On Coconut Groves picturesque but cluttered waterfront, a ramshackle marina, a seafood restaurant well past its prime and a funky if beloved watering hole known as Scottys Landing today occupy seven acres of choice public land next to Miami City Hall.
Now their leases are up and their long run is over. And whats in the offing to replace them could forever change the spots simple, old-Grove vibe, which is sticking in the craw of village denizens with long-held Bohemian views and a default antipathy toward glitz and development.
The city and developers who won a bid to remake the place have ambitious plans for it: The developers would spend $18 million in private money to sweep away much of whats there now, reconfigure and expand boat racks, and build a Shulas steakhouse and two other new restaurants. They would also put a marine store in a refurbished hangar dating from the days when Pan Am flew seaplanes out of Dinner Key next door.
Their site plan would do something else Grove residents have long clamored for: open up water access and direct vistas from South Bayshore Drive to Biscayne Bay by creating a pedestrian promenade that would end at a new public pier.
The so-called Grove Bay proposal, which goes to Miamis voters on the Nov. 5 ballot, is only one piece of a larger blueprint, years in the making and almost universally well received, that aims to revitalize and open up the historic villages public bayfront, much of which now lies hidden and disconnected from the rest of the Grove by a jumble of buildings and boats and a series of asphalt parking lots.
A second, separate piece of the broader plan is slowly and simultaneously now getting under way as well. The city is tearing down the closed Grove exhibition center, a vast concrete fortress that blocks off Biscayne Bay from South Bayshore Drive, and will replace it with a 17-acre park, the new waterfronts centerpiece.
A third piece hinges in part on voters approval of the Grove Bay proposal. The developers would be required to contribute $5 million toward construction of a three-story city parking garage, to be lined all around with 40,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. The narrow, 39-foot-tall garage would replace the surface lot fronting South Bayshore, as well as Expo center parking to be converted to parkland, and would sit well back from the waterfront so as not to obstruct water views, the city and the developers say.
Backers of the Grove Bay plan say it would make the Grove waterfront significantly more accessible and inviting to locals and visitors alike. They say it could also help boost the villages nearby commercial center, which has been struggling in the face of competition from South Beach and South Miamis resurgent downtown, by improving pedestrian connections and capitalizing on a unique waters-edge allure.
Miami is desperate for places where you can be by the water, to have a bite or a drink, said Michelle Niemeyer, a neighborhood activist and member of the Coconut Grove Village Council, an elected advisory group that endorsed the Grove Bay proposal. There will be more green space and broader and better pedestrian connections. It greatly improves what we have.
Part of whats really beautiful with this plan is that it redirects marina forklift traffic so that, going to the restaurants, you will no longer be walking through puddles of oil.