Developer hopes to build condos on Coconut Grove's former Naval Reserve site
By Susan Stabley
After nearly three hours of hearing pros and cons of a proposed high rise for Coconut Grove's South Bayshore Drive on Thursday, the Miami City Commission decided more time was needed before making a decision.
Prompted by Chairman Johnny Winton's call for proponents and opponents to continue working toward compromise, commissioners agreed to continue the debate over the proposed Grovenor House condo Feb. 27.
Mr. Winton urged the developers to meet again with the community and try to reach an agreement, saying if this low-density project were pushed away, its replacement could easily be more than twice as many apartments.
"That is a very real possibility on this site," Mr. Winton said.
The project proposes 151 high-end large luxury condos and about 409 parking spaces at 2610 Tigertail Ave., according to city documents and one of the developers, Ugo Colombo, who owns 45%. The other developers are Lester Miller with 45% and Bruce Weiner with 10%.
The 4.23 acres, which also fronts South Bayshore Drive, where the 31-story, 341-foot project would rise, is the former site of the historic US Naval Reserve Training Center, tucked between the Grove Hill and SBS buildings.
Mr. Colombo estimated the project's cost at $120 million, though city documents place it at $177 million. Price of the units will begin at $800,000, he said.
Lucia Dougherty of Greenberg Traurig, attorney for the developers, and those who have worked on the project told commissioners they have redesigned the project multiple times in an attempt to appease neighbors, including scaling down the number of units and the preservation of some of the old oak trees on the property.
Meanwhile, the attorney for the Coconut Grove Civic Club, Tucker Gibbs, questioned approvals given to the project allowing for additional height and square footage, as well as the zoning designation. The land is zoned for government and institutional purposes, which only allows for residential units as an ancillary need.
"Right now, this use is not permitted," Mr. Gibbs told the commission. "Grovenor House LLC is not a government or an institution."
Mr. Gibbs argued that the property be first rezoned for residential use.
"That's the major issue," said Ron Nelson, president of the Coconut Grove Civic Club. "It comes down to the intent of the law."
More than 25 others spoke about the proposed development at Thursday's planning and zoning hearing. For every person in support, five more fought against the project's size, many expressing fears of losing more of the Grove's view of the sky, the breeze from the bay, the mix of residents of different income levels and the overall character of the community. For others, it was an issue of crowding, or as one resident put it: "Coconut Grove is full. It's a sold-out show."
Mr. Gibbs said his group has met three times with Grovenor representatives plus had countless phone calls and had approached the developers with several compromise proposals that were all rejected.
The Coconut Grove Civic Club is to meet today (1/30) to review its next step on the issue. Mr. Gibbs said he expects to meet next week with Ms. Dougherty and the developers.
Mr. Nelson said his group's efforts have already succeeded in some ways in salvaging the area's integrity.
"It's not a drawn line of win or lose," Mr. Nelson said. "There have already been some wins in saving trees and on the height."