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Monday, July 29, 2013

Is it a mall on the waterfront?

I've had time to digest this Grove Harbour project planned for the Coconut Grove waterfront and I feel that it maybe should fit into the surroundings a bit better. Right now it looks like a chrome and glass mall on the waterfront. I don't think the current plans look right for the waterfront. Look at this image. It's a mall!

This project is going to happen, but I think it needs to fit into its surroundings and not dictate a whole new atmosphere. I fear that the project is emulating the look of the chrome and glass condos going in across the street, it is not emulating a rustic waterfront, which is what is there now. I am assuming the new neighbors buying the condos want the Grove to remain what it is, that is why they are buying here.

It's interesting that the Expo Center needs to go because it blocks the water, yet this new project, including the garage will be three times the size of the Expo Center and so much higher.

I wanted to gauge the feelings of the Center Grove merchants and restaurant owners since they will be most affected. I thought I would go around, off the record, and see what they think. I stopped in one place so far and the owner, who used to be a big mover and shaker in town, had no clue about the project. This person did not see the plans, did not know about the City Commission hearing and did not know anything about the project. Talk about the height of apathy. It's called malaise, and the Grove has been in that state for a very long time.

One person commented here in the Grapevine that she has lived here for 40 years and that the Grove is now stale and this is what we need. This is akin to someone in Europe saying, "That castle has been there for 500 years, let's tear it down and put in a mall." To say that we need to destroy the waterfront because people are bored doesn't seem like the correct thing to do.

Some feel that to break this malaise, we need this project, in other words, let's build something new to help us feel better. This is not the answer. The first step might be for the Center Grove businesses to wake up and realize once this mall is built, it's the end of their businesses because people will go to the new, shiny place on the water and they will avoid Center Grove.

The mall is almost 100,000 square feet of retail space, the parking garage is up to 250,000 square feet. This is almost the size of three huge Home Depots or Lowes or Wal-Marts. Imagine three Wal-Marts on the Coconut Grove waterfront. The parking garage, while very huge, will not even accommodate all the cars that will visit the new mall. It's a huge structure that will be outdated the second it is built.

The plan includes a casual pub tied in with early aviation, a high-end Peruvian seafood restaurant and a Shula’s Steak & Seafood. All well and good, but imagine them standing alone and not being all under chrome and glass. They would more fit in with the surroundings like Scotty's and The Chart House do now.

If you look at these plans (click on them to see the larger version), you'll see that the square footage for the commercial and restaurant spaces adds up to 83,200 square feet, this is without the garage and of course the paths and connecting spaces that ties it all in together, which will add more square footage.

Who is this project benefiting anyway? The builders and developers of course, and the City of course, since they reap the revenue through decades long leases. I think that the whole purpose of this project is to bring revenue to the City of Miami. Nothing more. The city is mismanaged and now they will throw Coconut Grove's waterfront under the bus to try to stop the red ink on their books. If the Scotty's and Grove Harbour Marina and Chart House leases were up in another 10 or 20 years, nothing would have been done here now. But since the leases are up, it seems that a whole new thing needs to be built in many people's eyes.

This current project belongs inland somewhere, maybe on SW 27 Avenue. Not on our waterfront.

Keep in mind that the City Commission last Thursday, only approved the bidder, Grove Bay Investment Group,
 and not the project itself. Only Grove Bay was approved as the developer. In November, when voters vote, if they vote in favor of this company doing the project, then the company will bring their actual plans to light.  

The Commissioners only agreed to who the lessee would be, the money being paid by the lessee, the amount of lease time and lease renewals, mostly generic things. Nothing aesthetic.

This is then the opportunity to have the structure downsized, made more rustic and Grove-friendly and waterfront friendly. So many places have renovated their waterfront in the United States, but they have used the piers and old structures and warehouses and buildings that have been there already for 100 years, to renovate, they have  not knocked down everything and started from scratch, creating projects which have nothing to do with their surroundings.

