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Bills Threatening Miami Beach Buildings Are Back

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Last May, preservationists across Florida breathed a sigh of relief when a bill seeking to gut protections for historic coastal buildings died in the Florida House after passing the Senate. But similar proposals are back for this year’s legislative session in Tallahassee, sending local leaders scrambling once again.

On Monday, the Senate version of the bill passed its first committee hearing — a 6-2 vote of the Community Affairs committee — despite a parade of speakers saying they feared the language would let developers strip away the unique character of tourist destinations like Miami Beach, St. Augustine and Key West. At the legislation’s core is a notion that old buildings near Florida’s coast ought to be demolished if a local building official deems them unsafe or if they don’t meet federal standards that call for flood-resistant materials and elevated structures in vulnerable areas. Preservationists say few historic buildings conform to those rules.

Both the Senate bill and its companion bill in the House would exempt single-family homes, as well as structures that are individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In Miami Beach, that includes the Fontainebleau, Cadillac and Ocean Spray hotels. But historic hotels along Collins Avenue in the Mid-Beach and North Beach neighborhoods would not receive similar protections under either proposal. Among them are Art Deco buildings like the Faena, Sherry Frontenac, Casablanca and Carillon.

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The Senate bill sponsor, Bryan Avila, a Republican from west Miami-Dade, acknowledged during Monday’s hearing that the idea is controversial. His proposal would kneecap Miami Beach’s Historic Preservation Board, which is empowered to block demolition of historic buildings and, if a building is knocked down, dictate what can go in its place.

Avila reiterated arguments he made for similar legislation he filed last year. He painted Miami Beach as a community that has gone too far in its historic protections, upsetting what he described as a “very delicate dance” between preserving history and maintaining property rights. About 2,600 buildings in Miami Beach are part of locally designated historic districts.


Rep. Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers, has filed a companion to Avila’s bill in the Florida House with language that would soften the legislation’s impacts. Last year, Roach abandoned a similar bill amid fierce opposition from local governments but vowed to bring it back in 2024. While Avila’s bill would affect buildings within a half-mile of the coast, Roach’s proposal is limited to properties at least partially east of the state’s coastal construction control line, a boundary that hugs the coast and is meant to restrict construction near beaches. Roach’s bill, which has not yet faced a hearing, would also exempt buildings in nationally designated historic districts established before 2000 — meaning the Miami Beach Architectural District, an area that stretches from Ocean Drive at Sixth Street to Collins Avenue at 22nd Street, would be protected.


Facing questioning Monday from Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Hollywood, Avila pledged to revise his bill to make it more like the House version.

“I am committed to going in that direction and working with the House sponsor to adopt that language,” he said. Avila did not respond to an inquiry from the Miami Herald on whether he would adopt the entire House bill or parts of it. The House bill is “bad, but less bad than [the Senate] one,” said Daniel Ciraldo, executive director of the Miami Design Preservation League, which advocates for historic preservation in Miami Beach. “They’re trying to undo decades of good urban planning and community consensus building,” Ciraldo said. “We’re basically trying to explain why Miami Beach should still exist.”

Miami Beach City Commissioner Alex Fernandez said at Monday’s hearing that the city has worked cooperatively with owners of historic buildings to revitalize Art Deco gems, pointing to a $500 million renovation of The Raleigh and an $85 million makeover for The Shelborne.

The proposed legislation, Fernandez said, would only encourage owners to let their properties fall into disarray in order to incur unsafe structure violations and make it easier to knock buildings down. In Key West, Mayor Teri Johnston said she hopes the city will ultimately be removed from the legislation. Last year, language added to Avila’s proposal exempted “areas of critical state concern,” which includes Key West and much of the Florida Keys.


Lawmakers supporting the bills say property owners should have more freedom to develop than Miami Beach and other cities with strict historic protections allow.

“What happened to property rights?” Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Lady Lake, said at Monday’s hearing. “Everybody else has a claim to somebody’s property but the person that owns it, apparently. I don’t share that viewpoint.”

The bills’ backers also say the changes are crucial to ensuring building safety and resiliency against flooding near Florida’s coast. Last year, Avila argued it was necessary to replace older buildings with new structures that meet FEMA rules for flood- and storm-surge resistance to obtain insurance under the National Flood Insurance Program.

Opponents say they’re skeptical and that they believe powerful — and secretive — interests may be behind the effort. Last year, a group called A Resilient Future Florida hired a lobbying firm to push for the bills, according to public records. One of the firm’s lobbyists, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ former chief of staff Adrian Lukis, sent a draft of the legislation to staffers for Avila and Roach, according to records obtained by reporter Jason Garcia.

