Andrew Rasken is a real estate agent/developer who already owns several properties in Coconut Grove. Recently he purchased — through a shell corporation — two of the historic shotgun houses on Charles Avenue, directly across the street from the replicated Mariah Brown house. Now he’s petitioning Miami to knock them down to build what he claims will be his family home. There are several reasons to suspect that he just wants to flip these properties after he builds some kind Big White Box mega-home on the lot.
There is also reason to suspect that he’s taken Demolition by Neglect to an entirely new level.
According to an anonymous source Rasken [allegedly] had some workmen remove a support pillar behind the house. Then he got the city’s Unsafe Structures Section to declare it an unsafe structure.
In addition, recent pictures of the house by this writer shows brand new damage where the siding has been ripped away in some spots on the sides and back of the house. This will only allow further wood rot and weather damage. Maybe we should call this Demolition by Demolition.
Now Rasken finds himself in a Catch 22: He wants a demolition permit to tear down the houses, but Miami refuses to issue one until the city decides the fate of all the historic homes in the West Grove, of which these are two. Meanwhile, Miami’s code compliance department is ordering him (or his corporation) to bring the houses up to city code.
One reason to suspect Rasken’s motives can be found in the pages of the Miami Herald under this headline:
The article describes a pitched battle between residents of Coconut Grove and the very same Andrew Rasken, developer.
In lushly verdant Coconut Grove, where a wave of ungainly residential redevelopment has mowed down trees and homes by the score, at least one house — late local legend Charlie Cinnamon’s century-old cottage — is still standing, at least for now. To nearly everyone’s surprise, the tiny wooden house has survived the first attempt at demolition by a developer.
In a rare and unexpected move, Miami’s zoning board blocked demolition of Cinnamon’s 1919 cottage, which sits at the edge of an expansive tree-covered property where a developer hopes to build a large house.
It’s unclear whether the board’s decision will survive an almost-certain appeal by the developer, Andrew Raskin [sic]. But Thursday night’s 5-3 vote has heartened Grove residents fighting back against what they contend is the city’s failure to enforce zoning rules amid an onslaught by developers that’s stripping the village’s residential neighborhoods, Miami’s oldest, of their historic look and feel.
According to the Herald article the Cinnamon house only occupies 1,000 square feet of a 14,000 square foot lot, leaving loads of room for Rasken to build his house. However, another wrinkle in his plans are that the neighbours will also resist the building of anything that doesn’t reflect the historic composition and architecture of the Grove. In other words: A Big White Box.
One of the first pictures I ever took of the
E.W.F. Stirrup House – August 26, 2009
This is the inevitable finger-pointing now that the sad, almost decade-long, purposeful campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT on the once-historic E.W.F. Stirrup House has ended.
SPOILER ALERT: In the end rapacious developers got what was wanted and needed. The once-historic house E.W.F. Stirrup House is no more, replaced by a reconstruction — or re-creation — which will be much easier and cheaper to bring up to the current building code.
The developers were given permission by the Miami Historical Board to destroy the historic structure and replace it with an exact duplicate because the building was too far gone from termite damage and wood rot to restore. Those are the exact same conditions the developer allowed to be exerted on the house during the nearly decade-long campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT.
City of Miami By-Law enforcement
officers discovered the E.W.F. Stirrup
House before I did – August 26, 2006
This reporter has been documenting in pictures and video the E.W.F. Stirrup House for more than 7 years. The thousands of pictures I’ve taken of this building over the years — which was designated a historic structure — proves how the all-wooden house was left open to the elements for most of that time, pointing to an unmistakable campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT.
What’s more, there will be no penalty whatsoever and the developers may have even received grants to do what they did.
[This grant business is still being researched. As usual, a city department pledged to get this information to me weeks ago and has yet to do so. I knew I should have gone with a FOI request, as opposed to a personal promise.]
Who is responsible for this travesty? There’s enough blame to go around. Let’s name names.
Gino Falsetto/Aries Development
Click to enlarge
It all starts here.
However it happened (and I heard a doozy of a story that I was never able to confirm) several lots on Main Highway, at the corner of Franklin Avenue, were purchased and combined for development. So far, so good. Plans were drawn up. So far so good. Before building permits were issued there were objections that had to be satisfied from 3 different community groups, as the story goes:
On the opposite side of Main Highway are several incredibly exclusive gated communities. How exclusive? The houses start at about $2 million and go into the stratosphere from there. The closer you get to Biscayne Bay, which is only 1000 feet away from the formerly-historic E.W.F. Stirrup House, the more you pay exponentially.
These rich NIMBYs were concerned that their sunsets would be spoiled by a huge building to the west. While it’s unknown what height the developer originally proposed, eventually it was agreed to lower it to 5 stories and step it back from Main Highway, so that it would not create a huge edifice. However, that 5 story wall was instead presented to the rear of the E.W.F. Stirrup House.
The second group accommodated were the Taurus’ customers. They argued that their historic drinking hole should be saved because it was old. The Taurus was a longtime Hippie Hangout, celebrated in story and song. One of the reasons it still was the place to drink in 2006 was because it was the only joint in the area that had a free parking lot. [We’ll ignore the implications of drinking and driving.] The rest of the Grove had parking meters or lots before you could go drinking.
So, The Taurus was saved. One story says it was moved a few feet.
Another says it was always right where you see it. But, it was saved.
TO BE FAIR: The Taurus is an old building and one could argue that it should have been saved after all. I have found references from 1906 in which it was a Tea Room. However, it’s not as old as the E.W.F. Stirrup used to be before it was recreated.
Then comes the once-historic E.W.F. Stirrup House.
Some of the people of West Grove — the Black neighbourhood fanning out immediately west of the E.W.F. Stirrup House that would not have existed had not Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup built it with his own 2 hands — were worried the Stirrup House might not be saved.
Old Man Stirrup, as some called him, was the patriarch of the neighbourhood, one of Florida’s first Black millionaires, and a man who thought that home ownership was important for the Black families arriving to become the service industry for south Florida’s nascent tourist trade. His 2-story house, in a area of small 1-story Conch and Shotgun houses represented the legacy of the neighbourhood, which is why old-timers were concerned about its potential destruction.
The developer made a commitment to the citizens of West Grove: The E.W.F. Stirrup House would be saved. However, that’s where the stories diverge. Some people remember that what was promised was a historic museum and resource center. The other story goes that this was the promise made by another group for the Mariah Brown House, a few doors to the west, and that a Bed and Breakfast was always what had been proposed for the once-historic E.W.F. Stirrup House all along.
The recreated Mariah Brown House at 3298 Charles Avenue
IRONY ALERT: The Mariah Brown House was once the oldest house on Charles Avenue. When it was recreated, that honour then went to the E.W.F. Stirrup House.
No matter. What eventually got approved and built at Franklin and Main is officially called the Grove Gardens Residence
Condominiums, at 3540 Main Highway. Unofficially (in the Not Now Silly
Newsroom) this structure is known as The Monstrosity. It’s also a blockbuster, in
an older sense of the word: the building that busts the block; the building
that future developers will point to and say, “But you’ve already allowed
this kind of density, height, and development in this community. Why not me?” [Prediction: eventually the Coconut Grove Playhouse restoration (or will that be another reconstruction?) will point to The Monstrosity to show what’s been allowed. But, as usual, I digress.]
This picture is from February 22, 2013. I had already been
photographing these open windows for 4 years at this point.
It’s crucial to keep this in mind as you continue to read about this travesty:
Once Aries Development got its grimy hands on the E.W.F. Stirrup House, it did nothing. It didn’t even bother to seal the house. It didn’t bother to close the windows. For the better part of a decade the house was open to the elements.
This is not how you treat a structure you are committed to saving. This is a structure undergoing a clear and purposeful campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT. What more proof is needed?
In fact, it was only recently (within the last year) that boards went up on the windows pictured above, but other broken windows and open windows were left alone.
E.W.F. Stirrup’s Descendants
Heretofore I have been careful not to criticize the Stirrup Family, but that ends now.
This picture from July 17, 2012 shows how invasive vines
were allowed to grow up the back of the house, over part
of the roof, and directly into the windows and wood on
the east side of the house. See below for the after pic.
The 5-story Monstrosity looks down upon the jungle.
When E.W.F. Stirrup died in 1957, he left it in his will that the house had to remain in the family in perpetuity. While I had always thought codicils like that could be challenged, to the family’s credit this one never has been.
The house is currently owned by Stirrup No. 1, LLC, a company owned by the grandchildren of E.W.F. Stirrup, which includes E.W.F. Stirrup, III. The Stirrup grandchildren, through this company, entered into a business arrangement to turn the Stirrup House into a Bed & Breakfast.
