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Sunday, May 15, 2016

SANGRIA SUMMER

    We spent this beautiful day in Venice, Italy (or something close to it). 
      You know about
Viscaya Museum and Gardens, Coconut Grove's Italian villa on Biscayne Bay.

You may not know that they now have "Sangria Summer", a delightful weekend brunch event.

     
A delectable lunch is served in their Garden Cafe, on the east side of the mansion. 

 

   Joy Wallace, our local catering legend, runs the show with her helpful, talented staff.  I'm still savoring the Torte Espanola and the Truffled White Bean Soup.  And the sangria? Mm-mm, white or red with touch of Triple Sec and a spritz of mango champagne.
    The weekend deliciousness is available from 11:30 to 4:30 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday for the next four months. The cafe is open year-round.



    After the fig & almond torte, we slowly rose to tour the gardens and house. In sixty years of visits I'm still discovering new things. It's the villa's 100th birthday y'know.
     Be a part of this year's celebration by visiting Viscaya soon.  Become a member ($75 a year) and you can almost live there and get a 10% discount at the cafe. More information is available at Viscaya.org.  

   That said, Miami's heat is much more bearable if you're having a sangria summer.
       __________________________

Friday, May 13, 2016

MY NEW HOUSE EATER

       White boxes are spreading like a colorless cancer in Coconut Grove. We need to start the long process of creating historic districts to protect the old houses that they are replacing. In the mean time, let me suggest another solution, let's destroy these "houses" that look more like doctors offices on Coral Way.


     It can be done, I just purchased a machine that eats them.  It is a used Cederapids P-9 house-eater. 
I found it in West Hialeah and had it delivered yesterday.


     There's not much to it. 
I turned the key, put it in "drive" and lumbered off to the closest white box in my neighborhood. It was still under construction so I assumed it was unoccupied.  
   
    When I drove its huge, gaping maw into the front wall it not only began to eat the house but also excreted a neat line of concrete blocks out the back.
      
    When I was done, I left a note saying, "Your 'house' was ugly. Try again, maybe something like this". 
(I attached this photo)
 
      
    Hopefully the developer will do a better job next time.

                              __________

 PS:  If you have one of these charmless caja blancas in your neighborhood drop me a line (bettermiami1@yahoo.com) .  
I'll take care of it.
The Grove Guy


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

IT WAS "BEAUTIFUL", The Carole King Musical

     Last night I heard the earth //  move  // under my feet.  Francesca and I were at the opening night of "Beautiful", the Carole King musical.  

   It's playing at the Broward Center through May 22.
Actress Abby Mueller, playing the singer/songwriter, sang "Earth Move" along with dozens of other King hits.  Below are some photos of the show.  It center around the the writers and musicians who put out big hits of the 50' and 60's. Four Friends. Abby Mueller (Carole King), Becky Gulsvig (Cynthia Weil), Ben Fankhauser (Barry Mann) and Liam Tobin (Gerry Goffin)Photo by Joan Marcus, Broadway. (l to r) Curt Bouril (Don Kirshner), Liam Tobin (Gerry Goffin), Abby Mueller (Carole King), Ben Fankhauser (Barry Mann), Becky Gulsvig (Cynthia Weil) and the Company of Beautiful.Photo by Joan Marcus
     
   There have been so many Carole King hits, -over a hundred- from "Loco-motion" to "Natural Woman". I didn't know much about the singer until my wife and I watched a PBS documentary last month.  I learned that the New York native sold her first song at sixteen. I remember hearing it, Bobby Vee's "It Might As Well Rain Until September", when I was a kid. 
     "Beautiful" starts at that point and takes you through the ups and downs of her life (super successful but preggers at 17 and divorced with kids four years later).  The show winds up in 1971 at her sold-out "Tapestry" performance in Carnegie Hall. 
    King still tours occasionally. She's over New York and the years that followed in L.A.  A buddy of mine bought her house in Laurel Canyon back then. The cover of Tapestry was shot in the living room.  When he moved in Carole told Alan to expect visits from a friendly ghost. Fortunately, it stayed out of the guest bedroom the night I stayed there.
   The prolific tune-smith moved north where she  enjoys life under the big skies of Idaho. 
 
