this poetry tour encourages visitors to look at Vizcaya through a different lens and to write their own poems in response. O, Miami will gather poems created for their archives.

Poetry garden walk inspiration experience, ongoing from 9:30 am – 4:30 pm daily except Tuesdays through April 30.

O, Miami (formerly “University of Wynwood”) is a Knight Foundation-funded organization that expands and advances literary culture in Greater Miami, FL. O, Miami produces a visiting writer series, a poetry festival, a publishing imprint, and other programs that bring the best literature to the greatest number of people. Visit omiami.org.

Your $6.27 ticket includes admission to Vizcaya and complimentary beer by Biscayne Bay Brewery. Get tickets at eventbrite here

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is located at 3251 South Miami Avenue.

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More on the Park Avenue house

I spoke with Ray Castellanos who is the owner of the house at 3701 Park Avenue. Ray owns Authentic Construction along with his wife and and partner Manny Fernandez.

Authentic Construction builds custom houses and Ray, who lives in the Park Avenue house with his family, may or may not demolish the old house to make way for something new. Ray says that he loves Coconut Grove and they moved here because they want to live here. The property has two lots, the old house is on the east side and if he can keep the house as-is, he will. On the west side he will build another house, which will fit in with the neighborhood, he encourages neighbors to reach out and guide him. I found it strange to hear that no one has reached out to Ray; he says that everyone has emails and complaints going back and forth but no one has even bothered to speak with him to hear his plans. 

I think the red flag was the fact that he is a home builder and that there is a demolition permit for the house.

Ray told me that the demolition permit on the property was already there when he bought it. He moved in to the house with his family to get the feel of the place, to see if it was livable.

Ray invited me over to see the house personally, but I wanted to file this story and didn't have time to see the house first, but I will go by soon. In fact, many of you will have the opportunity to meet Ray, as he is interested in attending the meeting about the Tree Canopy at Plymouth Church on Wednesday night (7 pm).

"I dont know how much I will be able to afford, but the goal is that my family and I stay in the two story home and we build a house on the second lot," says Ray. Two lots face Park Avenue, according to the city.

"If I was to win the lottery tomorrow, and I could build myself a house, well I am going to build myself the coolest 3000 sq foot house possible," says Ray. 

I'm not sure how that preserves the old house. But let's hope Ray doesn't win the lottery if that's his plans. 

Ray's company does a lot of construction in Bal Harbour, Bay Harbor and Key Biscayne. And he says he is surrounded in these communities with white boxed houses. But he doesn't feel that they belong in Coconut Grove.

"It pisses me off to drive by the South Grove and see a big mansion coming up and overpowering the neighboring house. That upsets me. I love urban planning, I love cities [but this doesn't belong in the neighborhood,]" he said.

A problem with the house on Park Avenue is the street light on Ingraham and Douglas that is always flashing inside the bedroom window. And there is always loud traffic on the street - even at 3 am. But he does want to preserve the house if he can. "I've been speaking with a responsible architect who has served on the city's historic board. I think it's a responsibility, I would like when people come over they can say, this is what the old Grove was like," says Ray.

I asked Ray about the 100 year old columns from the Royal Palm Hotel. He says he met with someone from the HistoryMiami museum and discussed the columns. He also met with Megan Cross Schmitt, the City of Miami Planning & Zoning Department Preservation Officer, who went over to the house to see them. "Even if no one wants the columns, I won't get rid of them, I feel responsible for them," says Ray.

He told me that the columns aren't even authenticated yet, they need to be authenticated to be sure they even came from the old hotel. "If the house goes down and the museum only takes a couple, I will use the rest on the new house," Ray says.

He went on, "I am open to recommendations from anyone who does this kind of salvaging. Please keep in mind I build high end homes, my crew does very detailed work, but I would like to find someone who specializes in this kind of work," if it comes to that.

"I am all in. I am living in Coconut Grove. I would like to do my part to keep the neighborhood the way it is supposed to be."

One thing that I feel will comfort people is that Ray has been consulting with arborist Bob Brennan, a fellow Grovite. Ray wants to protect the vegetation. Now if he could find someone to guide him with the old house in it's restoration. 