Here are the broad contours of this business deal:
The Stirrup descendants, who also owned two properties on the north side of Charles Avenue immediately across from the Stirrup House, agreed to a complicated swap. Aries would trade 2 brand new condos in The Monstrosity to the Stirrup grandchildren for
those 2 properties on the north side of Charles, a 50-year lease on the
formerly-Historic Stirrup House built with their grandfather’s own hands, and $10.00 to make it all legal. Which is how Aries got its hands on this cultural treasure, which it proceeded to destroy by a decade-long campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT.
Once the deal was done, it appears as if the Stirrup grandchildren turned their backs on the Stirrup House, now literally in their own backyard. If the condos they were given are on the north side of The Monstrosity, they were able to look down upon the disaster that their grandfather’s house had become during this purposeful campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT.
IRONY ALERT: Whenever the city cited the property for non-compliance, it didn’t cite Aries Development, which had a 50-year lease on the house and was responsible for its upkeep. The city fined the company owned by the Stirrups for all infractions because it was the owner of record.
It’s impossible to know what was happening behind the scenes, but if this were my grandfather’s legacy, I would have been jumping up and down to get the developer to do the right thing by him — to save the historic E.W.F. Stirrup House, the oldest house on Charles Avenue, from a campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT.
It’s also impossible to know what motivated the Stirrup grandchildren to enter into a business agreement with Aries Development to turn the house into a B&B. Was it money? Were they sold a bill of goods by Aries? Were they blindsided by the horrible treatment the house received at the hands of the developer? However, as [silent?] partners in this business deal, some of the blame has to go to them for being terrible stewards of their grandfather’s house and his legacy.
LaTasha and LaToya Stirrup pointing to
E.W.F. Stirrup – One Grove mural unveiling.
This collaborative effort was born in the social media space following an inspired Facebook discussion among a few family members. While aware that our family story is already in the public domain and has been for some time, we acknowledged that the telling of our family story varied greatly and was regrettably unknown to many– particularly to those most needing to hear it. We came to an agreement as a family and decided to act–as a family, for our family.
We agreed that our family story is a classic American immigrant tale; one that is deeply rooted in the American dream.; one that is both exemplary and extraordinary; one that deserves to be told; and one that should rightfully be told by the Stirrup family.
All I’ve ever wanted was to restore the legacy of E.W.F. Stirrup, whose story I accidentally discovered. I became fascinated with the man and what his life meant for Coconut Grove, a place that proves the exception to the rule in Race Relations in this country. As the only person writing about him over the last 7 years, I welcome their inclusion. His is a story that needs to be told widely.
At a Coconut Grove Collaborative meeting (described below) is when I first met SFL’s LaToya Stirrup (and her sister LaTasha). They had read my articles on their great grandfather and thanked me for keeping the legacy alive. We started up an email conversation that ended abruptly. I was told through sources that, although they were not of the side of the family that gave up the 50-year lease on the Stirrup House, they were told by the family to stay away from me because I was criticizing the Bed & Breakfast deal.
However, if we’re going to tell E.W.F. Stirrup’s story, let’s tell it correctly. The Our Patriarch page reads:
Stirrup constructed more than 100 homes in his lifetime, providing an opportunity for newly arrived Bahamians to actually own their first home. Many of the houses built by Stirrup remain, and are concentrated around Charles Avenue (originally Evangelist Street) close to the present-day Coconut Grove Playhouse, and the heart of the Bahamian community. Stirrup’s own home is at the head of Charles Avenue, and has survived as a legacy to its builder.  Over the years, many across Miami have continued to honor the legacy of Stirrup by keeping his memory alive in books as well as naming buildings around the city after him, like E.W.F. Stirrup Elementary in West Miami , The Stirrup Townhouses , and the Stirrup Senior residences in Coconut Grove . His residence, which still stands today, [see 1] as well as the street he cleared to serve as the major thoroughfare for the community, Charles Avenue, were both designated Historic Sites by the City of Miami.
 Not any more, as this entire post proves  The E.W.F. Elementary School is named after E.W.F. Stirrup, II, not the patriarch  If this refers to Stirrup Grove, on Franklin Avenue, that is the only thing I’ve ever discovered actually named after the patriarch  Also named after E.W.F. Stirrup, II
J.S. Rashid of Coconut Grove Collaborative Development Corporation
Before I throw shade at Rashid, a man I happen to like, let me praise him. Two years ago I covered the Gibson Plaza Groundbreaking ceremony in A Grand Day For Grand Avenue. Rashid spearheaded this project, which is right across Grand Avenue from the cute little Conch-style house that holds the Coconut Grove Collaborative Development Corporation. Gibson Plaza is now completed and a happening thing.
February 22, 2013 — six more months of growth on those
vines pictured above — when landscapers (and I use the
term loosely) ripped away the vines that had grown into
the siding and windows. This ruined the side of the house.
S’funny story: I was in Coconut Grove that day to attend
a Historic Charles Avenue Committee meeting at the
Collaborative Development Office at which I knew the
E.W.F Stirrup House was on the agenda. This clearing of
the lot was, as predicted, brought up as an example of
all the good things that were were taking place at the
Stirrup House by Aries.
This landscaping is the only thing that ever happened,
not counting the illegal removal of the old trees.
Rashid is also the force behind the Kroma Gallery, the only place along the west end of Grand Avenue that White folks will go to. He has also worked diligently for the infilling of lots in the West Grove with affordable housing, although property values have skyrocketed so much lately that the “affordable” part is now a pipe dream.
If anyone has been waving the flag for West Grove, it’s J.S. Rashid, a community organizer out of Chicago that’s managed to get some things done despite the uphill battle.
But, Rashid is a deal-maker. A community organizer. A go-along-to-get-along guy. However, I think he bends over backwards for developers.
F’rinstance: when Aries Development needed to get the zoning on the E.W.F. Stirrup House changed from single family dwelling to commercial to accommodate a Bed & Breakfast, Rashid was there to support the project, appearing on the tee vee tubery and everything. While the video has been disabled, CBS Miami produced this report in May 5, 2011, two years after I started my lonely campaign to SAVE THE E.W.F. STIRRUP HOUSE. Quoting from Land Fight Brewing Over Historic Coconut Grove House:
The developer that owns the condo’s behind the Stirrup house has taken out a 50 year lease on the property and is proposing rezoning the area for adaptive use that mean it can turn it into a business like a bed and breakfast or a cafe.
Community Activist Jihad Rashid was against the idea but he now calls the plan a win-win.
“With the protection that comes with that rezoning, the community can maintain its character and enhance our property and lifestyle and showcase our history,” said Rashid.
The developer has agreed to leave a one foot residential zone around the property to prevent other neighbors from wanting to turn their land into commercial zone. It has also agreed to restore the Stirrup house to its original state and in case of a natural disaster it would build a replica of the building.
It turned out to an unnatural disaster that destroyed the house: a decade-long campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT.
Had Rashid remained opposed to this rezoning, it’s doubtful the house would have been turned into a Bed & Breakfast. However, to be fair, it probably wouldn’t have changed the campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT that had started years earlier.
However, had Rashid been more proactive, some of this might have been prevented. At the meeting I described above, when the representative of Aries Development stood up to give a progress report, and mentioned the recent landscaping I stood up gave him a blast, saying that not only was it the only thing done to the house, but it also managed to destroy part of the house when the vines that had grown into the wooden siding were just ripped away.
Rashid, who chaired the meeting, shut me down immediately by saying, “We’re all looking forward. We’re not looking back,” which is an insidious way of blame dodging I’ve written about before (under very different circumstances in my rant Treacherous Double-Dealing).
Bottom line: Over the years I tried to warn Rashid several times that things were rotten over at the E.W.F. Stirrup and nothing ever changed. The Community Activist was active elsewhere.
City of Miami Historic and Environmental Protection Board
The HEP Board ultimately approved the plans that allowed this property to be used as a Bed & Breakfast. While there were all kinds of protections in place, the developer was able to get away with nearly a decade of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT because once the HEP Board approved the plan, it never bothered to check on what was happening to this structure — even though it was designated a historic site by the City of Miami.
And, the protections seem inadequate or written with loopholes you can drive a cement truck through. F’rinstance: In the approval documents the developer needs to get a Certificate To Dig before it can dig a hole. This needs to be signed off on by an archeologist. Once I realized I had had lost the fight to turn the E.W.F. Stirrup House into a Bed & Breakfast, I shifted my focus to agitating for an archeological dig of the Stirrup property.
