How to fix Coconut Grove (and Miami)

By November 29, 2011 Miami 26 Comments

Most of you who know me in real life, know how I champion Coconut Grove as my favorite place to live in South Florida. No other neighborhood offers the combination of walkability and entertainment and atmosphere that the Grove offers its residents. Despite this, Coconut Grove is no where near its peak having begun its backslide years before the recession hit town and provided the Grove with a double whammy. Now this is not to say that the neighborhood is dead, or far from salvation; no, the area still is ripe with potential to revive itself, it just needs the right ingredients.

During its peak, around the early 00s or late 90s, Coconut Grove was a bustling hub of entertainment and revelry for Miami. It had few areas of competition, the housing boom hadn’t driven tens of thousands of condos to be built in nearby Brickell & Downtown yet, and areas like South Miami and Midtown were still largely deserted from an entertainment standpoint. It really only had one area competing with it: South Beach. So what did the powers that be in the Grove do? Nothing, they rested on their laurels and ignored the increasing competition and changing landscape, and let many of their iconic attractions whither away (the playhouse being a prime example). Additionally they pushed for alcohol to be sold for fewer hours (3AM is last call, vs 5am citywide, and no last call in some cases).

As a result of the infighting and powers that be trying to mold Coconut Grove to their own taste, instead of realizing its beauty all along lay in its laissez faire attitude, Coconut Grove is filled with empty storefronts and failing restaurants. Those who have succeeded are those that understand the inherent culture, and don’t try to change it; they are the ones who embraced the NUT in coconut.

So how can this neighborhood revive itself? Free parking. Live Music. Revive the playhouse, or tear it down and build a new venue that can work for music, theater, and other performances. Build a community center for the locals to share. Host more events that draw people in (think concerts, not antique shows). Embrace change, and foster it (i.e. make it easy for new businesses to get construction permits expedited). Teach new businesses how to market to their community (if we’re the only ones coming here, why not embrace us?). Turn the empty office and retail space into subsidized office space for small businesses.

Can this revival occur? Sure, if the village council, BID, and NET offices all get their acts together. The property owners who’ve had empty spaces for years need to get the message and lower their pricing as well.

Lots of these changes affect the city as a whole and county as well, these aren’t all Coconut Grove specific.

  • http://tomordonez.com Tom Ordonez

    Have many/any of these places tried to adopt foursquares, groupons or yelp coupons to incentive the population to buy. 
    Build a Coworking office space around there.Encourage people to use everyblock or some other neighborhood website to promote events, issues and things that relate to their block

  • ASTA

    Great thoughts, but with elements running the Village Council, BID and the NET in reality über politics is the primary obstacle to progress and will of the people.

  • Cane

    I am a native Miamian and have always lived in Miami. The Grove is my favorite neighborhood. I want so badly for this neighborhood to thrive. I like the ideas in this article. The enhanced water area will also help. Concerts and activities will be great. Someone had the idea to have more sporting events, such as cycling and running activities. The people that run Lulu, Green Street, Jaguars and the Sand Bar should really be listened to. They have good, successful places. 

  • http://www.infinimedia.com Brian Breslin

    if you notice the places that succeed are the ones where 1 owner has multiple venues (lulu/greenstreet, jaguar/peacock) or the employees have worked at various locations in grove (tavern, baracudas, sandbar)

    i like the cycling and running activities. if the water here wasn’t so gross, I’d suggest a triathlon.

  • http://www.infinimedia.com Brian Breslin

    most of the places I’ve seen have tried foursquare and groupon or facebook or livingsocial. These things don’t drive as much loyal longterm traffic as you’d think.
    There is definitely a need for coworking space. Just no one willing to underwrite it. Never seen anyone using everyblock.

  • http://www.infinimedia.com Brian Breslin

    sadly politics will be the impediment to progress in this once proud neighborhood. 

  • The Cruz Building

    Could not be more on board with everything you said.

  • http://www.infinimedia.com Brian Breslin

    your building saddens me, cuz its such a beautiful building/space but sits empty so much of the time.

  • Irie5678

    The Grove already has tons of cycling/running events. Sometimes you can’t get around for all the road closures, especially on Bayshore. I really like the live music idea. Miami is sorely lacking in that department. How about a street party once a month, where a band comes in and they close a street. Other communities I’ve lived in have done that with much success. Brings all the locals out.

  • http://www.infinimedia.com Brian Breslin

    Commodore plaza (where greenstreet is) did that 4-5x last year closing off and having bands, but they didn’t have headliners and it wasn’t well marketed.

  • The Cruz Building

    Well we only do private events. Because we opened a month ago, all of the events are booking for next year. Come february we have events basically every weekend

  • http://www.infinimedia.com Brian Breslin

    I meant more because of the restaurants that didn’t survive in that spot. none embraced the spirit of the grove. 

  • Irie5678

    Once a month on a set day, like the last Sat of the month. That way everyone knows when to expect it. Once word gets out, it continues to grow…

  • Anonymous

    Take a look at this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6K7OKw_rSz0 doing it on your own an circumventing the politicians.

  • Coconutgroveart

    Applause, Appplause!!! I don’t think that I know you…but I want to!!
    Thank you so much for expressing these thoughts –  

  • seaweed

    also would help to get rid of all the douche bags … groves peak was early 90’s

  • seaweed

    was supposed to be all park from the Barnacle to Peacock until some other previous douchebags aka commisioners/lawyers/developers , raped that parcel…how nice would that be?

  • seaweed

    in my opinion…im 37 now

  • http://www.infinimedia.com Brian Breslin

    when did those super expensive townhouses get built?

  • seaweed

    too long ago for me to still be complaining probably.. I believe the deal involved Ken Treister among  others…..just wish the old Grove still existed, I dont have the stomach to try and keep up with it anymore – overdevelopment is why I finally moved.

  • Taloshyperion

    good thoughts…but was it not the residents (or at least a vocal few) who pushed the clubs out and were behind the earlier closing times?  I know of bar owners who were harassed out of business by noise complaints.

    It was residential complaints that prompted the city commission to pass an ordinance to limit the number of events.  It’s not easy to get a permit.

    Monthly concerts have been done….  it’s expensive to close streets and residents and certain hotels fight that.

    The existing stores have to re-merchandise and sell what people will want to come into the stores for… impulse retailing models no longer work and the Grove should have the coolest, and most interesting shops.

    Looks like another nail shop is opening on Main Highway is that the future of the Grove

  • http://www.infinimedia.com Brian Breslin

    There is no “draw” for shopping in the grove. If you notice the shoppers walking around they all have gap or victorias secret bags. no one comes to the grove to shop. Black friday it was DESERTED.

  • Taloshyperion

    I agree about the draw– if you go to places like Portland, Austin, Melrose Ave. in LA and other urban shopping districts and there are lots of interesting shops that are local and provide something worth going out for. The Grove should be where you go to find cool stuff not Victoria’s secret.

  • sona

    Hi Brian,
    from 1 Grovite to another…..I LOVE THIS PLACE.

    I am  estatic  about starting a GUEST HOUSE  for business & visitor housing.  Just cant find  a motivated ‘home owner’ with a hugh place willing to go the mile……to get something like this OFF the GROUND.
    Any ideas….Sonia 305-386-2911

  • Friend of the Grove

    monthly concerts do occur – at The Barnacle.  see http://www.TheBarnacle.org for all of the events and programs offered.

  • Zeus de Crete

    I left Miami in 2001, and visited the Grove again in 2012. Unbelievable what they have done with that place. They have completely destroyed the ambiance and Miami/New Orleans party and fun scene it once was. It’s a shame.