Letizia D’Avenia: Pinecrest 2021

Student Bio

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia (CC BY 4.0)

My name is Letizia D’Avenia. I am a sophomore attending the Honors College at Florida International University majoring in psychology. I was born in Milan, Italy, and I lived there for the first 17 years of my life. At FIU, I am part of an organization called Roarthon, I am a proud member of Phi Mu Fraternity and I am a Learning Assistant in the Psychology department. I like to describe myself as an “artistic” person. One of my favorite hobbies is singing and playing the guitar. I took pottery classes for about 4 years and I love painting. I enjoy reading and writing songs. I am very extroverted and one of my goals in life is to travel the world and make friends with people from different countries.

Geography

Map retrieved from Google Maps

The Village of Pinecrest expands on an area of 7.5 miles in the southeastern part of Miami-Dade County. In the north it borders the City of South Miami, in the east the City of Coral Gables, in the south the Village of Palmetto Bay, and US-1 and unincorporated Miami-Dade County to the west (Village of Pinecrest). This neighborhood is mainly a residential and rural area, with some main roads but for the majority smaller roads that take residents to their homes. There are different green areas, such as the Pinecrest Garden and the Coral Pine Park, where people can go to take walks or just relax. Closer to the South Dixie you can find more of an urban landscape, with many shopping centers and services. Additionally, through the Village you can encounter many religious buildings, such as the Epiphany Catholic Church, St Louis Catholic Church and Crossbridge Church.

Canal in the Rural Area in the Village of Pinecrest. Photo by Letizia D’Avenia (CC BY 4.0).

History

Photo retrieved from RoadsideAmerica.com

The history of the Village of Pinecrest is definitely unusual. After Harry Flagler used the US1 and the Southwest 102 Street as a staging area during the construction of the Overseas Railroad to the Florida Keys, the area kept slowly growing. However, in 1930, this place became extremely popular thanks to the first tourist attractions established in the Miami vicinity – Parrot Jungle and Gardens. It is exactly what it sounds like: a garden full of tropical birds where tourists could go to interact with them. Parrot Jungle was founded exactly in 1936 by Franz and Louise Scherr. The idea came to life because Scherr, (who was an immigrant from Austria, a former U.S. Army private and contractor, and a farm owner in Homestead, Florida), had the idea of building an attraction where birds would “fly free” (Pinecrest Gardens). In order for this to become reality, Franz Scherr rented 20 acres of hammock land for a monthly fee of $25. His dream became true, and after the park opened it became internationally famous, attracting more than 10.000 visitors by the end of the first year of operation (Pinecrest Garden). This attracted thousands of people, and Pinecrest started growing rapidly. During the 1950s and 1960s more houses were built in a ranch style which would be setting the foundation for the neighborhood’s rural landscape. Finally, in 1996, thanks to the movement led by residents Evelyn Langlieb Greer and Gary Matzner, the Village of Pinecrest was officially incorporated. 

Today, the Village of Pinecrest is nationally recognized as a Tree City USA, a Playful City USA and a Community of Respect and in 2011, the South Florida Business Journal recognized Pinecrest as one of the ten best places in Florida for “quality of life” (Village of Pinecrest).

Demographics

According to the 2019 census, the population in the Village of Pinecrest was 19,555. The ethnic group is made up of people who are mostly white, which are about 87.7%. Of this percentage, not Hispanic or Latino are 43.1%, while 45.5% are Hispanic or Latino. The Village of Pinecrest also includes an Asian community of about 6.3% and Black or African American take up about 1.8%. Those who indicated Two or More Races add up to 2.6% and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander are 0.1%. There is no American Indian and Alaska Native community. The age of the population is almost evenly distributed, with 25.8% of individuals under 18 years old, and 15.6% of over 65 years old. The female population is 48.9%, and the male population is 51.5%. The median household income (in 2019 dollars) over the past 12 months is $156,875. The poverty rate stands at 6.1%.

Interview with Lucia Scarsi

Lucia Scarsi (photo courtesy of Lucia Scarsi)

How long have you lived in Pinecrest?

I’ve lived in Pinecrest since my family immigrated to the US in 2001 so 20 years.