The property is a huge double lot which has been owned by the same family for more than 120 years. Who knows what artifacts, buried just below the surface, could be discovered in an archeological dig? An archeological dig could reveal how life was lived by Bahamian immigrants in Coconut Grove at the turn of the last century.
Trench and rebar – February 3, 2016
On a recent visit to the Stirrup House, I discovered a backhoe digging a 2 foot deep trench all around the house despite the HEP Board calling for an archeological dig. So, I quickly called Megan Schmidt, Chief Preservation Officer of the City of Miami City of Miami Historic Preservation Office (see below) to see if they had a Certificate To Dig.
Days later, after the trench had already been dug, rebar inserted into it, and the whole thing filled with cement, I FINALLY got my return call. Apparently the developer did get a Certificate To Dig, but — GET THIS! — the archeologist doesn’t actually sign off on the project until the whole thing is finished.
Then what’s the purpose of the HEP Board requiring an archeologist to sign off on it after the fact if there is no archeology done? I’ll wait.
TO BE FAIR: The trench was dug to place a concrete footing all around the house so that they could slide massive steel I-beams from one side of the house to the other to support it during the work. However, that was all wasted effort and money, since they could have just razed the house and rebuilt it, as opposed to replacing the house one board at a time until nothing of the old house was left. And, with the scaffolding they put all around the house, most people I spoke to were fooled into thinking it was a renovation. After I told them to take a closer look, they realized exactly what I was talking about.
City of Miami Historic Preservation Office
The foundation trench has been dug, cemented, and
the steel i-beams slung underneath the house, but
before the house got jacked up. February 24, 2016
To her credit Megan Schmidt, of the City of Miami Preservation Office, is one of the few people in Miami government to return my phone calls, even though it takes her days to do so. Also to her credit, she agreed to meet with me once and opened up the entire Stirrup House file to me, which was surprisingly thin. [The reason being, she said, is because each city department keeps its own files.] She also shared the plans on file that merely showed the exterior elevations. I wrote about this in Shocker!!! E.W.F. Stirrup House Plans Are Finally On File.
However, at that same meeting she grossly misinformed me. I specifically asked whether the developer had the required building permits to start work. She told me they didn’t. Months later she said that either I misunderstood her answer, or she misunderstood my question. As it turned out the approval from the HEP Board (above) was all the permitting needed to begin the renovation. That precluded my last opportunity to stop the project.
At the time we met I shared with her my research on the house and my suspicion the rapacious developer was allowing it to undergo a purposeful campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT. She thanked me for my interest and told me her office had to rely on people like me because they were so understaffed. But, was that just lip service? It’s hard to know.
I begged her to keep an eye on the house and she said she would. However, nothing ever changed and the developers were able to pull the wool over her eyes. The Historic E.W.F. Stirrup House is no more.
This is the elaborate web of scaffolding erected all around the Stirrup
House. While it provided stability to the structure, it also disguised what
was going on behind the scenes. In this picture, along the bottom of the
Stirrup House, note the new metal sill plate all around the house.
Also many of the horizontal support beams have already been replaced.
April 27, 2016
When I recently called her to say the entire house was being replaced, she tried to argue the point with me.
She claimed the scaffolding surrounding the house was only there to protect the house during renovation. I asked if she had been there recently and she said she had in the last few weeks. I said she needed to go back ASAP to see how little of the old house was left.
I also told her that the contractor informed me that it was all going to be replaced, board by board. I further informed her that the scaffolding actually was disguising that fact, either accidentally or by design.
However, Megyn Schmidt didn’t seem at all surprised or shocked that this project had become a reconstruction, saying casually that sometimes that’s the price of Historic Preservation.
No! The price of Historic Preservation is to preserve the building!!!
The developers AVOIDED the costs of Historic Preservation through its deliberate, almost decade-long campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT. That’s my whole point. They benefited by destroying this historic house, important to the Black community.
Schmidt was also the one who told me, two months ago, that to the best of her knowledge the City of Miami gave the developer a grant for the Stirrup House, which would have gone through the District 2 Commissioner’s office. When she said she would get the paperwork on this grant for me, I jokingly asked whether I should file an Freedom Of Information request, or should I just trust her to get it to me? I’m still waiting.
On May 11, 2016 only the roof and a small
section near the front of the house remains.
I knew should have filed under the Florida Sunshine Law, not that it ever gets me anywhere.
TO BE FAIR: She has called me once in the interim to tell me that she may have been mistaken about the grant coming from the District 2 office, but she still remembers a grant and she was still looking for me. Yet, I have called her office and left messages several times since. She has not returned those calls and I know nothing more than I did when she offhandedly mentioned she believed there had been a grant.
I’ll update this grand business when I know more. However, that the developers may have received taxpayer dollars to destroy the E.W.F. Stirrup House really sticks in my craw.
Peter Gardner/Sabal Hill
Peter Gardner is the least culpable person on this list. He’s the newest developer to sign onto the E.W.F. Stirrup clusterfuck, only within the last year.
When I recently heard that he was now involved in the Stirrup House Bed & Breakfast my interest was piqued. I had heard his name, and that of his company Pointe Group (now Sabal Hill) as being one of the developers who wanted to gentrify Grand Avenue. This is a 6 block project that’s been bandied about for years and years and years.
Here’s the scaffolding coming down on June 20, 2016
There are two ends to Grand Avenue, the east end and the west end. The east side has CocoWalk and all the new development. From the east end you have access to Biscayne Bay and, more importantly South Bayshore Drive and Main Highway, both with their multi-million dollar estates.
Looking west down Grand Avenue from Margaret. This
model shown to me at the Sabal Hill offices makes it
appear as if Grand Avenue will become a gentrified
concrete canyon, despite Peter Gardner’s protestations.
The west end of Grand Avenue, from Margaret Street on, is the West Grove ghetto with the fabled US-1/Dixie Highway at the far west end. However, this entire end of Grand Avenue has gone from being the thriving Black Business District — when segregation gave this stretch of stores a virtual monopoly with the Black community — to the depressed area it is in now. The very same systemic racism as existed in every city in this country also exerted itself on this stretch of Grand Avenue. There was virtually no urban improvement in West Grove for more than 50 years, until Rashid built Gibson Plaza.
The biggest problem with this stretch of Grand Avenue is that these properties — which could once be had for a song because the neighbourhood was blighted — have been flipped too many times by speculators and developers. It’s still blighted, but now the land is too expensive to build anything that won’t create a concrete canyon along that stretch of Grand. Land is a machine that has to pay for itself. Only massive development will allow this land to pay its own way in the future.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT’S DUE: I met with Peter Gardner a few weeks back, surprised that he’d even talk to me after all I’ve written about the Stirrup House and the rapacious developers who got their grimy hands on it. None of the other developers involved ever replied to me.
I told Peter Gardner I was heartbroken over what happened to the Stirrup House at the hands of his current partners, Aries Development. Now that I no longer have to watch the Stirrup House I was going to start investigating Grand Avenue.
For his part Gardner kept talking about the fact that he’s a born & bred Coconut Grove boy who only wants what’s best for Coconut Grove. However his definition of what’s best for Coconut Grove is diametrically opposed to what I think is best for Coconut Grove. I don’t think wholesale gentrification will be good for the people in West Grove. Gardner tells me it could still be 2 years before the first shovel goes into the ground for these Grand Avenue developments. Let’s hope cooler heads prevail before then or, at the very least, plans are made for all of the current residents living in relative poverty to be relocated to affordable housing.
Something that greatly troubles me is how Sabal Hill has also acquired those two empty lots across the street from the Stirrup House (see above). He’s betting those 2 properties will become more valuable once the Stirrup House Bed & Breakfast and the Coconut Grove Playhouse are finally re-opened. Gardner paid $1,000,000 for those lots that are zoned for Single Family Dwellings. He will never be able to make his money back by building single family dwellings. He will need a zoning variance to build duplexes, apartment buildings, or a business.
There had been houses on those properties before Aries Development got its grimy hands on them. However, they were torn down so those lots could be used as a marshaling yard for the construction of The Monstrosity. In fact, those 2 lots are just some of the affordable housing knocked down to build that ugly thing.
The community needs to appose any change of zoning for those two properties, otherwise — ONCE AGAIN — the developers will get what they want by pulling the wool over the eyes of the City of Miami Planning and Zoning Department.
