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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

More on the Park Avenue house

I spoke with Ray Castellanos who is the owner of the house at 3701 Park Avenue. Ray owns Authentic Construction along with his wife and and partner Manny Fernandez.

Authentic Construction builds custom houses and Ray, who lives in the Park Avenue house with his family, may or may not demolish the old house to make way for something new. Ray says that he loves Coconut Grove and they moved here because they want to live here. The property has two lots, the old house is on the east side and if he can keep the house as-is, he will. On the west side he will build another house, which will fit in with the neighborhood, he encourages neighbors to reach out and guide him. I found it strange to hear that no one has reached out to Ray; he says that everyone has emails and complaints going back and forth but no one has even bothered to speak with him to hear his plans. 

I think the red flag was the fact that he is a home builder and that there is a demolition permit for the house.

Ray told me that the demolition permit on the property was already there when he bought it. He moved in to the house with his family to get the feel of the place, to see if it was livable.

Ray invited me over to see the house personally, but I wanted to file this story and didn't have time to see the house first, but I will go by soon. In fact, many of you will have the opportunity to meet Ray, as he is interested in attending the meeting about the Tree Canopy at Plymouth Church on Wednesday night (7 pm).

"I dont know how much I will be able to afford, but the goal is that my family and I stay in the two story home and we build a house on the second lot," says Ray. Two lots face Park Avenue, according to the city.

"If I was to win the lottery tomorrow, and I could build myself a house, well I am going to build myself the coolest 3000 sq foot house possible," says Ray. 

I'm not sure how that preserves the old house. But let's hope Ray doesn't win the lottery if that's his plans. 

Ray's company does a lot of construction in Bal Harbour, Bay Harbor and Key Biscayne. And he says he is surrounded in these communities with white boxed houses. But he doesn't feel that they belong in Coconut Grove.

"It pisses me off to drive by the South Grove and see a big mansion coming up and overpowering the neighboring house. That upsets me. I love urban planning, I love cities [but this doesn't belong in the neighborhood,]" he said.

A problem with the house on Park Avenue is the street light on Ingraham and Douglas that is always flashing inside the bedroom window. And there is always loud traffic on the street - even at 3 am. But he does want to preserve the house if he can. "I've been speaking with a responsible architect who has served on the city's historic board. I think it's a responsibility, I would like when people come over they can say, this is what the old Grove was like," says Ray.

I asked Ray about the 100 year old columns from the Royal Palm Hotel. He says he met with someone from the HistoryMiami museum and discussed the columns. He also met with Megan Cross Schmitt, the City of Miami Planning & Zoning Department Preservation Officer, who went over to the house to see them. "Even if no one wants the columns, I won't get rid of them, I feel responsible for them," says Ray.

He told me that the columns aren't even authenticated yet, they need to be authenticated to be sure they even came from the old hotel. "If the house goes down and the museum only takes a couple, I will use the rest on the new house," Ray says.

He went on, "I am open to recommendations from anyone who does this kind of salvaging. Please keep in mind I build high end homes, my crew does very detailed work, but I would like to find someone who specializes in this kind of work," if it comes to that.

"I am all in. I am living in Coconut Grove. I would like to do my part to keep the neighborhood the way it is supposed to be."

One thing that I feel will comfort people is that Ray has been consulting with arborist Bob Brennan, a fellow Grovite. Ray wants to protect the vegetation. Now if he could find someone to guide him with the old house in it's restoration. 

Before we spoke, Ray told me, "I believe in the values that you are fighting for. I think that when we speak you will find that I am not an enemy, I may actually be able to help the fight."

Continued tomorrow. 

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 sounds to me like Ray has a plan the neighbors would approve of. The application for demolition was filed on December 4 ,2015 and was approved March 4, 2016. The property was sold to 3701 Park av investments llC on August 27, 2015. A little bit off from his story, but maybe he changed his mind about the demolition, or maybe the date on the application was wrong.

April 26, 2016 7:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shouldn't you, the blogger, take some responsibility for the back lash the homeowner/developer has received? You wrote an article that received 17 unpleasant even stated he should be taken out back and shot, another that he's a pirate, basically lit a fire under everyone's behind without getting the facts FIRST, directly from the homeowner. I can only imagine what he's been put thru as a result of your biased article.

April 26, 2016 10:09 AM  
Blogger Grapevine said...

Please hold off on that bullshit. I am the only one who reached out to the owner and I did not put him down in the previous story. I wrote about what is going on in the neighborhood after receiving about 20 emails on the subject from upset neighbors. I let people comment here, I am not responsible for the comments, otherwise yours wouldn't be here now.

I sited the lack of the city to follow their own laws and the history of the Royal Palm Hotel. The city should have never approved a demolition permit.

Also, people were putting down an anonymous person, since no one know who the owner was. They weren't calling him out by name. Sort of like you, Anonymous.

I didn't mention the owner or the construction company by name and it was not a secret that this address had been under siege by neighbors for a long time. I think what I did was clear up the issue. If I was trying to cause trouble, I would never have reached out to the owner to get his side of the story.

April 26, 2016 10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few things:
-Ray does not own the home. And he IS a developer with a demo permit that they snuck in under the radar...why? Because they're going to tear it down. The demo permit was NOT approved upon the sale of the home which was Aug 2015.

-The lots are not in fact divided facing Park Ave, they are divided facing Douglas- which means a few things. IF he is going to keep the home intact, the homes will be on top of of another, and there would have to be an easement along the back half of the lot so you could have a driveway (not even remotely ideal for making any profit- no way are you getting a 4 million dollar home squeezed in there).

OR If their lawyers managed to get the city to allow the lot lines to be redrawn, at the minimum the porch with the columns would be destroyed as well as the unidentified species of huge tree that didn't make it onto the plans.

April 26, 2016 11:59 AM  
Blogger Jean said...

Story seems a bit fishy.

11:59 is correct. The "owner" of the lot is 3701 PARK AVENUE INVESTMENT, LLC and the registered agent is a lawyer. If he is a owner or part of that corporation, why buy the property under the LLC?

April 26, 2016 2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NOTE According to the DEED it is for Lot 21 and 22. According to the property appraiser website:
Full Legal Description
LOTS 21 & 22
OR 20326-4849 03/2002 4
COC 21924-4777 12 2003 1
Community Development District: NONE
Community Redevelopment Area: NONE
Empowerment Zone: NONE
Enterprise Zone: NONE
Zoning Code: T3-R -
Government Agencies and Community Services

April 26, 2016 2:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You do a terrific job and provide a valuable community service. You aren't an investigative reporter. But, as noted by Anon 10.09, there is often an incendiary tone to posts about these issues. You may not realize what a lynch mob mentality it foments. I still wonder if any of the adjoining neighbors received the demo app waiver letter. If there is record that they were sent, let's mobilize.

April 26, 2016 3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, you do a great job at keeping the community posted. Part of what you do is to make people think and give opinion from all sides. This is called an intellectual discourse.

April 26, 2016 4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed Jean. There is definitely something fishy going on here. I encourage everyone to go to the meeting tomorrow at Tree Canopy at Plymouth Church at 7pm. If we need to mobilize and stop this, that is a good place to meet and start.

April 26, 2016 6:00 PM  

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