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Monday, April 25, 2016

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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21 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can anyone provide the requirements for pulling a demolition permit in the City of Miami?

April 25, 2016 7:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neighbors of these demolitions and lot sub-divisions are not notified, sometimes they are notified of demolition but not lot sub-division, because they would object. There is a disturbing pattern of management controls being over ridden with the intent of making it too late for neighbors to object. This is a sure sign of corruption. After the developer builds, with permits, the city claims they cannot fix the problem because they would face a lawsuit from the builder.

April 25, 2016 7:21 AM  
Blogger James said...

It boggles my mind that this property sold for almost 2 million, basically just for the land. Will this be another divided lot? I have a hard time imagining a developer making a profit with 2 million already in the hole before construction even begins. While upsetting and hopefully able to be stopped, it says something for property values in The Grove.

April 25, 2016 7:41 AM  
Blogger James said...

Also, odds that they'll have bulldozers there today after this article? Any way to slow this process down so the city can reevaluate after getting input from residents?

April 25, 2016 7:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Upsetting. But I appreciate you shining a light on this recurring issue.

April 25, 2016 7:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you guys actually seen all the pics of this house? If I paid $1.8 million for this i would tear it down too. Who in their right mind would want to live in this shack? As a neigbor i would be happy to see something a little nicer built. See link below.

http://www.trulia.com/homes/Florida/Miami/sold/3010692-3701-Park-Ave-Miami-FL-33133#photo-21

April 25, 2016 11:22 AM  
Blogger James said...

I'm going to assume Anon 11:22 doesn't have his sarcasm font turned on.

April 25, 2016 11:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is gorgeous

April 25, 2016 11:45 AM  
Blogger reid prevatt said...

It is no shack

April 25, 2016 12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to be .84 of an acre which will equal to multiple homes being built on the property for at least a min of 1.5million each. The Grove is in a state of being exploited at all cost that will leave us at the end with over priced homes, lose its charm, and more traffic. Once again greed is the number one factor not quality of life.

April 25, 2016 3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was thinking the same. 3,655sf and those finishes hardly qualifies as a shack.

April 25, 2016 3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It can be done! www.savethegrove.com is an example of the neighbors stopping a developer from demolishing and splitting a lot.

April 25, 2016 4:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hear, hear . . .

April 25, 2016 4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They are not developers nor builders, they are pirates.

April 25, 2016 6:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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." Megan is mis-directing us again. If the planning and zoning department enforced the law against granting more than 1 building permit for homes that were single-family sites on September 24 th 2005 the developers would not be buying these properties. Unless they can divide this into 3 or 4 building sites the developer would never make a profit. At 4200 grove street they divided a smaller lot into 4 sites which they are building 5000 square foot 2.2 million dollar homes on, their web sites says they are all sold. Let's see 8.8 million -1.8 million for the lot 4 million in construction cost and 3 million profit. It works for me.

April 25, 2016 7:08 PM  
Blogger JR said...

Oh.... I have not only SEEN this house, but I have stayed in the house over 100 nights. It is lovely. It is such a wonderful house, and it literally needs VERY little maintenance to fix it completely. This home absolutely should not be torn down. What a complete shame. NO new builder is EVER going to recreate the beautiful setting of 3701 Park Ave. It is so sad how places just like this wonderful residence continue to be torn down with NO ONE looking out.

April 25, 2016 9:31 PM  
Blogger Grovite said...

I looked at the description of the house on Zillow . . . that developer needs to be taken out back and shot. What a charming house. This is such a travesty. I hope Grovites can come together to prevent this historic home from being destroyed.

April 25, 2016 10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I personally spoke to the man doing the tree survey. He also works as a professional arborist. The tree in question is smack in the middle of the property and is huge... well over 100 years old. He couldn't label it because it was a species of tree he couldn't identify. I asked him how many times that had happened to him in his lifetime career of studying trees. He looked at me and said, "twice."

April 26, 2016 10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You must be the builder.

May 03, 2016 9:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The permit had only been applied for by the previous owners because they were advised it would help the sale of the house, but they did not pursue it any further because not only did they not want to see the home torn down, they were told it would probably never happen because the community wouldn't allow it. "PLEASE. The seller wanted to attract the highest bidder, does everyone think they were so naive as to think this would not be a developer Maybe the seller s should have applied for historic designation rather than a demolition permit. .

May 05, 2016 8:10 AM  
Blogger sally said...

The SELLER applied for the demolition permit in order to attract high bids for the property. If they truly cared for the house they would have applied for Historic Designation. This is not only the greed of builders/developers, this is also the greed of the seller.

May 05, 2016 8:19 AM  

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