The Black Residents of West Grove/Apathy
It has to be said: The residents of West Grove are an apathetic lot. Whenever I talk to folks in West Grove about the E.W.F. Stirrup House, I get a big shrug. The Old Timers, who are old enough to remember Mr. Stirrup in his lifetime, have expressed little concern for the building. Younger people don’t even know who the hell E.W.F. Stirrup was and why his legacy is so important.
Looking south across the two lots acquired by Sabal Hill, to the
E.W.F. Stirrup House, dwarfed by The Monstrosity behind it.
One of my [Black] sources has a theory about this apathy. It starts with many decades of systemic racism. Black folks were used to being ignored at City Hall. It was all they could do to get low-paying jobs, put food on the table, and see their children get an education and stay out of trouble.
Who had time to concern themselves with the house of a rich man? E.W.F. Stirrup may have been one of Florida’s first Black millionaires, but he was also called a slum landlord because some of his rental properties were in pitiful condition. So few people in West Grove know of E.W.F. Stirrup that his reputation hardly matters. However, make no mistake, there is a Black neighbourhood in Coconut Grove due to his efforts.
The White Residents of Coconut Grove/Systemic Racism
This is what 13 decades of Institutional Racism looks like. And, it was no different in Coconut Grove than anywhere else in this country, except for one thing: E.W.F. Stirrup built more than 100 homes and then bartered, rented, or sold them to the growing Black families that were arriving to become the service industry for the nascent tourist trade.
Note the difference between how Commodore Ralph Monroe has been honoured and how E.W.F. Stirrup has not. They were contemporaries and both are considered Founding Fathers of Coconut Grove. Their houses were only 625 feet apart. Yet Commodore Monroe’s house was restored and turned into a Florida State Park called The Barnacle.
The plywood sheeting is going up on June 7, 2016. The last part of the formerly-historic E.W.F. Stirrup House left was the roof. And, as you can see, that’s also been destroyed. It will probably be coming off.
Conversely, the E.W.F. Stirrup House was torn down to build an exact re-creation to be turned into a commercial Bed & Breakfast for Rich White Fucks, as I call them. I wonder what Mr. Stirrup would think about that?
Meanwhile, you can barely find information about E.W.F. Stirrup, his life and legacy online. I have only ever been able to find one photograph of Mr. Stirrup, even though Ralph Monroe was a photographer.
None of this would have happened had E.W.F. Stirrup had been White. West Grove wouldn’t look the way it does now if it were White. The same systemic racism that plagued other cities also worked its devolution on West Grove.
Since my last visit the house has been cited for a by law infraction.
When I attended the meeting at Plymouth Congregational Church for South Grove residents to complain that developers have been allowed to get away with lot splitting and building Big White Boxes in their exclusive neighbourhood, there was one repeated piece of advice from the Miami officials to the homeowners:
Meanwhile, South Grove residents were told on Wednesday night if they
see anything hinky happening in their neighbourhood — from illegal
tree-cutting to demolitions without a permit — to call By-Law
Enforcement. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that they respond a lot
quicker than they have to this disaster on Charles Avenue in West Grove.
That disaster on Charles Avenue was finally cleaned up. However, it took over 6 weeks to get a gigantic pile of demolished house removed.
Maybe “See something; Say something” is advise that only applies to the residents of South Grove. Because last week, in Unpacking Coconut Grove & The Writer, I introduced you to 3678 William Avenue, a house on the next block over from Charles. Very little has changed since I visited.
This won’t deter any kids, the homeless, or crackheads.
As I was taking pictures last week I listened to someone on their cell phone reporting the address to City of Miami officials. It had already been reported to the NET office previously, according to my source.
The only thing that’s changed since last week is that Miami inspectors cited the house for a By Law infraction. Additionally, a lock has been placed on the front gate, presumably by the owner because that’s not the kind of thing the city does. However, that fence is 3 feet tall, tops. Any child older than 2 can easily climb over it, which is what the reports are meant to prevent.
Unlocked houses are attractive to kids. When I was taking my pictures last week there were a couple of kids playing in the street right outside the house. I know if I lived in the neighbourhood I’d have been all over this place as a kid.
The house remains unlocked and open to anyone who wants to get inside.
It really does no good to just slap a By Law infraction notice on the house and a bicycle lock on a gate that anyone can climb over. This house needs to be sealed. Children can get seriously hurt in it. There are signs that people have been sleeping in it and it is a potential safe haven for crackheads.
According to the City of Miami property search website this house is owned by LEMANO INVESTMENTS LLC. , a company that owns 19 other properties in Miami, the only place that I’ve bothered to search. The registered agent’s name & address is: MOYAL ACCOUNTING SERVICES INC, 10796 PINES BLVD, SUITE 204, PEMBROKE PINES, FL 33026. The manager of that company is listed as HENRY, FREDERIC, 2550 SOUTH BAYSHORE DRIVE, COCONUT GROVE, FL 33133, a pretty ritzy address, if you ask me. I can’t imagine why they cannot afford to buy a few pieces of wood to seal this house. Maybe somebody from the city should give them a call and ask.
BTW: Along with the notice slapped on the house, the city sends a registered letter to the owner. However, it needs to be asked: How many previous citations have been slapped on this house since I first started taking pics of it 7 years ago?
If the owner won’t do the right thing, the City of Miami needs to show up with some plywood and seal the front and back doors and charge it back to the owner. From my understanding this house has been reported to the City of Miami enough times that the city might find itself legally liable if something terrible were to happen now.
As South Grove meets with their elected representatives, West Grove is
as ignored as ever. As South Grove begins the task of forming a
Homeowners Association, West Grove is quietly gentrified without anyone
noticing. When will West Grove get the same kind of attention from the
City of Miami as South Grove?
Would this disaster have gone this long in South Grove without the city taking action? Or is “See something; Say something” just an empty slogan — like FAIR & BALANCED — no matter what part of District 2 you live in?
The area surrounding the Coconut Grove Playhouse
[Click map to enlarge] LEGEND:
A). Grove Gardens Condominiums; aka The Monstrosity; B). Regions Bank; C). The E.W.F. Stirrup House; D). Zoned residential lots, used for illegal parking; E). Part of the 45 parking spaces leased for Valet Parking; F). Blue Star Drive In & remaining 45 spaces leased to Valet parking; G). Playhouse Parking Lot operated by the MPA; H). Unlocked gate directing traffic onto William and Thomas Streets and location of arrow directing cars to exit onto Charles Avenue; I). Main entrance/exit for main Playhouse parking lot; J). The Bicycle Shop; K). The Barnacle, now a State Park, once belonged to Commodore Ralph Monroe, a contemporary of E.W.F. Stirrup; L). Rich people in gated enclaves; M). Far less well off people in West Grove, which has remained predominately Black and depressed during the last 125 years; N). Commodore Plaza, named after Ralph Monroe, is lined with pricy eateries and more expensive art galleries, meant for people with more disposable income than those on the surrounding blocks.
A year-long investigation by the Not Now Silly Newsroom has uncovered a situation in which valet parking companies continue to rip off City of Miami taxpayers for an untold numbers of dollars.
Last year, when Miami-Dade Cultural Czar Michael Spring untangled the Gordian knot of the Coconut Grove Playhouse, several pieces of that complex puzzle were the various parking lots surrounding the Playhouse. Paradise Parking was kicked off the main parking lot [G on map to the left] — after having squatted on it for several years — in exchange for an arrangement where it rents 45 parking spaces from the MPA, at $6 a day per, immediately behind the Playhouse in lots [E] and [F].
It never occurred to me when I went into journalism that I’d be sitting in parking lots noting the movements of cars and valets, but that’s part of what I’ve been doing for the last year. That surveillance led to several articles. After my last series of parking lot stories, a gate at the west end of the Coconut Grove Playhouse parking lot was ordered locked. It turned out the valets on Commodore Plaza had demanded it be left open on busy Friday and Saturday nights in order to make their job easier.
However — and this is crucial — the valet companies don’t run the parking lots, nor the city for that matter. They just think they do. That’s why they run roughshod over West Grove, caring little about the agreements they’ve already made. They are playing the city for chumps and stealing money from taxpayers.
Which brings us to the evening of Saturday, May 2nd. There was a big event at the Cruz Building on Commodore Plaza [N], one street over from the Playhouse parking lot. (The Cruz Building, rumoured to have been built with cocaine money in Miami’s Go-Go 80s, is rented out for weddings or bar mitzvahs and the like.) Saturday’s event must have been bigger-than-average because the single block of Commodore Plaza was bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic in both directions, with an officer directing traffic directly in front of the Cruz building. Many parking valets were taking cars from the swells and zipping off somewhere, as the security officer held up traffic for them.
That got my journalistic senses tingling. Where were the cars going?
