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Monday, December 01, 2014

There's a resurgence, but it's not the Old Grove Spirit

The original Grove House, when the Grove was the Grove, circa 1960.
The talk of the town seems to be that Herald article that ran about the "resurgence of Coconut Grove" by Andres Viglucci. Andres talks about the glory days of Coconut Grove where you "could pedal a bicycle a short way down the street without fear of running into anything." And then he says, that the old Grove "was buried by an onslaught of big money, by malls, chains and McMansions." 

Andres' article says that now "the authentic old Grove spirit, assumed dead by many, is stirring once more." He goes on to say that what the current new revitalization of Coconut Grove "will be more in keeping with the genteel Bohemia of the Grove’s first 90 years than the glitz and chintz of the last 35. How? Are they going to demolish the McMansions, highrises, malls and get rid of the big money? Because I think the horse is out of the barn on these issues, but if they can reverse them, I'm all for it. While I do agree there is a resurgence, I don't think it has anything to do with returning to the "old Grove spirit." I think the resurgence is about turning Coconut Grove into Coral Gables or Mary Brickell Village. The Bohemia is gone.

The whole gist of Andres' article is how with the current changes going on around town, that things are returning to "the old Grove spirit," which is a good thing. I just don't see how adding more chrome and glass and adding more congestion to the streets is bringing the glory days back.

Andres goes on to explain how the new "ultra-luxury" chrome and glass condos going up and that "mall on the water" are the things that are sending us back to the artsy, Bohemian village, which was the whole essence of Coconut Grove. I think keeping Scotty's Landing and the Chart House on the water, is what's "real" and Bohemian. Putting in an upscale, fake Bayside-type place is hardly going back to the glory days of Coconut Grove when Joni Mitchell and David Crosby roamed the streets. I don't see these new structures being any type of inspiration for any folk singers, but then again, are there any folk singers left today? George Michael did use Grove Towers in his "Careless Whisper" video in the 1980s, so who knows?

But I am still wondering how the new high rises, overpriced rents and more offices will make the Grove more Bohemian. The new buildings are just adding to the problem and the congestion of the village. In reality, it's all about money, if the developers didn't feel they would make a killing, they really would have have no interest in Coconut Grove. Their whole concept is to exploit this untapped market.

Art galleries have been vacated to make way for offices and upscale shoe stores. The Drum Circle, a big Bohemian part of Coconut Grove, was thrown out of their home on Commodore Plaza and Grand Avenue by those who claim they are here to help the Grove by buying up the village. Throwing out one of the most Bohemian things there is like a drum circle is contrary to everything that was the "old Grove." And it's un-neighborly.

And as for a cohesion of the Village West and the Center Grove, as Andres brings up in his Herald article, is throwing out the Peacock sculpture which was on the corner of Grand and Douglas, a neighborly thing to do? Nah, it's just spitefulness in the name of "liability." Like the Drum Circle, we can't have anything Bohemian anymore because it's a liability.

And while I like The Eating House idea, many locals feel that putting a restaurant in the Glass House in Peacock Park is not what the residents want, they prefer a community center which it was in 1968. So all these changes may be great for the ones making money, but what about the locals? How does any of this help the local community?

At one point Andres mentions a new bookstore in his article, that may end up at the Engle building. Unless it's the Bookstore in the Grove changing locations, I don't see why anyone would even consider cannibalizing our current independent bookstore, which has served the community well. Can two bookstores survive in the Center Grove?

Changes are coming, but I would hardly call it a throwback to Bohemia or the genteel days of Coconut Grove. We're turning into something else, I'm not sure what yet. Most of these changes are being controlled by big money by a small number of people, sort of how the Grove was stolen by the City in 1925. That's the only throwback and similarity that I can see out of all the changes, a land grab.

Investors, with no knowledge of Coconut Grove, are being chauffeured around the village daily as current real estate is pointed out to them as a good deal. People who never heard of Coconut Grove before are experiencing a hard sell. They didn't just happen upon our little village and fall in love and decide to put down roots, they were brought here by a greedy few; phonies, who claim to love the Grove and want only the best for the Grove.  These strangers are being told how they can enhance their hedge funds by buying here, they don't care about the village or the community, they care about their bottom lines and pension funds. This is not Bohemian or village-friendly. What's happening is that Coconut Grove is changing in a big way and it has nothing to do with going back to its past and nothing to do with getting rid of big money and gaudiness. It's all about accommodating big money and gaudiness. The little village spirit is gone and all the new changes are just the nail in the coffin. To say all these new changes are the launching pad to the "Old Grove Spirit" and the return of a genteel Bohemia makes no sense at all. None. It's just the opposite.

