Another conflict over new construction is escalating in Coconut Grove, which could supplant the downtown area as the crane capital of Miami.
Residents who have seen the canopy and charm of the Old Grove disappear have launched a campaign to stop Carrollton School’s plan to build a boys’ school at Villa Woodbine, the historic mansion designed by Walter DeGarmo that offers a view gorgeous over Biscayne Bay from its oak – shaded front lawn atop Silver Bluff.
Jay Gatsby never lived there, but he could have. The romance of the place has made it a popular venue for weddings and parties.
Carrollton Sacré-Coeur School for Girls has a contract to purchase the 3.7-acre property, valued at $ 8-10 million, and is seeking city approval to set up an elementary school for 336 boys on the site, which is located across Kennedy Park between South Bayshore Drive and Tigertail Avenue.
The campus would include a 47,129 square foot two-story school, a 9,498 square foot auditorium, covered walkways, swimming pool, dormitory, maintenance shop, parking lot and gatehouse located around three sides of the campus. the villa, which would contain the office staff.
Opponents say a school simply has no place there. They started a petition, created a website, and covered the neighborhood with yellow “Stop Grove Gridlock” signs urging Carrollton to expand elsewhere and warning of the damaging effects on traffic, neighboring homes, the environment and the city. one of Miami’s vintage treasures.
“This idea reminds me of the attempt to build a condo around the Freedom Tower. If the city allows this precedent, in 20 years Carrollton will add a boys’ high school in Vizcaya, ”said Isaac Kodsi, owner of a 110-year-old house built by Grove pioneer John Peacock next to Villa Woodbine. He also has a daughter and nieces who are students of Carrollton. His wife, eldest daughter and sisters-in-law are proud alumni of Carrollton.
“Carrollton has great intention and great stewardship. I fully support – and am Jewish – all of Carrollton’s goals except one thing – location, ”Kodsi said. “Why here? Wake up, Miami. How many changes can we take before we destroy what makes this Miami?”
Carrollton chose the site to be close to its sister school Bayfront for K-12 students at 3745 and 3747 Main Highway. Carrollton hired architect Richard Heisenbottle, known for his work on historic preservation projects, to design the boys’ school and renovate the villa, currently the base of operations for Bill Hansen’s restoration company. Carrollton has been praised for its careful restoration of El Jardin and other old buildings on its main campus.
Given the historic preservation track record of Sacred Heart Schools around the world, Carrollton would be the ideal new owner of Villa Woodbine, Principal Olen Kalkus said. He was the founding director of the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Princeton, New Jersey, which has kept a former convent and mansion on a 43-acre site that other developers could have razed to the ground, he said. declared.
“We were considered the lifeguard in Princeton. I watched the skyscrapers go up in the Grove and we believe that a school would allow us to save Villa Woodbine and make it even more beautiful, ”said Kalkus. “The villa is strongly reminiscent of El Jardin and would also be the centerpiece of the campus. Sacré-Cœur schools have always been dedicated to historical architecture and environmental coherence. Beauty itself is inspirational – it’s part of our educational philosophy.
The city’s Historical and Environmental Preservation Council has scheduled its next hearing on the plan for December 3 at 3 p.m. at City Hall. Council is concerned about the proposed removal of 116 of 173 trees on the property and the location of the 9,975 square foot pool and two decks on or near the limestone cliff.
These concerns were echoed by the Dade Heritage Trust after a presentation of the plan on October 23.
“This will decimate the tree canopy and dramatically change the view of the site from the neighboring property and from South Bayshore Drive. Additionally, tree cutting plans will eliminate the benefits of an urban green space. Green spaces have been recognized to improve the health and well-being of people living in cities by improving air quality and reducing urban temperatures. More importantly, it will damage the bucolic setting which is an integral part of the historic and architectural character of the villa, ”wrote the chairman of the trust, Vinson Richter, in his assessment, adding that the building on or between the cliff and Bayshore Drive “Could have a negative impact on the important archaeological and environmental feature that is the Silver Bluff of Coconut Grove.
Kalkus said the pool deck “will be translucent and our goal is to make the overgrown bluff more visible.”
The 45,462 square feet of new construction will be eight times the size of the 5,658 square foot villa. This decrease in open green space and the increase in concrete surfaces will hamper drainage, Vinson said. Bayshore Drive already has problems with flooding during heavy rains and high tides.
Traffic on Bayshore and Tigertail, already a major headache complicated by the presence of Ransom Everglades College some 200 yards away, will become intolerable and a danger to pedestrians and cyclists during the morning drop-off and pick-up hours. afternoon, say residents.
Kalkus understands the fear of traffic, but is convinced that a long driveway that connects both sides of campus and will drop outbound cars on Bayshore will “absorb” school traffic and that staggered pickup and drop-off times will further reduce traffic. congestion.
“Carrollton has strived since its founding to be a good neighbor and continues to do so.”
Rose Pujol, founder of popular opposition group Bayshore In the Grove, said the school would have a negative ripple effect on Miami. Bayshore Drive, designated as the “Scenic Hall,” will soon look like Brickell Avenue, she said.
“It’s not about NIMBY [Not in My Backyard] because it affects the business district, our parks, the sailing community and anyone who values their precious personal time resource – time that will be wasted in traffic, ”said Pujol, whose children frequented Carrollton and are graduates of Ransom. “We have no problem with the school and its mission. We think this is the wrong site. We must stand up for smart development before it is too late.
Pujol and his supporters complain about “stealth” planning and the lack of neighborhood forums by Carrollton while Kalkus said the school has attempted to speak to all neighboring landlords and address community concerns with effort. awareness raising.
“I’ve been knocking on doors for months and a lot of people don’t know this inconsistent, out of scale thing is happening,” said Fabian Garcia Diaz, a Grove resident and member of Bayshore In the Grove. “They’re angry. Carrollton thought that by going through the back door they would avoid resistance. Instead, they set him on fire.
Carrollton also purchased homes on Poinciana Avenue and Carmen Court adjacent to his high school campus. Ransom Everglades has done the same thing over the years, buying surrounding homes on its college and high school campuses so it can expand.
The Grove, which is home to 18 public and private schools with an enrollment of around 6,700 students, does not need more schools, Garcia Diaz said.
“I have kids and there are a lot of choices,” he said. “The Grove has become a campus for elite schools because it has character, for sure, it’s beautiful. Carrollton benefits financially by building in The Grove near Ransom so that they can all continue to raise their tuition fees. Carrollton is not going to build next to a Lincoln-Marti school or in Little Havana or Allapattah or even in West Grove.
Tuition in Carrollton is $ 35,700 to $ 37,048 and Ransom is $ 39,950 on their websites.
“Carrollton graduates are becoming mothers and telling us they want the same education for their sons,” Kalkus said. “The order was founded to educate young women, but the mission is to expand its reach. A number of Sacred Heart schools have created divisions for boys and a few have become co-ed. Research shows that boys are disengaging from education. We believe this option would greatly benefit the community.
“It was just a matter of finding the right property. Real estate in Miami is difficult and the other locations we considered were not feasible.
Last year, during the centennial celebration of El Jardin, an estate built by a Pittsburgh steel tycoon for his daughter, Carrollton opened it up to public tours. Kalkus intends to open Villa Woodbine for tours and argues that the mansion built in 1931 by the owner of a Wisconsin paper company would then be more accessible to the public than it currently is, as venue for private events.
This story was originally published 2 December 2019 6:00 a.m.