I am surprised that Arquitectonica International, a Coconut Grove firm, did not have more of a sensitive plan for the project, as their projects are always so thoughtful and thought out. Their own headquarters in the Grove fits right in to the neighborhood, it's an all green space, quite unassuming and no chrome and glass for that.

I am assuming the whole City of Miami will vote on this project in November and therein lies the rub. The rest of the City doesn't care about the Grove and they never have.

Here are the full plans so far in this dropbox.

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...

It is a mall and theres already plans for target, best buy, and michaels to sign a lease.

July 29, 2013 10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is the same song and dance that it has been since the 80's.
Tear down the center of the Grove and build Cocowalk. It will save the Grove and bring business.
Tear down three blocks and build Mayfair. It will save the Grove and bring business. Anyone remember how Planet Hollywood was supposed to bring world attention to the Grove, as if it needed it?
Tear down the existing structures and build the Ritz Carlton, that will force thousands of tourists into the Grove and and bring business.
Or my favorite and most recent event. Destroy another entire block and build a thirty story Sonesta hotel smack dab in the center of our community so the tourists have a nice view. It will bring tourists and business to the Grove.
And now? Same old song and dance. Let's tear down the existing waterfront and put up a nice new sleek chrome and glass mall. It wil bring tourists and business.
It's what the Grove needs.

Back to what I wrote the other day. The developers, most of the business owners, the actual property owners, the politicians and the corporate entities currently involved in our little hamlet don't care about the residents and families or the general tenor of his community. It's all about the college student's and tourist's dollars and money in the pockets of the developers and politicians.

Ten years from now, when all of the current shops and shop owners have gone and a whole new set of hopeful investors is trying to sell their wares based on the name The Grove, we can have the new advertising campaign blazoned across huge animated billboards glowing and flashing over the intersection at 27th and US-1 all night and day:
Visit Historic Coconut Grove!! Located in the Drive-Thru Mall at Coconut Grove!!

July 29, 2013 12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is all crazy! What is special about the Coconut Grove waterfront is that you can get off your boat right there, eat in your cover-up, hang out, etc. Or you can exercise in Kennedy Park and go right to Scotty's and veg out. You see people you know. Hip young people, retirees, families, you name it. Definitely keep the Scotty's atmosphere...........a mall would completely destroy the Coconut Grove I know as a cool, hip, relaxing haven. Please -- no mall -- please!

July 29, 2013 12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Open it up, let the bay view in, slim down the parking building to a green lot, Don't Box Me In!!!

July 29, 2013 1:37 PM  
Anonymous That Guy said...

Compromise is key, and that's what is going to happen here eventually. I like that Tom is trying to cut to that chase. What we have now, is horrible, ugly, blocks the view, smells like burning hair mixed with cat urine, and just disappoints nonstop. What this project proposes is an over the top, more modern bayside. Somewhere in between is where the answer lies, and as soon as people realize that - that you can't stay the same and must have some change - the sooner we can find the compromise. Moreover, I'm still confused as to why there was only one bidder here - one proposal this time around. That seems fishy to this guy.

July 29, 2013 2:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Miami contractors don't bother to try to bid anymore, at the end the one that should win the contract will get it anyway and anyhow.

July 29, 2013 2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


July 29, 2013 3:54 PM  
Blogger Tom Falco said...

The last sentence in the story has a link to the drop box with all the plans in it. There's a lot of them.

July 29, 2013 4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Water front no to mall and parking REALLY (only if You have a mall) Currently in the grove all parking garages are empty day and night. I see it from by balcony and from walking the entire grove and all its hidden parking (under Sonesta, Mayfair by Timos, Mayfair by Improve, city parking by Florida ave. We Need a the view of the ocean and nice places one store to eat and have fun. A Mall size structure is not the answer. Lets put this to perspective change out Chart house to Shulas not a change.

July 29, 2013 4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was very concerned with the potential development after reading this article and I looked thru the RFP and renderings very closely. Whoever wrote this article is intentionally misleading or completely incompetent. There is no mall here and no 250,000 sq ft garage. The garage is 40,000 sq ft and is mandated by the city of Miami, not by developer. The "mall" picture shown on the article is actually two restaurants...there is no mall. I wish people would be truthful when trying to make an argument. The strange thing is this project has my vote as I was pleasantly surprised after this article set my expectation so low. Coconut Grove Resident

July 29, 2013 7:14 PM  
Blogger Tom Falco said...

