If you’ve ever traveled through the Grove (emphasis on Center Grove for this piece), you’ve probably noticed the ubiquitous gates and walls that fortress off most homes and buildings in the neighborhood. Perhaps many of these residents believe that gates and walls provide a feeling of safety and sense of security to protect them from the “inherent criminal element” of the urban neighborhood. Others might claim that it’s privacy they desire, and that suburban dream can only be realized with walls and gates in a place designed like the Center Grove. Regardless of the intent, these walls and gates symbolize the growing socioeconomic polarization of Miami as well as the decline of the street as a functional element of the public realm.

In effect, all of the individual gated and walled parts equate to a de facto gated neighborhood, a fortress-like mentality that aims to separate from poorer, less fortunate parts of the community. The message is clear: outsiders (i.e. West Grove residents) are not welcome here. Should we be surprised? Not really. Many outspoken Grove residents are still disillusioned about being a City of Miami neighborhood and not some quaint, autonomous slice of paradise. Regarding urban design, they wish they lived in an exclusive suburb, yet want the amenities afforded by a lively urban community. Therefore, they choose to wall themselves from the greater society they don’t want to be apart of, and rally for easy access (e.g. secure driveways and easily available business district parking) to the places they frequent. Call it “cherry-picking urbanism”.

Anyone who travels down SW 32nd Ave/McDonald Ave (probably by car, given that sidewalks are non-existent) is moving down one the most unambiguous demarcations of poverty and wealth in any major American city. However, instead of the entire Grove community choosing to deal with these socioeconomic imbalances, the wealthier Center Grove has largely chosen to barricade itself from the West Grove’s problems. One gets the feeling that Center Grove residents are just waiting for well-off, private regarding urban pioneers to venture across McDonald Ave, gentrifying the West Grove parcel-by-parcel, block-by-block until it merges with its equally well-fortified South Grove neighbor.

The point is, the infamous gates and walls that have sprouted up like weeds in recent decades are cancerous to civic life and public spaces, as is evident by the astonishing segregation of these two neighborhoods despite their close proximity. We can and should do a better job building inclusive neighborhoods that are critical for democracy, social progress, and high quality civic life. It’s a delusion to think these easily traversable gates and walls provide any legitimate means of security. Thus, instead of barricading ourselves and turning away from the West Grove, it’s opening up to the street and being inclusive that gives the best opportunity for the whole community to be a safer, more democratic place.

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6 Responses to Fort Coconut Grove

  1. Anonymous says:

    Anyone that lives or has lived in the grove knows the zombie crack heads will snatch up anything not bolted to the ground. Any amount of deterence is neccesary to keep them at bay.

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  2. Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal says:

    That’s where you are wrong. Creating these super-max prison like spaces only makes things worse. The key to deterring crime is make places which make criminals feel uncomfortable: lots of people, the sense of being watched, and open spaces. These ridiculous fortification do nothing but make the Grove further inhospitable…

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Are there laws anywhere in Miami-Dade County that prohibit the construction of walls/gates around your house? They’re just as bad as the houses that have bars over their windows. Why do people do that? Is not that dangerous, it’s really not necessary.

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  4. Dave says:

    Miami21 would limit them to 3.5 feet. Its one the main things Miami Niehgborhoods United is upset about.

    One of the funniest (and most wildly innacurate) documents I’ve ever read:
    http://www.miaminu.org/pdfs/OUTREACH/MNU%20M21%20Outreach%20082507.pdf

    A quote: “And you cannot rebuild your wall if it is knocked down!” Oh the humanity.

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  5. Duran says:

    Hmmm… I guess my complex named itself appropriately: Gates at the Grove. I’m just off McDonald on Bird Ave.

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  6. serial catowner says:

    Considering how many societies of the past have used walled neighborhoods, houses that face inward to a courtyard, and commercial-residential buildings presenting an essentially fortified face to the street, I find the analysis offered here to lack sophistication.

    Simply “being open” to a street that consists mainly of idlers and automobile traffic offers…what? The broad open sense of the prairies? An invitation to come up on the porch and ‘set awhile’?

    Seattle used to prohibit hedges or walls that a burglar could hide behind. The result was no asset to the city or the property owner. The monotonous front yards were usually neglected, as they were of no benefit to the property owner. Repealing that ordnance let homeowners improve their front yards, and building fences encouraged the use of the front yard as an outdoor space. The neighborhoods today seem much more interactive than they did 30 years ago.

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