With the announcement of CocoWalk being sold for 87.5 million dollars, Coconut Grove has made headlines in the local newspaper. Unfortunately, while it is a new article, there is a “same old story” feel when it comes to this part of South Florida.
Amidst this recent development, along with many actual building redevelopments in the neighborhood, is the buyer’s thoughts of the Grove being “…in the midst of a resurgence”. The truth is that there is a lot regurgitation in this type of public relations speak, especially when the subject is a dilapidated facade that reminds one of a really bad Keys tourist attraction Monday through Saturday. On Sunday, when most of the occupied retail space closed, it reminds of a cemetery with a bookstore serving coffee.
Meanwhile, within the block occupied on Commodore Plaza and extending through to Main Highway, there is no need for restructuring, resurfacing, reorganizing, and “resurgence”. Business is there and it is booming for the residential adult clientele they seek. So the question is, do the locals who grew up in Coconut Grove and pontificate for change, really want just more local clientele or do they want to branch out to welcome tourists again? What Coconut Grove lacks is the fun, youthful, and sometimes frugal outside foot traffic that use to walk the streets, either local or touristy. Looking across from the closed Johnny Rocket’s location are the owners of an 87.5 million investment, who have to tap dance around what many in the Grove do not want it to be, a tourist destination. The question is, how do you recoup this investment and NOT be a tourist destination?
Somehow, CocoWalk has to have an element of fun that speaks not only to adults but adults with a case of whimsy. Miami Beach, Brickell, and the Miami Design District all welcome this type of personality with many options that are fun. The Design District, in particular, was the previous enclave “…in the midst of a resurgence”. What it has become is a serious brand that balances both a sense of frivolity that also yearns for the attention of all. In comparison, Coconut Grove is just serious which, in large doses, becomes boring. Boring are the chains that bind CocoWalk, currently home to behemoths such as Starbucks and Chili’s. This location needs a certain job and it doesn’t involve paint.
As the home of the Mayfair Hotel and Spa, here is wishing the new owners of CocoWalk that they may fair thee well. All is not fair in love and war and there will be certainly more war than love at the beginning of this transition.