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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.

HOUSE BILL WOULD SOFTEN THE BLOW

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.

‘BAD, BUT LESS BAD’

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.

‘WHAT HAPPENED TO PROPERTY RIGHTS?’

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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Investor Plans To Renovate Miami Beach Hotels

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The historic Bellamar and Viking Hotel in Miami Beach could get a makeover.

Private investor Richard D Cohen Lancry filed a plan to renovate the three-building complex that includes both hotels and a utility building situated between them. The low-rise property, completed in the late 1930s and designed by Roy France and GL McCann, spans 11,790 square feet at 220 and 230 31st Street, west of the oceanfront Palms Hotel & Spa.

Lancry, who’s based in Sunny Isles Beach, wants to tear down the one-story utility structure in the middle of the 12,000-square-foot site and replace it with a courtyard that will include a pool deck and dining area. Plans also call for the two hotels to have 46 rooms — six fewer than the current number — as well as a front lobby and a “modest” restaurant and bar.

The investor acquired the property for $8.4 million last year, according to property records.

The Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board is scheduled to hear the proposal Dec. 12.

 

Source:  Commercial Observer

 

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Fort Lauderdale Developer Proposes Boutique Building In Miami Beach

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A Fort Lauderdale-based developer has proposed a boutique mixed-use development in Miami Beach’s South Of Fifth neighborhood.

The developer, 13 Jan Real Estate LLC, led by Oscar Pittini, plans to keep a portion of the existing single-story residential building at 829 Fourth Street adjacent to Meridian Courtwhich was constructed in 1952, and convert it to a mixed-use space.

The five-story development will feature four residential units, each spanning 1,886 square feet, with additional commercial space.

The application does not specify how the commercial space will be used or whether the units will be converted into condos or rentals.

Last year, Pittini paid $2.5 million for the 5,000-square-foot lot, which sits within the Ocean Beach Local Historic District, according to property records. The Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board will hear the proposal Oct. 10.

 

Source:  Commercial Observer

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Miami Beach Seeks Development Partner For Art Deco Apartment Building

Miami Beach officials are contemplating partnering with a developer to renovate a city-owned Art Deco apartment building.

The Miami Beach City Commission on Wednesday authorized staff to move forward with crafting a request for proposals to partner with a developer that can fix up the Barclay Plaza Apartments at 1940 Park Avenue. Bidders can also include possible additions to the 1935-era building in their proposals.

Miami Beach commissioner David Richardson told his colleagues that allowing interested developers to build on the vacant area behind the three-story, L-shaped structure would make the project financially viable.

Miami Beach officials would enter into a private-public partnership and sign a 99-year ground lease with the winning bidder, according to a memo from City Manager Alina Hudak. A developer can also choose to maintain the Barclay as an apartment building with some workforce units, or reposition the property as an office project.

The project does not require a voter referendum, but any proposal would need approval from the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board because the Barclay is considered a “contributing” building in the city’s Art Deco Historic District.

In 2014, the Barclay was condemned by the city, which then purchased the property a year later. The city paid the Miami Beach Community Development Corporation $5.4 million for the former affordable housing building. Since then, it has remained vacant.

Miami Beach also briefly listed Barclay for sale last year. Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, the lone no vote on the RFP, said the better option is for Miami Beach to pursue funding from the Florida Legislature to renovate the apartment building.

“I don’t like this RFP at all,” she said. “I do feel strongly we can get the [state funds] to renovate the Barclay. Why give it away when we can do workforce housing ourselves.”

 

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Miami Beach OKs Apartment Building Conversion To Boutique Hotel

An investor plans to convert an Art Deco apartment building in Miami Beach back to its original use as a hotel.

Last Tuesday, the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board approved plans for the Henry Hohauser-designed property at 1360 Collins Avenue. The owner, led by Jim Cavanaugh of Miami Beach, plans to redevelop the 25-unit building into a hotel with a new rooftop deck. The board greenlit the certificate of appropriateness for the partial demolition and renovation of the building.

The three-story building, constructed in 1939 as a 50-room hotel, now includes a ground-floor restaurant that replaced the former lobby. Records show 1360 Commodore LLC paid $2.8 million for the property in 2004.

The property owner plans to redevelop the building into a 46-room hotel with units ranging from 206 feet to 349 feet, add a rooftop pool, bring back the historic flagpole, and restore other historic features, including the banding and window eyebrows. The developer will also add back a lobby entrance and front lobby desk, according to the application. Miami-based Beilinson Gomez Architects designed the plans.

 

Source:  The Real Deal

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