What is your favorite thing about Pinecrest?

Favorite thing is how beautiful it is. When I think of pinecrest I think about beautiful green trees and bromeliads. It’s a beautiful place to live in.

What is your least favorite thing about Pinecrest?

Least favorite thing personally is how obsessed the local government is with maintaining this prestige image of the perfect neighborhood. This has stopped many helpful infrastructure projects to get people better access to things like wifi. It’s irritating to say the least.

If you could change something about Pinecrest, what would it be and why?

If I could change one thing about Pinecrest it would be how accessible it is for people to live here. This neighborhood is a wonderful place to grow up and I wish more people could experience the childhood I had. Maybe more affordable housing could help others get a similar experience.

Would you ever want to live in another neighborhood in Miami other than Pinecrest? Why?

I honestly don’t think I would mind living in another place because Miami is so diverse but Pinecrest has my heart.

Landmarks

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia (CC BY 4.0)

To this day, the original entrance of Parrot Jungle is still at Pinecrest Garden. In 1936, this building became the attraction’s signature structure. Originally, it was constructed of Dade County Pine and it had a palm-thatched roof patterned. However, in the 1940s, this kind of roof was replaced with clay tiles and the building was faced with natural coral rock. Unfortunately, it was damaged by a fire in 1994, but it was not completely destroyed and the Village of Pinecrest was able to acquire the Parrot Jungle site in 2003 and restored this historic building in 2008.

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia of Whilden-Carrier Cottage (CC BY 4.0)

Another landmark of the Village of Pinecrest is the Whilden-Carrier Cottage, built in 1932. In the 1900s through 1930s, it was typical for pioneers who settled in rural Dade County to build these kinds of houses. This one in particular belonged to Carl Whilden, chief foreman at Fairchild Tropical Gardens. He and his family lived there from the Depression through the early 1970s, and the property included vegetable gardens, fruit trees, tropical specimens and native species.

Lastly, Old Cutler Road is definitely one of the most relevant landmarks. This road gets its name from the former town of Cutler, which was an old farming community (founded in the 1800s) by William Fuzzard. The name of the town comes from Dr. William Cutler, who was the one to encourage Fuzzard and others to settle down there. In 1883, Fuzzard and others decided to cut a road to reach Coconut Grove, and that is considered the first overland route between Coconut Grove and Cutler (The Historical Marker Database). In 1895 it was officially declared a public road. Today Old Cutler Road still proves a tangible reminder of the heritage of the Miami Area.

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia (CC BY 4.0)

Green

Pinecrest Garden

The first green space in Pinecrest that is extremely popular is the Pinecrest Garden. It is a beautiful and spacious garden, which is easily accessible (the ticket to enter is only about $5, and they usually have discounts). Once you are in, you can decide to walk around the park, since there is a trail that enables you to watch the flora and fauna. There are small ponds in which fish and turtles swim happily, and you can usually see birds flying around. There is also a spacious green open area, in which you can do picnics or bring children to play. Additionally, the Pinecrest Garden hosts many events in the outdoor arena, including concerts, theatre shows, musicals and choir performances. There are also seasonal events; for example, during winter time they put on a light show, they decorate the Garden with christmas ornaments and they play christmas music.

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia (CC BY 4.0)

Coral Pine Park

This park is situated relatively close to the South Dixie Highway, and it consists of a nine acre space. Within the park, there are many facilities that enable individuals to conduct sports such as tennis (there are six lighted tennis courts), an all purpose field and a tot lot. Additionally, there is also a natural area, where people can relax, walk and pertain in whatever activity they like best (as long as they do not damage the area).

Evelyn Greer Park

This park is home for the Leslie Bowe Hall. Leslie Bowe was a relevant figure in the Village of Pinecrest and in the FIU Honors community. He served on the boards of several institutions including The Vizcayans, as President, FIU Honors College and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens. He also served for two terms as a Council member for the Village of Pinecrest, where he has lived for more than 25 years (Miami Herald). The park consists of about ten acres with different fields for athletic purposes (such as baseball, softball and soccer). There are also batting cages, a tot lot, and Wi-Fi is available within a gazebo spot (“Village of Pinecrest”).