The last time I heard of a big affair at the Cruz building, the valets were illegally parking cars on the 2 residential lots [D] on Charles Avenue, immediately across the street from the E.W.F. Stirrup House [C]. The neighbours called the Not Now Silly Newsroom, which led to this reporter asking 11 questions of [allegedly] corrupt Miami District 2 Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff. He refused to answer any of them and punted them to the Miami Parking Authority. After waiting 2 months, I finally got answers to those questions that fell within the MPA’s bailiwick; not all did, so there are several questions outstanding.
On May 2nd, after some surveillance at 6:30 PM, I discovered the valets were taking cars from the Cruz Building and parking them in the MPA lot, which is not a part of the 45 spaces rented from the MPA. Eventually, by 9PM, the MPA lot was filled with cars, many of which were parked by valets. Private citizens would pull into the parking lot, drive around the small circle and, finding no parking spaces, would leave. Every car that left without finding a parking space was money taken out of the Miami taxpayer’s pocket by the valet parking companies.
This is more egregious than it sounds for 2 reasons:
The citizens were behaving better than the valets, who stuck their Cruz Building cars anywhere they’d fit, whether there were lines on the ground, or not;
At 9PM, parking lot [F], which is rented from the MPA was 100% empty, while parking lot [E], also rented, had only 8 cars in it.
[As a side issue: The Regions Bank parking lot, [B] had 18 cars in it, more than I’ve ever counted before. I have communicated with Regions Bank only to learn it has sanctioned this valet parking arrangement. The bank cited — GET THIS!!! — how it’s a convenient arrangements for their own customers because it allows them to drive right up to the night deposit. However, Regions better hope their customers are driving skateboards, because that’s all that will really fit.]
In short: The valets fill up every surrounding parking lot first, before they start filling up their own. They’re playing the city and Regions Bank for chumps and stealing money from the taxpayer.
When I told this story to Art Noriega, head of the Miami Parking Authority, he hit the roof on Monday morning. Can’t wait for my follow-up interview with him.
Let’s tie all this up with a pretty little bow for people who need to have their noses rubbed in the corruption before they actually see it.
The valet companies are connected to Gino Falsetto through Andrew Falsetto at Paradise Parking;
Aries, through other companies, owns the 2 vacant residential lots across the street from the Stirrup House, which had a cute little West Grove shotgun-and conch-style house on each before they were razed;
Aries torpedoed several plans over the years to reopen the Coconut Grove Playhouse, allowing further Demolition by Neglect of that venerated structure that the community is still trying to save;
Finally, Aries built the Grove Gardens Resident Condominiums, aka The Monstrosity, which set a new precedent for higher density structures in West Grove;
Is it not obvious to the Powers That Be that a single entity is responsible for most of the deterioration of the area immediately surrounding the Main Highway and Charles Avenue, which has been designated a Historic Roadway?
How does Gino Falsetto get away with all of this right under everybody’s collective noses? More to the point: Am I the only one watching?
First an apology to my most rabid readers. I’ve not published as many original stories this month as usual. While Headlines Du Jour is fun to put together, and a very popular series, I don’t consider any of that original writing and don’t take all that much pride in it, other than a job well done when it’s done. It’s aggregation. I’m fine with calling it that, but wish I had published more new stuff this past month. Maybe I can make that my very first New Year’s Resolution to break.
Meanwhile, I’ve been going though the Not Now Silly Newsroom archives and sharing important, funny, or just plain weird stories on social media. I know it doesn’t fully make up for a lack of NEW, but as I like to tell people, “It’s not a repeat if you never saw it before.”
Part of what’s been keeping me busy is the Friday Fox Follies, which I’ve been crafting the last few months for PoliticusUSA. Because I always saw it as an outgrowth of Headlines Du Jour, from the start the idea was to use actual headlines found on the innertubes to craft a story arc that covers Fox “News” shenanigans and tomfoolery from Friday to Friday. Trying to shoehorn in the actual headlines creates some grammatical irregularities and awkward constructs, but overall I think it’s working. Your mileage may vary.
In the beginning it took me almost 2 days to compile and write, but I’ve managed to get it down to a solid 6 hours of writing for approximately 1200 words. Here’s my methodology: During the week I compile intriguing Fox “News” headlines as they present themselves. Midweek I look to see what themes might be developing and I start thinking about the shape the column might take if these trends continue. By the time I wake up Friday morning at 5AM to start writing it, I have the basic outline and an opening paragraph in my head. After taking a quick look to see which Fox “News” personality said something stupid while I was sleeping, I hit the ground running. Provided there are no power outages (never a guarantee around here), I send it off to the editors some time between 1 and 3PM.
But still, those 6 hours are 6 hours I can’t devote to writing about Coconut Grove, the E.W.F Stirrup House, and what I still hope will be a new ongoing series, Pastoral Letter.
The Charles Avenue Historic Marker with
the E.W.F. Stirrup House in the background.
Also keeping me busy this month has been some pretty extensive research concerning Coconut Grove and Charles Avenue. I’m pulling at several different subject threads simultaneously. This has required spending many hours in the City Clerk’s office doing some deep research on Charles Avenue, the E.W.F. Stirrup House, and Miami Commission meetings, with still many more hours to come.
I have been researching two of these topics for an entire year. While I had hoped to hold them until I had all my ducks in a row, a recent flashpoint has made it important to finish one in a timely manner. To that end I now have outstanding emails with both a Media Relations Associate at a bank’s HQ and a City of Miami Commissioner. Each email requested ON THE RECORD written answers to a series of questions. We’ll see whether I even get the courtesy of replies. If I’m not satisfied I may have to resort to another FOIA request.
Meanwhile, the residents of West Grove continue to get the short end of the stick, while Aries Development and Gino Falsetto seem to get away with everything short of murder. My interest in Coconut Grove started with falling in love with a house, researching its history, falling in love with the legacy of the man who built it, and then falling in love with the people and the neighbourhood, that is sadly being gentrified out of existence around the edges.
Digging really deep into my id without revealing too much: It was just a month ago when I embarked on what I thought would be a great series — my own Tuesday’s With Morrie — when I published Finding An Old Friend ► Unpacking My Detroit. It still might. However, I must admit to initially being totally flummoxed about where to take it. Let me explain:
I was overjoyed to locate my childhood friend Kenneth Wilson and surprised to learn he was one of the first (maybe only) evangelical pastors in the entire country to OPENLY argue for the church to be inclusive (not just tolerant) of the LGBT communities. I wrote him that open letter, which I posted, and then waited for a reply. It didn’t occur to me until a few weeks later that maybe Pastor Kenny posted his reply somewhere on the innertubes. Turns out I was right. What surprised me more was the realization that he delivered his reply as a sermon from the pulpit. A printed version is at The Gospel of John, Chapter One: They Came in Twos and a live (slightly different) recording can be found HERE.
I arrived back in Kenny’s life at an interesting time for him. In his sermon he says goodbye to his church. He’s not explicit about who fired whom, but it’s clear this is his last sermon from the pulpit of The Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor. Obviously the same notoriety that allowed me to find my childhood friend so easily caused a rend in the tapestry of his church. He said, in part:
Ann Arbor Vineyard, carry the seed of the kingdom with you into your next chapter. If there are tears, and I hope there will be a few, use those tears to sow the seed for a new harvest.
I could imagine you becoming an even more multi-ethnic congregation than you are now. I could imagine your ministries flourishing in new, unforeseen ways.
To those who will join Emily and me in new Blue Ocean Church Plant, lets use our tears to sow the seeds we bring with us, from this awesome place, this house of the Lord…
Together, Ann Arbor Vineyard and your newest Blue Ocean church plant lets make this our song:
Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
My final practical tip [as the recorded sermon deviates slightly from the printed version], is at a moment like this, when you don’t know what you’re supposed to say, don’t say nothing.
And then he called for 2 minutes of silence which ends his reply to me.
I’ve now read, and listened, to Pastor Kenny’s Pastoral Letter to me several times. I kept more than 2 minutes of silence because I wanted to respect any mourning period he may have had for losing his gig, but more importantly, because I simply didn’t know what to say. So, I said nothing.
His sermon — his reply to me — was religious allegory and I’m not steeped in religious allegory. It took me quite a while to interpret it. And, I recognize, I may still have it all wrong. However, it has meaning for me now when it was just words when I first read it. That’s why I’m working on the next Pastoral Letter, which (like everything else) is taking longer than I thought. However, it’s been started and is the next post I intend to finish. Meanwhile, Ken did send me his phone number and I really have to clear some time to phone him.