Before we spoke, Ray told me, "I believe in the values that you are fighting for. I think that when we speak you will find that I am not an enemy, I may actually be able to help the fight."

Continued tomorrow. 

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Luncheon features Commissioner and Senator

Comm. Suarez
Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez and Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla are featured speakers at the next Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Friday, May 6.

Suarez is the District 7 commissioner, which covers Coconut Grove and Diaz de La Portilla represents District 40. 

This event is a combined chamber event at the Sonesta Coconut Grove along with the Key Biscayne Chamber and Miami Brickell Chamber of Commerce. Both speakers will update attendees on the latest developments affecting their districts and constituents from both a county and Tallahassee perspective.

A special display will be set up and representatives of Miami-Dade County's Small Business Development Department will be on hand to introduce, educate and recruit small business owners for participation in County "Goods and Services, Architectural and Engineering and Construction Contracts". This is a wonderful opportunity to learn small business owners can compete for these county contracts whether you sell printing services, office supplies, furniture, etc. 


Sen. Diaz De La Portilla
If you are an architect or an engineer you will want to meet these representatives and possibly grow your business. Construction and tradespeople should stop by and learn how to qualify for County business.

Everyone should pre-register at coconutgrovechamber.com. Go to the Events page for May 6 and register on-line. This will be a very well attended event and on-site registration may cause long lines at the registration table outside the dining room. Your time will be better spent networking with our honored speakers, and other business professionals.

Prices: Members of any of the three Chambers $45.00. Non-Members $60.00

There will be valet parking at the hotel, and there is an inexpensive underground garage a few doors down from the hotel (at the traffic light).

The luncheon is from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm, The Sonest is located at 2889 McFarlane Road.

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Saving an historic house on Park Avenue

The fight to save our history is ongoing. A house that is slated for demolition, that South Grove neighbors are trying to stop, but it may be too late, is at 3701 Park Avenue, which is in perfect condition, as you can see by these recent photos.

The home, built around 1916-17, originally had the address of 4134 Douglas Road, it was built for Frederick Henshaw Pollars, Sr. and his wife Anne Durling Pollard from Boston, MA. Their children attended school at Ransom Everglades, originally called the Adirondack Florida School.

The demolition permit has been approved. The 15-day appeal period has passed. But no one was notified of the plans. The neighbors should be legally notified so they may appeal if they wish. This is almost a daily occurrence in Coconut Grove. Older, historic homes are being destroyed so that larger, newer homes can take their place, sometimes more than one house on one plat of land. It's all about money, nothing more. These same homes in New England, for instance, will be sold and resold for generations and remain the same year after year, in Miami and Coconut Grove, greedy developers are in and out and have no regard for the neighborhood or its history. 

According to Ann Pollard, Frederick and Anne's granddaughter, "The home is frame construction - the exterior being stucco and coral rock and the inside wood lathe and plaster walls.  When I lived in the home it was 4 bedrooms and 3 baths upstairs along with an office (my nursery when I was born). Downstairs was the kitchen, butler's pantry, dining room, living room with fireplace and a foyer/family room. The columns were taken from a hotel to create the large patio with the indoor planters."

The hotel that Mrs. Pollard refers to was Henry Flagler's Royal Palm Hotel which opened January 16, 1897. 13 to 15 of the original Royal Palm columns are part of the house at Park and Douglas. Since Mrs. Pollard's house was built in 1916, it is assumed that the porch with the hotel columns were added after 1930 since that is the time the Royal Palm was demolished. You can see similar columns here at the Royal Palm Hotel.

This was the first large hotel in Miami, which stood at the mouth of the Miami River - it is where the Epic condo is now, formerly the Dupont Plaza Hotel, along with the InterContinental Hotel and so much more of that area where parking lots once stood. Bayfront Park downtown was part of the grounds of the Royal Palm Hotel, too.  It's the whole area of land to the right as you go from Brickell over the river to downtown. It's on the north side.


