Op Ed: Miami Herald Historic Designation Application – Dismissed

TEA Party Miami dismisses the Dade Heritage Trust application to designate the Miami Herald building a “historic structure” as being nothing more than a dirty trick, dealt to Genting Berhad in an effort by Florida’s political and business leaders to stymie any future redevelopment of the Resorts World Miami site.

The Miami Herald building has blocked Biscayne bay views and impeded a downtown pedestrian baywalk for over 4 decades.  The residents of Miami have finally been given an opportunity to have the eyesore removed and the baywalk restored, but a “special interest” group of Miami elitists are pulling strings to ensure that the Miami Herald structure remains as a permanent fixture that blocks the downtown Miami bayfront into perpetuity.

The Dade Heritage Trust has temporarily scuttled the Resorts World Miami plan to develop the Miami Herald property into a multi-use resort, hotel, and marina – a project that had been in development since the Florida Legislature ended their debate to regulate Florida gaming in the 2012 legislative session and thereby ending Resorts World Miami’s goal of acquiring a Miami casino, at least for the foreseeable future.  The Walt Disney supported “No Casino’s” campaign is reportedly directing the Dade Heritage Trust’s application to declare the Miami Herald building as historic, to forever end the possibility of any future new investment or development at the prized waterfront parcel.

The Dade Heritage Trust application to register the Miami Herald building as a historic structure has prevented Resorts World Miami from developing the property for the planned high-end retail boutiques, luxury hotel, and two high-end residential towers.  The project will break ground as soon as the pending historic designation issue has been resolved.

Jenny Linder, a Miami-dade tea party supporter stated, “preservation is crazy for the Miami Herald building.  It is not worthy of preservation, it does not qualify for preservation, and it is definitely not worth denying the tens of millions in property taxes that could be collected, or the thousands of jobs that could have already been created in downtown Miami if the Dade Heritage Trust had not roadblocked the construction project.”

The Herald building has already been considered for preservation status previously, when the Shrine building, which was built in 1930 and located on the Herald property, was designated as a historic structure.  The Miami Herald building, which was built in 1963, could have been and would have been submitted and accepted previously as historic if there was any real architectural or historical significance to the building, but the Herald was deliberately left out of the original historic designation application so it wouldn’t jeopardize the listing of the only real architecturally significant building on the entire site – the Shrine building (also known as the Boulevard Shops).  Resorts World Miami is planning to convert the Shrine building into a Miami Herald museum to showcase the neon signage, the history of the Miami Herald and the architectural details of the 1930′s Shrine building.

The intent of the City of Miami Historic Preservation Program is to “promote the identification, evaluation, rehabilitation, adaptive use, and restoration of the city’s historic, architectural, and archeological heritage.”  Although the Miami Herald structure does not qualify by age or relevance, it must now go through the application process and be subjected to the ruling of the Historic Preservation board members.

Once is was clear to the Dade Heritage Trust that Resorts World Miami was not going to succumb to a $2 million extortion plot, they moved forward with their threat to neuter the Miami Herald property of any future commercial use.  The historic preservation application was then submitted by Beckey Roper Matkov, who operates the Dade Heritage Trust.  The application was written so that it would try to prove that the Miami Herald building is worthy of preservation by virtue of its history and the method that is was constructed, namely in the “Miami Modern” (MiMo) architecture style.

Examples of Miami’s MiMo Architecture

MiMo; the acronym for Miami Modern architecture, has only recently been adopted.  It was coined by Randall C. Robinson, a planner with the Miami Beach Community Development Corporation and interior designer Teri D’Amico, to recognize the style of post war era architecture built between 1945 and 1969.  By its own definition, MiMo is not a “historic” style of architecture.  Any application for historic preservation status of a property under 50 years of age requires a waiver that demonstrates how the property exhibits “exceptional significance,” although, MiMO architecture itself is NOT universally accepted to be of “exceptional significance.”

The MiMo “style” became a popular construction method in the 1950′s to help build indestructible concrete fortified structures that could withstand hurricane force winds and waves. The huge masses of concrete forms which most buildings of the time were constructed of were often accented with concrete or other adornments so they would not appear as cumbersome as they really were. Unlike the fascinating design features that have been incorporated into the Biscayne Boulevard Bacardi buildings, most examples of MiMo architecture are considered to be eyesores and only worthy of demolition, not preservation.

The Miami Modern (MiMo) historic district was created on June 6, 2006 when the Miami Historic and Environmental Preservation Board (HEPB) designated the Upper Eastside of Miami, on Biscayne Boulevard, from NE 50th Street on the South to NE 77th Street on the north, as the “MiMo” historic district.  According to the HEPB, the MiMo section of “Biscayne Boulevard was a premier shopping destination, and later the principal corridor leading tourists to the spectacular attractions in the Miami area,” and should be preserved.  The Miami Herald structure is 35 blocks from the closest point of the MiMo district.  There are plenty of better examples of MiMo architecture that are all located directly in the MiMo district.  The Miami Herald building is a poor example of a poorly designed style of architecture, at best, and not worthy of denying any property owner their constitutionally protected right to develop private property, esspecially at a time when the city is so desparate for tax revenues that a newly constructed resort could provide.

The application to designate a property as a historic structure is determined by a group of only 9 members of the Miami Historic and Environmental Preservation Board, and one alternate member. Each of these 10 individuals have been appointed to the Historic Preservation Board by a Miami City Commissioner. It can be assumed that each historic preservation board member will vote in accordance with their sponsor commissioners’ point-of-view, and agenda.

Who likely controls the 10 member historic preservation board:?Commissioner Spence-Jones appointed Timothy Barber and Gerald Marston.?Commissioner Carollo appointed David A. Freedman and Hugh Ryan.?Commissioner Suarez appointed Robert J. Graboski and Nelson Diaz.?Commissioner Gort appointed Jorge S. Kuperman and Lynn Lewis.?Commissioner Sarnoff appointed Gary M. Hecht and William E. Hopper.

The Dade Heritage Trust scheme to designate the Miami Herald building as historic could help drive Miami into financial insolvency. The city is broke and cannot afford the $45 million it owes to the Port Tunnel project in January 2013, or the $68 million the city owes to the Museum Park project that is also unfunded and currently due.  The redevelopment of the Miami Herald property could solve the revenue deficiencies of the city of Miami and the Omni tax district if Miami’s decision makers began working towards a solution that satisfies the needs of the Herald property owner, which could additionally satisfy the tax revenue needs of the city.  If these ongoing and increasing costs are not absorbed by a business entity, then the city residents will be responsible for paying any shortage, through property and usage tax increases.

If the Miami Herald building is designated as a historically preserved structure, then any office or print shop that produces noteworthy news should or could also be granted historical preservation status.  Obviously it is absurd to suggest such a thing, but so it the notion that the Miami Herald building should be preserved because they reported the news from the building and because the owners were charismatic and popular in the community.  The only noteworthy occurrence that anyone in Miami can remember about the Miami Herald building is when Arthur Teele shot and killed himself in the lobby, after a Miami Herald reporter dogged the commissioner with such ferocity that the Miami city commissioner decided to commit suicide at the front desk of the newspaper.  This is not the lingering history that anyone wants to remember.

The Historic and Environmental Preservation Board of the city of Miami should deny the Miami Herald application without further delay.  The structure does not meet the required minimum 50 year age requirement.  It is not in the designated MiMo district.  The owners contest to the designation.  The designation will reduce tax revenues and job opportunities in the city.  The building is not in original condition.  There is no true historic significance to the building.  And most importantly – the Miami Herald building is UGLY.

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