Miami board backs West Grove rezoning near playhouse

With rezoning, a planned Bahamian-style bed & breakfast complex may be built

The Coconut Grove Playhouse and a map of the land to be rezoned
The Coconut Grove Playhouse and a map of the land to be rezoned

A bed & breakfast could be built in the West Grove, after a Miami board ruled that nearly an acre of single-family zoned land just west of the Coconut Grove Playhouse should be rezoned to allow more intensive commercial development.

The Miami Planning, Zoning & Appeals Board voted 7 to 3 Wednesday evening to recommend changing the zoning for six plots of land at or near 3227 Charles Avenue in Coconut Grove from T3-R single-family residential to T4-L low-density restricted commercial.

The 42,023 square feet of land, which includes three single-family homes, is owned by 16 descendants of Bahamian West Grove pioneer Ebenezer W. F. Stirrup, as well as 12 real estate investors affiliated with companies such as Colliers’ Pointe Group Investment Services, Aries Development, and Lamar Acquisitions.

Carlos Lago, an attorney for Stirrup Properties and 3227 Grove LLC, told the board that the rezoning was necessary to build a bed & breakfast complex with restaurants. That complex, Lago argued, will complement the recreated circa-1897 EWF Stirrup House at 3242 Charles Avenue that’s now being transformed by Aries Development Group into the Stirrup Bed & Breakfast, as well as the eventually redeveloped 93-year-old Coconut Grove Playhouse.

“We are proposing to extend the Stirrup Bed & Breakfast concept to further revitalize Charles Avenue,” Lago said, adding that the developers are prepared to include a covenant that would restrict future height to 34 feet.

Under the current zoning, only nine homes under 25 feet in height can be built on the parcels. The rezoning will allow up to 36 units in structures up to 40 feet tall, although the owners are willing to agree to limit future structures to 34 feet in an architectural style that pays homage to the West Grove’s Bahamian roots.

The T4-L zoning isn’t restricted to bed & breakfasts and restaurants. Developers can also build duplexes, live-work facilities, dormitories, offices, and general commercial, according to a report from the Miami Planning Department. Property owners can also apply for special certificates on T4-L zoned land allowing alcohol serving establishments, assisted living facilities, child daycare and public parking.

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The Charles Avenue parcels abut a surface parking lot behind the Coconut Grove Playhouse, a 1,100-seat theater built in 1927 that has been closed since 2006. Owned by the state of Florida, the property is managed by Miami-Dade County, which enacted a plan that would partially demolish the structure and transform it into a 300-seat theater with a parking garage and 16,000 square feet of retail. Following a backlash from historic preservationists, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez vetoed the plan. Since then, the Coconut Grove development project has been stuck in litigation.

Thelma Gibson, a longtime community leader in the West Grove, argued that the proposed bed & breakfast complex will actually help slow down the gentrification that is now pricing out residents of the once working-class black community.

George Simpson, a surgeon and husband to Stirrup Properties partner Dazelle Simpson, pointed out that the project will employ local West Grove residents to build the project. “This project will not only revitalize the area and stimulate more growth on Grand Avenue, as well, it will also be a chance to celebrate and continue the cultural [significance] of this area,” he said.

Yet, several individuals affiliated with Grove Rights and Community Equity, an alliance of local churches and residents against gentrification in the West Grove, urged a deferral because they were still negotiating a “benefits package” that would include guarantees of employment for local residents as well as grants to enable neighboring homeowners to fix up their homes.

Lago said the partners have offered a $75,000 grant to help fix old homes, but the group wanted more, and said negotiations with GRACE are still ongoing.

A half-dozen other residents were concerned about traffic that would be generated by not just a bed & breakfast complex, but also the rapidly expanding Ransom Everglades Private School, and the redevelopment of the Coconut Grove Playhouse.

Board member Carlos Dominguez worried that the rezoning would “set a very, very dangerous precedent going forward” that will pave the way for other property owners to make similar up-zoning requests within Coconut Grove. Dominguez, Anthony Parrish and board chairman Charles Garavaglia were the dissenting votes.