Is Aries Development Coconut Grove’s Biggest Scofflaw?

Aries Development is [allegedly] breaking the law again and, if something isn’t done, somebody’s going to get hurt, probably children. 

Not Now Silly has written about The Bicycle Shop many times in the past year. The condemned structure was deeded to Aries Development, which I have also written about extensively, calling its owner Gino Falsetto the worst neighbour in Coconut Grove.

The Bicycle Shop — and $15,000 — was given to Aries by Miami-Dade County in order to get it to relinquish all claims on The Coconut Grove Playhouse. Until then Aries [under the companies Paradise Parking, Double Park, and Carbbean Parking] had been squatting on the Coconut Grove Parking lot and pocketing the parking revenue. Aries had also scuttled several previous deals to reopen the Playhouse because it claimed the previous deals did not adequately compensate it for its loan to the Playhouse board before it went bankrupt. As long as they were collecting the parking fees, there was little incentive to get off that gravy train. However, Miami-Dade finally shook Aries loose last year.

The first thing Aries did when finally getting its grubby corporate mitts on The Bicycle Shop was rip off the roof. This was done without benefit of a building permit, which is how Aries seems to do everything: without any of the necessary permits, and without city or county oversight. Because ripping off the roof created such an unstable structure, metal bracing had to be installed inside to keep the walls from blowing out. Now those steel trusses are the only thing holding the building together.

During the destruction period, and for a while afterwards, this construction/destruction zone was totally open to the public. The gate on the fence was not locked. Children were playing inside. I contacted the city of Miami several times to complain of an unsafe work site. Eventually, the gate was locked.

Now that gate is unlocked again. 

Saturday Night was FAM Night in Coconut Grove. Because I’m a proud participant of the Coconut Grove Drum Circle, I parked in the Playhouse Parking lot, which is right across the street from where we bang a gong.

When I arrived at the Playhouse parking lot I was shocked — SHOCKED, I TELLS YA! — that the gate to The Bicycle Shop was open again and two young women were inside taking pictures. So I went inside and took pictures of them.

Later, when I went back to my car to get something, there were children (aged 10-12, I’d estimate) running around inside the Bicycle Shop in the dark. There is nothing more attractive to a kid than an unsecured construction site. There is nothing more dangerous than a child running around a construction site in the dark.

I have already called the Coconut Grove NET office to report this unsafe construction zone. I made it clear that I was calling as a reporter and they assured me that a By-Law Inspector would be calling me back. However, I’m still waiting for those callbacks from when I reported this very same unsafe work site more than a year ago. That’s why I hold out no hope I will be called back.

Please keep in mind that Aries Development has not only further blighted the already condemned Bicycle Shop, but controls the 120-year old E.W.F. Stirrup House, which has been designated historic by the city. It has been undergoing Demolition by Neglect ever since Aries acquired a 50-year lease on this important cultural treasure of Black Grove, where the City of Miami actually began. To learn why this is far more egregious than destroying the Bicycle Shop, please read Happy Birthday Coconut Grove!!! Now Honour Your Past.

Meanwhile, this is just more proof, if any were needed, that Aries Development doesn’t care about the residents of Coconut Grove unless they are living in The Monstrosity, aka Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums, which it built behind the Stirrup House. I wonder if it had all the proper permits for that.

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.

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