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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Asleep at the job?

A friend complained to the City about illegal signage recently and he included me in the emails. It makes me question the competence of our city Zoning Department.

The case is about an illegal sign, advertising a condo. The sign is on South Bayshore Drive and the condo is a block away, back on the water. You cannot see the condo from the sign and one good reason is because the condo has not broken ground yet, but even so, even after it's built, you would not be able to see the sign from the condo and vice versa.

The developers purchased a house on the corner of South Bayshore Drive, just for the purpose of planting a sign out front to advertise their condo in the back. It started with a huge marble or stone sign dug deep into the ground, right on the front lawn. The sign was at least 6 feet x 3 feet. The neighborhood were incensed. After contacting the Zoning Dept. for quite awhile, the sign was finally removed. But it took effort. The zoning people would claim to come out and not see the sign. But you could not help but see the sign. I truly believe they just don't leave their offices to inspect complaints.

I have had this issue with potholes which I've reported to 311, using their app. I posted photos with the address and I would get a form letter every time saying they went out, could not find the potholes and the "case is closed." The Case is Closed! They don't follow up, they just close the case. They have done the same with these illegal signs.

Back to the house and sign - after the large 6 foot marble sign was finally removed, a smaller sign was placed, but that was removed because it was illegal. The developer has been claiming to zoning that it's a 30 day temporary sign, and rather than inspect it, zoning just takes their word. The 30 days signs could be the type you use to sell houses or advertise a political candidate.

Now there is a "for sale" sign on the property, the type you would see on properties being sold, only they are allowed for 30 days and they must be on the property that is being sold. But this sign has been up for months and it is on the house property, a block from the actual property it is advertising. Imagine if I was selling my house and I had a sign on the lawn of all of my neighbors pointing to my house, sort of like a garage sale sign, but only permanent.

My friend has been going back and forth with zoning and they have used the same excuses as they always have - "the inspector went out and did not see anything." I think if they really would go out and open their eyes, they would see things.

My friend received an email and it said something to the effect, "We will go out and measure the sign to see if it conforms to Miami21." The issue was the illegal placement and the length of time that it is there, not the size of the sign. That's when I got involved, I really laid into the City in that email string, but it just frustrated me to see that they use the same excuse on every complaint - "No such thing." As if we are seeing things and when they arrive, the thing is not there. To be honest, the sign does not bother me, what bothers me is when they return emails that say, "There is nothing there." Every email comes back saying that. Every. Single. Time.

One time I literally had to print out a Google map of a pothole and put a big red X on the spot. That may have helped. I guess it did, the pothole is fixed. But I'm sure many cars were ruined until they city got their act together and fixed it. There are two right now on a street I drive through often. Big ones, both about 1 foot wide x 1/2" foot deep. Two right next to each other. I reported it Monday, let's see how long it takes for them to be fixed.

Here is an image of the potholes. If you hit these hard while driving, they will do damage.




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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

MCA Academy unveils new look

Here's some photos showing the facility and amenities at MCA Academy at Mayfair. They've moved to another floor in the complex and here's a preview of what the classroom and common areas look like. They are accepting new students now.

MCA provides a challenging, fully accredited and individualized program from 1st to 12th grade, nationally recognized as having an above average academic level.
Class size is small allowing every child to receive personal attention and work to full potential. Therefore, there is limited homework.

To find out more visit their website: mcaacademy.com

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Some changes on the trolley route

I took the free trolley again yesterday because I was getting new tires, so I left my car at the station and took the trolley home and then back again to pick up the car. There have been some changes since the last time I used the trolley. On June 4, they changed the route.

There are good points to this and not so good. The best thing is that it covers more of Coconut Grove, so almost everyone in the North and Center Grove can get to where they need to go. You can take it to Shell Lumber now and both Metrorail stations - 27th Avenue and 37th Avenue and you can even take it to Merrick Park. The trolley now goes down 27th Avenue and Oak Avenue and it really does cover a large area.

This is the new map, click on it for a larger version or you can see more details at the city's website here.



