News: Coconut Grove Waterfront Development Proposal and Lease Agreement

On Thursday evening July 25th, The Miami City Commission unanimously voted to approve the execution of a 80 year Lease Agreement with the Developers of the proposed “Grove Harbor” complex of Restaurants, Retail Space, Dry Rack Boat Storage and a 497 Space Parking Garage, on Publicly Owned Bayfront Land in Coconut Grove. Only Two Proposals were submitted in response to the RFP. One Proposal was withdrawn leaving this “Grove Harbor” proposal as the only proposal under consideration by the City.

The property where this complex of buildings may be located is currently occupied by the Charthouse Restaurant, Scotty?s Landing, and an existing Dry Rack Boat Storage.

In passing the resolution to execute the “Lease Agreement” it was noted by the Commission that there was almost no community opposition to the proposed development and in particular no recognized neighborhood or community associations were even present at the time of consideration of this Proposal.. Given the zealous support of 3 of the City Commissioners and the obvious lack of opposition present the resolution was passed and will now go on the November ballot for approval by the voting public. The only City Commissioner to raise any serious questions about this pending 80 year Lease Agreement, was Commissioner Carollo who raised intelligent and informed questions primarily related to the financial aspects of this Lease agreement with the City. Commissioner Carollo also prefaced his “yes” vote with the note that this issue will be revisited when it comes before the voters in November for their final say.

I was one of only 5 people who voiced objections to this proposed Coconut Grove Bayfront development.

First some facts about this proposed development as described or calculated from the terms of the approved “Lease” and the related drawings.

PARKING FACILITIES

1.)”Parking Facilities: Approximately 497 Parking Spaces…as may be adjusted upon Final Gross leasable Retail (included within) the Parking Facilities”

2.) Retail Use to be included within the Parking Facility: 40,000 SF to 60,000 SF

3.) Based upon the minimum required 497 Parking Spaces, the Parking Area required for same will be approximately 198,800 SF

4.) Combining the 198,800 Sf of Parking with the Required 40,00-60,00 SF of “retail” use to be included within the Garage indicates that the total square Footage of the Garage Structure will be in the range of approximately 238,800 Sf to 258,800. SF or roughly a quarter of a million square foot Parking/Retail Structure.

5.) As Presented in the architect?s siteplan the proposed Parking Structure with Retail measures approximately 125 ft x 350 feet. yielding a “footprint “ of 43,750 SF or  slightly more than 1 acre per floor.

6.) Using 43,750 SF as a Floor Plate size the resulting “Parking Structure” will be somewhere between 6 to possibly 8 Stories in height depending on the final determination of required parking spaces and retail use.

7.) The architect?s rendering shows what appears to be a 4 stories of parking above 1 level of Retail space.

8.) A member of the Coconut Grove Village Council and at least one Speaker at the Commission meeting have suggested that 497 “parking spaces” are far to few and would prefer that this building house possibly as many as 700 Parking Spaces thereby increasing the bulk of this building considerably.

8.) The Proposed Parking Garage is located at the Northern end of the site in close proximity to South Bayshore Drive.

RETAIL FACILITIES

1.) Within the Parking Structure as per the Lease : Min.40,000 SF to Max. 60,000 SF

2.) Within the existing – renovated- “Hanger- ” approximately 17,500 SF derived from Siteplan Measurements

3.)Additional Retail/ Restaurant Space in New Buildings Approximately 35,000 SF derived from the Site Plan measurements.

4.) Total Retail /Restaurant space proposed to be within the range of approximately 92,500 SF to 112,500.SF derived from Lease requirements and Siteplan !measurements.

I object to this development going forward for a number of reasons both objective and subjective in nature.

On the objective level my concerns are centered upon the various plans and ordinances that relate to the subject property.

The City of Miami Comprehensive Land Use Plan- “2020 Future Land Use Map” (2009)” clearly designates that this particular piece of Bayfront land shall be devoted to “ Public Parks and Recreation” . At the very least the proposed retail/ restaurant uses proposed do not fall under the category of “Public Parks and Recreation”. Either an amendment to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan , or a very loose interpretation of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan designation will be necessary in order to allow such use.

The Coconut Grove and Spoils Island Master Plan prepared for the City of Miami, sometimes referred to as the “Sasaki” Plan explicitly states: “The market analysis was framed by the overarching concerns of both community residents and Center Grove businesses that any replacement or additional commercial uses on the waterfront not compete with retailers or restaurateurs in the Center Grove commercial district.”

The Market Analysis portion of the “Sasaki Plan” goes on to state “The market analysis suggests potential support for roughly 4,200 sq. ft. to 6,700 sq. ft. of food service uses on the Coconut Grove waterfront over the next five years. Notably, this does not necessarily mean net new space”

The intent of City of Miami and Grove Harbor LLC to demolish both the Charthouse and Scotty?s Landing and develop approximately 100,000 SF of Retail and Restaurant space as opposed to the “4,200- 6,700 Sf” recommended by the “Sasaki” Plan is obviously in direct opposition to the recommendations of the “Sasaki” Plan as adopted by the City.

The City of Miami has recently replaced it?s previous zoning ordinance with the new “Miami 21” Zoning Ordinance.

