Size 600,000 ft2
Completion 2015 (expected)
Program 96 luxury condominiums, 2.5-acre landscaped garden
Developer Terra Group
Architect BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group)
Landscape Architect Raymond Jungles, Inc.
Sustainability Consultant The Spinnaker Group
Coconut Grove, one of Miami’s most exclusive enclaves, doesn’t look like a typical Miami neighborhood. Absent is the glitzy art deco architecture and the sleek, soaring high-rises. Instead, it’s better known for its low-key, low-slung buildings and thick groves of trees. “Coconut Grove is a special neighborhood,” says David Martin, the president of Terra Group, one of Miami’s premier development conglomerates. “It’s very intellectual, it’s low density, and it has some of the best schools in Florida. It’s an amazing destination.”
These qualities, along with the rising demand for what Martin calls “intelligent luxury living,” attracted Terra Group to Coconut Grove as a site for its boldest development yet. This location also gave Martin an opportunity to experiment with a typical Miami typology: the condo building. “There’s never been a building boom in Coconut Grove because permitting and restrictions are so strict,” Martin says, explaining, in part, the neighborhood’s lack of high-rise development. “But it’s a unique place for a new product, and it’s one of the most refined submarkets in Miami. It was time to do something special.” With such loosely defined ambitions, Terra Group bought Coconut Grove’s old Grand Bay Hotel and began planning.
From the start, Martin knew that progressive luxury would define the development, which became formally known as The Grove at Grand Bay. Terra Group wanted to combine design innovation, green initiatives, and premium luxury services to create a new standard for Miami condo living that wouldn’t disrupt the neighborhood’s character. To accomplish this, Martin knew he had to find both an architect and a landscape architect who could deliver cutting-edge design that fit seamlessly into Coconut Grove’s quirky sensibility.
Both commissions turned out to be easy hires. Martin chose Danish architect Bjarke Ingels of BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) to design the buildings and Miami native Raymond Jungles to complete the site with a lush, sustainable landscape. He also brought on The Spinnaker Group, one of Miami’s leading sustainable building consultants, to make sure the project fulfilled as many green design parameters as possible. Ingels helped jump-start the site plan when Martin brought him on board. “I had seen some of BIG’s other work, and I knew Bjarke has a really good sense of place,” Martin says. “When we started talking, he understood Miami’s tropical climate immediately, and he blended that with his Danish sensibility.” Choosing Jungles was an equally easy choice. “Raymond had a studio and a home in Coconut Grove for many years,” Martin says. “There’s a saying, ‘Keep the nut in Coconut Grove,’ and we knew that with both designers, we would be able to keep that special bohemian quality.”
Certification LEED Gold (expected)
Materials Florida stone, FSC-certified wood, low-VOC paints and finishes, reclaimed topsoil, replanted mature trees
Water Low-flow fixtures, native vegetation with proper soil depths, high-efficiency irrigation
Energy High-efficiency lighting systems, passive solar shading
Windows First project in Miami to use clear low-E glass
The Grove at Grand Bay’s integrated building design and landscape architecture hits on this feeling by introducing a look that’s totally new to the neighborhood without being brash or outrageous. After more than 200 design iterations, BIG delivered a pair of twisted towers that blend with the natural tree canopy surrounding the site. And unlike most Miami condo developments, The Grove comes far from meeting its allowed square footage allocation, so even though it looks different, its size isn’t visually overwhelming.
“When we assembled the site, we bought the old Grand Bay Hotel and the lot next to it,” Martin says. “We had site entitlements to build out 1.3 million square feet, but we’re only doing about 600,000. Less, in this case, is more.” Combined, the towers offer 96 units, each 4,000 to 5,000 square feet with brise-soleil patios that add an additional 1,500 square feet of outdoor living space. The buildings’ twisting shape provides more than just aesthetic interest. “The twisting allows for unique floor plans because all the building mechanics are in the core,” Martin says. “Each unit can be programmed as its owner desires because there’s no plumbing stack, et cetera.” The twisting also gives each unit 12-foot-high ceilings, 12-foot balconies, and maximized daylight—a rarity in Miami, where eight-foot ceilings, narrow balconies, and dim living quarters are common in condos. BIG chose a primary palette of exposed concrete and clear, low-E glass to balance the buildings’ bold form. That glass, Martin notes, is a first for Miami residences. “We wanted more volume and more height in the buildings, and we wanted to have 12-foot sliders and windows, but we needed to lower the heat coefficient,” he says. The low-E glass accomplishes this without sacrificing views, and those views are further enhanced by the built-in rotation of the buildings. “The twist expands frontage on the east and gives better views to the residences,” Martin says. “It also keeps the neighbors’ views from being obstructed. The form generates equality between the buildings.”
On the ground, nearly two-and-a-half acres of native vegetation, spread across a system of sloping terraced gardens, help BIG’s buildings appear natural in Coconut Grove. “Terra Group brought BIG on, and it was just awesome,” says Jungles of the initial design process. “They had already done studies for the hardscape when we came on. It became immediately apparent that it would have to be a garden, and that we were going to use the landscape to blend the project into the fabric of Coconut Grove.” To keep the site feeling like a mature estate, Jungles made a bold move: he relocated existing trees not once, but twice. “We reused as many trees as possible,” he says. “We used big trees like live oaks and sabal palms. They make the site feel like a tree house.” To ensure the trees take to their replanting, Jungles also added soil and planted additional low-maintenance species native to Miami’s climate. “Proper soil structure isn’t usually present in big condo developments, but here we have the proper soil depth,” he says. “This means that the plants are low maintenance and will require less irrigation. They will create a habitat.”
Equally important are footpaths and a central swimming pool, which bridges the site’s drop-off point. “Water is a central part of the garden, so we did a large pool to reflect that,” Jungles says. He also built in benches and crisscrossed the site with paths so that residents can enjoy the grounds throughout the day; the experience is based in part on the sun. “The light is better in different parts of the garden during different parts of the day, and the benches let people follow the sun around,” Jungles says. A public footpath cuts across the north and west sections of the site, inviting all Coconut Grove residents to walk through and enjoy the landscape.
When construction finishes in early 2015, the site will look fully mature. “Everything will look finished because we’ve used big trees,” Jungles says. “When it’s done, people will feel like it’s a beautiful contribution to Coconut Grove.” Martin agrees, adding that such design cohesion would not be possible without total collaboration among the different design teams. “Bringing together thinking, collaboration, and chemistry has been a huge asset for this project,” he says. “This design-driven approach has been followed through for every decision, and residents are overwhelmingly positive.” This is the exact outcome Martin hoped for. At The Grove at Grand Bay, bold new design has successfully integrated condo living into one of Miami’s oldest, most treasured neighborhoods—all while keeping Coconut Grove sufficiently nutty.