Preservation Wars Heat Up in South Beach

Decades after preservationists helped usher in one of the country’s most successful urban revivals by protecting South Beach's Art Deco buildings, Miami Beach commissioners are considering whether to strengthen laws protecting residential properties.
January 16, 2013, 5am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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The high-profile battle to prevent the demolition of a neo-Classical mansion, built by a prominent Miami architect in 1925, by a well-known couple has revived efforts to strengthen protections for the area's historic residential homes, reports Lizette Alvarez.

“We have reached a tipping point on Miami Beach where we are losing entirely too many pre-1942 single-family homes,” said William H. Cary, the assistant planning director for Miami Beach and the former preservation director for the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. “It appears it could begin to have a dramatic impact in changing the character of Miami Beach’s residential areas.”

"Tax incentives put in place in 2002 meant to encourage homeowners to ask for historic designation and preserve their houses are no longer working," says Alvarez. "That is because, in recent years, Miami Beach has drawn increasingly wealthy owners who are building increasingly large houses. The recession did not slow the pace of these renovations."

“Now, you have so many people coming in with so much money, they are saying we don’t need to be bothered with that,” said Jeff Donnelly, the public historian for the Miami Design Preservation League. “Incentives are not working anymore. We are not saying that every single property should be designated historic, but there should be a public process to determine it.”

"With the pressure on, Miami Beach commissioners are expected to consider whether to strengthen historic preservation laws and allow residential historic districts. First, though, the community must weigh in. A similar effort begun a decade ago foundered under the hefty opposition of developers, real estate brokers and some residents."

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Published on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 in The New York Times
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