Coconut Grove's Name Change Is Kind of Pathetic

Like a college freshman named Jamie who's decided to reinvent herself under the name "Jaymi," Coconut Grove will likely rebrand itself "the Nearby Republic of Coconut Grove."

No word on how Key West, the "Conch Republic," feels about the Grove piling on its branding shtick.

But seriously, the Grove's current state and its latest attempt at relevancy is an example of what happens to a Miami neighborhood when it sells part of its character to megadevelopers who trash places like Scotty's Landing.

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The Grove's golden years were back in the '60s, when the neighborhood was Miami's hippie counterculture central, and the youthful flair remained for decades. Party promoters who went on to revitalize nightlife in downtown cut their teeth in the Grove by throwing Brit-pop and alternative dance nights in the late '90s. For years, students from the University of Miami basically took over the place on Thursdays.

But then a few things happened. Though many of the original hippies stayed, they got old. And as real estate prices rose, wealthier people moved in. (It really was a bit of genius location scouting to have Ben Stiller's character's loopy, aging hippie parents in Meet the Fockers live there.)

Peace and quiet took precedence over partying, and a few years ago, Commissioner Marc Sarnoff led the charge to roll back last call from 5 a.m. to 3 a.m., which is downright puritanical by Miami-Dade standards. It was just another whack at the Grove's wilting night life.

There's also the matter of CocoWalk, a giant slice of suburban mall plopped in the middle of a charming and quirky village. After you shop at the Gap, CocoWalk invites you to eat at one of its fine dining establishments -- Chili's, the Cheesecake Factory, Duffy's, and Fat Tuesday.

Of course, the place still has its charms and a distinct vibe. Just a couple years ago, it took home a passel of Best of Miami awards including the Sandbar Sports Grill for Best Happy Hour, Villa Mayfair for Best Ladies Night and -- who'd have guessed -- best psychic and body piercing.

But it'll take more than a name change and those winners to bring back the glory days.

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