The Glass House Project is the tip of the iceberg in the Village West. What neither of us understand is why the code reads the way it does and then all these types of homes are going up instead, especially on Charles Avenue. Remember at Grove 2030 Arva Parks kept saying we should pursue historic status for streets, the city and homes to protect against over-development. But what is the point if something like Charles Avenue, already designated historic and calling for Bahamian or Caribbean architecture is so blatantly ignored. At our meeting on Feb. 8, someone claimed that only the STREET is historic, and the Stirrup House (no renovated/gone) and the Mariah Brown House are historic. But the code says something completely different--at least if plain English makes any difference. Clearly, there is an issue here is either the way the details are set up or a disconnect with Urban Design Board which is apparently approving these things (this is one thing Anthony Balzebre suggested at a meeting at our house last Monday). Xavier Suarez's 2002 Village West master plan had a beautiful plan for a modern Duval-type street architecture which could have transformed that area to a beautiful compliment to downtown many years ago. It is still on the books on the Urban Design website. It never went anywhere.
Frankly, it is up to the people in the West Grove to protect their neighborhood. If they want to get behind it, they need to do so and then others, like ourselves or some other like-minded people from Grove Watch Group or elsewhere, can join in. We are talking to people in the West Grove to see if there is energy behind this--and will meet again early next week, hopefully. So far, we've met anger and frustration at the system and a sense of uselessness to try again. It looks to us like P/Z threw a bone with no meat on it to the Village West with its historical designation of Charles Avenue. The code also says it applies to ALL of NCD-2, but others say only Charles Avenue.
We've written letters to Megan Schmidt and Jacqueline Ellis (who is really helpful on most things) but no had replies to our specific questions on these architectural violations.
So for now, the Village West has to stand up. We'll see where this goes if that happens. Perhaps since home ownership in the West Grove has plummeted from 65% in 1969 to 20% now, the battle is lost. That is a small population of people who really care and have steadily eroded political influence.
We've started a forum on our website which you have a link to and raised the issue on Feb. 8th. We'll have to wait and see if anything comes of this. At the very least, we'd like to meet with Megan Schmidt personally and have her once again tell us how historic preservation in this city is important and can make a difference in anything. So far, we don't see that happening.
What we find disturbing is we are well on our way to looking like South Beach and the rest of Miami if this continues over the next decade or so.
John and Debbie Dolson
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