This map doesn't show exactly the direction the trolley is going so it's a bit confusing, but basically, it comes from Mercy Hospital, goes down South Bayshore Drive to Mary Street, turns up Grand and goes straight down to Douglas and crosses the highway. After that, it's a bit tricky, it winds around that area and ends up at the 37th Avenue Metrorail station then comes out to US1 and crosses on Bird Avenue back into the Grove and here is where the change comes in, rather than turning onto McDonald back into the Grove, it now goes all the way down Bird Avenue it turns onto 27th and goes toward US1, crosses to the Metrorail and then comes back down 27th Avenue and goes to the peanut and turns on Tigertail and then onto Oak. It then turns on McDonald at Oak and ends up back in it's old route, stopping at Fuller Street and proceeding back to South Bayshore Drive and back to Mercy hospital. A bit confusing, but it covers a large area.

The negatives are that the wait times are much longer now and what used to maybe take 20 minutes takes up to an hour in travel time, since the route is much longer. It makes a weird pass through the industrial area of Coral Gables, on the other side of US1 and then ends up at the Metrorail after that.

But hey, it's free and convenient. People are nice on the trolley and so are the drivers. I would just allow a bit more time to get where you're going now. There is an app which is great because you can see the trolleys moving on the map in real time, so you know when to go to the stop and when to expect them.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Tree hacking continues



So this was the scene at Jaguar restaurant early today, Monday, August 14. I guess the claim that all things would be stopped and discussed was a lie from our government.

To be honest, I understand what they are doing and this has been the plan for a long time, but either Friday or over the weekend, we were told that the Grand Avenue project would be halted and discussed. Guess not. Hope that's not the case with the Loquat project.

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Eagerly booting cars

Regarding the booting of cars and Premier Booting screwing the city. Someone mentioned to me that a lot of the problem is the moving away from people to automation. Most of the parking lots had people on duty at booths, where you paid to park. This alleviated the need for booting. But the booting company found a way around this, too.

I think I told the story before. I used to park in the Coconut Grove Bank Lot before it became condos. There was an attendant there from about 10 am to 10 pm daily and the lot was always open, even when the attendant was not present.


I would park there early weekend mornings and walk over to the gym, this was about 7 and/or 8 am. There was no attendant at that time and people would want to pay, but there was no one to pay, there were no meters in the lot because there was an attendant to pay. When they were on duty. I had a decal for monthly parking so I just used automatically used the lot.

Others would park the cars early, try to pay, find no one to pay and then walk off to eat breakfast or whatever. When they returned, they were booted. This was quite the racket. As you may know, city meters don't go into effect until 10 am, so you can park there for free until 10 am and I assume people thought the same of the parking lots.

So the booting company always had a hold on people. I was booted more than once in that lot and I had to call the booting company and point out the paid sticker in my window. They were so gung-ho to boot cars that they would overlook that people did pay to park in many instances. Some mornings I would return from the gym and see 20 cars booted. So that's what made me laugh about the booting company claiming that in their 20 lots that they cover, they only boot 7 cars a day, total. 

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About those trees at the Water and Sewer Dept.

Residents are concerned with the trees at the  Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Dept. on LeJeune and Loquat Avenue.  You'll noticed that many of them are marked.

The county is putting in a sidewalk and it seems that rather than go around the trees, they are cutting down nine large fully grown trees to do it.

But that many not be the case.




 The original plan was an artistic sidewalk along Loquat. The winding sidwalk would have gone through the trees.

A shoddy contractor came in and destroyed the trees by digging too close to them, exposing the roots. Poincianas and old oaks were hurt.


What is the next step? Someone from the county then came in and started marking the trees with big orange X's. 



But thanks again to questions from the community, the City has stepped in and they are working with the Water and Sewer Dept. They did an assessment and the Department says they will protect the healthy trees. 

One question - why are there always unhealthy trees on all projects the city and county does and why are those unhealthy trees always just coincidentially in the way of whatever they are doing. The healthy trees are the ones that are not affecting the projects, but the ones that affect the projects are "unhealthy."

As of now, all worked related to the project has been haulted. There will be a city meeting on the site in the near future to discuss the project.


It helps when neighbors speak up. The Grand Avenue project is on hold and now this sidewalk project at the Water and Sewer Dept.


UPDATE: The trees at Jaguar restaurant on Grand Avenue are being cut as of 9 am this morning So I'm not sure what to believe anymore.

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Craft Spirits Festival is coming back in the Fall


The Craft Spirits Festival (CSF), returns for its 5th year from October 9 - 13. This is the original exhibition of craft, artisanal, boutique, super premium, small-batch spirits and cocktails.

The CSF showcases spirit producers, brand ambassadors, bartenders and beverage industry leaders who are influencing today’s craft spirit and craft cocktail culture. The CSF also provides the opportunity for consumers to learn, interact and truly experience spirits & cocktails. 

