42 Star Island – STALLED!


This isn’t about money, this is about a family home, says “Boob God” Leonard Hochstein.

Yet another sidebar in the ongoing saga of 42 Star Island and the showy couple who own it – plastic surgeon Leonard Hochstein and his reality Real Housewife, Lisa.

It seems that almost everyone in Miami sees the value of preserving historic homes on Miami Beach, in particular the glorious faded 1928 mansion 42 Star Island. At least auto mogul, Norman Braman seems to think so.

He recently offered “the Boob God” a whopping 12 million dollars for 42 Star Island to save it from the wrecking ball. He intended to restore the mansion for his daughter.

He received a resounding no!

Braman is not the first wealthy preservationist to offer to buy the mansion. Last year Miami-born artist from New York Mike Latham offered to pay $7.6 million for the house, the exact price the Hochsteins paid for the property. Latham remembers marveling over the house as a child when his grandfather would take him to watch the cruise ships setting sail at the Port of Miami.

“That house has been one of my particular favorites ever since I was a kid,’’ said Latham, who graduated from Ransom Everglades School in Coconut Grove. “I can’t imagine anyone wanting to tear that down.’’

And the very latest on the house?

On Tuesday, the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board decided to accept MDPL’s petition to designate Villa Hochstein as historic. Now, city staffers will begin to compile a report that will determine the historic value of the home.

So, yay, house saved? Well, no, not exactly. In normal circumstances while this report was being compiled an owner would be prohibited from doing anything until the city made its determination. But in this case the Hochsteins have already won approval from the The Miami Design Review Board to tear down the existing house and build their dream house.

So, boo, house not saved? Well, no, not exactly either. The MDPL are still waiting to be heard on their pending lawsuit to overturn the demolition order.

Confusing isn’t it?

Well here’s a little background to get you up to speed. The whole saga started last year when 42 Star Island, a faded Walter Degarmo-designed, mansion on Star Island was bought under foreclosure for $7.6 million by Leonard and Lisa Hochstein — he a plastic surgeon known as “The Boob God,” and she a cast member of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Miami. The couple thought they had found their dream house, so they promptly hired local architect Kobi Karp to turn the faded mediterranean revival manse into the house of their dreams, complete with ionic columns, parapets, balustrades and garland moldings. Once plans were submitted to the Miami Beach Design Review Board for approval they caught the attention of a member of the MDPL who filed a request to designate the house as historic to help protect it from demolition.

What followed was a tug of war between preservationists and the Hochsteins that played out over three months and had both sides sniping at each other over issues. Lawyers battled, paperwork was misplaced and unfilled, city employees took sides, petitions were created, experts weighed in and the local media took private tours. But, ultimately the Hochsteins came out on top when the Miami Design Review Board granted them the right to bulldoze the 1928 mansion much to preservationists chagrin, hence their appeal.

As usual as it is for MDPL to step in to save an Art Deco building, it is very unusual that they are fighting to preserve a private home even though they have been talking about doing so for years. Tax incentives put in place in 2002 meant to encourage homeowners to ask for historic designation and preserve their houses are no longer effective. In recent years, Miami Beach has attracted wealthy home owners who are wanting to build huge houses. But, in this case, preservation league members felt compelled to stop the expected demolition.

In the meantime, this incident has set Miami Beach City Commissioners to debate whether new rules should be put in place to prohibit involuntary designations on single-family homes or to strengthen historic preservation laws and allow residential historic districts. According to the Planning Department, 24 Miami Beach homes were totally demolished in 2012 compared to 13 from 2007 to 2011. Currently, the Design Review Board can’t block a permit to demolish a home unless it has been declared historic; it can only approve the design.

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

But for now, as city staffers do their thing there are really three directions this saga can go from here:

Option 1: The MDPL’s petition is denied. Outcome: The Hochstein’s order in the wrecking ball.

Option 2: The MDPL’s petition is granted. Outcome: The house cannot be demolished until historic designation is decided.

Option 3: The City Commissioners can overturn the Historic Preservation Board’s final determination.

So the Hochstein’s grand plans are once again on hold. On hold, but not undeterred. Leonard Hochstein filed a lawsuit against the city that claims that the city illegally gave the Miami Design Preservation League the right and the power to ask for historic designation on their home. Hochstein also claims that because of this pending designation he is unable to get his permits approved and that his constitutional rights are being violated. The city feels that the case is without merit and will be dismissed.

So, both sides wait to see what the city’s Historic Preservation Board will do next Tuesday. Will they save the home by declaring it historic? Or will they allow the Hochsteins to go forward? What is very clear, is that which ever way the board decides to rule, it will set prescedent for future homeowners on Miami Beach.

But, Hochstein is not concerned with the future of any other homes, but his own.

“This is not Vizcaya,” he said, “This is a residential home. It is a private home, a huge difference.” He added, “If this home was a historic home, I wouldn’t have bought it.”

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