I think you need to go back to the plans and read them over again. Because nothing is misleading here. Either that or you work for the developer or are one of the politicians in favor of the plans.

If you actually read the plans and click on the image I have here with the story, the image taken from the very plans you have perused, you will see that 40,000 sq. feet is retail, 22,700 sq feet is commercial, 20,500 sq. feet is restaurants (there are three) and then the boat marina space which looks to be 12,000 sq. feet.

Based upon the minimum required 497 Parking Spaces, the Parking Area required for same will be approximately 198,800 SF

The 198,800 Sf of Parking with the Required 40,00-60,00 SF of “retail” use to be included within the Garage Facility indicates that the total square Footage of the Garage Structure will be in the range of approximately 238,800 Sf to 258,800.

July 29, 2013 7:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Grove resident, I can't wait to stroll straight down that tree lined path from Bayshore Drive right to the new restaurants.

If you tried to do that now you would go from parking lot to chain link fence to warehouse to parking lot to boat racks.

There's a lot more green space in this plan than the Grove's ever had in that spot.

July 30, 2013 11:37 AM  
Anonymous Mark Anthony said...

My initial impression is mixed. We do need improvement in that area. I recall the Waterfront Master plan bought by the City only 8(?) years ago that was supposed to be the 'final one' (I quote commissioner Marc Sarnoff). I hated that design bc it proposed to connect the parks along the waterfront by tearing down the existing structures, including the Sailing Club and the Shake-a-Leg, etc. buildings and leaving the Yacht clubs...and in the end NOT connecting the parks. But at least in included green space and amphitheater. Now yet another architect is designing over that effort? What a waste of money and peoples time.
We DON'T need more restaurants, parking garages, retail stores and unimaginative, uninspiring architecture!
We DO need Green architecture following LEED standards, organic design using wood and natural stone and plants, family-friendly free space and an attraction that is unique and world-class. I am disappointed in the lack of talent in this proposal via Architectonica. Please make it a design contest. As a Grove residents, think about how you are forever being thrown a bone while insiders eat steak. Remember how the Cloisters property was originally deeded to be used as public space and then sold to a developer? Same thing here...

August 01, 2013 7:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, the same green commissioner that didn't want Home Depot - by US1, is in favor of this new glass box on the water, and covering Miami with LED billboards and wall murals.
How do his followers justify this?
You elected a man that has lied and wants nothing but power, which he sucks off the bid developers.
How much more damage can he do in the remaining years of his tenure as commissioner?

August 04, 2013 2:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have a citation for the Cloisters property being deeded for public use? I had heard the same thing for years both before and after it was built but never actually found any hard copy proof of this.

Two other stories I hear floating around are that the marina property was deeded to the City with the caveat that there would always be facilities for the shrimpers and that the Grove was originally a bird sanctuary where there was no building allowed over three stories.

I'm interested if there is any validity to any of these claims and if true, how were the City and the developers able to work around and nullify these things. I'd like to research it but I don't even know where to begin.

August 05, 2013 11:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everything east of the Silverbluff ridge is reclaimed land from the bay. Where is all the S__t going to go, runoff from the parking garage, storm sewers, etc. I cannot add a bathroom to my home or business because of the Dade county imposed moratorium so how can they keep building.

Miami-Dade County: No new toilets, sinks allowed for businesses in Coconut Grove

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/10/07/3039228/miami-dade-county-no-new-toilets.html#storylink=cpy

August 10, 2013 5:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Other waterfront cities really joined the future by creating waterfront parks. The sucess of the parks have given new life to the exisiting city commerce and then some. A mall is the worst idea ,a parking garagen, horrible idea (see other comments) . A waterside are that incoropates. The shrimpers, boaters , landscape view lovers , real nature with a twist could only bring new life to this historic area.

August 12, 2013 2:03 PM  

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