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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

An idea whose time has come

I received this from Charles Corda. Makes a lot of sense:

Given the development pressure being put on the Grove these days it seems to me if we are to preserve any semblance of the unique character and sense of place that once existed here, it may be time to establish an "Urban Design Review Board" for the commercial area of Coconut Grove.

I believe it is in the interest of both the residents and business owners to foster the preservation and expansion of the architectural and urban design qualities that make this place unique. Each and every project whether it be a new building or the placement of street furniture and signage (see new LED signage in the Grapevine)  should require a mandatory review to insure that the "ambiance" of Coconut Grove is enhanced rather than detracted from by inappropriate architectural intrusions. 

Right now this task is essentially assigned to the City Planning and Zoning Department to review a project's conformance to the Miami 21 Zoning Code. I believe a dedicated "Coconut Grove Review Board" should would do a far better job of ensuring the appropriate development of the Grove than the highly politicized and largely ineffectual Planning and Zoning Department. A Local Review Board would return some semblance of local control to Coconut Grove.  Decisions made that effect Coconut Grove should not be made on a city wide basis any longer. 

Perhaps this is something that the Village Council can take up at the next meeting. I would suggest creating a "Review Board" along the lines of the Coral Gables Architectural Review Board. Said Board should be composed of perhaps seven Grove professionals from the Architectural, Planning, Landscape Design, Real Estate and  Development community and should have the power vested in it to approve or reject proposed projects and designs for the Grove. In order to lessen political pressure on the suggested Board  the members of the "Review Board" should be selected by election, similar to the Village Council, rather then by political appointment.

It is my belief given recent events that unless such a Review Board is created we will lose all that makes the Grove unique and desirable as a place to live, work and visit.

I realize that certain politicians may oppose the creation of such a board but that should not be a reason to forgo the concept. In point of fact it should be all the more reason to do so. I am also under the belief that the community of Coconut Grove would see the value in creating such a Board and would be supportive of the concept.

I personally am not someone who prefers added layers of bureaucracy but I do not think we have a choice any longer. Local empowerment will be essential to the survival of the Grove as a unique and special place.

Charles Corda
Coconut Grove

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said and a complete no-brainer -- let's get started!

April 01, 2014 11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I believe it is in the interest of both the residents and business owners to foster the preservation and expansion of the architectural and urban design qualities that make this place unique."

Indeed.. Even noticing some small, ephemeral LED sign is laughable.. instead of the Obvious Elephant in the room, a huge, decrepit embarrassment called "Coconut Grove Theater"..

Sarnoff and the other commishs must be cracking up, thinking "these Grovites have too much time in their hands. They need to go meditate and relax at our beautiful,elektrik red and green Zen Village, to find real peace and harmony".

April 01, 2014 12:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck with that.there way to many people with money and in politics that want to get rid of the grove altogether.

April 01, 2014 12:46 PM  
Anonymous AM said...

This is a HUGE undertaking and I doubt there can ever be a consensus amongst residents. Groveites love to argue about everything.

First you will need to set a series of guidelines defining a "Grove Style". We are not Coral Gables or SoBe, where the architectural "style" is obvious. "Grove Style" cant be defined as old shabby homes, with no sidewalk, covered by overgrown trees and bush and a multitude of duplexes that all look the same. Someone, like a group of Architects, Miami historians, etc. will have to do a study and define what we are defending. That will cost money.

How far will this new board reach? are we talking about having to go before the board when I want to paint my house? or change my roof shingles? what about interior repairs? is it limited to new construction? and will someone have to pay an additional fee to go before the review board?

Who will be on this board? to have the ability to approve or decline projects like Grove Isle, Regatta Park design, or the redesign of Scottys is a lot of power. Sure, elections are one solution, but that doesnt ensure that corruption wont happen. look at our commissioners over the years, and they were elected officials too. If contractors, developers, realtors sit on this board it would be like putting the wolf in charge of the hen house.
Power and Miami are a corrupt combination.

Groveites thwart any progress, and yet complain why we're an afterthought or old news.

I remember when Cocowalk was built. Everyone was all doom and gloom...and now its become a defining centerpiece of the Grove.

You need to break a few eggs to make an omelette.

April 01, 2014 12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everything you say makes sense except for
"I remember when Cocowalk was built. Everyone was all doom and gloom...and now its become a defining centerpiece of the Grove"

Seriously?!? Cocowalk is a joke. You got a Starbucks with a frozen drink bar on top of it. A bunch of kiosks selling crap. A store right in the front that sells plastic cups (Tervis). A store that sells PanAm memorabilia that must be on the verge of going broke. A cell repair store (yeay!) And a bunch of empty spaces. It has to be one of the most mismanaged retail sites in all of the 305.


April 01, 2014 1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a good idea, but will never be given any powers - just like the village counsel - a means to placate.

That said, if you wanted such a board, you would need at least 1 attorney sitting on it, so that someone could explain/argue/artfully comment on the zoning issues.

April 01, 2014 1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I invite you to get a piece of paper an try to draw a new building that will have any sense with Miami 21 code , good luck.
Last year I when in front of the historical board Cost: $5478 plus 3 months to get the chance of present my case.
Another board REALLY ?????

