a posted notice on a condemned Miami Beach structure

Why preserve?

Next to Boston, Philadelphia and New York, Miami Beach seems a baby in comparison. When the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, Miami was a swamp. The city of Miami Beach was not incorporated until 1915, but since then investors have capitalized on its warm climate and plentiful beaches as a year-round tourist mecca.

In a city where not much is old, it's tempting to make way for the new. Well-funded commercial developments endanger Modernist architecture in Las Vegas, Manhattan, and especially Miami Beach where beachfront property is a hot commodity, The Financial Times reported August 11, 2007 (accessed 10.13.07 on LexisNexis). As real estate values soar, it's evident that MiMo buildings occupying lucrative property demand protection as historic relics.

Take the case of the Sheraton Bal Harbour. Within seconds on November 18, 2007, the hotel was demolished to make way for a 350-unit condominium and a 250-room "ultra-luxury" St. Regis Hotel. The building on Collins Avenue, designed by Morris Lapidus, opened as the Americana in 1956 back when Bal Harbour and Miami Beach were dubbed America's Riviera.

"That's one of the most exciting times in Miami Beach history," says Scott Timm, director of programs and outreach for the Miami Design Preservation League. The MDPL advocates preservation policies on local and national levels.

"The war is over, servicemen went through basic training on Miami Beach, and they loved the time they had here and decided to come back and vacation or live here," Timm says. As automobiles and air travel were more affordable, more people around the world accessed Florida's shores. Miami Beach became home to Sammy Davis Junior, Frank Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack.

"That Mimo period is a time of great burgeoning wealth and the growth of Miami Beach as both a residence and a vacation spot," Timm says.

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External Links

Miami Herald article on the Sheraton Bal Harbor's demolition