Article Courtesy of Miami Today
By John Charles Robbins
Published September 29, 2017
Ransom Everglades School in Coconut Grove wants to expand in a big way, but
concerned neighbors were successful in their plea to the city’s Planning, Zoning
and Appeals Board to put off a decision for at least two months.
The historic prep school has two
locations in the Grove and plans to expand the Upper School
of Ransom Everglades School at 3575 Main Highway.
The school last expanded the Upper School campus about three
years ago. A master plan submitted then to the City of Miami
called for removal of seven buildings and the construction
of three new buildings.
The latest proposal is to expand the Upper School campus by
nearly 7 acres, by adding adjacent property known as La
Brisa, purchased in 2016.
School officials had hoped for a public hearing July 31 on
their application to amend the Upper School Special Area
Plan, or SAP, approved many years ago by the City of Miami.
The school wanted a recommendation of approval from the zoning board to the
Miami City Commission, which will make the final decision.
Instead, after hearing from several neighboring homeowners, the zoning board
voted to defer the matter until late October.
The proposal would amend the SAP by:
Adding 302,527 square feet or 6.945 acres to the Upper
School lot area, providing a total lot area of 801,319 square feet.
Increasing maximum enrollment by 67 for a total of 726
Increasing staff from 140 to 160.
Increasing the surface parking lot by 31 spaces for a
total of 241.
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades is a coeducational, college preparatory
school for grades 6-12. The Middle School at 2045 S Bayshore Drive is for grades
6 through 8. The Upper School is for grades 9 through 12.
Last summer, the school announced the purchase of the 6.9-acre La Brisa property
adjoining its Upper School campus. School officials said the purchase was made
with the goal of improving educational spaces while respecting the land and
The bayfront purchase, made possible through donations, reflects the school’s
longstanding ties to Coconut Grove and its history, officials said.
The La Brisa land was originally deeded in 1886 to Kirk Munroe, a noted
conservationist and founding member of the Florida Audubon Society.
The purchase will help the school to improve its facilities, add greenspace “and
continue our long tradition of respecting, protecting and learning from the
treasures of Old Florida and Miami’s precious coastal ecosystems,” school
officials said then.
The price tag on the La Brisa property was just shy of $35 million.
In 2014, as the school was working to get approval for a reworked master plan,
neighboring property owners voiced concerns about a problem with traffic
congestion on narrow and busy Main Highway, and expressed fears that changes at
the school would make matters worse.
The latest expansion plan went before the city’s Historic and Environmental
Preservation Board at a meeting in April.
The board approved a special certificate of appropriateness to amend the
existing SAP for the Upper School, a locally designated historic site.
The vote approving the certificate was 4 to 1, and included several conditions,
Trees that are subject to be affected by developmental activity fall under
requirements of the Tree Protection Ordinance.
Due to location within a high-probability Archaeological Conservation Zone, the
school needed a Certificate to Dig prior to receipt of building permits.
All design had to assure continued preservation of The Pagoda, the Paul Ransom
Cottage, and the specimen trees.
The school had to apply for local designation as an historic resource of the
original Kiehnal and Eliott house on the La Brisa property.
There could be no construction staging on the La Brisa property.
The school had to comply with an April city memorandum that detailed provisions
with regard to trees and vegetation.
The school was to spend 60 days working closely with the members of the Camp
Biscayne Homeowners Association to attempt to reach a compromise and resolution
over homeowners’ associations concerns about light spillover, light pollution
and noise pollution.
Several members of that homeowners association who attended the July 31 zoning
appeals board meeting asked for a deferral while negotiations continued between
representatives for the school and neighbors.
An attorney representing the Camp Biscayne Homeowners Association asked the
zoning board not to hear the matter, saying the association was told by city
staff the case wouldn’t be heard at the July meeting.
Zoning board members quizzed the staff about this and it appears there was some
miscommunication about whether the case would be heard.
Attorney Amy Huber, representing Ransom school, objected to the deferral, saying
a delay would “severely prejudice” the school.