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Movin’ On Up: Historic West Grove experiencing construction boom

Historic West Grove experiencing construction boom with $15M residential tower

Erick Johnson | 4/17/2014, 9 a.m.
The proposed Plaza will have 56 unit and an educational facility that will serve residents. Photo courtesy of Behart and Font Architecture

Miami’s oldest Black community, the historic West Grove founded by Bahamian settlers, is experiencing a construction boom with several projects that include new $15 million residential towers complex designed to spark economic development in the area.

Anticipation is growing as developers set to break ground April 28 on Gibson Plaza, a sleek, affordable residential and educational complex located on Grand Avenue, east of Douglas Road. The complex will be just blocks from longtime, struggling businesses that have suffered from urban blight and economic depression.

When completed, developers will unofficially re-brand the area as Coconut Grove Village West instead of the traditional Black Grove as part of efforts to present the area in a new light, according J.S. Rashid, president of the Collaborative Development Corporation, a co-developer in the project along with The Pinnacle Group, a corporation with a solid reputation for building affordable housing.

The five-story complex will include 56 apartments and an educational facility that will serve residents and members of the surrounding community. Many of the units will include one or two bedrooms. Miami-Dade College will provide the educational and job workforce programs within the facility.

The monthly rent for the units will be from $300 to $1,000, depending on applicants’ income, according to Rashid. He said the complex will be completed by May 2015.

Rashid said the development will house only elderly residents who will be at least 55 years old. Amenities on-site will include an exercise room, community center, a library and a computer lab. Gibson Plaza's architectural design will echo traditional Bahamian architecture, a nod to the West Grove's history as one of the earliest settlements in Miami-Dade County.

"We have high hopes for this development and its ability to catalyze, revitalize and transform the historic Coconut Grove Village West neighborhood of Miami," Rashid said. "Gibson Plaza will create a synergy in the Grove business district that will promote further investment."

The ground floor of Gibson Plaza will have 4,000 square-foot learning center to provide job and technology training for area residents. The Mitchell Wolfson, Sr. Foundation is largely funding the educational component, while Miami-Dade College will oversee the programs within.

Less than a mile from the proposed Gibson Plaza, an even larger development in the West Grove is also about to take off. Pointe Group Advisors, a development corporation headquartered on Coconut Grove, plans to build six square blocks of businesses and homes at the east end of Grand Avenue at a cost of about $200 million.

The Gibson Plaza is a partnership between private and public organizations that brought together various financial resources together to build the complex.

The plaza will be built on land owned by The Theodore Roosevelt Gibson Memorial Fund, which includes 11 lots the late city commissioner and his widow, Thelma Gibson, purchased from neighbors over many years.

"It has always been a dream of ours to have affordable housing, continuing education and after school programs for children running side-by-side," said Gibson, a longtime community activist, after whom the plaza is named. "Gibson Plaza will bring us one step closer to realizing our long-held vision of improving the West Grove neighborhood."

The Miami-Dade County Commission contributed to $9 million towards the construction and development of Gibson Plaza, according to District 7 Commissioner Xavier Suarez.

“It gives me a great deal of pleasure to be associated with a project that I believe will spur the re-birth of the long neglected segment of our community — The Coconut Grove Village West."

“This is not going to resemble any type of housing project,” Rashid said. “It will be a market rate product.”