Incidentally, for those who keep track of this kind of Westerfield Minutia, Zachary Harvard Weed, who inhabits the pages of Farce Au Pain, lives in the house that Kenny’s family once lived in. Adrian Roland Thompson lives in the house I grew up in.
A snapshot in time: The All Time Top Ten at the time of this writing.
At year’s end it’s always nice to take a look at some stats, facts, and figures, especially as we get closer to launching a brand new, improved Not Now Silly Newsroom under our own domain name.
I’m quite proud of my All Time Top Ten, at left. Except for #6, Chow Mein and Bolling 5, which is silly fluff, but the readers just love it. I like to think the rest are all important stories on important topics and thank my readers for having the intelligence to boost them to the Top Ten list. The Blogger platform doesn’t give me very many stats, but one that’s always intrigued me is the search engine results that people received just before they washed up at Not Now Silly. Because this is getting long enough, and because I’ve got other shit to write, I’ll end this with 3 pics: The All Time search results, the top monthly search results, and the weekly flotsam and jetsam.
The empty residential lots are immediately
behind the Charles Avenue Historic Marker.
One of the things the folks who live along Charles Avenue were promised was the valet parking at The Monstrosity would not increase traffic on Charles, designated a Historic Roadway.
Another thing the residents along Charles Avenue were promised is that the two empty lots on the north side of Charles Avenue, across from the E.W.F. Stirrup House (and also controlled by Aries Development) would not be used for parking.
Both of these promises are being broken on a regular basis. Worse still: The residents on Charles Avenue tell this reporter that complaining to the City of Miami has been a waste of their time.
The valets (who — I wish to stress — are innocent freelancers caught in the middle) zip in and out Charles Avenue to get to the lot behind the Coconut Grove Playhouse. Making traffic matters worse, Miami Parking Authority painting an arrow on the ground, directing traffic to an exit on Charles Avenue.
Last night, as the photo on the right depicts, cars were being parked on the empty lot behind the Charles Avenue Historic Marker. This was overflow from the 45 spaces Aries already rents from the Miami Parking Authority behind the Coconut Grove Playhouse.
In addition, I watched a valet park a car in an empty space on the Regions Bank parking lot, where there were 9 other cars parked. It is unknown what arrangements Aries Development has made with Regions Bank, but after my recent dust up with Regions, I may just ask some pointed questions the next time I go in and ask for change for the parking meter.
That all these promises are being broken is important for reasons beyond the additional parking and the traffic problems. I have been assured that the zoning on the two vacant lots across the street from the E.W.F. Stirrup House, on which cars are now being parked, are zoned residential. I’ve been further told that this is the type of zoning that can never be changed. It will always be zoned “single family.”
However, 1). This same official (speaking off the record) who also told me there would never be parking on those residential lots and, if there was, the neighbours should complain [see above]; 2). That’s exactly what everybody said about the E.W.F. Stirrup House, before Aries managed to get the zoning flipped to commercial. Just another example of of how developers get whatever they want in Miami.
TO MAKE A SHORT STORY LONGER: Before Aries Development got its rapacious, grimy hands on these two lots there were cute, little shotgun houses on each. Aries knocked them down to use these lots as a marshaling yard to build The Monstrosity. Later it, apparently defaulted on a loan it had taken out using these lots as collateral. As a result they were sold at auction. However, in a supposedly arm’s-length sale, the property appears to be back under the control of Aries Development. How does that ever happen, except illegally?
Anywho . . . it’s just another example of Aries Development being The Worst Neighbour Ever!!!
I’ve written so many times here about Gino Falsetto, that I should rename this joint The Falsetto Voice. Gino, who ran away from a string of bankrupted restaurants in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, has the Midas touch in reverse. Everything he touches turns to crap.* And now he’s working his special brand of magic on Coconut Grove.
Bad enough that he is allowing the historically designated, 120-year old E.W.F. Stirrup House to undergo nearly a decade of Demolition by Neglect. Now Aries Development (Gino’s front company) is allowing a much more visible property on Main Highway to go to wreck and ruin.
Incidentally, removal of the roof was allegedly done without benefit of a demolition permit, which is how Aries seems get away with a lot of skullduggery.
The Google satellite view at right shows several things. Firstly, it shows how the Bicycle Shop had a roof in the most recent snapshot. It also shows the Coconut Grove Playhouse, the large structure in the middle. Lastly, it shows how close the Bicycle Shop is to the E.W.F. Stirrup House (3242 Charles Avenue), which has been undergoing nearly a decade of Demolition by Neglect at the hands of Aries Development. So far the Bicycle Shop has ONLY undergone 10 months of Demolition by Neglect at the hands of Aries Development.
With the Farmers’ Market returning to the Coconut Grove Playhouse parking lot every Thursday, this is the structure that will greet buyers and vendors alike, and they have Gino Falsetto to thank.
Is this merely another case of Gino Falsetto hoping that Demolition by
Neglect will take care of another one of his properties so he doesn’t have to? Is this more of the same indifference to his neighbours that’s been eating
away at the E.W.F. Stirrup House for nearly a decade?
When will Aries’ neighbours finally get angry and make the City of Miami sit up and take notice? When will the City of Miami step in and FORCE Aries development to maintain and upkeep its holdings?
When will Aries Development and Gino Falsetto just do the right and proper thing, as all good neighbours should?
Here are pictures of the current state of the Bicycle Shop, taken November 1, 2014:
* Except for the Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums and the restaurants on the ground floor, Calamari, La Bottega, and The Taurus. Those were made a showplace. The E.W.F. Stirrup House and the Bicycle Shop? Not so much.
CLICK TO ENLARGE: This is the overall plan for the
House and Property. Charles Avenue runs
along the top and
Main Highway is the angled street at the
right. The irregular shape on the bottom half is the Grove
Gardens Residence Condominiums, known in these pages
Monstrosity. To the left of that are two other buildings
belonging to The Monstrosity. What the rest of this post will
concern itself with is the 100′ x 100′ square at the top of the
plan. Of note is how this plan shows a continuous flow from
The Monstrosity through the Stirrup Property to Charles Avenue.
While there has actually
been no approval given to create one
large property from Franklin through to Charles Avenue, the
developer has already removed the 8 foot wall that once separated
two properties. It was done without a demolition permit, as
Aries seems to do
everything: without the proper permits.
Like a bookend, at the far end of Charles Avenue, is the Charlotte Jane Memorial Park Cemetery, named after E.W.F.’s childhood sweetheart. It was once the only place in Miami where Black folk could be buried. To put it simply: The history of Charles Avenue is the beginning of Miami’s history, but it also tells a story unique to this country. Because of the almost single-handed efforts of Mr. Stirrup, Coconut Grove once had the highest percentage of Black home ownership than anywhere else in this country.
Let me state upfront, in case I’ve not made it abundantly clear in previous posts, that I am totally opposed to turning the E.W.F. Stirrup House into a Bed and Breakfast. A Bed and Breakfast does nothing to honour the legacy of Mr. Stirrup. Furthermore, these plans do nothing to honour the legacy of a Black neighbourhood that’s been
struggling since the very beginning. However, these plans do everything for Aries Development and the continued gentrification of West Grove. To truly honour Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup, his house needs to relate to its neighbours on the west, not those in the other directions.
Plans for the E.W.F. Stirrup House have been hard to come by.
The last time this reporter spoke to anyone about plans for the E.W.F. Stirrup Property was around the time of The Great Miami Tree Massacre. Talking to the City of Miami, I learned there were no plans whatsoever on file for the E.W.F. Stirrup House. Of greater concern was that there were no plans on file to cut down the trees on the property. Miami takes its canopy seriously; more seriously than it takes its historic buildings, ironically enough. It’s illegal to cut down trees without the proper permits, which are only issued after a landscaping site plan has been submitted and approved. Because no landscaping plans had been filed, and no permits issued, the city cited and
fined the property owner* $1,000.00 per tree, or $4,000.00 total, and ordered a remediation plan.
CLICK TO ENLARGE: The landscaping plan that was approved after
the fact. This square is all we are going to concern ourselves with.
NB: A landscaping plan was eventually submitted — after the fact — which was eventually approved — after the fact — and all the fines were eventually expunged — after the fact. After all, this IS Miami, where developers get whatever they ask for.
As a result of a Freedom Of Information request, I finally have schematics of what Aries Development intends to do with the E.W.F. Stirrup Property. Gino Falsetto has been saying for years that he intends it to be a Bed and Breakfast. However, “some people say” the original promise was to turn it into a neighbourhood museum. TO BE FAIR: Another neighbourhood faction remembers it always being proposed to be a B&B. Interestingly, neither promise can be found in the City of Miami records. [However, Not Now Silly has recently been given another source of Miami documents to search. There may be more on this aspect of the development coming soon.]
