Is it a mall on the waterfront?
This project is going to happen, but I think it needs to fit into its surroundings and not dictate a whole new atmosphere. I fear that the project is emulating the look of the chrome and glass condos going in across the street, it is not emulating a rustic waterfront, which is what is there now. I am assuming the new neighbors buying the condos want the Grove to remain what it is, that is why they are buying here.
It's interesting that the Expo Center needs to go because it blocks the water, yet this new project, including the garage will be three times the size of the Expo Center and so much higher.
I wanted to gauge the feelings of the Center Grove merchants and restaurant owners since they will be most affected. I thought I would go around, off the record, and see what they think. I stopped in one place so far and the owner, who used to be a big mover and shaker in town, had no clue about the project. This person did not see the plans, did not know about the City Commission hearing and did not know anything about the project. Talk about the height of apathy. It's called malaise, and the Grove has been in that state for a very long time.
One person commented here in the Grapevine that she has lived here for 40 years and that the Grove is now stale and this is what we need. This is akin to someone in Europe saying, "That castle has been there for 500 years, let's tear it down and put in a mall." To say that we need to destroy the waterfront because people are bored doesn't seem like the correct thing to do.
Some feel that to break this malaise, we need this project, in other words, let's build something new to help us feel better. This is not the answer. The first step might be for the Center Grove businesses to wake up and realize once this mall is built, it's the end of their businesses because people will go to the new, shiny place on the water and they will avoid Center Grove.
The mall is almost 100,000 square feet of retail space, the parking garage is up to 250,000 square feet. This is almost the size of three huge Home Depots or Lowes or Wal-Marts. Imagine three Wal-Marts on the Coconut Grove waterfront. The parking garage, while very huge, will not even accommodate all the cars that will visit the new mall. It's a huge structure that will be outdated the second it is built.
The plan includes a casual pub tied in with early aviation, a high-end Peruvian seafood restaurant and a Shula’s Steak & Seafood. All well and good, but imagine them standing alone and not being all under chrome and glass. They would more fit in with the surroundings like Scotty's and The Chart House do now.
Who is this project benefiting anyway? The builders and developers of course, and the City of course, since they reap the revenue through decades long leases. I think that the whole purpose of this project is to bring revenue to the City of Miami. Nothing more. The city is mismanaged and now they will throw Coconut Grove's waterfront under the bus to try to stop the red ink on their books. If the Scotty's and Grove Harbour Marina and Chart House leases were up in another 10 or 20 years, nothing would have been done here now. But since the leases are up, it seems that a whole new thing needs to be built in many people's eyes.
This current project belongs inland somewhere, maybe on SW 27 Avenue. Not on our waterfront.
Keep in mind that the City Commission last Thursday, only approved the bidder, Grove Bay Investment Group, and not the project itself. Only Grove Bay was approved as the developer. In November, when voters vote, if they vote in favor of this company doing the project, then the company will bring their actual plans to light.
The Commissioners only agreed to who the lessee would be, the money being paid by the lessee, the amount of lease time and lease renewals, mostly generic things. Nothing aesthetic.
This is then the opportunity to have the structure downsized, made more rustic and Grove-friendly and waterfront friendly. So many places have renovated their waterfront in the United States, but they have used the piers and old structures and warehouses and buildings that have been there already for 100 years, to renovate, they have not knocked down everything and started from scratch, creating projects which have nothing to do with their surroundings.
I am surprised that Arquitectonica International, a Coconut Grove firm, did not have more of a sensitive plan for the project, as their projects are always so thoughtful and thought out. Their own headquarters in the Grove fits right in to the neighborhood, it's an all green space, quite unassuming and no chrome and glass for that.
I am assuming the whole City of Miami will vote on this project in November and therein lies the rub. The rest of the City doesn't care about the Grove and they never have.
Here are the full plans so far in this dropbox.
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