Juliana Pereira is an Accounting student at Florida International University, also enrolled in the Honors College. She was born and raised in Miami, Florida. Daughter of two Brazilian immigrants. Although she’s spent all her 19 years of life in Miami, she knew little about her hometown. Fortunately, she has had the opportunity of exploring Miami with new eyes this semester. Now she’s in love with this city more than ever!
Coconut Grove stretches from Rickenbacker Causeway and South Dixie Highway to North Prospect Drive from north to south and Biscayne Bay and LeJeune Road from east to west. It is south of Brickell and east of Coral Gables, other popular neighborhoods of Miami. It contains a plethora of subdistricts: Center Grove, Northeast Coconut Grove, Southwest Coconut Grove, and West Grove. It is one of Miami’s greenest areas and is filled with lush trees. It is also by the water, making it a known scenic spot. Yet, the neighborhood is constantly improving for its visitors and therefore has a lot of property value.
Before becoming the modern and chic area that is it today, Coconut Grove was once a flourishing tropical wilderness. The Native American tribes of the Tequesta lived along the coast of Biscayne Bay. Upon European settlement, the Tequesta were enslaved and eventually wiped out. In the mid-1800s, the Homestead Act and the idea of free land enticed settlers to South Florida. The first wave of immigrants arrived in 1870 from the Bahamas. They found jobs at the Peacock Inn, formerly the Bay View House, in Coconut Grove. Charles and Isabella Peacock established the first South Florida Hotel in 1882. As the hotel’s clientele grew, so did the inflow of work-seeking Bahamians in Coconut Grove. The Joseph Frow homestead became a settlement for Bahamians that worked at the Peacock Inn and nearby white settlers’ homes. West Coconut Grove, where these settlements were located, was nicknamed Colored Town. While East Coconut Grove was called White Town. However, in 1889 the Plymouth Congregational Church had the first public school in the county which eventually made it possible for it to be the first church where blacks and whites would attend together. Henry Flagler’s railroad system changed the demographics drastically because suddenly hundreds of settlers were going to the area and this led to quick development. America entering World War I in 1917 is what brought about a new era full of aviators and booming real estate. In 1919, Coconut Grove incorporated as a town and no longer contained the “a” in its name. In 1954, Coconut Grove became a center for politics. Throughout the decades since being established in the 1800s, the Coconut Grove has grown while remaining a unique area.
The dichotomy created before the 1900s with the segregation of Colored Town and White Town still persists today. The majority of the population of Coconut Grove earns over $36,000 per year, with most of that majority earning between $60k and $191k. The area is divided racially, with the northern area of the neighborhood being 70-75% white, while the southernmost area is 50-60% white and the midwestern area is less than 20% white.
Coconut Grove is home to an array of cultural landmarks. Among these are the Boswell Mourot Fine Art, which features local and international art for collectors’ purchase. Midori Gallery focuses on East Asian art and culture, housing artifacts and all other types of visual art. The Coconut Grove Arts Festival Gallery is a gallery that presents contemporary art all related to South Florida and its culture.
There are also important historical landmarks, such as Vizcaya Museums and Gardens, whose owner, John Deering, had it built in the early 1920s. There is even a bit of feminist history in the Woman’s Club of Coconut Grove, started by Fiona McFarlane in 1891. She began the institution to create camaraderie among the women in the area, and it still stands for events and as a gathering space for women in the city today. The Barnacle Historic State Park is the site of Ralph Middleton Munroe’s house. He was a pioneer and civic activist, and the house and park highlight Florida’s history and the environment from 1891. An important shopping spot is CocoWalk, a high-end outdoor mall at the center of the neighborhood that attracts shoppers and tourists. It has several boutique clothing stores, restaurants and bars, and even a movie theater.
David Kennedy Park: Known for its variety of greenery and vistas, this park spans across 20 acres. The park serves as a recreational spot to grove residents, allowing them to exercise or relax as they surround themselves by coastal mangroves, the scenery of the waterfront, and enough space to have a clear view of the sunrise. The park even caters to pets, having sections reserved for the purpose of being dog parks.
Peacock Park: Providing 9.4 acres for its visitors to explore, Peacock Park, welcomes everyone. Recreational activities at the park are found outdoors as well as indoors for those that prefer a less heated experience. Visitors can also spend time on the boardwalk and take in the scenery of Biscayne Bay. Despite all of its appealing features, Peacock Park is famously known for hosting the annual Coconut Grove Arts Festival that takes place every February.
Barnacle Historic State Park: The Barnacle was built in 1891 and for the most part still appears nowadays as it did back in the day. This is Ralph Munroe’s Biscayne Bay home, a pioneer from Coconut Grove. This is an area of preservation and has been left in its natural state with many large, old trees. It is a reminder of simplicity and visitors can tour the area, picnic, walk their dogs, or view the sailboats as they pass by.
Alice C. Wainwright Park: Wainwright Park is most famously known for being one of Coconut Grove’s unique coastal parks. Many of its visitors get to gaze upon the limestone outcrop of the Miami Rock Ridge. However, there exists a higher elevated part of the park, known as the Brickell Hammock. This area of forestry is populated by tropical hardwood that once stretched from the Miami River to the North Grove. Unfortunately, due to a reduction in the forestry, visitors are unable to visit this portion of the park.