I have a story about an old 1912 church I want to tell you about some time.

For linking to this one story, just click on the time it was posted & just this story will open for sharing - only through social media. Not copying and pasting.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember a time when we had a bookstore on Fuller Street (Bookworm?). Then we got a Walden Books in Mayfair and then a third (Dalton?) at Cocowalk. When Borders came along, the other 3 went out of business. After a few years, Borders went under. I was checking out with a few bargain books and the cashier said to me "Isn't it sad that there won't be a bookstore in the Grove anymore?" She would never understand the irony of her question.

December 01, 2014 6:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I read the article, I thought how lucky we are that locals who have talent and vision and who want to see the inevitable progress and growth occur here in the Grove CARE ABOUT THE WAY IT'S DONE. I applaud that. Go to OXFORD, MISSISSIPPI, and see what one man with a vision turned that sleepy little town into. For the better. Progress hurts. But at the end of the day, in the hands of the right people, it will be all right................keep an eye on it, but keep the faith!

December 01, 2014 8:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A well-done post, The biggest threat to the Grove spirit and experience is our lack of a beat cop in center Grove, to enforce traffic rules so that pedestrians are not assaulted daily by drivers with no regard for red lights, pedestrian crosswalks, and "do not turn" signs. This lack of oversight ad enforcement is the final nail in the coffin of the locals' Grove spirit and experience, and it is ruining the Grove more than anything.

December 01, 2014 8:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice article Tom. I was thinking the same thing when I read Viglucci's article, how was this new development bring back the old grove? It's not. However, I think the new development in the Grove is a good thing and will make people want to visit once again.

December 01, 2014 9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read the Herald article yesterday and thought it was very well executed infomercial.

December 01, 2014 9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pick a time. Anytime. I remember the Grove from back in the early 60s. Is the Grove the same now? No. The world is not the same. Whine as many will you cannot relive the past. Get over it.

December 01, 2014 10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Johnny Rockets left because their lease wasn't renewed and Smoothie King's lease won't be renewed either. Interesting.

December 01, 2014 10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think all the changes are great. The Grove needs something different, and the current status quo isn't working, and clearly the "old" way didn't work since the Grove is a dreary place now. But then again, what do I know, I'm just a young professional with disposable income.

December 01, 2014 10:44 AM  
Blogger Brian Breslin said...

I firmly believe this new wave of investment is a good thing for coconut grove. Bohemian stuff doesn't pay the bills or bring enough traffic into the grove to afford redevelopment. Too much of the area has decayed because investment dollars were focused on other neighborhoods, and people here were resisting change so much.
People evolve, so should neighborhoods.
The only thing keeping me living in coconut grove (aside from the folliage and dog park), is the prospect of it being revitalized. I'm excited for what it may become.

December 01, 2014 11:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's funny, I read the post and comments and all I see is dates like 1968 and 1925, but what about the last 10 or 20 years? The "old grove" is no more and I'm sorry for that, but times change and so do do needs. That bohemian lifestyle might of been great for my hippie parents, but I'm an under 35 educated professional and the grove as it is just isn't appealing. Useless stores, bad food, etc... The grove as it is becoming will attract the younger generation with the income to support it. Let's be real, I see the word village used a lot, but with homes between $400k to way way more, I think that hardly makes this a small town village. It's an affluent neighborhood plain and simple. If the old grovites want things to stay bohemian, that's fine, but put your money where your mouth is and do something beyond complaining on top of your soap box. Action makes all the difference and words are just filler and noise.

December 01, 2014 11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" But then again, what do I know, I'm just a young professional with disposable income."

Good for you. I heard they're selling cheap plastic souls at Smoothie's. Get'em online today!

December 01, 2014 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To bring the youth back to the Grove, first legalize weed and allow Amsterdam style cafes, secede from Miami to stop siphoning tax revenues to develop other areas, then Bohemia or something equivalent will bubble up, Coconut Grove is the only area in South Florida that has the cultural capacity to create its own culture without money from vulture capitalists.

December 01, 2014 12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All we need is a big, brand new Walmart to accommodate the growing needs of all our new, bright young executives.

December 01, 2014 3:01 PM  
Blogger Tony Scornavacca Jr. said...

Excellent post. ... Old Grove, New Grove. I grew up here. I live on Mary Street. The Grove is still cool. Don't worry, the trees, the bay, and the people are mostly what it's about. These things are not really changing.