The kitchen today at
3701 Park Avenue.
The Royal Palm was torn down in June 1930. It started to deteriorate after such a short span of time. The great hurricane of 1926 damaged it severely. It could not open for the winter season that year (it only opened in winter). In 1928, Joseph P. Greaves, head of the hotel for 22 years, died and the construction of the SE 2nd Avenue Bridge required demolition of the hotel's west wing (eminent domain?). It was declared a fire hazard and that was the end.

Miami Wrecking and Salvage was in charge of demolishing the hotel and selling off what was left and the columns ended up at the Park Avenue house.

Megan Cross Schmitt, City of Miami Planning & Zoning Department Preservation Officer, claims that "The NCD-3 overlay language states that all demolition waivers are to be referred to the Planning Department for review under the Tree Preservation Ordinance, not the Historic Preservation Ordinance. This is why there is no report prepared by the Preservation Office for the buildings that are applying for demolition waivers. Is this why not one of the neighbors was notified about the demolition?

NCD-3 is the Coconut Grove Neighborhood Conservation District. But even looking at the city's Miami21 appendix of conservation districts, they call Douglas Road (Douglas Avenue); the plans aren't even written correctly. (See page 15 for NCD-3 info). 

Miami 21 states, "The intent of the Coconut Grove Neighborhood Conservation District NCD-3 is to establish a protective series of legislative elements to preserve the historic, heavily landscaped character of Coconut Grove's residential areas; enhance and protect Coconut Grove's natural features such as the tree canopy and green space; and protect the architectural variety within the unique single family neighborhood that comprises Coconut Grove. The community of Coconut Grove predates the City of Miami, and is known for its character, derived from lush landscaping, and naturally occurring vegetation and trees, and its unique property sizes and shapes; bay views; geologic features; proximity to Biscayne Bay; public open space; recreational opportunities; commercial services; and a special character imparted by its tropical vegetation and historic structures. Properties shall not be platted, re-platted or configured in any way that destroys a median, green space, landscape easement or road configuration that contributes to the character of the subdivision within the NCD-3 area."

Does the city even read and implement their own laws or are the lobbyists and developers in charge?

Megan went on to say, "I know that you and some of your neighbors are frustrated by the demolitions that are occurring throughout Coconut Grove. Unfortunately, the NCD-3 language as it currently stands does not offer the kinds of protections against demolition that you have mentioned you would like to see."

As usual, the City doesn't have a clue and really doesn't care about preserving anything. As long as they can make money from permits, taxes and the like, they will approve any job, any demolition and feign ignorance. Neighbors were never notified of the demolition plans and never had time to appeal. The largest tree on the property is not even part of the plans drawn up, most likely because it is going to be chopped down. And if found out, a nominal fine will be paid, as part of doing business.

"The greed, lust and zeal for bigger concrete sprawl and fat property tax revenue has all the City of Miami Commissioners, Mayor, and all related department heads are looking the other way as the charming character of our neighborhood just gets bulldozed and replaced with zero lot line McMansions," says a next door neighbor. 

The idea is to mitigate the removal and/or destruction of the columns. How do you mitigate 100 year old columns that are part of Miami's history? And what about the house itself? Other than greed, what is the purpose of destroying the house?

I hate to sound like a broken record, but it's time that Coconut Grove secede from the City of Miami. 

Recent photos by John Nordt / historical photos courtesy of State Archives Florida

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Grove 2030 has five committees you may like

A friend sent me the mission statement for the Grove 2030 group. I sometimes question the group because in all honesty, we don't know what's happening tomorrow, let alone in the year 2030, but they do have great plans and ideas for the future of our community. Tomorrow, a huge conglomerate can purchase the whole Center Grove and turn it into Mary Brickell Village south. Then what? It' back to square one.

Part of the 2030 Group mission states: "In 2030 the village of Coconut Grove will be distinguished by lush, natural beauty; authentic character and traditions; and by a diverse and engaged citizenry. A network of safe, tree-lined neighborhoods will be linked by bike- and pedestrian-friendly pathways to a vibrant, sustainable business core that caters to the Grove’s eclectic mix of inhabitants."

