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Monday, May 2, 2016

SAVING HISTORIC HOUSES

    There is so much to love about Coconut Grove, especially the quirky old houses that peek out of our jungles. Sadly, we're quickly losing many of them. 
   Look around, developers are tearing down residences in every part of the Grove. They are doing this daily without neighbors being informed (as is required).
     Consider the lovely,1940 New England-style  home around the corner from us, at 3600 Hibiscus St. 

 
      Janet Reno grew up next-door.  It was a "star", used for several movies and many commercials. This wooden gem was the pride of our neighborhood until last month.


 

A huge yellow monster ("Kobelco") ripped it apart three weeks ago.







The rubble-filled lot is now on the market for $1,595,000. 


   No doubt some builder will leap at the chance to replaced this gracious lady with a couple of modern mega-cubes, white boxes that could double for doctor's offices on Coral Way.

     It's too late to save Miss New England but you can help protect another historic house. 

  She has stood proudly at the corner of Park Ave. and Douglas Road for 100 years but is  now slated for destruction.  
To help, go to the link below and sign the petition,


     It's a worthy effort but the Grove needs much more. We've got to stop the developers who "sell the Grove" from destroying it. Don't let them tear our unique neighborhoods down, one house at a time.
    Many communities have succeeded in preserving their pasts. We must join together to save what we love about Coconut Grove. To begin this effort we can, 

1) Contact the Grove's public officials... the mayor, our commissioners. Ken Russell and Xavier Suarez were both at last week's preservation meeting.

2) Revise the city's historic preservation system (and building code) to make it more effective and to allow the public to be informed of every application for a demolition permit (ie. before the permit is issued).

3) When permits (sometimes called "waivers") are issued, the neighbors must be informed of the planned demolitions (this is "required" but this is not apparently being carried out by the City of Miami), and,
4) We must continue the strong public debate (as was evidenced at last Tuesday's meeting) on whether we should continue to  allow  a) the demolition of historically significant homes and commercial buildings, b)  lot-splitting, and, c) new mega-residences that wipe out our tree canopy and tropical vegetation.

    If we don't do these things the Grove won't be so special anymore. Developers will cover us with concrete.

      Let's continue the public gatherings.  Grove 2030's Historic Preservation Committee is having a meeting on Wednesday, May 4th, at 6:30 p.m.  It will take place at the Glass House in Peacock Park.  
      Working together we can find ways to preserve what we love about Coconut Grove.
           _______________________________


TEARING DOWN THE GROVE (One House at a Time)

    The City of Miami continues to hand out building demolition permits like candy on Halloween. I just learned of two more beautiful old houses slated for destruction,



1)  3950 Leafy Way and,

 

2) 3945 Loquat Avenue.

     You stand in front of them and think, "Tear 'em down?  Are they crazy?".  Of course they aren't.  They are just greedy sob developers who care nothing about the preservation or future of Coconut Grove.
     The builders want to cut down the trees, build the largest house they can, grab the money, and run. 

    Both of these two houses are on 100-foot lots that the developers may try to split (build two houses where there is now one). These lovely residences will fall unless Grovites fight to keep them, their neighborhoods, and their history intact.  

   Although it suppose to be public information, it is not easy to get the City of Miami to reveal,
A) Who has applied for demolition permits (sometimes called "waivers"),
b) Inform the public of who has been given these permits, and,
c) Let citizens know if adjoining neighbors have been properly notified of "demo" plans.

     There may be dozens of current permits issued  to destroy Coconut Grove houses and commercial buildings. Though it is not usually the case, some of them may be in poor condition and not worth saving.
     Here are the addresses of three more properties slated to be "demo'd", 3977, 3979, and 3983 Douglas Road (SW 37 Ave., next to the Kampong). I have not seen these houses. There are two more on Emathla and Noc-a-tee with death sentences.
   
     Neighbors rose up and saved a rare beauty on St. Gaudens Road last year.  We need more of this activism.  Last week we had a terrific community meeting, at Plymouth Church, to discuss this huge problem. I'll include thoughts on what can be done in my next column manana.
                      __________________
   

Thursday, April 21, 2016

NINETY IS THE NEW FIFTY



   Our dear friend, Coconut Grove's Lucienne Sanchez-Resnick, has created a new expression, "Ninety is the new fifty".  

She's the lady you saw making bicycle-powered smoothies at a recent Grove gathering...or maybe the one who helped you park your Schwinn as the art festival's bike valet.  Or, You might have bumped into her on a dance floor.  That's Lucienne.

   After forty-four years of marriage, her husband Hank can not praise her enough. He is throwing a series of birthday parties to celebrate the 90th year of his adorable wife. 

   Hank and Lucienne had the first one with friends in Berkeley last month.  We attended the third one in the Biltmore hotel's penthouse suite last night. 
  
   Ever imagine what it might be like to stay in the top-floor room in this magnificent edifice, the one Al Capone use to call his second home?  The one with 360-degree views of Miami?  The place where  presidents crash?