Photo by Pinecrest Police on Twitter

Transportation

The Village of Pinecrest is very well connected. There is a 108 mile roadway network with a 28 mile sidewalk network. Additionally, there are major roads, such as Old Cutler and the US-1, which enable a fast transit in-and-out of the Village. There are three Miami-Dade Transit bus routes that pass through Pinecrest, specifically Routes 57, 136 and 73. Both Route 57 and Route 136 predominantly serve the southeastern and eastern sections of the Village, while Route 73 serves a short segment of SW 88th Street (Kendall Drive) between US 1 and SW 67th Avenue (Ludlam Road) (Pinecrest Transit Circulatory System). To facilitate transportation, the Village of Pinecrest has also created the “Pinecrest People Mover”, which is a free transit bus service connecting the Village’s neighborhoods and schools. It is a free service, easily accessible and reaches many areas of the neighbourhood. Another extremely useful service is the Pinecrest FREEBEE. It is a new green transportation service which offers free rides and connects the South Dade Transitway and Metrorail station. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 is momentarily inactive, but it will resume its activity soon.

FREEBEE car (Photo by the Village of Pinecrest official website).

Lastly, to connect Pinecrest with other parts of Miami, such as Coconut Grove or Brickell, there is a Metrorail station (Dadeland South). Although a ticket must be purchased to access this service, it is convenient. A result of all these services is that residents have the capability to decide which means of transportation they want to use, and they will most likely find one that is convenient for them, reducing their car use.

Food

Captain Tavern is the place to be for all the seafood lovers. After it was opened in 1971 by Bill Bowers (“The Captain”), it has been one of the best places to eat in the Village of Pinecrest. It is a modest restaurant, with a recurring ocean theme. The place offers a warm and comfortable environment, where clients can enjoy their food and relax. My all time favorite is the King Crab Legs, they are tasty and juicy. In addition to the restaurant, they also have a fresh seafood market next door, where clients can shop. 

Anacapri. Photo by Letizia D’Avenia (CC BY 4.0)

As the true italian I am, as soon as I moved to Miami I started looking for an authentic Italian place, and I found the perfect place in Pinecrest. Anacapri is an italian restaurant and market, in which you can find many tasty italian dishes. It has a friendly and enthusiastic atmosphere, perfect to enjoy a night out either by yourself or with family or friends. I am a lover of the Anacapri Bruschetta and the Gnocchi Sorrento, they are some of my favourite dishes. I also shop there for food almost every week, since they have many products that I would buy in Italy (such as the Mutti, which is true italian tomato sauce, and Pan di Stelle biscuits and cream). 

Saffron Indian Cuisine is one of the best indian restaurants in the area. This place does not offer plenty of indoor seating, and that ensures excellent service. The quality of the food is always exquisite, and you can tell that the ingredients are fresh and cooked with passion. I do not take spicy very well, so I usually try to go for dishes that have milk or yogurt in them (which decreases the spiciness). My favorite is the Goa Chicken Curry, because coconut milk mixed with curry creates a sweet flavor, and the chicken becomes so soft that it almost melts in your mouth. I usually order rice as well, to create a contrasting texture with the softness of the main course.

Businesses

The first place ever that I went to after I moved to Pinecrest two years ago was the Pinecrest Farmers Market. Before COVID-19, every Sunday the local farmers would go with their stands at the Pinecrest Garden and they would sell their products. There were so many different varieties of products, from food to candles to plants to jewelry. It was always crowded, with families coming from the whole neighborhood to enjoy a great lunch in the outdoors. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, they had to suspend the Farmers Market, then they turned it into into a “drive through”, where customers could stop at the vendor they wanted and purchase the products without leaving the vehicle, while only about a month ago it has finally moved back to its original walk-through set up, thought still respecting separation and limited capacity. Hence, there are not even half of the stands that used to be there before, and some of my favourites (a smoothie stand and a Greek food stand which used to serve fresh gyro pitas) have not been able to come back.