December 01, 2014 3:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that the Center Grove's Blanche Park has been declared a Brownfield (hazardous waste zone) by the City Commission. That includes a half-mile surrounding radius.

December 01, 2014 4:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard 50 eggs is taking over the Johnny rockets spot. That sucks

December 01, 2014 4:18 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

I applaud you for your comments regarding the so called resurgence of the Grove. I have been a resident since 1951 when my mother purchased our house in South Grove before it was even completed. When I first saw the Herald article I was looking forward to reading it in hopes that what was written was not just more of the same. However, there was nothing in it that is positive to most of our residents. Just a whitewash. It is all about making a buck and not caring about the wants and needs of the Grove. I have seen all the changes and it is disturbing that some of the people who commented on your article consider my group as old burned out hippies who have nothing more to do than complain about how things used to be. It is not that way at all. Example being, I am a long time resident, an artist and an active part of the recently displaced Coconut Grove Drum Circle. We were told we could not continue to stay at our once a month location, because they (new owners) were going to start construction. Not so, as I found out from some of the tenants of the building. They had to promise not to try to renew their leases which will be up in two years. Two years is not immediately starting construction. We actually had the police come and tell us to leave and we had some of our founders do their best to let us finish out the evening. I would have been happy to be arrested to prove a point but it was not to be. We have been granted a reprieve and will be allowed to restart our group at Mayfair, beginning this coming Saturday. I am hoping that we won’t have more problems because we have been told to leave three different places in the past four years.
It’s not like we are the dregs of society. We are a group of people who get together to drum together. Drumming is a way of healing. Drumming is a positive experience. The ages are from children all the way up to seniors. We are professionals, white and blue collar workers, students, politicians, artists, musicians and responsible members of society. We dance, hoop and play other instruments. We welcome people in the crowd to participate as we have discovered it is a positive experience for all involved.
I thank you for recognizing that we are more than just a bunch of wackos.

December 01, 2014 4:30 PM  
Blogger :) said...

Above all we need to remember the positive vibes and unique free-thinking and outspoken characteristics that distinguish the Grove and Grovites. It's why we live here and no amount of money will change that as long as our sense of community stays intact. Well, it's why I do anyways. While I went to middle school at Carver and worked in Cocowalk while in high school after moving away for college and traveling all over the world, I blindly bought the first house under 100,000 I could find. Sure there were drug addicts and gun fights but in the past 3 years my street (William ave) has drastically changed for the better, and there's no where in the world I rather live. As someone who just turned 30, and earning everything I have on my own, what distinguishes the grove for me is its classy not snobby (unlike coral gables) artsy but accessible (unlike design district/wynwood), flip flops over heals and natural beauty that cant be replicated. Seeing it change the last 20 years, I for one am excited for the new changes as I think they will enhance our neighborhood, as so many have like Lokal, Bianco, Strada, etc. Change is never easy, however as it stands it's inevitable, so I think it's up to us to mold the change into a positive one. Either way, if they're not up to par they go out of business...so in the end only the good survive! And I look forward to it.:)

December 01, 2014 5:15 PM  
Blogger Maria de los Angeles said...

It'll be interesting to see what at King Mango parade folks make of this. The drum circle folks found a new location in Mayfair ... also, some members play informally at Kennedy Park on many Sundays, weather permitting.

It's still heartbreaking that the Playhouse hasn't made it.

December 01, 2014 5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every time I run into an old Groveite I feel I have to "apologize" for not being around in the 1940's or 1950's or 1960's or whenever Joni Mitchell and someone else did something somewhere that was a real hoot at the time. That's great and fine, and I know my parents had a good time here in the late '60s and '70s, but that was nearly two generations ago. It's time to move on.

December 01, 2014 8:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reading the quotes from the "young" crowd, you can clearly see the douchebag affect that has overtaken center grove since they tore down all the classic homes. Guarantee these people live in them.

It isn't just the 70s. The Grove was Miami Vice. The Grove was the Beach. And it was the lush area plus the relaxed people. What has happened is:
- Greedy landlords outpriced everyone in last decade, forcing them to flee to cheaper places like the beach, wynwood, etc
- The McMansions. Not only did they usher in the trust fund babies, they took out all the rentals that artists and Grove-type people lived. Look at a rental map now- hard anything. 15 years ago when I moved here, every street had cool houses for rent.

