Thursday, September 24, 2009

Five alarm economic "fire" in Coconut Grove ... by gimleteye

The number of 'for rent' signs is multiplying. A list of restaurants that have closed in Coconut Grove is growing. 21, in the past year. Fed Chief Ben Bernanke says "the recession is likely over". Tell that to Coconut Grove merchants. One local shop owner says that bar business on a typically busy weekday night is down 90 percent. Last week, the multiplex at Cocowalk shuttered its doors. The movie theater attracted about 600,000 people a year who often spent money at local stores and restaurants.

Although Muvico may be renovating and leasing the old AMC space, the loss of the movie theater complex represents a five alarm economic 'fire'. It is not just the commercial district. The promise of the West Grove during the building boom is receding with a bitter aftertaste. Important community efforts to engage local kids like the Barnyard are starved for funding. When those kids are not engaged and hopeful, some will drift to trouble. Miami city commissioners are distracted by the budget crisis, the plight of the Grove now demands attention. (click 'read more')

Some Grove business leaders hope for restoring the 5AM closing time for bars, arguing that customers are going to other areas of the city that stay open later. They blame the change in closing times for a significant decline in business. There is also the problem of inadequate parking: chickens coming home to roost because of lousy decisions by city commissioners to approve every high density development application during the boom. The cost of parking is highway robbery in the Grove. It is a luxury tax in an area and at at time that can ill afford one.

In historical context, however, there is another issue: the Grove recklessly squandered its unique character. It is not easy to correct errors in permitting developments out of scale with neighborhood character. Coconut Grove needs its character back, but it was sacrificed on the altar of lobbyists, greedy public officials and grand schemes. It is the story of Florida writ small.

What is not clear is whether the Grove, like much of overdeveloped Florida, will need bankruptcies and restructuring to rejuvenate. That is a long way off: too far for most merchants to contemplate with any degree of calm. The City could begin by doing the easy stuff: be welcoming to Grove visitors instead of taking them for granted. Come up with a solution to the cost of parking in the Grove. Roll forward the hours of operation for restaurants and bars to 5 AM. And find a way to rebuild the Grove's identity, lost by careless risk takers, builders, lobbyists and elected officials who made the wrong choice at the fork in the road: the Age of Stupid or a sustainable economy.


Anonymous said...

Businesses are going out of business throughout America.

In Miami it is almost impossible to survive when the taxpayers have to support pay and benefits for firemen who make $300,000 per year with the ability to retire making 100% of their last years pay.

Average taxpayers make $37,000 per year with no pensions.

Anonymous said...

I never thought I would see a time when being a government employee meant that you were above the average citizen. The wage disparity has created a new economic class. When the average person is making less than half of the wages of a civil servant working in a government bureaucracy, there is something very wrong. This is a sick economy.

Anonymous said...

I remember working at the Village Inn at the end of the 80's. September was always the slowest month in the Grove. No tourists and the locals had just ended their vacations. Parents are short on cash after sending their kids to school. If there is one month that can be deemed the slowest, its September. I remember on day spending more on childcare then I made on tips.
I'm not saying that there's not an economic slowdown in the Grove. It's just that September is not the time to evaluate the overall picture of the situation. And, of course, the parking situation makes the Grove an unwelcoming place for us locals and visitors alike.


andrew said...

What kind of idiot is it that observes the crisis that goes to the roots of our global capitalist economy and attributes it to Miami firefighter who makes $300,000 or to public employee pensions. Did you catch the 700 billion dollar bank bailout recently? Heard about the FED's activities recently? They've been printing money like there's no tomorrow. Caught the reports on Fannie, Freddie, AIG, the FHA, or the FDIC?

Talk about the Age of Stupid.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anon, blaming Miami's economy on a firefighter that makes 300k implies that you are a man of minutia.

Well, lets not blame it on the Marlins bailout, which is based on an influx of tourist tax dollars. You know the economy.

Lets not blame it on the empty condo buildings built on speculation, or the Manny Diaz seeming to all of a sudden think that now all of these pensions he has negotiated year after year is bad.

Lets not know what if you havent gotten it now you aint going to.

So yeah....lets blame the firefighters.

Anonymous said...

Despite the sensationalism of the stories in recent months, the facts are:

1. The average County employee makes $50,000

2. Approximately 1 in 20 make $100,000 or more.

No one went into Government Service, whether it be fire, police, or general service, saying:"I want to be filthy rich. I think I'll go to work for the County".

Have pensions and other benefits gotten a bit out of hand. YES. But in the County, at least, those benefits were gained by police and fire unions going to Tallahassee and getting the legislature to change the Florida Retirement System.

Your local elected officials did not set up the system, and as evidence by cities that are not in the FRS (Miami, Coral Gables), electing to self fund pensions (i.e. - not joining FRS) would have been a much worse decision.


Anonymous said...

I was wondering why the Cocowalk movie listings disappeared from the newspaper. Didn't anyone see this coming? Why isn't there a newstory in the Herald about the state of the economy in the Grove. Is it because they don't want to report bad news? Don't have enough reporters? Thank goodness for bloggers.

Anonymous said...

Cocowalk is redoing the theater. There are some free movies in the Grove this weekend, but I can't remember the particulars. September is a good time to do a redo since its such a slow month anyway. No reason to call in the press yet!


Anonymous said...

What about all the for rent signs? IS Cocowalk going to redo those too?

Anonymous said...

The FREE Courtyard movies at CocoWalk were put together as a way to help drive business during the theater renovations. Every Friday & Saturday night there are 8pm and 10pm shows. You can sign up for the CocoWalk enewsletter on the website to get a weekly update as to what movies are showing & what events are taking place. Everyone in Coconut Grove is making an effort to bring business back but in this economy it is a tough job.

Anonymous said...

How long will the theater renovations take? Is Muvico signed up to take over, or, does AMC keep the lease?

Mathilda said...

We can't blame it just on the Movies closing down. Read the front page of the Herald today. Most people that go out are now going to South Miami. They have shops, restaurants and bars as well. Does anyone know if their bars have to close down at 3: am? I think that's what's hurting the Grove.

Anonymous said...

I can sure tell you that those arguing for a 5:00 last call don't live in the Grove.

Pushing back the drinking hour only brings in more crowds of drunks and vomit in our neighborhood.

Cato said...

Bring back the Rocky Horror Picture Show!!!

Anonymous said...

It is no surprise people do not have the confidence to start new businesses. Real Estate taxes are paid by tenants through high rents or through passthroughs. Real Estate taxes and other fees pay for police, fire and garbage. Who can afford to subsidize the $300,000 paychecks of City of Miami firemen and Miami-Dade firemen and who can afford to pay for the 100% pensions demanded by fire unions? The system has made multi-millionaires out of firemen.

It is no surprise Florida has more people leaving than arriving.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9/26 Those crying for the 5 am sure as hell live in the Grove. They work and play their as well.The Grove has been a party stop for many years. I can't believe people would be stupid enough to move into the Grove and expect a nice quiet neighborhood. It is what it is and always has been. It's just a selected few that have been causing all these problems.