While the five-day celebration will peak with the “Grand Tasting” at the Cruz Building in Coconut Grove, the preceding days are packed with bartender competitions, happy hours and more. 

Here are some of the activities:

Saturday, October 7
The CSF Kick-Off Pop-Up Bar happens at a secret location in Miami. A small number of ticket buyers will be chosen to join the industry professionals, bartenders and other VIP’s to this very special event featuring one of a kind cocktails at a secret speakeasy location. 
By invitation only.

Monday, October 9
BareKnuckle Bartender Finale at TBD at 8 pm. Come watch Miami bartenders compete to make their best cocktails to earn the coveted title of Craft Spirits Fest’s BareKnuckle Bartender Champ. Free and open to the public. Details to come.

Tuesday, October 10
Smoke & Spirits, our celebration of cigar and spirits, featuring our Official Cigar Sponsor – Drew Estate happens at Prime Cigar in Brickell. 
Open to the public. Ticketed event. Details to come.

Wednesday, October 11
In honor of the Breast Cancer Awareness month, they present the 4th Annual Women, Whiskey & Wieners at The Mighty (2224 Coral Way). Featuring the finest women in the spirits industry representing: Glenfiddich, Michter’s, Old Forrester, Wild Turkey and more. A $20 donation will score you some awesome American Whiskey samples, cocktails and house-made wieners and more.  Open to the public. Tickets available at the door.

Friday, October 13
The Grand Tasting is the Craft Spirit Festival's main event, and it’s happening from 7:30 to 10:30 pm at the Cruz Building in Coconut Grove (3157 Commodore Plaza). This event brings together 30+ spirit producers from across the country/world for a comprehensive, large-scale tasting event. Over 120+ different spirits and cocktails will be available to sample. At bars throughout the building, Miami’s best bartenders from the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild will serve amazing craft cocktails. Pair a cocktail with free food samples from local restaurants. Tickets for Grand Tasting are $75 and are extremely limited. 
Tickets available at: CraftSpiritsFest2017.Mixstir.com

Friday, October 13-14
Any great Party needs a great “After Party."  The Tank Brewing Co. will present the CSF Beer Chaser, after imbibing all those great spirits; nothing is better than a nice cold brew.  The After Party starts at 10 pm and will continue until the wee hours at Taurus: Beer & Whisk(e)y House (3524 Main Hwy). Attendees of the Grand Tasting receive a complimentary Tank brew plus other food and drink specials throughout the night!


For more information of the Craft Spirits Festival Week of events and for tickets please visit CraftSpiritsFest.com

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Caught by their own greed?

There's an interesting story about Premier Booting, the company that is booting cars all around the Grove. 

I have received so many complaints over the years from people wanting me to me to do stories. One prominent Grove businessman had an idea to sort of vandalize their signs to warn people about parking in the lots that use the booting company! That's how frustrated people are.  

I did a story here in May, where the Police Commander, Mike Gonzalez, added a bunch of things not do to so as not to get booted. There were mixed reactions. People feel that if you illegally park, you should be booted or ticketed. Fair enough. But now Premier Booting is being questioned by the city about the city's share of the booting fees, they feel that they were allegedly cheated out of $186,000 and more.

And you know what my question is? Was the City of Miami screwing over their residents? The City gets $25 from every $89 booting fee. Why? 

Why does the City always have its hand out? We lost most of the events here in the Grove because of the City's greed, they have their hand out for everything. I'm no friend of the booting company either, that stalks people and gives false tickets many times by allegedly deceptive practices.

I do blame the land owners where parking is allowed. Do you realize CVS and Yacht Harbor (they own and boot at the parking lot on Grand Avenue, next to the gym)  and all the other places that you are hurting residents and tourists and people who visit have told me to my face that they will never return to Coconut Grove because they were allegedly booted wrongly? If the city gets $25 of the booting fee, how much does Yacht Harbor get? How much does CVS get? And the US post office, how much do they get as their cut? And the lot on Fuller Street? 


The booting company is a menace to Coconut Grove, but so is the City of Miami. Here is a full story in the Herald about the alleged booting scam (where the booting company scammed the city), which I sort of like. You know, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But in the end, I'd like to see the booting company fired and the city stop screwing over the residents.