As a novice in studying architectural plans, I took these to an architect who also renovates properties under historic protection. While I thought I had pure gold, I was cautioned not to put too much credence in these plans:
The plans are conceptual at this point and not yet fully compliant with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation of Historic Properties. A process needs to be initiated to designate the property properly if that has not been done yet so that it will be eligible for Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits. There is a note on the plans that the developer is seeking compliance with these Standards so that they can access federal historic tax credits and incentives as a part of the financing but there is no evidence that this process has been initiated. The process includes designation as a property individually listed on the National Register or a contributing building as part of a Historic District, then a 3-part application for the Historic Tax Credits through local, state and federal agencies.
This is the note referred to above. It’s the only thing on the entire plan that gives me any hope
that, after almost a decade of Demolition by Neglect, the developer MIGHT do the right thing.
A detailed explanation of the E.W.F. Stirrup property plans:
The E.W.F. Stirrup House is the irregular grey structure at the upper left. Currently, it’s the only structure on the property. It’s been undergoing nearly a decade of
Demolition by Neglect. It has still yet to be sealed from the elements and is never secured. [More about that later.]
On the plan the Stirrup House retains its current footprint. However, there is nothing in these 14 pages of plans that speak to what is intended for the renovations that need to take place inside of the house to turn it into a Bed and Breakfast and bring it up to code, while retaining its historical significance. That will remain a mystery until Aries eventually files those plans. I won’t hold my breath.
Bisecting this plan from top to bottom is a paved driveway. I have been
told this won’t be used as a driveway. I don’t believe it for one second. It’s as wide as the
front gate on Charles Avenue, a gate large enough to allow container trucks through. I do not for one minute accept the proposition that cars won’t
be parked along this driveway in the fullness of time. However, if it
pleases you to call it a footpath, who am I to disabuse you of that
The plan indicates a desire to build four additional ‘structures’ on the property. Five, if you include the new fountain. Let’s take them one by one:
CLICK TO ENLARGE: This drawing shows
the New Guest Suites Pavilion as it relates
to the E.W.F. Stirrup House. TO BE FAIR:
At least they are making it look as much like
a Bahamian Conch Style House as possible.
1). Immediately behind the E.W.F. Stirrup House is a brand new proposed structure. On the plans it’s labeled the “New Guest Suites Pavilion.” I’m sure when the preliminary approval was given for a Bed & Breakfast no mention was made of a separate structure on the property to hold bedrooms.That being said, the New Guest Suites Pavilion is composed of, essentially, two 22′ 2″ x 11′ hotel rooms, side by side, under the same roof, with two storage areas along the west wall.
TO BE FAIR: The New Guest Suites Pavilion have been designed to imitate the Bahamian-style Conch house architecture of some other homes in Coconut Grove.
However, these questions needs to be asked: A). Why does Aries Development need two additional guest suites to add to its Bed & Breakfast? B). Isn’t there enough room in the 2-story, historically designated, E.W.F. Stirrup House that Aries already promised to restore?
2). To the east of that structure, past the new fountain, is a small 12′ x 12′ storage shed.
While everyone always needs more storage, isn’t there any place in the 5-storey Monstrosity for storage? Why does Aries need to dump a storage shed on the Stirrup Property?
TO BE [SARCASTIC AND] FAIR: At least they are tucking it out of the way, next to the air conditioners that cool the restaurants in The Monstrosity, which were dumped on the Stirrup Property years ago. In point of fact: The Stirrup Property has always been where Aries dumped whatever it didn’t want to spoil the perfect ambiance of The Monstrosity.
3). Just north of the storage shed is an area called “Terrace” on the plans. It appears to be a large tree surrounded by 4 tables for restaurant seating. No doubt this is related to:
It’s this last feature I find the most offensive, but it’s the clue that everything about this plan has been designed to line the developer’s pockets. Nothing about this plan speaks to the rich history of the original Bahamian community. To my thinking, this plan screams Rich White Hipster, while it doesn’t even whisper Black Historic Preservation.
The Parrillada Grill, as it relates to the E.W.F. Stirrup House (far
left). The floor plan is counterclockwise to actual orientation.
The drawing shows an open-air structure with a roof. Inside there appears to be everything needed for an indoor/outdoor kitchen, including what appears to be BBQ cookers, stovetops, ovens, and fridges.
Surrounding three sides of the Parrillada Grill is a waist-high counter, over which food can be served, with bar stools surrounding it.
How does a Parrillada Grill fit into the overall Charles Avenue Historic Roadway? How does adding all of these amenities to the Stirrup Property benefit the neighbours to the west? It’s clear how it benefits the bad neighbour to the south.
If I were making the decisions, and clearly I’m not, I would refuse to allow Aries Development to expand its little empire before Gino Falsetto has made good on his original promise to RESTORE the E.W.F. Stirrup House.
Lookie: Newly sodded!!! The E.W.F. Stirrup House still ignored.
Why should Gino Falsetto be rewarded with approval for these grandiose plans to turn the E.W.F. Stirrup Property into his own personal fiefdom when he has yet to do the barest minimum to preserve the E.W.F. Stirrup House, the 2nd oldest house in Miami?
However, when Aries needs to pretend there has been some progress, it does something superficial. A few years back, in anticipation of a Charles Avenue Historic Preservation Committee meeting, it removed all of the vines growing up the back of the house and across the roof. However, in the process it destroyed parts of the house. Now that people have started sniffing around about its plans for the property, Aries laid down sod. Once again, Aries will be able to point at something and say, “See? It’s getting better.”
But, “better” would also mean that Aries is PROTECTING the house. All available evidence points to the opposite. The house has been empty and undergoing Demolition by Neglect for the entire time Aries has held the lease. Aries has yet to even seal the Stirrup House from the elements, which are extremely hard on wooden structures. Water, mold and mildew are its worst enemies and it rains here almost daily.
Front gate left open at 7:15 AM
Furthermore, Aries Development does not even secure the house or the property. This past Saturday morning, at 7:15 AM, this reporter was able to walk right in the unsecured front gate of La Bottega, one of the restaurants on the ground floor of The Monstrosity.
However, even if that front gate were left locked, the fence behind it
is only waist-high and provides no deterrent to those with nefarious
intent. [Original renderings show the waist-high fence was to be as tall as the 6′ gate.]
As I walked through the gate, I stopped several times to take pictures. I did not hide or act furtive. Nor did I rush. No one stopped me. No one challenged me. In fact, I did not see another person the entire half hour I wandered around.
Access to La Bottega’s patio seating.
The E.W.F. Stirrup House is to the right.
Once this gate is navigated, one has free access to The Stirrup Property, through the patio seating at La Bottega. It’s not just early in the morning when no one’s around. It’s all day long. When Calamari, La Bottega and The Taurus are open for business, any of their patrons can access the Stirrup Property.
And, not just patrons. Absolutely anyone. Later in the day, at around noon, I strolled in and walked past the hostess saying, “I need to use the washroom.” But I didn’t. While still within her sight lines I walked past the washrooms, through to La Bottega’s outdoor patio, to the very back of the Stirrup House. There I met a guy who worked for the Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums. We had a 15 minute conversation about the house and his boss, Gino Falsetto. I think I told him that his boss is the devil incarnate, but I may have just called him evil. At no time did he ever challenge me for being there and happily engaged in conversation until I excused myself.
7:15 AM: The back door is open. At noon it was open wider.
The back door of the E.W.F. Stirrup House is never locked!!!
It’s almost as if Aries Development doesn’t REALLY care about the E.W.F. Stirrup House. For all it knows people have been sneaking inside to sleep or smoke crack.
A developer who cares about his investment will make sure it is kept safe. A developer who doesn’t care turns a blind eye to what’s going on, with the hopes that somehow the house, an impediment to his larger plans, might just disappear when no one is looking, either by Demolition by Neglect or fire. Aries Development seems to think that proposing a white picket fence at the front of the property will make people forget nearly a decade of Demolition by Neglect.
[Pictured above are details of the architectural drawings. See the full documents below.]
* The property owner of record is not the rapacious developer who got his grubby mitts on a 50-year lease on the E.W.F. Stirrup House. However, whenever the lessee is delinquent in its commitment to provide upkeep on the property, it’s the owner of record which is cited and fined.
The most recent notice on The Bicycle Shop, citing the owner,
Coconut Grove Playhouse LLC., with “First Year failure to register a Blighted, unsecured, or abandoned structure.”
