Feb 14, 2024 - News

Bills threaten historic Miami Beach hotels, preservationists say

Miami Beach, Florida, aerial view, Atlantic Ocean shoreline public beach hotels condominium buildings, Eden Roc Tresor Tower and Fontainebleau hotel.

The Eden Roc Miami Beach resort. Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A pair of bills up for committee votes on Wednesday would make it easier to tear down historic buildings along Miami Beach in the name of climate resiliency.

Why it matters: The Beach's historic hotels, created in Art Deco and Miami Modern architectural styles, are part of the city's identity and a tourist draw.

Driving the news: The legislation would prohibit Florida municipalities from restricting the demolition of any coastal building that does not meet federal flood standards for new construction.

  • SB 1526 and HB 1647 contain exceptions for single-family homes, contributing buildings in historic districts listed in the National Register of Historic Places before 2000 and individually designated historic buildings. (The Miami Beach Art Deco District in South Beach is safe. It was listed in 1979.)
  • There are also exceptions for public safety issues and buildings in municipalities located on a barrier island with fewer than 10,000 residents and with specific flood zones.

Zoom in: There are about 2,600 buildings in Miami Beach that are part of locally designated historic districts, according to the Miami Herald.

  • Notable hotels that would be impacted by the bills include the Eden Roc, Casablanca, Carillon and the Savoy, according to the Miami Design Preservation League, a Miami Beach advocacy group.

How it works: Currently, Miami Beach property owners seeking to demolish a designated historic building must first obtain approval from the Historic Preservation Board or city planner unless immediate safety issues require it.

  • The preservation board has the power to decide what can be built in place of the demolished building.

Zoom in: The legislation would prevent municipalities from forcing the property owner to build a replica in a demolished building's place or preserve any elements of the structure.

  • The owner would be allowed to develop up to the "maximum height and overall building size" for a similar building in the same zoning district.
  • Local governments would not be able to restrict the zoning of the future development.

What they're saying: The federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation wrote in a letter to lawmakers that the bills would create "severe and irreparable consequences for Florida's coastal heritage."

Daniel Ciraldo, executive director of the Miami Design Preservation League, tells Axios the legislation could turn Miami Beach into Sunny Isles Beach, where large skyscrapers dominate the skyline.

  • "I want a postcard of Miami Beach, I don't want one of Sunny Isles."
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