From the Herald story: "Premier Booting, which manages more than 20 parking facilities, reported to Miami that it deployed an average of seven boots per day in the last year. In contrast, Elite Booting, which operates only three parking facilities, reported placing 18 boots on cars per day during the same period."

I had to laugh because I have practically seen Premier boot seven cars in seven minutes. Anyone can see it. Stand at the Yacht Harbor lot for a bit and see what goes on. They sit in the lots and stalk people and cars. They've almost killed people in the CVS lot because of the way they speed around trying to boot cars before people return to them. They speed from one end of the lot to the other like maniacs. It's all about quantity with them and for them to say they only boot seven cars a day? That makes me laugh.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Tree cutting has been halted for now

Neighbors have been giving Commissioner Ken Russell an earful about the trees being removed on Grand Avenue.  The main issue is that the trees were not marked for removal, as they should be and the public did not have a chance to voice their concerns at community meetings.  People read the Grapevine story about the sudden hacking of  the trees and the open letter from TreeWatch, and then readers sent emails to the Commissioner to ask "why?"

Ken has now asked for the administration to halt the two projects on Grand Avenue and Bird Avenue. Ken says, "Until we can assess the viability and potential to preserve or relocate any of the trees slated for removal. I have also been walking and inspecting each of the trees as well. Several of the ones I saw truly do have visible rot in the trunk from the base to the top and are leaning over the road. There is not much we can do for these.  There are others however, which we will do our best to save or relocate."

Ken is also going through the notification process to make sure that all proper notification was posted for these removals. "If the process was not followed, the projects will not continue until proper public  notification and input have been followed and considered," he said.

Any mitigation replacement trees will be of the most mature state possible.

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Monty Trainer receives Hall of Fame award

Monty with his Hall of Fame award.
Monty Trainer was recently the recipient of the 2017 Coconut Grove Sports Hall of Fame award called the "Sports Saving Lives Community Leadership Award." He was awarded at a dinner/ceremony at the Courtyard Marriott here in Coconut Grove. 

For over 30 years, Monty was a member of the UM Golden Cane Society, where he provided the script to feed thousands of UM athletes. He also provided many restaurant jobs to college athletes and was known for his tailgate parties, with the Monty's Food Truck, one of the first in the State of Florida, which raised funds for the athletes. 

One of the main issues taught through the Coconut Grove Sports Hall of fame is the importance of leaving a legacy through investing in others. Their mission is to recognize and honor outstanding student athletes and coaches, who exemplify extraordinary sports accomplishments.

Monty is well-known for Monty's restaurant and as president of the Coconut Grove Arts Festival, among being part of many charitable groups and organizations and also fund-raising events like Taste of Miami, the Orange Bowl Parade, Super Bowl and more.

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hangin' with Harry

My friend Harry Gottlieb has started a new blog, it's about bicycling called, "Harry's Cycle Path."  No, not psychopath. Cycle Path.

Harry is a Grove activist but he is also a bicycle enthusiast. He knows a lot about the subject, he has marketed bike shops and new style bicycles, he is entrusted to try out new bicycles for his suggestions and reviews and he has helped to pass legislation in favor of bike safety. He is well known in the cycling community around Miami-Dade County.

Three years ago he began championing the improved safety of our drawbridges which were quite dangerous for cyclists. He lobbied with FDOT and MDC to install dedicated nonslip bike lanes over the cheese grater metal surfaces. Proof was gathered about the many injuries that cyclist received after numerous falls. FDOT and MDC eventually took action by fixing just about every drawbridge in South Florida. Hopefully the West Venetian Causeway Drawbridge will be addressed in October when funds are available. 

Harry has ridden over 200 miles some weeks! And so what better way to share his knowledge than with the Harry's Cycle Path blog?

Harry will share new products, stories on cycling adventures and even restaurants that are part of local bike routes.



Check it out. He's an interesting guy.

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Early Bird Halloween Tickets go on sale Friday

The Early Bird Vizcaya Halloween tickets go on sale this week.  This is the 31st Annual Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Halloween Sundowner. The all-inclusive party takes place on Saturday, October 28, this year, from 8:00 pm to midnight.

This year’s event will feature a theme of Mystery, Myth and Fantasy. Guests are welcome to dress for the theme or wear the costume of their choice and enter to win great prizes in the following categories: Best Male Costume, Female Costume, Best Couple and Best Group Costume.

The Halloween extravaganza will feature five full open bars by Bacardi, including specialty themed drinks. The bars will be further supplemented by wine and beer sponsors.

