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Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Workshop held on what the Grove should become

I attempted to attend a meeting Saturday morning, but I didn't stay. I went because someone who was involved asked me to attend earlier in the week. But when I got there, I was sort of shocked. I walked into a room full of suits. It was called a Visioning Workshop arranged by the BID awhile back with landscape architects Plusurbia and Perkins+Will architects conducting the meeting. I'm calling them suits, because I think that's what they were wearing, but I can't remember, so maybe it was just that presence that gave me the feeling of being a room full of suits. You know what I mean. 

Their main question was, "What do Grovites want for the village?" 

I felt it was a bunch of strangers trying to redo a 150 year old village and I wasn't comfortable with that. Also, I got there early and didn't know anyone, I just saw the room full of suits, so I left.

To be fair, after I left, two friends texted me and told me they where there and I did know Lisa, from the BID, who was signing people in at the door, and since then, others have told me they were at the meeting, so I guess that was the curse of always being early, I didn't see a friendly face so I left before the friendly faces had a chance to arrive.

Tables were set up where groups of people would sit, there were large maps of the Center Grove in the center and the village planning started with that. 

What panicked me was the PR firm (ZM PR) using the term "Master Plan" whenever they would converse with me, and the fact that architectural firms were running the show. The combination of the two freaked me out.

Cynthia Seymour, a Grovite and District Director at Commissioner Ken Russell's office and I had a long talk. She agreed that the "Master Plan" wording needs to be changed. Cynthia told me that she loves the Grove and that of all the proposals that came in to hold the workshops and do the study, Plusurbia got the Grove right. They want to see more greenery in the village.

Cynthia says the Commissioner and the BID would like residents to participate in the redesign of certain aspects in the Grove, for instance the big Main Highway project is coming up. They would like to know what the neighbors would like. I guess in the past we were told this is how it is and that's that. In this case, they want input from the Grovites. For instance, do we need a bike path on Main Highway? Should trees be removed to accommodate that? Or should trees be removed to allow more tables at restaurants, and so on. 

I asked Tim Schmand, BID director, the following questions:

TOM: Why are a couple of architectural firms holding meetings on the future of Coconut Grove? Aren't they big glass building builders (according to their websites), how does this fit in with the Grove?

TIM: Plusurbia’s office is located on 27th Avenue in Coconut Grove. They’re recognized worldwide as an award winning, successful planning organization. Nothing I heard in Saturday’s meeting would lead me to believe they’re proposing “big glass buildings.” They were chosen prior to my arrival at the BID through an extensive public procurement process. 

TOM: What was the point of the workshop? Where will the results go from here? What is the next step?

TIM: Here’s what was written prior to the meeting:

 - The workshop is a planning exercise that will be facilitated by the Plusurbia Team in collaboration with the Coconut BID.
- The intent is to inform us of the needs and wants of the community and implementation priorities.
- The workshop is to gather information to make recommendations to the City of Miami through a planning document at the end of the project.
- "Design your neighborhood" is meant to attract people that have an interest in their built environment, this workshop is an opportunity for residents and business owners to be heard and as a collective set forth a vision for the Grove (designing it together).

TOM: The Grove is the Grove, how is Master Planning going to change the village?

TIM: I think it was and is Plusurbia’s goal to make the Grove more Grove-like.

Commissioner Ken Russell said, "The BID has a significant ability to improve and beautify the area and has been spending money on things like free trolleys, sidewalk repairs, cycle lane planning, landscaping, etc.  This planning process will help direct future spending of the BID.  I wanted to make sure that it included public input. "

Additional interviews will be conducted to gather information. "An advisory committee was formed to assist Plusurbia in understanding the issues confronting the district from the perspective of 'learned stakeholders'; the next meeting is open to the public  and will take place Thursday, August 3 at 2:00 pm at the Coconut Grove BID Office, 3390 Mary Street Suite 130," said Lisa Ostrenga, Marketing Director of the BID.

Javier Gonzalez, Village Council member, who did attend the meeting, wrote an interesting blog post after the meeting on his Gotta Jav Miami blog. It's about turning the Grove into a Garden District to protect it. Here's his post and why it would be a good idea.