But it’s unclear who is funding the group, which donated $40,000 late last year to several political committees supporting Republican lawmakers. It was incorporated last March by Tallahassee elections attorney Natalie Kato and lists two Jacksonville residents, Joey McKinnon and Casey Hendershot, as its officers. Reached by phone, McKinnon and Hendershot declined to talk about their roles in the group or what it does, referring questions to Kato. Kato did not respond to a request for comment. This year, records show the group has again retained Lukis to lobby on the legislation. Lukis did not respond to a request for comment.


Source:  Miami Herald

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Shelborne South Beach To Undergo Major Renovation

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A joint venture between Westdale Properties (“Westdale”), King Street Capital Management (“King Street”), and Cedar Capital Partners (“Cedar Capital”), (together the “Development Team”), announced plans for the new “Shelborne South Beach by Proper” (the “Hotel”), located at Collins Avenue and 18th Street in South Beach.

Major renovation and a redesign of the Hotel’s guestrooms, food and beverage venues, pool deck, cabanas and meeting and event spaces have begun. Following completion of the renovation, the Hotel will be managed by Proper Hospitality and will be the company’s first hotel in Florida.

Drawing from the rich history and heritage of the Shelborne South Beach, the Development Team is committed to preserving the Hotel’s 1940 Art Deco distinction and authentic charm, while modernizing the Hotel through a comprehensive $85 million renovation. Capturing the essence of Miami’s Art Deco and MiMo architectural history, the design will fully embrace the rich legacy originally crafted by Igor Polevitzky and later improved upon by Morris Lapidus —two of the most celebrated Art Deco architects of the mid-20th century.

“With our partners and Proper Hospitality, our role is to serve as custodians of the past while preserving the rich heritage of this iconic hotel,” said Mitchell Cohen, Chief Operating Officer of Westdale Properties. “Our intention is to retain, and, in fact, restore, all of the original heritage elements and imbedded history in order to make the new Shelborne South Beach by Proper capable of ushering in, and once again elevating, the famous Miami Beach Art Deco destination. It is a perfect fit for us as Proper Hospitality shares our objective of ensuring the heritage of the Shelborne South Beach continues and will be protected and enjoyed by future generations.”

All the heritage elements in the Hotel will be saved and restored for enjoyment by all.

“After decades of being hidden, the magnificent two-story windows along 18th Street will once again be brought back to life, flooding the new lobby with natural light, the way it was originally designed to be,” added Cohen.

Westdale has a substantial real estate portfolio in Canada and the US (including extensive properties in Florida) and investments in local Miami hospitality businesses (e.g., restaurants such as Swan and Komodo). Westdale is also developing Frank Gehry’s first residential towers in Canada, and his tallest in the world: Forma Toronto.

The Development Team worked extensively with the City of Miami Beach and local preservation agencies to ensure the restoration would both honor and care for the architectural legacy and history of the Hotel.

“We are thrilled to see the historic Shelborne South Beach begin its renovation and rehabilitation project. We are thankful to the owners for their investment to preserve the iconic hotel designed by Igor Polevitsky, with a later addition by Morris Lapidus. It is truly one of the great Art Deco district landmarks” stated Daniel Ciraldo, Executive Director of the Miami Design Preservation League.


“We are pleased to partner with the Development Team and the City of Miami Beach on this next chapter for the Shelborne South Beach,” added Mark Van Zandt, Managing Director and Co-Head of Real Estate at King Street. “As the South Beach district continues to transform, we believe the Hotel will further cement the area’s reputation as a premier global destination, aligning with our mission of adding value to neighborhoods through thoughtful design and execution.”


“Building on Proper Hospitality’s success in locations such as Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Austin, Palm Springs and Maui, Proper’s design aesthetic and redefined take on luxury will breathe new life into the Shelborne South Beach, restoring it to its grandeur of a half century ago,” said Ben Leahy, Partner of Cedar Capital.

Shelborne South Beach by Proper will feature 251 guest rooms and suites and will reopen in early 2025. In the coming months, Proper Hospitality will announce details surrounding the design, programming food and beverage concepts, and spaces that ensure the hotel will be an exciting new destination for locals, groups, and global leisure visitors alike.

“Proper’s seasoned leadership team has a long history operating high-end experiential design hotels in Miami and we are excited to return, introducing Proper’s take on redefined luxury to the South Beach market. Miami is a coveted destination among our guests and Shelborne South Beach by Proper will showcase how we are able to create a feeling of belonging and connection for our clientele through our one-of-a-kind design, a signature style of service, vibrant food and beverage outlets, and dynamic guest experiences,” said Brian De Lowe, Co-Founder and President of Proper Hotels.

Shelborne South Beach by Proper will usher in a new level of hospitality, bringing together immersive design, thoughtfully designed experiences, and programming to become a defining centerpiece of Miami’s vibrant South Beach.


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