Guests will be treated to delicious treats and dance the night away with live entertainment and DJ on several stages.


TICKETS: 

Early Bird tickets are available at a discounted price of $130 for Vizcaya Members from August 11 through September 12, 2017. Not a member? Sign up for a discounted Boo Membership ($35), a one-year membership to Vizcaya valued at $50, and become eligible to buy up to two (2) Halloween tickets at the discounted Early Bird price.

General Admission tickets are $170 ($140 for Vizcaya Members) and $150 for Groups of 8+.

VIP tickets are $250 and include all General Admission benefits as well as exclusive access to a VIP Lounge area located in the courtyard of the Main House, featuring VIP bars with drinks and a catered buffet as well as an air-conditioned lounge and entertainment.

In addition to the VIP tickets, there will be availability of four VIP Reserved Tables of 6 for $3,000 which includes the benefits of the VIP tickets plus three bottle champagne service.

Tickets are all inclusive. Must be 21 and over to attend. Proof of age required at entry. This is a rain or shine event and no refunds will be available. Tickets can be purchased online at www.VizcayaHalloween.org. For questions, please email events@vizcaya.org, 305-860-8420, 305-860-8408.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Tree removal and other Grove projects

Regarding the tree removal as part of the Grand Avenue project, it was part of the plans from the beginning.

From the City:


Pursuant to Chapter 17 of the City Code, thirty-two (32) diseased or dead trees in the public right of way are schedule to be remove. Withal, two (2) trees will be relocated. The process will begin August 7, 2017 for two (2) weeks. At present,  trees to be removed have been marked. Correspondingly, a certified arborist has confirm the condition of the affected trees. 

The plan is to remove and relocate trees but also plant twenty-nine (29) new trees.  The type of trees to be planted include:

Hong Kong Orchid

Verawood
Apple Blossom Shower
Silver Trumpet
Cabbage Palm
Mahogany
Live Oak


I added a PowerPoint presentation to the file with the Grand Avenue Plans that has all of the major Grove projects listed and shown in color including Grand Avenue, Main Highway, the traffic circle on McDonald Street and the Bird Road project among others here.

Part of the Grand Avenue plans which are in the folder, shows the tree removal plan. The quarrel with many is that there were no notices posted to the trees, which is the law. It gives people time to ask questions and appeal if need be.

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An open letter from TreeWatch


An Open letter to the City of Miami Capital Improvements and Public Works Dept, Commissioner Ken Russell and the Coconut Grove BID

I write on behalf of Coconut Grove TreeWatch. Today we received numerous calls from neighbors and passers by disturbed about the tree cuttings along Grand Avenue, which apparently are part of the Capital Improvements that have been ongoing in Coconut Grove by the Business Improvement District (BID) for a number of years.


Here are the concerns of TreeWatch:

1. Concern about the lack of visible posting of the Intended Decision to remove 32 trees from the Public Right of Way.

As you may know, it has been our chief complaint for quite some time the way intended decisions are publicly posted, as they are invariably hidden from the public, with no protection from the elements.


The Intended Decision for the 32 trees were tucked into the 85-page Capital Improvements Plans  forwarded to me my Tim Schmand, Interim Director of the BID, after my visit with him today in the aftermath of tree cuttings. that document, dated, 1/14/16 notes that an appeal can be filed in the 15 day interim the last day of which would beJan 23 of 2016— but who knew.  As far as we know, THEY NEVER POSTED THE TREES.  

Among the 85 pages, there was no copy whatsoever of the photo that is normally taken of the public posting of an Intended Decisions, with the date of posting. There should  have been more than one posting, and not just one, on a project that intends to take down 32 trees on two sides of the street along 5 to 6 linear city blocks. But if there was even one, I missed it. And apparently so did many other people.

2. Concern about whether all of the 32 tree actually need to be cut down.

According a CID Press release that made its way to me this evening, these 32 trees are being cut down because they are “diseased or dead.” Yet according to the disposition in the 85 page document from Capital Improvements, there are at least 12 canopy trees and 7 palms which are neither sick nor dying (indeed7 are listed as fair 3  in fair-good condition, and 2 as good).  
Why are they being removed?