   We were partying in the Presidential Suite last night and it was amazing. Lucienne was her usual adorable self, beaming in an elegant gray evening dress. 
After we sang her song she cut the cake and handed out slices.


     Hank invited us to stay the night ("We have an extra bedroom") and we seriously considered it.  "Oh, it'd be like taking friends on a honeymoon, tempting but not quite right", said Francesca.  The place rents for the price of a Subaru so we can always go  back.

    Hank tells us the birthday celebrations will continue.  The next one is at their summer home in Paris and the last?  They've booked passage with Carnival for a September cruise to Cuba.  
   Who knew hitting the Big 9-0 could be this much fun?
                       ___________________
Note:  Since I published this a couple of days ago, two female friends have written to me to say they
spent some of their teenage years partying in the Presidential Suite.  "It was empty, a ghost hotel back then. It was easy to break in and climb the stairs. Once we even fueled a party with champagne we found in the closed restaurant".  The other told me she and a friend, once they got to the top floor, tried to climb up on the roof from a balcony.  Happily, both survived and are doing well today. Sadly, the Grove Guy was behaving himself, more or less, during those ghost hotel years.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

COCONUTS NO LONGER WELCOME IN COCONUT GROVE

      It sounds like a headline from "The Onion", but the City of Miami -which controls Coconut Grove- no longer allows coconut palms to be planted in public spaces.     What's next, rip them out of our yards like they did with citrus trees fifteen years ago?

   Thursday's Miami Herald told us Miami resident, Elvis Cruz, has been cited for planting the popular tree next to a road. "I was dumbfounded", said Cruz, who is threatened $500 fine.

    Even though they symbolize South Florida and all things tropical, the City has decided that coconut trees are not worthy.  City planner, Francisco Garcia, was quoted as saying that fruit trees were no longer welcome on public property. Someone might get hit by a falling coconut, grapefruit, or sapodilla. I think this should happen to Francisco, it may knock some sense into him.
     What the Grove needs is a thriving coconut grove. Designate some public space and fill is with these sensuous, curving trees. Invite Mr. Garcia to visit and see what happens.



       "Let's keep the coconut in Coconut Grove!
                  _______________________

 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Miami Original, WRONG-WAY FIRE TRUCKS

   I drive to West Kendall five days a week. The monotonous journey is thankfully, against traffic.

This is my view heading west on Kendal Drive.
 
Kendall Drive, heading east, is just the opposite, horribly clogged with cars. 
It can takes an hour to drive ten miles.                Heading east
    
    What breaks up the monotony on my idyllic journey are the occasional emergency vehicles going east. They often drive on the wrong side of the divided highway because,

 1) the clogged cars on their side of the road aren't moving,  2) it might be legal and, 3) it's got to be exciting, threatening to collide head-on with people like me.
     So far, their flashing lights and sirens have gotten my attention. I pull over every time to avoid a fatal collision.  
    Last Friday one of my fellow westbound travelers wasn't so lucky.  A huge lime-colored firetruck plowed into her Toyota. The firemen were extracting the woman from pillowing airbags when I slowly passed. Thankfully, she seemed surprisingly alive having glanced off the truck's left bumper.
     Forty-five years of commuting ends next month for me.  Hopefully, 'til then, I'll be able to steer clear of wrong-way fire trucks
           ______________________________
 

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Genevieve Block
 
BEST SEATS IN THE HOUSE
     Have you been to the Panorama Restaurant at the Grove Sonesta Hotel?  Francesca and I went there for dinner last week. We were blown away by our seats, on the edge of an outdoor deck overlooking Biscayne Bay. 
   They even threw in a sunset.
   The place has room for a hundred but only five tables (for two) have "the big view". The food was great (plus, your get a 10% discount if you live
in the Grove). My mojito could have used more alcohol, but I wasn't complaining.  
   Two kids stopped by our table asking for autographs. Adorable. They were asking everyone  to sign their coloring books. When I drew a Mickey Mouse the young blond she told me, "That's nice but I still want your autograph."
The Grove Guy complied.

  Our bill came to $60 and I thought. taking in the view, "I'd pay that just to sit here for a hour".

  You probably have to get there by seven to get a great table. They take reservations and maybe you can reserve one of the "big view" tables. We had reservations but they tried to seat us only
near the edge. We asked for the front row seats and they were happy to comply. 

  You can go to the Panorama for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just drinks. They say the food is
"Peruvian",but it's barely that, more American than not. Good food.
  Francesca and I could look down at the restaurant guests below (the Peacock Cafe) and the new "Glass & Vine" south and think, "We're glad we're not down there tonight". Too crowded, noisy, and no blow-you-away view".

   Yes, this sounds like a commercial but so what? We had a great time and didn't know much about Panorama until a friend recommended it.
   On the bike ride home we stumbled upon another gem, Karaoke Night at the Panther Coffee House. Like the Panorama, it was an"all age" gathering, with The Big View replaced with smiles, laughter, and hilarious entertainment. Anyone can get up and sing. Some are pretty good. If you're lucky, you may get to hear my rendition of "Stairway to Heaven" next Saturday night.  
                    ____________________