Our character and traditions have been all but destroyed and the lushness of our village is going away fast, too. I see 2030 as being all chrome and glass, basically another Brickell. 

I honestly wish the group could save the Grove from turning into that. If you are interested in joining the Grove 2030 working groups (there are five), you can volunteer to help out.

Each working group will address a different strategic focus area: (1) Transportation, (2) Civic & Cultural Life, (3) Commercial/Retail, (4) Parks & Public Space, and (5) Housing. These working groups will be composed of diverse stakeholders from the community who are willing to volunteer their time and energy to drafting a plan of action. 

Strategic Goals: by 2030…

Transportation
A pedestrian- and bike-friendly pathway will safely link all Coconut Grove residents to each other, the commercial/retail sector, parks and public spaces and other community assets.

Through the promotion and implementation of public and other alternative modes of transportation, automobile traffic in Coconut Grove will decrease by 40%. Every street and intersection of Coconut Grove will safely accommodate pedestrians, cyclists and users of other alternative modes of transportation.

Civic & Cultural Life
The removal or significant alteration of any structure older than 50 years will require approval from an independent historic review board.

Coconut Grove will govern its own municipal affairs.

Coconut Grove will be nationally recognized as the preeminent arts and cultural district in Miami-Dade.

Commercial/Retail
Coconut Grove’s village center will be economically self-sustaining – a symbiotic balance of office, retail, commercial, entertainment, and resident core services.

A “Special District” will coordinate policy and operations of Coconut Grove’s commercial/retail district.

Coconut Grove business sector will be recognized as statewide leader in environmental sustainability practices.

Parks & Public Spaces
Every Coconut Grove resident will live within a quarter-mile walk of a publically-accessible park, green space or designated open space.

Coconut Grove’s total tree canopy will be 25 percent greater than 2015 levels.

A comprehensive, pro-active response plan will protect Coconut Grove’s parks and public spaces from the threats posed by climate change.

Housing Goals
Coconut Grove will be the recognized leader among Miami-Dade communities in innovation, sustainable development, and Green housing initiatives.

At least 70 percent of all homes and condos will be owner-occupied.

Attainable housing stock – both rental and ownership – will increase 10 percent over existing levels.

To get more info and/or to join a committee, please contact Grove 2030 at 
info@grove2030.org

The Grove 2030 Advisory Committee: Lucas Azar, Katrina Boler, Erin Clancy, Lalo Durazo, Ruth Ewing, Raymond Fort, Javier Gonzalez, Thorn Grafton, Joanna Lombard David Martin, Charles Munroe, Rachel Silverstein, Dave Villano.

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Public Space Challenge is on

The Public Space Challenge took submissions for neighbors' ideas on taking vibrant public spaces and turning them into spaces that connect neighbors. 

The Challenge helps in creating, improving and activating parks, plazas and local gathering places. Together with Health Foundation of South Florida and the Office of Miami-Dade County Commissioner Juan C. Zapata, they invest $305,000 to make the top ideas a reality.

Individuals, groups, for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations submitted ideas, the submissions ended on April 21. 

A couple were submitted regarding Coconut Grove.

Bonsai Miami suggested a pop-up bonsai garden. The small gardens would feature low cost, short term installations in parks and such. Waterhole is another idea from Home Eleven, who suggests filling potholes and cracks around the city with water. This would raise awareness to the problem of cracks and holes and of course, the water-like mosaics would stand out as reminders of nature.

A Causeway connection between the Alice Wainwright Park area to the Rickenbacker Causeway is an idea that would make it easier for bikers and runners. Didn't Sylvester put the kybosh on that years ago? Well, now he's gone, so maybe the fences can be removed and the neighborhood can be returned to the public.

Bike Coconut Grove has an idea of a Bike Station in the Brove where a vacant storefront in a central location can turn into a bike valet place for people to meet, leave their bikes and promote bike safety. A great solution to our lack of car parking.

There is also Grove Space at Plaza Street and Grand Avenue, where the space would be turned into a shady event space, opening up the area to the community.