3. Concern about Mitigation (OR LACK THEREOF)
Page 85 of plan address Tree Mitigation Calculations. According to it:

A.  The number of trees to be removed are 32 (a total of 269.35 DBH)
B.   The total number of replacement trees required are 45 trees at 4” DBH with a 16” height.
C. Yet the number of proposed replacement trees, at the 4” DBH 16” height are a total of 25. 
WHY SO FEW? SHOULDN'T THE TAKING DOWN OF CANOPY BEGET MORE CANOPY AS MITIGATION?

4. Concern about size of replacement trees

If you are going to take down big canopy trees that have been a part of this neighborhood’s identity for so many years, why should we settle for  puny 4” DBH trees?.

It should be noted that when Treewatch was afforded the opportunity to appeal other parts of this project— Florida Avenue, Commodore and Virginia and Mary— even though we lost the appeal (Historic Preservation has to rule in favor of removal if the tree is cited to be “diseased or dead — which can be loosely interpreted as dangerous), we at least take comfort that they heeded our suggestion to then use replacement trees that were  much larger, and more substantial, which is why Florida Avenue and the ones on the Corner of Mary and Grand look decent now.  

We request 

1. That the 12 good to fair trees be reviewed and kept - or there impending demise further explained.  

2. That large canopy trees be used to replace the large canopy trees that were cut down (such as the ones along Yacht Harbor today). We will not settle for 4” dbh. We don’t want stick figure trees. (And you may want to take a look at removing the dander vines on the one oak near the one that got cut down today ( but hopefully not the entire tree)

4. That we seriously take a look at suggestions to make Intended Decisions more visible to the general public, as suggested in the email below I sent last year.

5. Advance and ample notice of the Plans for Main Highway as well as the Black Olives on Fuller— we actually have an appeal in place for the tree removals at Fuller going back a couple years, but it was delayed from hearing, and then it mysteriously disappeared.

Respectfully, 

Liliana Dones and Santiago Villegas
Coconut Grove TreeWatch

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Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Hacking away on Grand Avenue

So this is going on on Grand Avenue, as part of the street renovation. Tree hacking.

It's interesting that none of the trees were marked as we have seen in the past. It's also the law to mark them in advance. And it's interesting that these things always seem to happen in the middle of the summer, when most questionable things happen in Miami as a rule.

TreeWatch is on the case and there may be an appeal as early as today.


But to be fair, many trees are slated for removal. That was part of the plan. Here is a Dropbox file with the 85 page plan, I first published this with the link on March 17, 2017. But still, they should have been marked.

"They are at it again! We need to stop this today. There's a plan to remove our tree canopy to do sidewalks. They'll plant eight foot trees to replace these and we'll wait 40 years for them to be of the size they once were before the hacking. All this to spend our money on sidewalks, pavers, silva cells, tree hackers, tree nurseries, what a racket!" exclaimed Santiago Villegas of Coconut Grove TreeWatch.




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Bird Avenue revamp groundbreaking is Wednesday

There is a groundbreaking ceremony for the $2.1 million Bird Avenue project on Wednesday, August 9 at 10 am.

This project includes newly designated bike lanes, concrete sidewalks with ramps, drainage improvements, road repavement and markings. 

Commissioner Ken Russell will be present at Bird Avenue and Bridgeport Avenue, to commence the job.

"The redesign of Bird Avenue has begun. New landscaping will add to the canopy and aesthetic that is important to the Grove. New bike lanes will encourage us to get out of our cars and safely enjoy the neighborhood," stated Commissioner Russell.

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Bake-A-Wish receives grant from Grove Rotary Club

From left: Rotary treasurer Phil Everingham, secretary Bob Gombosh, president Richard W.  Martin II, Sloan Cole and Natasha Strump of Bake-A-Wish


The Rotary Club of Coconut Grove awarded a grant of $1,000 to Bake-A-Wish, an initiative of high school students that provides a birthday cake to children who might not otherwise receive one.

The check was presented by Rotary president Richard W. Martin II at a luncheon held at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club. “Our club is pleased to continue our support of this worthy effort. It is heartening to see young people with such a sense of purpose and dedication. They are truly making a difference in the lives of hundreds of children,” said Richard.

Bake-A-Wish was founded in 2011 by Kathy Pfleger, then a student at Random Everglades School, after a visit to the Miami Rescue Mission for a community service reading project. She wanted to do something special for the children and started baking birthday cakes for them.  Since then, Bake-A-Wish has grown from three girls baking 250 cakes a year to 15 girls baking more than 750 cakes a year. All aspects of this project -- contacting the facilities, keeping track of the birthdays, baking and delivering the cakes – are carried out by high school students. When Kathy left Miami for Columbia University, she passed the baton to Natasha Strump, now president of Bake-A-Wish.

