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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Concern over West Grove historic designation

Open letter to Ken Russell

Ken, 

On June 22 during a community softball game it was announced that you would like to designate the West Grove as an Historic Designation.  Although I am an active member of all community meetings, the announcement struck me and my family members as a surprise as we had not heard the news before. It is my understanding that none of the other Grove organizations were informed either.  It would seem to me that such an important proposal would have been worked from the ground up. 

If you really look at Miami Dade County history, years back a map was created where segregation boundaries were set for the West Grove and although as a society we think we have moved forward from that dark era of American history the divides still exist.   Coincidentally the same boundaries apply to a NCD2 code overlay, lack of code compliance, CRA proposals (subsidized low-income housing), no funding for capital improvements and now a new historical designation proposal.  

The above opens up a lot of questions that I hope you can address: 

Why can’t West Grove residents enjoy the same code as the rest of the Grove?  

Why is the entire Grove not a historic district? 

Why is the CRA (subsidized low-income housing) not proposed for the entire Grove? 

Why are there no capital improvements designated in the West Grove? For instance, paved streets, traffic circles and speed bumps. 

Clearly these same boundaries have applied for lack of code compliance and all the above combined is a big part of why property values are 35% less in the West Grove. It seems as our city government instead of promoting equality and embracing progress has become a partner of division.  

Currently if you are going to build or remodel under the current NCD2 code in the Historic Charles Avenue corridor before you secure a building permit you must have the following people approve your project:  2 Zoning Officials, 1 Historic Board Member, 16 Homeowner Associations, 9 Architects from the Urban Development Review Board, 4 adjacent Neighbors and 1 Archeologist - equal to 33 opinions.   The cost to go through this process is more than $30K. Only people with time, knowledge, money and a lot of patience can go through this.  

Aside from the divide, if the above is a portion of what a historic designation would mean for the West Grove, clearly this is an example were people who are struggling to pay their mortgage, insurance and maintenance will not be able to afford to live here.  

The last question, why would a person trying to improve their housing in the West Grove have to go through this when three blocks South none of the above applies? Someone may think that this Historic proposal is designed to get rid of the local resident who cannot afford the process. 

Suggestions: This idea should have been consulted with local associations like HOATA, minister of alliance and stakeholders in the community.  No study should include students which are not tax payers or stakeholders.  If the city cannot afford a study done by the historical board where they outline the benefits of the proposal then there shouldn't be further discussion.  People who are willing and able to improve a property in the West Grove should not be accused of gentrification.  If we label the action of improvement then what was the label for the decaying homes and unsafe structures that have existed in the West Grove for years.  We should stop labeling the action of being willing and able to buy a property, remodel or build.  West Grove should have exactly the same overlay and codes as the rest of the Grove.  

There really should be no division and West Grove should have the same rights as everyone else in the Grove. Government should not be involved in where a particular demographic lives, what type of housing they should have and control the income of the area.  People should not be obligated to build, live or repair houses like "shotgun" homes that resemble slavery.  This type of architecture was brought from Africa to the Caribbean through the Yoruba tribe because it was one of the few building techniques and ways in which they knew how to build back then.  The Caribbean including the Bahamas were colonized by different countries like Spain, English and the Dutch each of thee cultures left behind engineering and a style of architecture. The idea that everybody from the Caribbean should or did live in a shot gun home is not real or accurate.  

I hope you do what is right for the community and promote prosperity for all.   

Regards, 
Guillermo de la Paz 
Coconut Grove

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Careful thought and research is needed before any "cures" are imposed on Village West/West Grove. Molly Cummins wrote a thoughtful thesis back in 2006 that I posted on www.windandrain.com in the Articles section. There are also photos and articles going back to 1961 in the Archives section. I stopped posting on this website when lot prices in Village West jumped to $200K by 2006. They were less than a tenth of that in 1995 when we were building new 3/2 homes there and selling them to residents for $100K.
Gentrification is certainly an ongoing
problem but imposing more regulations on this long suffering area may hurt homeowners who have waited half a century for values to approach the rest of the Grove. Then there are those who are renting who will be displaced by rising rents. Jobs are yet another issue. The local stores, the Grand diner, the Ace Theater --all gone. There is no public parking at all, unless you include the DOSP Lot on Florida Ave (behind the defunct Tiki Club at Grand and Douglas) that has been chained for over 30 years. If something is going to be done about these issues, let's get it right. Andy Parrish

August 01, 2017 9:55 AM  
Anonymous swlip said...

This letter gets it exactly right. How many here would be comfortable knocking on doors in the West Grove and telling the homeowners, "Hi, I'm from North/South/Center Grove, and I like your house so much that I want to make it prohibitively expensive for you to sell or remodel it"?

August 01, 2017 1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not talk about this instead?

http://www.miaminewtimes.com/restaurants/coconut-grove-to-open-culinary-pop-up-mktplace-9530120

August 01, 2017 3:29 PM  
Blogger Grapevine said...

We did in March, when we had the story first:
http://coconutgrovegrapevine.blogspot.com/2017/05/new-grove-market-on-horizon.html

August 01, 2017 3:34 PM  
Anonymous Sonya de Long said...

A really great response. Designation would turn West Grove into a Williamsburg-type enclave. What's next? Period costumes? Open the gates to equality and fairness for all, not a life indentured to the past.

August 01, 2017 4:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The past is the past. Treasure it, but let progress proceed. The precious Bahamian settlement story should be preserved. In a museum. Start collecting and organizing and let go of the idea that there can be no changes in the West Grove.

August 01, 2017 9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana

August 02, 2017 12:43 AM  
Anonymous Swlip said...

What oftens seems to be overlooked is that the most successful historic preservation efforts in Florida began as grass-roots movements. Is there a grass-roots movement among property owners in the West Grove, or is historic preservation something that is being imposed on them?

August 02, 2017 3:56 PM  

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