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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Waterfront project forum at Village Council

Art Noriega, head of the Miami Parking Authority, and Enrique Torre, who represented the City of Miami regarding the Grove Harbour waterfront project, met with the Coconut Grove Village Council in an open forum last week, where neighbors were able to ask questions regarding the controversial projects. I call the project "a mall," others call it the Grove "Horror" Project. District Commissioner Marc Sarnoff did not attend the meeting. 

I say projects because there are basically two -- the parking garage and the chrome and glass development where Scotty's Landing and The Chart House stand now. 

It appears that the parking garage keeps changing size and at last week's meeting, Mr. Noriega told the crowd that the garage planned for the site will accommodate 228 cars, not the over 1600, that was first thought. The garage is 40,000 square feet and the first floor consists of retail stores.  The site keeps changing sizes due to people's perceptions, I think we won't really know how large it is until it's built.

As for Mr. Torre, he didn't seem to want to be there. He did not answer direct questions and he beat around the bush which seems to be the case all the time whenever someone has questions. No one has given a clear explanation yet as to how this fits into the Waterfront Master Plan and how they feel these large chrome and glass structures fits into the waterfront setting. Mr. Torre basically ignored the questions. He had ready set answers all prepared, that honestly didn't jive with questions. His responses were, "The retail will be successful," although local realtors who were present didn't think so. And no one asked if the retail will be successful. The questions were how dare you sell out our waterfront against the will of the taxpayers. Also, a big plus for Mr. Torre seemed to be the increase of visitors and traffic. Is that a plus? 

When asked why they are not sticking to the Sisaki Plan, ie, the Coconut Grove Waterfront Master Plan, which calls for less than 7000 square feet of retail, not the 100,000 they now have planned, he insisted it was part of the original plan. He, like the others feel that if you say it over and over again with a straight face, it becomes truth. 

As for the Village Council, they are in support of the project. "The purpose of the agenda item was to give residents an opportunity to see the MPA's plans for the parking garage and to ask questions about the project. They've done a really nice job with it. We didn't vote, but previously did, in support of the project," says Michelle Niemeyer, Village Council member. Michelle was also part of the Working committee for many years who helped form the Sisaki Plan.

Jessica Lewis, chair of the Village Council explained, "I wanted a Q and A forum, as there were a lot of misinformation floating around. That's exactly what it was."

I beg to differ. I think there where were lots of Q's but no A's at this meeting. 

I say Vote NO on November 5. Until we can get answers and the truth about this project, it makes no sense to vote to approve it. There is no rush, even if you are in favor of it. But why are you approving this? Do you know what you are approving? Nobody else does, so perhaps the best thing is to vote NO on November 5 and when the developers and the city are forthcoming, perhaps in the future, then you can vote again, you know, when it all makes sense.

Throwing another monkey wrench into the project is some secret charity that was brought up at the meeting.  Grove Bay Investments, the developer of the project, has agreed to pay $30,000 per year to an unspecified charity. For 80 years (the term of the lease)! What charity and why doesn't the city get the much needed money?

It makes no sense to hand over the land to a private enterprise for 80 years. It makes no sense to overtake the Coconut Grove waterfront with a structure that does not fit into the water and boating ambiance and it makes no sense to ignore the Sisaki Plan after years of work that went into it. And what about the secret charity? Why would anyone vote "yes" on this? Vote NO on November 5.

Related stories:
Charles Corda explains his garage math
Smaller garage part of the schematic
About the waterfront parking garage

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ck closely the alliances of Noriega, he,'s been coming around the Grove for years. How long exactly has he been able to hold on to his job? Look at who exactly will benefit with this project in and around the Grove. It's not the citizens of this charming village. More questions and some serious look at the former BIC is in order.

September 24, 2013 10:40 AM  
Anonymous James Hawkins said...

If you look at the plans in detail, the footprint itself is quite nice. A parking garage tucked behind a historically protected hanger is a nice trade for all all the green space we will gain. The only problem I have with this plan is the architectural style of the building (http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/51c22984f92ea16730024bd6/Screen%20Shot%202013-06-19%20at%205.48.28%20PM.jpg) that is to go where the Chart House is at currently.

Perhaps energy should be channeled toward modifying this to something more consistent with Coconut Grove, which I would submit could be accomplished by "dejetsoning" (Jetsons cartoon reference) the top roof by simply squaring it off. The glass is fine, and will make for a nice waterfront venue. It is that curved contraption of a roof at the top that makes this so awful looking. This is Coconut Grove, not Miami Beach, Brasilia, or LaGuardia.

Do it right, but do it.

September 24, 2013 10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it wrong that I just assume the charity is the Marc Sarnoff (personal) "charitable trust"?

September 24, 2013 12:03 PM  
Blogger Rafael Gutierrez said...

At the meeting another question raised by a concerned neighbors was that the terms of the lease contract will make it easier for future gambling casinos at the site if the existing Florida Gambling Laws change. A quote from New Times "...legislature is currently in the midst of trying to set a stronger, more permanent regulatory framework - it commissioned a study and will hold hearings later this month" This is connected to the former Miami Herald Building purchased by the Genting Group.

September 24, 2013 3:11 PM  

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