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.


Blogger Virginia Grovite said...

Where is Grove 2030, the Chamber of Commerce and the Coconut Grove Village Council? We have the organizations to represent us, so why aren't they?

As they say, we get the politicians we deserve... in this case, we get the development we deserve. If we don't vote/participate, someone else will do it for us.

Didn't we just learn that lesson with a really ugly outcome? When are "ordinary" Grovites going to make a stand, except for feeble attempt with the Playhouse...

August 02, 2017 4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many Coconut Grove meetings, Workshops, Letters To Editor, E-mails, Herald stories, Curb stories, Miami Today stories, New Times stories, Grapevine stories (by far the best and first to cover the issues) and comments have taken place in the past decades? There have been plenty. And we still have dangerous broken sidewalks, high rents that drive of the Mom and Pop businesses, demolishing of wonderful buildings being replaced with Big White Boxes, cutting down old growth trees and altering our neighborhood for the benefit of developed and Commissioners that's are funded by them? Just how many more Workshops will be required to preserve the history, charm and uniqueness that still remains in Coconut Grove?

August 02, 2017 5:16 PM  
Anonymous sonya de long said...

Plururbia is an urban planning group. They have done superb work in small Miami communities, as well as nationwide. BID evidently want the business district to be functional, attractive, and meet our needs, which is what they mean by "Master Plan". Why leave it to a hundred different city departments when they can act as "the hub of the wheel" and create cogency among these disparate developments & demands? As the heights of buildings increase, "holding the street" becomes even more important.

I met some time ago, as a private citizen, with the city transportation group, who are bombarded with many conflicting demands. Grove 2030 wants to tear down trees for bike paths. No thank you! They wanted curbs & fences, too on those paths. No way! It'll be a big mumbo jumbo to satisfy a few. I trust Pkusurbia to find a way forward.

I was sorry I missed the meeting. You can't get better than Juan Mullerat. Stop picking on the fact that they were professionally clothed and listen to what they say.

August 02, 2017 5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Several year ago there was an effort by guys in suits that felt that Coconut Grove had lost its Mojo from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. I recall attending Miami City Hall P&Z Meeting that was so well attended there was only standing room available. That presentation was made friends of the Commissioners that claimed the Grove no longer had a true identity. They had a vision that the Grove should be more glitzy and sparkly, like that of Time Square. That this could be accomplished by installing a Jumbotron Display Monitor on or above the Engle Building facing Cocowalk. That this Jumbotron would function much like the Time Square Spectaculars. That it would display news bulletins and help us celebrate New Year’s and other significant events. And that all of these gifts to the Grove would be made available to us by simply permitting its installation and allowing them to run a few advertising spots on this premium electronic billboard location. Needless to say, many Grovites where not so thrilled with the idea and where most adamant about its opposition. I even recall there was a good deal of support for this project because one of the principles happened to be a celebrity speaking to the P&Z Board from his wheelchair. Imagine if on that day so many Grovites had not taken a stand against the Jumbotron. By now Main and Grand would probably a sea of electronic billboards. So by all means be a Good Grove Citizen Advocate and Stand Truth To Power on all the issues that help preserve the Grove that we love. Don’t let those that wish to develop it into a shiny steel and glass office district. Don’t let it become a Brickell South with even more out of scale luxury condos. And not let it become an artificially themed destination, like Disney World. Allow Coconut Grove to be Coconut Grove. As with that inappropriate Jumbotron scheme, the building of more Big White Boxes that resemble medical offices is certainly not the answer. And thanks to Tom Falco for publishing the Coconut Grove Grapevine for the past thirteen years. He has provided a vehicles to help us all become more aware of the issues that concern us. He has also provided an opportunity for us to present our own views and suggestions to help preserve and protect what we have.

August 03, 2017 5:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know what is so typical of Miami? The nepotism and unethical way private enterprises hijack public funds. Plusurbia, the firm described here in this article, was CO-FOUNDED by Franisco Garcia, the City of Miami's Planning Director. His wife, Francisca Puga, is a full-time employee of Plusurbia. Is that why Plusurbia is involved in this?

August 04, 2017 1:06 PM  

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