They Come, They Go Print
Written by Jack King, BT Contributor   
September 2018

Opportunists look to reshape the Grove -- again

IPix_JackKing_9-18’ve been living in the Grove for the past 35 years. Before that, I spent ten years moving in and out of the Grove, looking for a better place to live. I finally just gave up and moved in for good.

On August 9, the Miami Herald ran an article that highlighted changes in the Grove and what it says will be the Grove’s new savior: office buildings.

First, I didn’t know we needed to be saved. And second, I never knew that an office building could save anyone.

I found the Herald article to be verbose, and I take issue with some of the information presented in it. The headline was particularly stupid: “CocoWalk: Miami’s original hotspot has lost its spunk. Now a comeback is afoot.” You sure can tell that the Herald is headquartered in Doral. Plus, the article included few comments from people who actually live and work in the Grove. Most of the comments were from developers who came from elsewhere and wanted to make money as fast as they could and get the hell out before the Grove ate them alive, as it tends to do with people who don’t know the neighborhood.

Here’s a little Grove history for you: In the 40 years that I’ve been around here, I’ve witnessed countless people come to the Grove with money and grandiose ideas, who want to tell us what’s wrong with the Grove -- and, of course, they have just the plan to make the Grove a better place, and, of course, they’ll make a lot of money in the process.

More times than not, it doesn’t work that way. They lose their ass financially and we get stuck with some weird building that no one likes and that proves to be useless. Generally, it takes years to find something else that will work in the building, but most often someone new buys the property, tears the building down, and then puts up something new.

The Herald article says that the Grove is falling behind all the other new cool areas in Miami, like Wynwood and Brickell. Well, I have been to Wynwood many times, and it certainly does have much more commercial area than the Grove -- but we have much more residential area.

And then developer Michael Comras is quoted in the article. “I don’t think anyone can say the Grove five or ten years ago was a place anyone wanted to be,” he says. “In two years, it will be transformed. It will be vibrant. A place where people want to go. All that’s happening, it’s lifting the whole village.”

Oh yeah, Michael? Tell us about it.

One business sector in which we are a clear leader: failed restaurants. But not for the reasons you might think. Every good, bad, and ugly restaurant wants to be in the Grove. At least six have closed in just the past six months. Our failed restaurants always seem to serve the kind of overpriced bad food tourists can be suckered into buying. There’s no chance of locals eating there.

One current franchise restaurant is at least trying to attract its neighbors. It’s called Poke Bowl and has weird mix of food. They weren’t doing well until they put two things on the menu that Groveites really love: ice cream and wine.

However, we have restaurants that have been here for more than 30 years and show no sign of leaving. We also have ones that closed 20, 30 years ago, and have no sign of reopening -- as anything.

And just look at the population figures for Miami and the county. The county population in 1970 was 1.25 million. Now it is 2.8 million. In 1970 the population of Coconut Grove was an estimated 17,000. In 2018, it is 21,200.

Just last month I wandered around Brickell City Center. Yes, it’s a great new place, with great stores and great restaurants. However, it is all inside -- and for some reason, I don’t like being indoors all the time. That’s why I like the Grove.

Wynwood is fine, but the traffic is crazy and it has no water. Two of the things I love about the Grove: being outside and having Biscayne Bay. How many places in Miami, or South Florida for that matter, offer their residents such close proximity to sun and water?

I don’t doubt that there will many more “experts” who will wander into the Grove and show us what we can do to make the Grove a better place. And just as we always do, we’ll study what they’re proposing. If their plans are any good, the people will come. If they are bad, the Grove will chew them up and spit them out. And then we’ll go on our merry way, laughing in the sunshine.


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