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia at the Pinecrest Farmers Market (CC BY 4.0)

Pete’s Suniland Barber shop is one of the oldest tenants in the Suniland Shopping Center. The prices are competitive and the client care is a priority for this shop (Community Newspaper). This place is special because the barbers are focused on making sure that the clients are having a great experience, and once they become regulars, they are basically considered friends. It has gotten to the point where fathers who have been regulars for many years bring their sons who have just started growing hair. The community within this shop treats each other like a family, and whenever someone goes inside the shop they are greeted with an atmosphere of honesty, fun and goodwill (Community Newspaper).

Hirni’s Wayside Garden is the perfect place in case you need a last minute bouquet. Situated next to the Pinecrest Garden, this magical shop provides anything floreal, plants, and decorations. They have been a family owned business for about fifty years, and they work hard to provide the freshest flowers arrangements. They are also able to personalize their compositions, in case you have a special occasion you need flowers for, such as an anniversary, a birthday, or if you need to apologize for something you did. They are able to do both curbside pickup or delivery, which can come be really convenient due to the social distancing rules for COVID-19.

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia (CC BY 4.0)

Summary 

Overall, Pinecrest is a family friendly neighborhood, full of green and rural areas. It is easy to conduct outdoor hobbies such as walking, biking or running, thanks to the long and usually empty streets. The Pinecrest Garden is definitely one of the most fun green areas, since there is almost always something going on, whether it’s a show or an exhibition. An aspect of the Village of Pinecrest that works perfectly is the balance between nature and urban. In fact, the residential areas are usually surrounded by trees and plants, but the shopping centers are not even ten minutes away. Walgreens, CVS, Publix and other fundamental shops are all easily reachable, making this one of the strengths of Pinecrest. The means of transportation are also extremely convenient, enabling people to not use their car everywhere they go. The only aspect of this neighborhood that I think could be improved is to seriously work on the Cane Toads issue. Cane Toads are an invasive species that is poisonous to pets, especially if they try to bite or consume them. They are a hazard to the community and more measures to eliminate them should be created. 

However, Pinecrest will always have a special place in my heart. It was the first place where I officially lived in the United States, and I have made so many unforgettable memories in the months that I have lived there. 

Citations

Bureau, US Census. “Census.” Census.gov, www.census.gov/

“Leslie Bowe Obituary (2017) – Miami, FL – the Miami Herald.” Legacy.com, Legacy, 5 Nov. 2017, www.legacy.com/obituaries/herald/obituary.aspx?n=leslie-anthony-bowe&pid=187152983

“Village of Pinecrest.” Evelyn Greer Park | Village of Pinecrest, www.pinecrest-fl.gov/government/parks-recreation/parks-and-facilities/evelyn-greer

“Village of Pinecrest.” Transportation Master Plan | Village of Pinecrest, https://www.pinecrest-fl.gov/Home/ShowDocument?id=8815

“Village of Pinecrest.” Pinecrest FREEBEE | Village of Pinecrest, www.pinecrest-fl.gov/our-village/public-transportation/pinecrest-freebee

“Pinecrest Transit Circulator System”. Village of Pinecrest. https://www.pinecrest-fl.gov/Home/ShowDocument?id=1191

“Pete’s Barber Shop Is a Village Tradition.” Miami’s Community News, 27 Feb. 2012, communitynewspapers.com/pinecrest-tribune/pete%E2%80%99s-barber-shop-is-a-village-tradition/

“Pinecrest Gardens.” History | Pinecrest Gardens, www.pinecrestgardens.org/venue/history

Matson, Marsha. “Whilden-Carrier Cottage Historical Marker.” Historical Marker, 16 June 2016, www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=79655

Matson, Marsha. “Old Cutler Road Historical Marker.” Historical Marker, 16 June 2016, www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=73635#:~:text=Old%20Cutler%20Road%20was%20declared,Fuzzard%20in%20the%20late%201800s.&text=Grove%20and%20Cutler.-,It%20was%20subsequently%20widened%20to%20a%20wagon%20trail%20and,a%20public%20road%20in%201895

“Jungle Island [Formerly Parrot Jungle], Miami, Florida.” RoadsideAmerica.com, www.roadsideamerica.com/story/11308

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