“Miami 21” Land Use or “Transect “ Maps indicate that the parcel of bayfront land in question is designated “ CS- Civic SPACE/ Parks” and as such only the uses complying with “Civic Space/Parks” shall be permitted without exceptions.

Those uses permitted as of right within the Civic Space/ Parks” designation are in part defined as Parks- “A natural preserve…it?s landscape… naturalistic”…” continuing on to generally define “parks” as what one would normally envision under the title of “Park Space”

Other “As of Right” permitted uses within a “Civic-Park Space” are limited to “Use functions predominantly of community-oriented purposes or objectives including those of not-for-profit organizations dedicated to arts and culture, education, recreation, religion, government, and the like.” Specifically listed as those uses fulfilling this requirement are: “Community Facility”, recreational Facility”, Religious Facility, and “Regional Activity Complex designed and outfitted for large assemblies, performance or events intended to serve as a regional destination … with permanent seating for more than 4000 patrons and off-street parking for more than 1,000 vehicles.”

Once again the proposed re-development of this publicly owned land clearly is not an as of right “USE” allowed without exception or amendment under Miami’s own Zoning Code.

To summarize this issue regarding Official Land Use and Zoning , this proposed redevelopment is either in direct contradiction or prohibited by right under The Miami Comprehensive Land Use Plan, the Coconut Grove and Spoils Island Plan and Report, and Miami?s own new Zoning Code- Miami 21.

The above noted Plans and Ordinances have been prepared at great expense and with intensive community involvement. The developmental objectives of each are being completely ignored or at best subject to amendment or special exception to allow this project to move forward.

In reference to the Proposed “Parking Facilities”

In my estimation constructing a quarter of a million square foot Parking/Retail structure on the Miami Bayfront seems short sighed at best. The impact of that structure may be profound on the surrounding residential neighborhoods.

South Bayshore Drive is already overburdened with traffic generally going to other uses located along South Bayshore drive and to and from Downtown Miami. A Parking Facility with the stated capacity along with the restaurant and retail uses proposed will generate potentially thousands of additional car trips into an out of the area. As traffic congestion builds up those “cars” will undoubtedly find alternative routes to reach this Parking Garage and the associated restaurant and retail development. The only alternate routes available will be through the adjacent residential neighborhoods. The additional noise, traffic and pollution generated by this facility may have profound effects upon those effected neighborhoods. To the best of my knowledge these possible effects have not be adequately addressed by either the City of Miami or within the Grove Harbor development proposal. In my opinion to proceed with a plan of this magnitude without considering it?s environmental impacts is, at best, a disservice to the citizens who may be effected in very adverse ways.

The Alternative ..?

The best way I might address possible alternative uses for this magnificent bayfront land is to conclude this article with excepts from a letter I had recently written to a member of the Coconut Grove Village Council regarding this proposed development.

“To me the issue is not at all how this land should be developed but why anyone would consider “developing” it.

In point of fact I believe we should start taking away much of what is there and replace it with open space.I don’t believe we should be adding more buildings to this potentially magnificent site. Doing so is short sighted and ignores the nearly complete lack of quality accessible waterfront in our City.. As Miami grows…the need for such open space will become ever more pressing.

I’ve heard many people make references to NY’s Central Park as they discuss this property. Central Park exists to serve what was, and presently remains, an essential need of the people of New York…..to have access to nature within the confines of a dense urban environment. Central Park clearly is a very popular place for that reason..

When Central Park was being “developed” there was great opposition to it. Imagine taking such a huge chunk of “developable” land off the market in New York City.

Over time the opposition to the “Park” subsided and various business interests then lobbied for space within the Park. Frederick Law Olmsted, the co-designer of the Park vociferously fought off these attempts to dilute his vision of what this space needed to be in order to fulfill it’s promise. Today both residents of, and visitors to, NY are far richer because of his efforts. Can anyone really imagine New York without the beloved Central Park ?

Olmsted had a vision that he brought to a great many cities. Each of those Cities now cherishes what he gave them. Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, Chicago’s South Park, Montreal’s Mount Royal, Boston’s Commons, Arnold Arboretum and Franklin Park,..the list of his contributions to America’s Park Movement goes on and on. We as a people benefit each day from his vision.

Miami was barely in existence at the time the Parks and Open Space Movement spread across the US. As such we obviously did not benefit from the vision of such enlightened individuals who foresaw the need for quality open space within our densely developing cities..Yet somehow this piece land we now are focused on has somehow remained part park and part development site. There have obviously been enough people who have come before us who believed that this location is worth saving as open space for the people of our City. As an Architect I have a natural inclination toward development..Yet…when I look at this land, in the context of our evolving urban density, I believe that it is land that should be set aside and not developed for commercial use.

I do not believe that many more opportunities like this will present themselves. The land in question is potentially one of the last great open waterfront locations in the United States. I truly believe the “highest and best use” of this publicly owned land would be to preserve it as open space for all time.”

I urge ALL voters in the City of Miami to vote against this ill conceived taking of our public lands for private use.

Those directly impacted by the intensity of the proposed commercial development and those who believe as I do that our need for quality open space is paramount to erecting more restaurants and shopping centers on our magnificent and scenic bayfront need to join together in a combined effort to defeat this project. Please carefully consider contributing your time to this end.  -  Charles Corda

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