Tuesday was a sad day in the history of Miami Beach. The Design Review Board approved the total demolition of 42 Star Island, a notable 1925 estate designed by Walter DeGarmo, Florida’s first registered architect. The home has a long history and is one of the most widely recognized homes in Miami Beach. It is the latest in a line of architecturally significant pre-1942 homes that have been approved for demolition in the past year – an 8-fold increase over the prior year and an alarming number which threatens the unique tradition, aesthetics, and character of our single-family neighborhoods.
To add insult to injury, the review board granted an allowance for the owner to build larger than expected: the new replacement McMansion will be 20,000 square feet. This allowance of 40% additional lot coverage was granted because the DRB agreed with the owner that the home was a “teardown”, in spite of overwhelming expert testimony to the contrary.
I started a petition in December to save the home, and 425 preservation-minded citizens joined the effort to stop its demolition. As one petition signer so eloquently noted: “If those owners are prepared to demolish a structure that has significance to the fabric of this city, then their personal sense of importance must be superior to the importance of the city as a whole, and this is NOT a trait that should be lauded by the community.”
Unfortunately, the DRB’s approval and subsequent size allowance did just that. This new home will tower over its immediate next door neighbors – sitting significantly taller and at over 2-times the size. It will become a permanent and visible reminder to millions of the city’s failure to reign in out-of-scale development, for generations to come.
I want to thank my fellow volunteers at MDPL, who have spent tremendous time and energy exploring every opportunity to save this home over the past several months. We fought the good fight, and in years to come I believe that we will all look back and be comforted knowing that we were on the right side of history in this matter.
An effort is now underway to fix the loopholes which allow such senseless demolition to occur and to add more incentives to save historic homes and to limit the size of replacement homes. If you would like to stay in the loop regarding these critical next steps, please visit our website and add your email address to the “Join Our Newsletter” box on the bottom right. Website link: http://www.savemiamibeach.org/
Though we may have lost this battle, we have not yet lost the war to save Miami Beach from those who seek to exploit it for their own selfish short-term interests. Miami Beach’s extraordinary success is based on a history of people like you and me standing up and saying “enough is enough” before it is too late. We will not stop until our city has sufficient protections in place to prevent such embarrassing situations from happening in the future.
Daniel Ciraldo – lifetime Miami Beach resident and member of MDPL