Historic Miami Beach threatened amid real estate resurgence

Mon Aug 25, 2014 5:52pm EDT
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By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI BEACH Fla. (Reuters) - Conservationists are urging Miami Beach officials to protect more of the city's historic homes after some decades-old properties were bulldozed to make way for mega mansions.

Local groups raised concerns this month after homebuilding giant Lennar Corp CEO Stuart Miller filed plans to raze an 83-year-old house once owned by legendary Miami Beach developer Carl Fisher and build a 22,000-square-foot mansion in its place.

"It's one in a line of really amazing homes that in any other municipality would already be designated as historic," said Daniel Ciraldo, chair of the Miami Design Preservation League's public policy committee.

Neither Miller nor a spokesman for Lennar replied to requests for comment.

Miami Beach is home to several protected neighborhoods, including the Art Deco district on South Beach. The iconic, neon-lit Ocean Drive, a common backdrop for movies and television, faced destruction before being designated as historic in the mid-1980s.

But a resurgence in the local real estate market has fueled the demolition of older homes, including some without air conditioning and situated below sea level.

"A lot of these homes are not in the greatest condition," said City of Miami Beach Planning Director Thomas Mooney.

In 2011 and 2012 homeowners knocked down more pre-1942 homes than in the previous seven years combined, Mooney said.   Continued...

The mansion located at 22 Star Island Drive is seen in Miami Beach, Florida in a 2013 archive photo. REUTERS/Arthur Marcus Photography/Handout via Reuters