Architect complete work on Grove-flavored lofts in Gables
By Marilyn Bowden
In his first project as architect and developer, Max Strang this week completed two 2,100-square-foot lofts at 125 and 127 Grand Ave. that call to mind the shotgun homes built by Bahamians who pioneered the area more than a century ago.
"The site is technically in Coral Gables on the south side of US 1," Mr. Strang said. "It's on the fault line between Miami and Coral Gables' recently designated McFarlane Historic District.
"I have tried to capture the character of the Grove in this little neighborhood. The architecture of the new buildings, which are long and skinny with pitched metal roofs and front porches, recall the old pioneer shotgun homes. They represent a modernist interpretation of the vernacular architecture."
Because the Gables building code doesn't allow two buildings to be the same, he said, he "played around with the front porches" to give them slightly different appearances.
Mr. Strang said the lofts, which boast 26-foot ceilings, are "very well-suited for those in the design profession." Each has seven parking spaces, he said, and "there's plentiful unmetered parking on the street."
He said he has moved his company, Max Strang Architecture, into one of the buildings and will lease the other.
"Over the past few years, Grand Avenue has evolved into a great little professional district," Mr. Strang said. "My neighbors include a zoning attorney, another architect, a real estate firm and a contractor."
Tucker Gibbs, a land-use attorney whose offices are at 215 Grand Ave., said the neighborhood is on its way up as a commercial and office location.
"Its proximity to South Miami, Coral Gables and downtown Miami makes it a fantastic place to have an office," he said, "and only bodes well for the future."
He said the area is contained in the new Island Overlay, which encourages commercial growth in the West Grove while attempting to preserve its historic flavor.
"Previously, it was zoned primarily for office," he said. "The overlay encourages commercial enterprise as well.
"The Island District, or West Grove, was one of the last vestiges of a segregated society. Now we are seeing a shift. All kinds of people are living in formerly segregated neighborhoods.
"Alongside that, there's a recognition that while the bad old days of segregation are over, the positive aspects of this community are important and we need to honor those things."
At the turn of the 19th century, Mr. Gibbs said, the West Grove was populated by skilled Bahamian craftsmen who built much of the city. "There isn't a rock wall in the county that wasn't built by a Bahamian or one of their successors," he said.
Mr. Strang said he hopes to enlarge his version of neo-Island architecture on property he owns across the street from the new lofts.
"That side of the street is residential," he said, "but the new zoning overlay allows for live-work lofts where 50% of the ground floor could be used for a professional office. I will again be guided by the character of the neighborhood."
Mr. Strang has been commissioned by Home Depot to design its proposed outlet at 32nd Avenue and US 1.