Grand Avenue development proposal would save historic ‘shotgun’ homes

In Biscayne Bay Tribune, August 13th, 2003.

By Adam Shaffer

Wind and Rain Development President Andy Parish joined the effort to save the area’s remaining shotgun houses by announcing plans to transform four of the structures into a retail complex near the corner of Grand Avenue and Brooker Street.

Parish told the Coconut Grove Village West Homeowners’ and Tenants’ Association that he also plans to save a two-story wood-frame residence on the property known as the Brown House.

Although the development site is situated entirely within the boundaries of Coral Gables, Parish thought that it was important to bring the plan to the CGVWHTA.

“It’s just crazy how the Grove is all carved up between Coral Gables and the City of Miami,” said Parish. “Believe me, this will impact the area under your jurisdiction, just like the Bahamian Village will up the street.”
The Brown House, at 112 Florida Avenue, is the only two-story residential structure in the Coral Gables section of the Grove. The city’s historic preservation officer suggested that the Brown House be given a new life as a bed and breakfast.

“I think that would be something that would be attractive to the community as a whole because there isn’t a bed and breakfast in this part of the Grove,” said Parish. “Whether it will succeed, I don’t know, but we are going to have to think of a way to get money to fix that building.”

About $100,000 would have to be raised in order to restore the house.
“This house is in very sad condition,” said Parrish. “Termites really got at it and it’s going to be nip and tuck as to whether we can save it at all. I’m on the city of Miami Historical and Environmental Preservation Board and it wouldn’t look very good for me to be knocking down historic structures.”
Parish said that the four shotgun houses are in excellent condition. They will be made accessible to the disabled as they are remodeled and when finished will provide nearly 2,500 square feet of retail space.

“On Grand Avenue, everything up to the mid-point of the block is zoned commercial,” said Parish. “The zoning code allows residential, but it also allows shops and stores. That’s the direction we’d like to take these eventually because they don’t carry themselves financially as residences.”

If he were to remodel the houses for residential use, Parish said he would have to at least double the rent that the current tenants are paying, an unattractive option for the relatively low-rent neighborhood. The four tenants in will be given 18 months to relocate along with relocation assistance.
Not only is Parish saving most of the site’s structures, he is preserving much of the natural landscaping as well.

“There’s a great big oak tree that gentlemen stand under and play checkers,” said Parish. “We’re keeping the parking lot 10 feet away from it.”
The Grand Avenue and Brooker Street corner lot of the site is currently occupied by the former David Blumenthal rental office.

“Blumenthal’s office was built in the ‘50s and there’s really not much to it,” said Parish. “That would be the only building that would be knocked down. It’s not under any historic designation right now.”

In its place, Parish plans a 1,680 square foot retail space with up to four condominium units above it. Between the bed and breakfast and the retail units, 23 parking spaces would be provided.

“The retail is grandfathered in so we don’t have to supply parking for the stores, but it would be good to have people coming down Grand Avenue to be able to go and park,” said Parish. “Otherwise they are going to be parking on Grand Avenue like everybody else does and it gets pretty tough up in that area.”
Parish also addressed traffic concerns.

“The only traffic that would go on Florida Avenue is the parking for the bed and breakfast itself,” he said. “The parking for the commercial part would be coming out on the Brooker Street side.”