“A birthday cake may seem like a small gesture, but it means so much to these children,” said Natasha. “We believe that every child should feel special on his or her, and a cake delivered with a smile and a hug makes a difference in the children’s lives. We plan to add a new program every year.” To assure that the program  continues when she leaves for college, Strump has named Sloan Cole as her successor.

At the present time, Bake-A-Wish serves children K-12 at St. Alban’s Child Enrichment Center, Elizabeth Virrick Park, Casa Valentina, Esther Armbrister Park as well as the Miami Rescue Mission and St. John Bosco Catholic Church School in Little Havana. 

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Monday, August 07, 2017

Regarding the housing style in Coconut Grove


Coconut Grove’s single-family neighborhoods contain a multitude of styles. Look closely and you’ll find mid-century modern, post-modern, ranch, colonial, craftsman, Mediterranean revival, Cape Cod, Art Deco, shotgun, conch, Tudor, bungalow, Creole, federal, split-level, Adirondack, the Prairie School, and a variety of others. This diversity is one of the Grove’s defining characteristics, and one of its greatest assets. Even the “white box” is welcome here. What matters is size and scale, not style. 

The zoning protections being proposed by Grove 2030 and other community groups will, in no way, dictate style or color of ornamental features. They will however, increase required green space, protect tree canopy, penalize “land banking” and, most important, prevent new homes from encompassing nearly their entire building sites. The City of Miami’s zoning regulations for new construction are far and away the most permissible anywhere in the county.  We are proposing, “massing restrictions” that are in line with other municipalities.  As for the style? We’ll leave that up to you and your architect.

Dave Villano
Grove 2030
Coconut Grove

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Chillax - Walk in, float out

It's not in the Grove, but she's a friend of mine and is a Grovite, so I would like to introduce you to my friend Anava Kalstone's new massage shop. It's called Chillax Massage Shop and it's in downtown Miami; it's a new conceptual massage shop designed to make massage and its energizing benefits (Chi) more accessible to everybody.

Chillax Massage Shop offers an innovative service never seen before; chair massage in a retail environment. You will get an effective chair massage, in their contemporary designed, aromatherapy infused atmosphere with relaxing but upbeat music.

Anava, founder and CEO, is a massage therapist.  She got inspired to do this years ago when chair massage used to help her manage stress during work breaks and increase her productivity while she was working a stressful job as a sales rep in London.  


Anava says, "We looked for an area with a large daytime population.  Downtown has the largest daytime population in Miami with a growing residential population and hip cool businesses opening up.  We wanted to be a part of it and help raise the vibe.  As Coconut Grove's daytime population increases in the coming years, we will strongly consider a local store.  For now, we encourage the Grovites who work in downtown to stop in."

This is perfect if you’re looking to unwind in a hurry. Chair massage focuses on the neck, back and shoulders and is an energizing way to recharge your batteries without the time commitment of traditional table massage. Anava says the longer you stay, the better you feel.  Chillax Massage Shop’s menu offers:  Reset-10 minutes, Energize-15 minutes, Balance-20 minutes, Bliss-30 minutes, and Vacay-45 minutes.

What sets them apart is the concept, "We are a chair massage service in a serene environment.  Our team of therapists are friendly, happy and trained in an effective sequence that will enable consistency.  It is a clean and modern environment, people love being here.  We encourage walk ins or appointments," says Anava.

The business has a retail shop featuring earth conscious products and fun gift items.  And they also hit the road with therapists available to attend events and offices. At the storefront, they have four chairs and depending on the hour, they have between 3-4 therapists.  This does not include the chairs and therapist available for events and offices.  There is always a receptionist to greet the walk-in customers, book appointments by phone or help answer questions about the retail store.

The concept will encourage individuals to incorporate massage to their daily or weekly routines, with the same ease as getting coffee or a cold pressed juice. 

Weekly table massage is a time commitment not everyone can commit to or afford.  Hopefully the quick in out will encourage people to include massage in their daily or weekly routine and it can improve people's well being and make their day better.  Getting Chillax's Reset massage (10 min.) is as easy as grabbing a cup of coffee around the corner.

Chillax is at 360 SE 1st Street, Miami. Phone: 305-377-0420.

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