April 01, 2014 1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said. The Grove will be lost without this.

Lead, follow or get out of the way

April 01, 2014 3:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Residential zero lot properties are being built in the Grove by removing trees and lush yards and replaced with monstrous multistory houses that absolutely do not fit the ambiance. We need to preserve the residential neighborhoods from zero lot Mac-mansions as well.

April 01, 2014 5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I remember when Cocowalk was built. ...and now its become a defining centerpiece of the Grove"

Isn't that the problem?

April 01, 2014 8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't need temples to find peace. That's just another money making scheme as well...

April 02, 2014 7:54 AM  
Anonymous swlip said...

Sure, no doubt putting another unaccountable bureaucracy in charge of picking winners and losers in the Grove will still the waters of discontent.

I'll re-post my response to Mr. Corda from the LED sign thread:

I appreciate the Grove's character as much as anyone. It's why I've lived here for 17 years and can't imagine living anywhere else. But let me address one of your comments because I think it's representative of what I see as the central problem in the Grove's progress:

"We need to have tighter controls on what gets built and placed here."

First, it is precisely this urge to regulate everything in sight that creates barriers to entry for local businesses. I hear a lot about how we should do more for locally owned businesses in the Grove. However, restricting what gets built makes legacy property more valuable, thus raising rents and squeezing out everyone but the large chains that can afford to absorb the costs.

It also raises the cost of maintaining or improving legacy properties, thus driving rents even higher.

Second, imposing controls on architecture makes sense for a truly historic area. I lived in a very old city in Europe for several years, and witnessed the choices and compromises that had to be made to balance the interest of preservation against economic growth and the need to modernize infrastructure.

The center Grove is not that place. Cocowalk, Mayfair, Commodore Plaza, McFarland and Main Hwy are lined by kitsch. The center Grove has no unique architectural legacy. It would be more honest to demolish Cocowalk and replace it with a gas station than to claim that it was worth preserving Cocowalk or any other building within a four-block radius.

If we were honest with ourselves, we would also look at the fact that the Grove now has competition from other parts of town. Those areas have developed into attractive destinations because leaders were open to new ideas. The constant theme in the Grove, however, is that new ideas are regarded with suspicion, at best. My God, I didn't vote for Marc Sarnoff, but to hear people talk around here you'd think he was a member of the Illuminati.

I wouldn't like to see the Grove become another Brickell or Design District. Indeed, if I want to be in those places they are a relatively short drive away. But I don't think that the Grove is being well-served by the hidebound mentality that seems to prevail among Grove activists.

April 02, 2014 9:01 AM  
Anonymous Liliana Dones said...

Coral Gables is a city, and as such it has the Coral Gables Architectural Review Board. Coconut Grove is a neighborhood of the City of Miami, so in addition to a Planning and Zoning Board, it also has the Historic Preservation Board, with a similar composition of members as suggested in the post: architects, landscape artists, real estate agents, etc.

Among the many things offered by the HPB are: "Design Guidelines and Standards for obtaining Certificates of Appropriateness (COA) for new construction, alterations, additions, relocations, or demolitions within a historic site, district, or archeological zone." By its own rich history, downtown Coconut Grove, encompassing pretty much the area of the BID footprint, may perhaps be considered a historic district, so therefore it already has a go-to Board that will hear matters regarding appropriate construction, design etc. I know at least 2 or 3 of the current board members happen to live in Coconut Grove.

I myself have stood before that board on many occasions in matters of historic preservation of the trees that canopy the Grove.

I am rather curious as to what constitutes "Grove Style" as there were never any design parameters set forth here as was the case of planned cities such as Coral Gables, which established guidelines as to the naming of the streets, the size of the lots and the type of roof for houses. These parameters were easy to carry over to its urban center. That is not the same for Coconut Grove, because its "style" is that its has no "planned" style. You have mansions with grounds next to cottages, no sidewalks, and lots of vegetation. As for downtown Grove-- the structures that were there before were hardly any more unique than the ones that replaced them from decade to decade. Lums, after all, was not unlike the Starbucks of its day, so I have never understood what all the resistance to new development is about. It was never the design of the buildings that gave Coconut Grove its style, but rather its abundance of green - its canopy, its proximity to the water.

One of the things that keeps the Grove from competing with the newer parts of town is the very fact that it is hard to retro-fit new design into the old existing constrained spaces. When Hustons-now-Hillstones wanted to bring its popular restaurant to Coral Gables, it demolished a corner and built a large, modern restaurant. Nobody got upset about compromising the integrity of Miracle Mile, and the restaurant fits right in as if it had always been there. So the Gables keeps building, and the ground floor of these new structures provide ample spaces for restaurants such as Tarpon Bend and Cibo Wine Bar and other large storefronts. And people come, because most people like "new" places to go to.

There is nothing fascinating about the Engle Building. I am sure Arquitectonica will come up with interesting plans. I only ask that their design plans call for ample sidewalks and take every consideration to save our trees-- as they are the gold standard of Grove Style.

April 03, 2014 7:58 PM  

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