The City of Miami’s Historic and Environmental Preservation Board (HEP) once again unanimously supported the second phase of a sidewalk renewal project presented by the Coconut Grove Business Improvement District (BID). During a meeting held a few weeks ago on April 2nd, the HEP board met to hear the concerns of all of those involved and affected by the project.
Described as a unified project for all parties, Alberto Sosa, City of Miami Director of Capital Improvements Program, and landscape designer Aida Curtis, spoke on behalf of the sidewalk renewal project and gave a detailed presentation of all activity to take place soon on both Mary and Virginia Streets. Sidewalk safety and long-term, sustainable solutions were cited as the project’s primary goals.
“We are replacing five unhealthy and unstable tress with those that will last much longer,” Sosa said. “It is an appropriate time to do this and we are doing it now so that it doesn’t happen again.”
The Coconut Grove BID sidewalk renewal project aims at improving the future of the village’s pedestrian landscape. Using modern technology and sustainable procedures, the plan will create a healthier, larger tree canopy while replacing further uprooting bricks.
Following requests from both HEP board members and the public, Lisa Hammer, the arborist assigned by the City to complete the project was asked to speak. Individually addressing the trees slated for replacement, Hammer deemed each one as either hazardous or structurally unsound.
“As arborists we define a hazardous case by fulfilling three criteria,” Hammer said. “If it suffers from defects prone to failure, if conditions that encourage failure exist and if targets affected by failure can be defined. The criterion applies to each of these cases.”
Hammer went on to explain that while unfortunately these five particular trees cannot be corrected or repaired at this stage of the defect, the majority of trees within the project are slated to remain and selective pruning will take place where it can.
“The plan really takes into account those remaining trees,” she added. “When the project was announced to the City, it did not simply look at it this as just a sidewalk project. The firms hired were very insightful in that they approached arborists from the beginning.”
Other Grove and non-Grove experts in the areas of urban and environmental design also spoke in favor of the project. Jeff Shimonski, vice president of horticulture at Parrot Jungle, approached the podium to recount an incident at the park’s previous location where a large, historic tree fell during a storm due to decay and structural damage.
“Luckily for us the tree was located in a large open park space and happened to fall when no one was around,” Shimonski said. Based on the argument that the Grove scenario presents plenty of targets affected by damaged trees, he said the City “has a duty of care to look at something like this.”
HEP board member and community activist, Gary Hecht, opened the final voting discussion by recognizing the City’s prudent planning approach.
“Everyone in this room is opposed to cutting down trees,” Hecht said. “I think what’s important to see here is that the City is taking the opportunity to look at the health of our trees. This is a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of the City’s project and say ‘as long as we’re here to fix sidewalks, let’s take a look at the trees.’”
Unanimously voting in favor of the project, the HEP board agreed that the following conditions would need to be applied: the removed trees would be transplanted to a location within a one mile radius, if possible, and that all replacement trees be between 20 to 25 feet in height, of the highest quality and largest commercially available.
Echoing the Coconut Grove BID’s sense of urgency in the project, local and longtime Grove architect Gail Baldwin commented that this project combines two necessary steps at once.
“Let’s fix the bricks AND replace the trees,” Baldwin said. “If we put this off and a storm comes by, when the trees fall there’s not going to be any money to put them back up. Let’s make Coconut Grove what it needs to be forever, now.”
The Coconut Grove BID exists to improve the quality and financial success of the Grove’s commercial core. It enhances Grove parking, lighting, sanitation, marketing, and safety, as well as supporting special events. For more information on the Coconut Grove BID, please visit www.coconutgrove.com or call 305-461-5506.
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