There are so many great ideas, most of them outside the Grove, but perfect for Miami. I think one of my favorites is Pianos in the Parks. They are randomly placed around the city after being painted by students. Anyone can just come up, play and gather a crowd. It's such a great community unifier, it's been done in other cities. New York did it in 2010 (see here).


You can check out all the ideas here, the ones you "like" have a chance fo receiving funding. There is a "like" button next to each submission.

ideas.ourmiami.org/page/about

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan meeting

There is a public meeting on Tuesday, April 26, at City Hall (3500 Pan Americna Way) regarding Miami's Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan, it's an Evaluation and Appraisal Review (EAR).  The meeting is from 6:30 to 8 pm.

Per State Statute, the City of Miami is preparing a series of amendments to its Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan. The City is seeking comments from the public and various stakeholders as part of this amendment process. This feedback will help City staff to construct policy that best reflects the specific experiences of the community. 

The EAR is a State-mandated process intended to update the municipality’s comprehensive plan to ensure that the plan reflects current identified neighborhood issues and changes in State legislation. The Miami Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan’s (MCNP) Goals, Objectives, and Policies will be updated to reflect these changes, responding to the changing conditions in our community.

The plan affects you and the future of Miami. All City residents, property and business owners are encouraged to participate. This is your opportunity to learn more about these amendments, understand comprehensive planning and how the city is going to grow in the future.

When a comprehensive plan is in place, the community and potential residents or developers have advance knowledge of the intentions of the City. Thus, with a plan in place, a community has a better idea of how to use zoning, subdivision regulations, budgeting, capital improvements programming, and all other functions to achieve its goals and allow the area to grow or change in positive ways.

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Overbuilding in the Grove

As a past candidate for City of Miami District 2 Commissioner, I feel I need to share some thoughts about the “overbuilding” neighbors are complaining about in South Grove.

First, to the deniers, a lot of building is happening. It is perfectly legal though. The rules need to change if neighbors do not like being surrounded on all sides by solid white, concrete walls. But a lot of what we see is according to code, despite it being against good sense. More on that in a moment.

Second, to the newcomers, this is the never-ending fight to preserve the character of our great single-family home neighborhoods. Let no one trouble you about why you are joining us now. Welcome to the club. This struggle is fierce at the beginning and towards the end of every building cycle.

Third, to the concerned, there are some projects that are certainly out of scale, contrary to good planning principles and downright unfriendly to neighbors. And then are those that are against code, in a BIG way. Once a project if fully built, it is effectively legal (perhaps improper). But when it is obvious that setbacks are violated, that multi-structure projects are allowed on former single-family property lots and mature trees go completely missing, you have a right to complain. Zoning and building rights are granted by us through our elected representatives.

What can you do? A commissioner sets the tone and adjusts policy as needed. I endorsed Ken Russell for commissioner because it was the right thing to do. I knew it would take time for him to acclimate to the role. I knew that in the mean time, businesses would close, historic homes would be demolished and as much advantage would be taken of our community during the transition.

Now is the time to effectively advocate your issue:

First, organize those most affected. I am pleased that neighbors are organizing to contend with the issues they see in their particular neighborhood. Your united voice gives our commissioner the ammunition to make the case for policy changes.

Second, citizen lobbying works. We have to help Ken convince administrators and the other commissioners to see the Light of our concerns. We get the government we deserve by neglect or by careful attention.

Third and last, always keep the commissioner in the loop. He can only advance policy from the dais with the agreement of his peers. He and his staff can help you at every step to your goal. It is his job to carry the issue “football” across the goal line with the Commission.

Some parting wisdom: No one knows your concern better than you --- you are your greatest advocate. Do not engage in debate with people who cannot help you --- bypass them. Make friends with those who can help you --- calling people names will not resolve anything but being friendly will.

Your advocacy team is only as good as its members. You want the best, you want the ’72 Dolphins as your front line. You will get your neighborhoods back and better. A new commissioner was the first step, now it is on you to work with him.

Yours truly,
Rosy Palomino
Miami

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