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Friday, August 18, 2017

Talking about Grove history with Ken Treister

Ken Treister
I had a conversion with Ken Treister, famous architect around these parts, who designed so many well-known structures in Coconut Grove from the Shoppes at Mayfair to Yacht Harbour condo to the Office in the Grove, now on the chopping block on South Bayshore Drive. He also designed the Holocaust Memorial on Miami Beach.

Office in the Grove was the second office building built in Coconut Grove. The Coconut Grove Bank was the first. 

Mr. Treister lives in central Florida now and has not been here in the Grove for awhile. I told him what the Coconut Grove Bank property is now - massive out of scale high rises. He was shocked. I told him how I was in Coral Gables the other day and I literally could see the massive buildings from there at street level!  Scale is important to him when it comes to architecture. 

Regarding the Office in the Grove, as a kid, I remember when the office building was new, there was a sign up on the berm that said, "If you lived here, you would be home by now." Funny how things like that stick in your head. 

Mr. Treister told me that he was part of a group that planted many trees you see on Main Highway and Grand Avenue now (well, most are being destroyed on Grand Avenue now), but many were his doing with partners like Lester Pancoast, son of Russell Pancoast, one of the key architects in the early days of Miami Beach. He says trees are the most important part of a streetscape and a building. 

"The secret of a city is trees. Trees hide ugly architecture, they give shade and cool the city, they give the neighborhood a sense of scale," says Mr. Treister. He still refers to Coconut Grove as a village. So do I.

We were talking about the original Mayfair which was an incredible space - an elegant indoor/outdoor mall, "with a lot of greenery," says Mr. Treister. The Mayfair Hotel still has so many of the same elements left, their atrium looks pretty much as the mall looked when it was enclosed.

He doesn't mind the offices taking over retail, as he says that is a sign of the times, but I think he does wonder about the fact that they tore down so much of his structure to open it up to the street, which obviously failed to bring in retail customers, as it is offices now.

Docomomo US / Florida, the local chapter of Docomomo International, applied to the City of Miami Historic and Environmental Preservation Board requesting them to designate Mr. Treister's Office in the Grove a historic, architectural resource. Mr. Treister is proud of this building. He described to me the purpose of the grass berm, the fact that parking is hidden and he explained the style - having the three bottom floors open and airy.

There is a petition to stop the demolition of this building here.

Office in the Grove. Photo by Dan Forer.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The owners have stripped all the original installations and wood carvings inside in an effort to take away all the historic design. It used to look just like the mayfair inside.

August 18, 2017 3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think that's a pretty building actually. It's like one big ugly box. Doesn't do anything for the cityscape. I live in Yacht Harbour and to tell you the truth, I think it also kind of looks out of place now. But we do have the best views and location in the Grove. The times they are a-changin', wether we like it or not.

August 18, 2017 3:57 PM  
Blogger NewGrovite said...

Like many artifacts from the 1970s, this building is hopelessly out of date and - according to professionals who lease office space - can't be retrofitted or leased. Either the people who love it should raise the funds buy it and convert it into a museum of 1970's kitsch or allow economic nature to take its course and replace it with a viable modern building where people would want to have an office. Or they could just let it sit there and decay and fall in on itself.... the way the once magnificent Grand Bay Hotel did.

August 18, 2017 7:21 PM  
Blogger reid prevatt said...

Did nt you write an article about Terra wanting to buy it and you got a response about the long term leases would not allow that to happen soon. As somebody said said "wrong" Money talks. If it decays it is because the owner is not doing what he should. KEEP IT UP. Land is worth a fortune but I think it is a good looking BLDG. Should never go higher than it is right now period.

August 21, 2017 10:37 PM  

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