My recent trip to Gilchrist, my old stomping grounds in Detroit, has me thinking about urban blight in entirely different terms these days. Saturday’s visit to The Grove forced me to look at Coconut Grove blight in way I had never considered before.
Admittedly the word “blight” was already ringing in my head when I came across the NOTICE (left), which cites the owner of the Bicycle Shop with “First Year failure to register a Blighted, unsecured, or abandoned structure.” It’s worth noting that Aries Development, fronted by rapacious developer Gino Falsetto, took control of The Bicycle Shop in January. It promptly ripped off the roof and has since allowed it to become blighted, if the City of Miami can be believed. Imagine that. In one of the most exclusive Zip Codes in the entire country.
Which brings us to the blighted E.W.F. Stirrup House. Aries Development acquired control of the Stirrup House almost a decade ago. Since then the second oldest house in Coconut Grove has become blighted — there’s no other word for it — and it becomes more so every single day. Aries acquired a 50-year lease on the Stirrup House (the house must remain in the Stirrup family in perpetuity) in a complicated property swap when it built The Monstrosity, aka Grove Gardens Residence
When Aries received the permits to build that 5-storey mixed-use condo complex, which dwarfs the modest Stirrup House, it committed to restoring this culturally important 120-year old house. A later plan claimed it would become a Bed and Breakfast. Meanwhile, it has become blighted, undergoing Demolition by
Neglect ever since Falsetto got his grimy hands on it. One could almost say Aries has once again failed “to register a Blighted, unsecured, or abandoned structure,” but I’ll let the City of Miami take care of any official notices. I can only tell you what I have observed the last 5 years I have been photographing and researching the E.W.F. Stirrup House.
The E.W.F. appears to have an open door policy again.
While it’s hard to tell from this pic, the front door of the Stirrup House was left open again on Saturday night. The last time I found the front door wide open I took it as an invitation to walk right in, since the front gate had also been left wide open. Neither the property or the structure were secured. Had the gate been closed and locked, at the very least, the property would have been secured. But, that’s no longer the case.
That’s because the back wall of the Stirrup property was demolished the same day Aries Development [allegedly] illegally cut down all the old trees on the Stirrup Property. That 7-foot wall was not just a target for neighbourhood taggers, it separated The Monstrosity’s fancy schmancy restaurants — with valet parking and underground wine cellar — from the blighted E.W.F. Stirrup House, right next door. Nowadays anyone who goes to The Taurus, La Bottega, and/or Calamari (the three restaurants that Aries Group runs) can wander right past where the wall used to be, up to the blighted, unsecured and abandoned Stirrup House and walk right in, as I would have on Saturday night had I not already been pressed for time.
Speaking of Aries: It had been my understanding that when the Coconut Grove Playhouse deal had gone through back in January, the Bicycle Shop was turned over to the Aries Group as a way to remove it from the Gordian Knot that had become the Coconut Grove Playhouse collapse. So, imagine my surprise when the NOTICE (above) was issued to COCONUT GRV PLAYHOUSE LLC, which SunBiz doesn’t list. All similar names are Inactive. Who actually owns this property? You’d think the city would know.
No matter. As has already been demonstrated, Gino Falsetto has the Midas touch in reverse. Everything he touches appears to become blighted. Or bankrupt. Before he washed up in the over-heated Miami real estate market, Falsetto and his brothers bankrupt several restaurants in the Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, area.
Sitting right between the Stirrup House and the Bicycle Shop is ANOTHER blighted and boarded-up building in Coconut Grove: The Coconut Grove Playhouse. Just when it appeared that everything concerning that issue had been solved came these screaming headlines earlier this week:
It’s far too early to tell what this will mean for Charles Avenue, which has been designated a Historic Roadway as the first street in Miami. I’ll be writing more about the Playhouse in the days to come. However, it’s hard not to see the ultimate winner could be Aries Development, which not only owns the Bicycle Shop, but also the two vacant lots immediately west of the Playhouse. These lots, which once had small shotgun houses on them, were snatched up in the same deal that gave Aries control of the E.W.F. Stirrup House. Any large development at the corner of Main Highway and Charles Avenue will only enrich a rapacious developer, at the expense of Coconut Groves’s rich cultural heritage.
Long-time readers of Not Now Silly know that Unpacking The Writer is a monthly feature, in which I pull back the curtain and reveal the man pulling the levers.
AUNTY EM!!! AUNTY EM!!!
New readers may be unaware that this is also my clever way to remind people to click on the adverts on these pages. The few cents I get from the monthly clicks don’t even cover the cost of storing the pics I use. [Did I say “few”? I meant miniscule.] However, now that Google has lowered the price of storage, I might actually be at the break-even point. Whoopie!
No matter. While money was never the reason I started a blog, it would be nice to make a few dollars here and there for all the hard work I put into these posts. On your mark. Get set. Start clicking.
I compare myself to Superman whenever I can.
Something else new readers may not know: I had a residency for a few years at NewsHounds, the motto of which is “We watch Fox so you don’t have to.” Because I was concerned Right Wing Crazies™ might want to hunt me down, I used a nom de plume. Because I thought it was funny, that pseudonym was Aunty Em Ericann. Because that so upset Right Wing Crazies™, some of them decided to hunt me down.
It’s the circle of life.
So, the Right Wing Crazies™ hunted me down and exposed my secret identity, just like I was a superhero and they were trying to conquer the world. No one ever accused them of being Braniacs, however.
In an effort to destroy me — because he couldn’t refute my message — Johnny Dollar was stupid enough to publish details of my alternative lifestyle at his sewer because, clearly, my sex life falls under his stated rubric of CABLE NEWS TRUTH. That’s the story I tell in the very first post on this blog: Johnny Dollar has Proven Himself To Be A Very Dangerous Person.
TRUE STORY: This blog was launched to expose Mark Koldys. Therefore, if you like this blog, you have Johnny Dollar to thank for it. It’s my modest suggestion that the very best way to thank Johnny Dollar is to share my Johnny Dollar stories all across the World Wide Interwebs. Feel free to repost.
The more that people learn about Mark Koldys and Ashley Graham, the more repulsed they are. They are saddened such evil motherfuckers like Johnny Dollar and Grayhammy actually exist. They are outraged that people would do such a thing over political differences. They understand that I might be willing to forget this silly little cyber-feud — even after 3 years of relentless and mendacious attacks — except Koldys and/or Graham keep reminding me it’s time to write about them all over again. What’s funny is how they keep trying to convince people that they are the victims.
For all those reasons I ask my faithful readers to share, or trade, these blog posts with your family and friends. Here’s are some good places to start:
blackflon was once part of the Flying Monkey Squad, but became bored and
gave up his part in the feud. Maybe Mark Koldys & Ashley Graham will take a clue.
I guess I’m just nostalgic for the earliest days of this blog. While it started with the mission to destroy Johnny Dollar, I’ve branched out considerably since then.
For the first year — to keep the continuity and to bring along my NewsHound fans — this blog was slapped with the unweildy title of Headly Westerfield’s “Aunty Em Ericann” Blog, which I got tired of typing. A year ago, April 1st, I simplified it to Not Now Silly, the URL I had chosen a year earlier. It occurs to me that I’ve not told that story here:
When I was originally setting up this blog I was asked to come up with a URL. I knew that it was something that I’d have to live with for a while, so I typed one possibility after another. They were either already taken, or just seemed stupid when I stared at it long enough. I was just starting to get frustrated when Pops called me from the other room. “Not Now Silly” is what my fingers automatically typed. Then I hit enter. It was as good as any URL, I suppose and, just like every problem, I was over-thinking it.
For some reason Keg tried it in blue before we settled on sepia.
When I decided to rename the blog last year, I reverted to that URL. Keg designed a logo I that I love, based on a pic I found on the innertubes.
And, my Coconut Grove posts do pretty good, click-wise, because I have regular readers now who want to know what I’ve uncovered lately. However, nothing could have prepared me for the click action on my post of February 22nd, Aries Development Continues To Rape Charles Avenue, all about the illegal cutting of the trees at the E.W.F. Stirrup House. It garnered 1297 clicks in just a month, jumping to the #3 in the Not Now Silly Top Ten. Sadly that knocked one of my Johnny Dollar posts down to the #9 position.
Readers: I do it for you. Without my readers, these words would be meaningless. These last two years have been a great ride. I sure hope you’re going to stick around for the next few. Here are some videos I made that combines my love of history and my obsessive picture collecting. See you around the funny papers. Oh, and click on an advert. It won’t cost you a thing and you’ll feel better for it.