An Open Email to the City of Miami ► Unpacking Coconut Grove ► Part 6.1

This is a copy of the email I sent to the City of Miami Office of Communications. It was addressed to an email address I was given over the phone by a recording when trying to reach that department. I have yet to receive a reply.

Date: Aug 10
Subject: Trying to obtain information

I appreciate any help you can give me. I am a semi-retired journalist (with limited funds) trying to get to the bottom of a mystery concerning Coconut Grove’s historic E.W.F. Stirrup House at 3242 Charles Avenue.

It appears that when the Grove Gardens Residences Condominium project (3540 Main Highway) was first proposed (in 2005 or 2006 or 2007; sorry to be so vague) promises were made concerning the renovation and rehabilitation of the E.W.F. Stirrup House on Charles Avenue. However, no one seems to remember what exact promises were made and this is what I am trying to find out.

People in the neighbourhood tell me that when the Grove Gardens Condominiums were first proposed the surrounding community had several objections. Those on the east side of Main Highway, in the gated communities like Camp Biscayne, were concerned about the proposed height of the project. Another group was bothered that the 100+-year old Taurus Bar might be torn down. A third group was worried about the historical E.W.F. Stirrup House coming under the wrecker’s ball. Accordingly, the height of the project was scaled back, and the building was stepped back, so the street view didn’t present a massive condo tower. Then the Taurus Bar was saved and (reportedly) moved back 7 inches and placed on a new foundation.

However, nothing was ever done to the Stirrup House, which has now been empty approximately 7 years, and possibly longer.

Those in the neighbourhood I have interviewed tell me that the house had been given an historical designation, but I can find no proof of that. They also told me that it was their understanding the developer promised that the E.W.F. Stirrup House would be renovated and rehabilitated to become a neighbourhood Historical and Community Resource Center, honouring the original Bahamians who came to Coconut Grove in the late 1880s. However, I cannot find any confirmation of this either. Others have told me the same story, except it was the Mariah Brown House further down the block that was to be renovated and turned into a Community Resource Center. This cannot be confirmed either, but both cannot be true.

I note that whatever promises were made, if any, on the Stirrup House and/or Brown House, they have not been fulfilled. Both houses have been empty since I discovered them in early 2009 and, I am told, much longer than that.

Last year, according to newspaper articles, the owner of the E.W.F. Stirrup House petitioned the City of Miami to rezone the E.W.F. Stirrup House as a Commercial Property in order to build a Bed & Breakfast in the house. I have been unable to find out whether this change of zoning was ever granted.

So, you see, I have a lot of rumour and conjecture, but no facts.

Here are my specific questions:

  1. Did the developer of Grove Gardens Condominiums make any specific promises concerning the E.W.F. Stirrup House in order to get its building permits?
  2. If so, what were they?
  3. If not, what community concerns were addressed to get the building permits?
  4. Is there an Historical Designation for the actual E.W.F. Stirrup House?
  5. Is there anything to prevent the destruction of the E.W.F. Stirrup House?
  6. Was a change of zoning, from Residential tp [sic] Commercial, granted for the E.W.F. Stirrup House?
  7. Who is the registered owner of the E.W.F. Stirrup House?
  8. Who is the registered owner of the Mariah Brown House?
  9. Were any promises made concerning the Mariah Brown House?
  10. Recently Charles Avenue was designated an Historical Roadway from Main Highway to S. Douglas Road. What practical effect does this have?

I am trying to save the E.W.F. Stirrup House from what appears to be Demolition By Neglect. To that end I am using my Blog to get the word out. This is what I have posted on Coconut Grove so far:

[Deleted Chapter titles and URLs for Parts 1 through 3 of this ongoing series]

I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you in advance for any help you are able to provide to me. Feel free to phone if you require any further information.

This email was sent a week prior to my discovering that (allegedly) illegal work has been taking place inside the E.W.F. Stirrup House without then benefit of a Building Permit. The questions asked in this email become more crucial now that the (alleged) rapacious developer Gino Falsetto continues to renovate the E.W.F. Stirrup House without a Building Permit. Will Gino Falsetto be allowed to get away with his alleged Bed and Breakfast Con? Will anyone at the City of Miami Building Department hold Gino Falsetto accountable? Will Gino Falsetto continue to be allowed to thumb his nose at City of Miami regulations concerning trash allowed to pile up on the property he controls, but doesn’t own? Will anyone at the City of Miami ever respond to my emails or phone calls?

Stay tuned, kids.


About Headly Westerfield

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