Parking lots & Valet: Coconut Grove has 13 public parking lots and garages. It costs $5 to park up to 2 hours and $10 for any more than 2 hours. These locations are open every day from 10 AM to 10 PM. Some hours may vary, please check the Coconut Grove Transportation website any people drive to Coconut Grove, park at a garage and then walk on foot, ride a bike or scooter. Generally, restaurants offer valet parking for their clients. But now Coconut Grove has established a Centralized Valet pilot system. There are 4 stations in which cars may be dropped off and picked up, regardless of what establishments you are visiting. The best part is that the rates are the same as the self-park lots and garages.
FreeBee: This is a free transportation service that is growing throughout South Florida. Supporting South Florida’s Climate Action Plan, FreeBee’s vehicles are electrically powered. Running on clean energy helps reduce carbon emissions. To request a ride, users need to download the free app. While on the ride, FreeBee advertises national and local businesses, deals, and discounts around town.
Miami Trolley: The City of Miami provides a public trolley service that runs through Coconut Groove The trolley stopping at Grand Ave, South Bayshore Drive, Grove Metrorail Stations, and Peacock Park and Kennedy Park approximately every 15 to 30 minutes. This free and reliable service gives both residents and visitors the opportunity to conveniently travel throughout the city.
Metrorail: Metrorail is a system of tracks that provides transportation throughout many neighborhoods in Miami, such as Kendall, Coral Gables, downtown Miami, and, of course, Coconut Grove. To ride it, a transit pass is needed. While not a free service, discounts are available for Miami-Dade County employees, students, veterans, senior citizens, etc. To get to Coconut Grove, you can take the Metrorail Orange Line which will take you to its stations. There is a station close to SW 27th Avenue which is just a walk away from the heart of the Grove.
Bahamians started opening up businesses in West Coconut Grove on Charles Avenue, many ran at-home businesses. The more the population grew, the more businesses came to be. There were even cordial relations between blacks and whites. This allowed Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup, Sr. to become the most successful black businessman in Coconut Grove, which was not an easy feat for blacks in the 1900s. Nowadays, Coconut Grove is continuing to grow and is solidifying itself as a progressive neighborhood. It is an established business district with a diverse community – it is not just the stereotypical business firms seen here, but designers and web developers as well. Cocowalk is an example of construction going underway to better the community. It is the perfect destination for residents and tourists alike to give their business. It is an attraction that is home to many retail stores such as the Gap. Because of the renovations, it is going under, it will allow for new local businesses to come into the scene which would be beneficial from an economic standpoint. In particular, Optimum in the Grove provinces Class A office spaces as well as a restaurant that makes tenants have even better work experience.
The neighborhood’s tropical atmosphere draws people in to dine amongst the oak trees. Whether it be in a sidewalk cafe for brunch or rooftop patio for dinner, the neighborhood has quite a reputation for being a great place for people to get together to eat. There is a large variety in the types of cuisine offered, from French to Latin. Personally, I found the Greenstreet Cafe Lounge Restaurant to be the perfect brunch spot and its food leans American-style which the locals enjoy. America’s favorite meal of the day is breakfast and popular items for that time include their french toast or omelets. I recommend their caramelized banana pancakes for a twist on the common breakfast item that elevates the menu and makes it stand out. For the “best burgers in Miami,” one can go to LoKal whose German name translates to restaurant and meeting place. The burgers have ingredients that are sustainable and locally sourced. If you what you search is a taste of Asia in your backyard, Akashi Japanese Restaurant is quiet and provides excellent sushi. The restaurant’s dark lighting adds to the mood and experience. Miami is a cultural hub and is known for its large Latin community. Costa Med is Venezuelan owned and takes inspiration from European, Mediterranean, and South American styles. Whether it be their steak tartare or lobster ravioli, their food is very enjoyable. However, it is never just about the food in Coconut Grove. The locations themselves are picturesque and guarantee a special time.
Coconut Grove is a neighborhood rich with history and culture. The area has evolved with the times, ensuring that it is accessible to tourists and residents alike by promoting public transportation and green alternatives to driving. Even so, Coconut Grove maintains its historic architecture and landscape. It is full of green spaces and waterfront areas that give the Grove a natural, cozy atmosphere. It also has a busy and diverse cultural life: restaurants are varied, with a selection of international food in picturesque areas, which drives demand from the local population and tourists. Many of these are higher-end boutique restaurants. Similarly, there are plenty of small shopping stores placed among larger chain stores, increasing the variety and appeal for shoppers. As the neighborhood continues to grow and gain attention, it will likely get more expensive both for residents to live and for tourists to eat, shop and eat. Overall, Coconut Grove caters to the interest of any visitor. A day in the Grove can include brunch at a trendy restaurant, a shaded walk-in Peacock Park, an educational experience at one of the several museums, lunch at an Asian or Latin American restaurant, a tour through one of the historic homes and buildings, and a movie at the theater in CocoWalk. It is slightly hidden, so many Miami residents have never happened to run into it, but it is well worth a visit, both for someone visiting Florida and someone who has lived in Miami their whole life.
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