Historic designation for Village West?
The biggest change has been the incredible amount of community interest and political will to fight displacement and create housing options.
When I first came into office, much of Coconut Grove seemed very concerned with cleaning up the crime and poverty that was present on Grand Ave. While that is very important and must be addressed, the narrative has shifted with a stronger empathy for the families that live in the area and their wish to continue living in the area. Prior to this, any form of development, gentrification, and cleanup may have been acceptable. I have worked very hard to stand with the residents and give a voice to their concerns. Anyone who has been attending city commission over the past few months has seen that Village West has found a voice of its own. Residents and advocacy groups have been coming to hold us accountable, introduce new ideas, and weigh in on our votes and expenditures. This is the type of presence that I will need to convince fellow Commissioners to vote in favor of the big initiatives that we introduce. When I asked the Commission to agree to $3 million to negotiate purchase of the trolley garage, I received unanimous support. When I allocated $300,000 to create an emergency rehousing fund for the over 100 residents facing eviction on Grand Avenue, every Commissioner agreed. They have even agreed with me in directing the City Manager to examine government owned properties in the West Grove that could be developed for affordable housing, including the former site of the municipal incinerator “Old Smokey” that is our current fire college.
The six blocks on Grand Avenue are still for sale and are not being maintained properly. I have initiated a law suit by the City to force these owners to bring the properties up to code or assist in the relocation of the residents. The conditions are deplorable. The City has stepped up its enforcement of violations but the condition of some of the buildings is beyond repair.
Historic designation of the Coconut Grove Village West is one of my intentions. While there are not enough remaining historic homes to warrant a historic district under our current definition, I will be introducing legislation to allow for new types of historic designation that will preserve and protect the remaining wood frame and shotgun homes and tell the story of a very culturally significant neighborhood.
These changes don’t happen overnight. I know that there is much frustration amongst residents that more has not happened up to now. This month begins my second year in office. Now that we’ve identified the issues and generated awareness and support, I look forward to 2017 and things to come.
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