December 01, 2014 10:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


"trust fund babies," "douchebag"

You think you used enough cliches?

December 01, 2014 11:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, many of the wonderful characters who made the Grove "the Grove" are no longer with us. And alas, the City of Miami made zoning changes to Center Grove to favor multi unit development over single family (w/ maybe a cottage in the back).

Do a Wikipedia search on 'Bohemian Grove' or Bohemian Club. Is that the kind of people you really want in the 'little sailing village'?

In 1970, I lived in Monte Rio, CA, next to the Russian River. Not many artists or musicians were members of the club. I found Coconut Grove in 1973...much more to enjoy. There has always been 'money' here, but those with the Grove Spirit never let it get in the way, whether they were with or without.


December 02, 2014 12:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It's time to move on."

Yep. Let's bring Justin Bieber instead of Joni Mitchel, Tenesse Williams, Crosby or The Doors. Him and Britney Spears, channel 10 news for the new Grove, demolish Historic houses and build a big new Walmart too!

December 02, 2014 9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


"Greedy landlords outpriced everyone in last decade, forcing them to flee to cheaper places like the beach, wynwood, etc."

the amount of research you did when making this statement must have been substantial. retail rents in both wynwood and especially "the beach" are significantly higher than the grove... so... guess that just negates everything else you say.

enough about the drum circle, honestly. to think that playing drums in a circle supports some sort of bohemian lifestyle is sad.

being bohemian is about reserving judgement and going with the flow. quit being such spoiled yuppies. somebody was bound to stumble upon a neighborhood that has been made special by hundreds and thousands before you.

know the difference between the press push and what thinks will actually look like on the ground.

December 02, 2014 9:39 AM  
Anonymous GroveGirl said...

Ah yes, times they are a changing, or rather have changed. Not a fan of the drum circle but it's not all about just me. Nothing wrong with bohemian. Look at the Wynwood resurgence compliments of Bohemians. The issue is that this town is intolerant and much too ready to capitalize on the bones of others. By that I mean suck them dry and spit them out like yesterday's trash.

Look at Wynwood, the artists have been priced out. The same people that started a turnaround have been pushed out. That's right 9:39 they are moving away in masses. They're moving to Little Haiti, Medley, and OMG Hialeah! So now you are left with a commercialized knock-off version of a once vibrant art movement. All sold to the public on the bones of the same artists that have been pushed out.

So what can the average person do to keep the best parts of the Grove alive? I propose YOU support YOUR local businesses, become active in YOUR community, and YOU push for zoning changes that will preserve at least a portion of the area for legitimate grass roots/bohemian/organic/whatever you call it culture.

It is important to have revenue dollars, it is important to have fair market value (emphasis on fair), and it is important to preserve those parts of a community that make it special. Profit is not evil. Avarice however, well that's just bad for everyone.

Just because something isn't highly profitable, it doesn't mean it's worthless. There is value to arts, innovation, creativity. Think of it as free marketing for a neighborhood.

On the issue of fair value, consider fair is the rate at which a land-owner can lease property while still allowing room for the lessee to profit. Profit can only be made if the community can afford to pay the price for goods and services offered by a business. You get there by determining what it costs a business to do and stay in business. That means, pay rent, payroll, taxes, fees, insurance, utilities, materials, advertising, inventory, and all the other expenses associated with running a business. When rents are too high, businesses turn over very quickly. The turnover rate in the Grove, is higher than most other areas. Wonder why? Maybe the rents are too high.

December 02, 2014 10:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a recurring problem in the Grove, the older generation decides what is right for the Grove and if the younger generation who have an arguably larger stake in the future of the area are called names and their opinions devalued because they dare to disagree. No wonder the Grove is going under.

December 02, 2014 4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@4:05... For anyone to "devalue and disagree with your larger-stake younger opinion", you must first Opine. (re-read yourself, and try again)

December 02, 2014 6:23 PM  
Blogger HectorinMiami said...

Tom, you said it all. I thought there was something seriously wrong with that article but now I see that it was a complete whitewash of what is really happening in the Grove.

Pressure from certain developers and their political allies have wreaked havoc on the peaceful lives of Grovers and Grovites. And of course, add the typical Miami political dysfunction and the neighborhood has become disenfranchised not to mention the Village has become a more dangerous place just to walk around in.

The biggest question in the upcoming election is probably this question of public participation and quality of life. Just watch out for the candidate that tries to sell you a grand vision without a clear explanation as to how to do it. And you must always question their intentions.

December 02, 2014 7:10 PM  

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