      If you love Carole King's music you'll love 'Beautiful". Tickets start at $30. you can get more information at 954-462-0222 or at BrowardCenter.org.
                            _______

GROVE CONCERT SUNDAY 
    If you think Beethoven is beautiful you may want to attend the Grove's own Alhambra Orchestra concert Sunday night, May 15. 
It'll take place in the Ransom School Auditorium, 3575 Main Highway at 7:30 pm.  Admission and parking are free.
    
                                  _______ 
    

Sunday, May 8, 2016

TWENTY-ONE GROVE HOUSES ON DEATH ROW

     It's always distressing  to hear the sound of houses being torn down in Coconut Grove. It is loud and the backhoes claw for days.

     The demolitions are  a surprise as neighbors are usually given no notice (as is required but the City of Miami code).  If you are informed, you have 15-days to fight the "demo" permit. 
     The city does not publish the addresses of the houses that have received them. There is even more obfuscation as the city calls them "waivers" (what are they "waiving", the right of the neighborhood to remain intact?). 

      As you sink deeper in the bureaucratic muck you realize why we're surprised when the two-ton  house-rippers show up. We could not tell when the wrecking ball would fly next...until now.

     This month, Grove residents can receive some forewarning. I have a list of the next Grove houses scheduled to fall this month. A couple have been torn down already.

     I only have the list because Grove 2030's David Villano made a special request to the city's Department of Zoning. This list should be online, all the time.
   Thanks to Mr. Villano, this month we can see the the addresses of the,

   TWENTY-ONE GROVE HOUSES DOOMED
       FOR DESTRUCTION (May, 2016)


1. 3950 Leafy Way






 


2. 3945 Loquat Ave.

      This house had a permit but it has expired.
       It is safe for now.









3.  3147 Matilda St.
4. 4197 Braganza St.
5. 3828 Kumquat Ave. (partial demolition)
6. 3226 Elizabeth St.
7. 3966 Park Ave.
 
8. 3701 Park Ave.
 











9. 3150 Hibiscus St.
10. 3160 Shipping  Ave.

 

11. 3621 Noc-a-tee Dr. 
   







12. 3210 Calusa Ct.
 


13. 3145 Ohio Street








14. 1935 Secoffee St.
 
15. 3093 Emathla St. 
   The list address is probably a mistake. There is no "3093" and "3003" has a new construction posting on the front wall.




 

16. 2550 Overbrook St. 









17. 2050 Bay Heights Dr.




18. 3220 Day Ave.

   This looks like a simple
2/1 built in the 40's.
Unfortunately it will 
probably be replaced by a bulky four-plex like those surrounding it. There will be no room for anything but a driveway and a white box stretching the length of the property. 
  Is this the future of Coconut Grove? 

 
 


19. 3127 Matilda St.
20.  3220 Matilda St. (torn down last week)

      "3127" has a colorful
front wall but the aging
plain Jane behind it probably should have been flattened years ago.


And rounding out May's list, 
21. 3550 Curtis Lane

       That's how wrecking ball bounces this month. The Grove community and its leaders must decide how to respond to developers tearing down our houses with greater frequency. If they continue to fall, the Grove may have to adopt a more Princely name, 
               These bulky twins are  replacing a single residence on Lincoln Avenue in the North Grove.

"The Community Formerly Known as Coconut Grove".
                   _______________________





STREET SPELLINGS CHANGING IN COCONUT GROVE

   Coconut Grovites, complaining of distressing increases in tourist traffic, are discussing ways to make their popular village less attractive.
 Some activists suggest removing street signs altogether while others, like Tavis Pinkerton, feels we should replace existing signs with new names or at least, misspell them.
   Mr. P is trying out his idea with this first one. It can now be seen on the corner of Hibiscus St. and Avocado.
   

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), 
4) Consider making the Grove a historic district.  It worked for Morningside, in Miami's upper east side.
4) We must continue the public debate (as was evidenced at last Tuesday's meeting) on demolition permits,  lot-splitting, and the new mega-residences that wipe out our trees.

    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.
                      __________________